Relationship Advice: Abusive Marriages
MORE THAN PHYSICAL ABUSE
Much is being said today about domestic violence and rightly so. No husband or wife should ever physically abuse their spouse, ever. But I’d like to broaden your concept of domestic violence to include other forms of abuse besides physical.
I believe emotional abuse is a form of domestic violence along with spiritual and mental abuse, too. It’s easy to measure physical violence because of the physical marks it leaves on the body. It’s a bit more difficult to detect emotional, mental and spiritual abuse because a bruised spirit is invisible to the naked eye in many, but not all, cases.
Physical, emotional, mental, sexual and spiritual abuse damage our well-being and psychological health. If you are in a life-threatening situation because of physical abuse then you need to seek help immediately. But if you are not in physical danger, then consider the rest of this post because it might help you save your marriage.
WHAT EMOTIONAL AND VERBAL ABUSE LOOKS LIKE
Insults, words of ridicule, and put-downs are all forms of verbal abuse. Yelling, screaming, hollering and shouting to be dominating and controlling are forms of verbal abuse that leave emotional scars.
Rejection, withdrawing, isolation, disrespect, being unloving and unkind, are forms of emotional abuse. Anything a spouse might do to intentionally diminish his or her spouse as a person, thereby lowering their sense of self-worth and self-esteem, is emotional abuse.
I rarely hear this being discussed but there is a form of abuse called economic abuse. What does economic abuse look like?
When a spouse refuses to pay for necessities whether it’s food, clothing, doctor’s visits, etc., then this is economic abuse.
If a spouse insists on controlling ALL of the money and won’t allow their husband or wife access to the bank accounts, this is economic abuse in my opinion (exceptions might be when a spouse suffers from an addiction of some kind and you want to ensure that they don’t have access to the family “wealth” to finance their addictions. But I think even in those cases, this “rule” should be agreed upon by both spouses, if at all possible, with the help of a trained and qualified third party such as a marriage counselor).
Other forms of economic abuse could be a spouse who steals money from the bank accounts or from their partner’s wallet or purse. Other forms include, preventing access to credit cards, or seizing monetary gifts as their own.
Physical abuse is a little easier to define because it leaves visible marks and scars. Physical abuse can be in the form of hitting, slapping, biting, burning, restraining.
IS YOUR PARTNER ABUSING YOU?
How can you know for sure if your husband or wife is being abusive or could become abusive?
Here are some character traits that should raise red flags in your mind and give you pause for thought:
This first trait is something to be on guard for even before you get married: If your partner is pushing you too fast into getting married, then be careful by NOT rushing into things because if he or she is pushing you around before you get married then guess what, they’ll push you around AFTER you get married, too.
Here are some other character traits to watch out for:
- he or she demands that you spend most of your time with them and becomes angry or sulks when you don’t give them your complete focus
- he or she is VERY competitive and always has to come out on top – they have to dominate you at everything
- he or she is extremely jealous when you spend time with your family and friends
- he or she presents big swings between emotional highs and lows; imbalanced
THE DANGEROUS AND DAMAGING EFFECTS OF ABUSE
No one should have to put up with any form of abusiveness. Some of its effects include: Damaged psychological health, depression, create an attitude of learned helplessness, creates feelings of fear and terror, stress, anxiety, and isolation, only to name a few; there are many more effects.
SAVING AN ABUSIVE MARRIAGE
You might be thinking: Why someone in their right mind would ever consider saving an abusive marriage! Well that’s a decision that only a spouse in that particular marital situation can make.
Saving an abusive marriage is not easy but it can be done because I’ve seen couples do it.
It requires HUGE amounts of patience, tolerance, self-control, grace, love and forgiveness. These steps will help you get started:
Step 1: Identify The Underlying Reason For The Abuse.
You need put on your detective hat to figure this one out if it’s not immediately obvious. You may also need to enlist professional help such as a psychologist, pastor or other member of the clergy, or a marriage therapist – someone with more objectivity who can help you put your finger on why this might be happening.
Please know that in some cases, your spouse might require treatment from a counselor, therapist or mental health professional.
Step 2: Evaluate Your Behavior
The last thing I want you to think that I’m saying is that you’re the reason for the abusiveness and that you deserve what you get. You do NOT deserve to be the victim of any form of abuse.
I’m only suggesting that self-assessment is a healthy process because perhaps there is a different approach you might consider taking to relieve or lessen the abusive tendencies of your spouse. Is there anything you are doing right now that is triggering or provoking an abusive reaction — anything you can stop doing or change with the express intention of paving the way for resolution and healing?
Is there anything you can avoid? If you see your spouse leaning towards depression, can you take them for a 15 minute walk in the sunshine in the fresh air to brighten their spirit?
Do what you can to be proactive.
Step 3: Communication
Productive communication can improve an abusive situation – especially with the guidance of a trained professional who is perceived by all as a neutral party.
Some marriage professionals suggest that a spouse share with their spouse how their behavior is affecting them – how it’s hurting them – and to lovingly request (and persuade) them to not treat that way anymore. My only suggestion is to be wise when using this approach because you don’t want to trigger an unhealthy or dangerous reaction such as “I’ll show you” kind of thing.
Handling an abusive relationship and saving a marriage in which violence in any of its forms exists, requires great care, wisdom and, in my opinion, divine guidance. But if you follow these steps that I’ve given to you, then you can at least start the process of restoring your marriage to a safe and healthy state again.