Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own based on my personal experience.
Back in 2015, or even earlier, I told myself I needed to get away from my marriage.
How I came to this conclusion was because on some mornings, I would wake up feeling utterly exhausted because there was something I needed to discuss with the father of my children. And the thought of having this discussion was a heavy load on me, emotionally and psychologically.
I felt so because me, the ‘strong’, vocal woman that colleagues and associates see 9to5, 5-days a week, was emotionally abused by my husband.
There. I’d said it.
Emotional abuse is a sneaky killer of one’s free spirit.
But to make it clear, emotional abuse is not your spouse forgetting your anniversary two years in a row, the one-off fight where you say things you regret, or the time your spouse laughed till he cried when you slipped down the stairs on your bum.
Emotional abuse is what I described above – the sickening dread you feel when you know you are to face another day of psychological warfare over what should be a simple discussion.
In the early days of my marriage, when plain and simple discussions would escalate into arguments thence into a big row, I chose to not see the red flag.
Because he loves me and he cares for me, don’t he? And he wants the best for me?
But then as months change to years, I started to see the dreadful pattern – me wanting to discuss something, he and I in the discussion that eventually turn into a heated argument, him walking away from the discussion,me left feeling frustrated, angry and helpless, the constant non-closure of the issue.
Eventually, I became permanently drained because all my energy was used to keep ‘peace’ at home. I am constantly anxious and fearful, and have to choose my words very, very carefully when interacting with him.
But who is an Emotional Abuser you may ask? How does he/she ‘look’ like? What about the Emotionally Abused Spouse?
My husband, on the outside, is an unassuming man. A man who loves his children and is respectful of his in-laws. How and why he is emotionally abusive to me, I can only guess.
But an emotionally abusive spouse (in this context, a husband) is “…a man whose needs is to be in control. He feels inadequate and harbors distorted beliefs about women and marriage, usually learned from an abusive father or other dominant male influence, or sometime due to lack of decent male role modeling in how to treat women. In many cases, but not all, an emotionally abusive husband can be manipulative and heavy-handed in keeping his wife “under his thumb”. The abusive husband is “self-referenced”, which means he only sees and considers things from his point of view; he deliberately refuses to or is incapable of looking at things from another’s perspective. “Selfish” and “self-referenced” are two different words and can be described this way: the “self-referenced person would give you the shirt off his back, but he doesn’t know you need it. The self-referenced person frequently violates the marriage partnership by acting without thoughtfully considering his partner’s point of view and needs” (Amy Wildman White). The abusive husband is also emotionally dependent on his wife; that is, his feeling of self-worth comes from being married. Most emotionally abusive husbands are unable to look at and examine themselves and why they engage in such spirit-killing behavior against a person they have avowed to love and cherish.
And what is an Emotionally Abused Wife? From the same reading, an Emotionally Abused Wife is “…Women who find themselves in an emotionally abusive situation who often have low self-esteems even though they may appear confident and in control of everything. An emotionally abused wife “looks to her husband’s acceptance of her as the measure of her worth” (White).”
I identify with the “looks to her husband’s acceptance of her” statement. I am all too familiar with the feeling of wanting to do something because you know you have to, but not sure if you should for fear of being blamed and accused.
But after so many years of treading on fine lines, I took courage and walked away from it all.
And I felt a big load being lifted off my shoulder.
So how does emotional abuse look like? For me, below are the signs that were constant in my marriage:
- He disregards my opinion, ideas, suggestions or needs.
- He uses sarcasm and make me feel bad about things.
- I constantly feel that I need his approval and permission to make decisions or do something.
- He trivializes me, my accomplishments, my hopes and my dreams.
- He blames me on things that I know are not true.
- He can’t find humour in himself and his shortcomings.
- He can’t tolerant any seeming lack of respect from me or our daughters.
- He never apologizes and tend to blame me for things that go wrong in the household.
- He blames me for his financial woes.
- He is emotionally distant from me and our daughters.
- He doesn’t show empathy or compassion, and don’t show care towards our feelings.
- He validates or deny his emotionally abusive behaviour when confronted.
Leaving was my last and best choice. It was the beginning of my freedom as an individual, and the joy and true life of a happy family for my girls.
And after almost 18 years of this abuse, I now am starting to see that a healthy, non-abusing relationship is built on support, admiration, empathy, balance and personal responsibility. It was confusing at first – trying to recognise that my marriage is not normal.
But it is liberating to finally acknowledge that I deserve a healthy, loving relationship.