Tips for letting go of an abusive marriage

Legal Lotus - Family and Trial Attorneys

When you entered into your fairy tale union with someone, you expected everlasting happiness and not abusive marriage. You assumed there might be a few bumps along the way, but nothing serious. No one gets married anticipating emotional abuse. And few know how to handle it.

An abusive spouse is an angry spouse. And he will blame you for whatever he perceives as being wrong with the world. “I had a lousy day, and it’s all your fault,” or “If you were better, we wouldn’t have these problems.” The abused spouse takes control through blaming.

Most abusive husbands have never been sure of their ability to cope, and they are constantly expecting things to go wrong. Their entire life is filled with terror of being inadequate and found out. Blaming and abusing the spouse makes provides them with a sense of being in control instead of a chronic failure. 

The abuser probably feels he has failed at every aspect of his life – as a provider, parent, and sexual partner. He was undoubtedly taught to feel inadequate when very young when he couldn’t fight back. Now, abuse is his defense of choice. 

Types of Abusers

The Silent Abuser is the opposite of the yellers and screamers. He doesn’t waste a lot of his time putting you down. In fact, he barely acknowledges your existence or your needs. Did you prepare a lovely dinner in an effort to please? It goes unacknowledged. Do you look especially nice? Who cares? Nothing you do matters to this abuser. You and your feelings and needs might as well be invisible.

The Disengaging Abuser shares similarities with the Silent Abuser. He doesn’t want to become “involved.” He may be a workaholic or preoccupied with some sport, so anything you may say will be an interruption. When you ask what he would like for dinner or what you two should do over the weekend, the predictable response is, “I don’t care. Do what you want. Don’t bother me.” 

Both of these types of abusers are experts at making you feel invisible. They make it clear that you don’t really matter. Their message is broadcast loud and clear by silence and indifference. No matter how hard you try, you will never be good enough.

There is every chance that when you were dating, this person was solicitous to a fault. He appeared to care about everything you did and said. Emotional abusers can be experts at roping people into their world. After the marriage, it was like a switch was turned off. He won you. He achieved a form of victory. Now the old feelings of inadequacy begin to bubble over. Is he good enough? Will you leave him? Making you feel bad about yourself provides him with a needed injection of self-confidence.

Abuse Is A Family Affair

Emotional spousal abuse affects everyone. Many children in abusive homes suffer from chronic anxiety and depression. These households don’t support self-esteem. Instead, fear rules each day since it is difficult to know when the abuse will begin.

Emotional abuse is difficult to see or express. It is far more subtle (and, in many ways, far more effective) than physical abuse. Many people don’t even recognize emotional abuse, especially since most of it happens in private. Without intervention, it tends to get worse. Children growing up in emotionally abusive homes stands a greater chance of seeking refuge in alcohol, drugs, or crime when they grow up. They are much more likely to become abusers themselves or accept abuse as the norm. 

Children in abusive households frequently have trouble sleeping and feel anxious, depressed, and sad. They are a part of the cycle of abuse.

Can An Abusive Spouse Change?

Some men actually do want to stop the abuse. They simply don’t have the know-how. Many are urged to seek counseling by their spouse. 

If there is a genuine (or even implied) threat of violence, the only options are to call the police, leave or get a protective order. While this may seem extreme, these actions may get the abuser’s attention. They may be the motivation your spouse needs to change. And remember – you cannot change your spouse. He needs to want to change.

When Is Your Spouse Open To Change?

The first step toward change is taking responsibility. Your spouse needs to stop blaming others and look within himself. Excellent signs are:

  1. He is willing to change rather than risk losing his family. He needs to recognize how important his family is to him.
  2. He understands that his anger is caused by his own fears, not his spouse or anyone else.
  3. He begins to see his spouse as a loved one instead of someone who is responsible for his failures.

These changes do not happen overnight. It’s a daily step-by-step journey as the abuser regains his self-esteem and sees his spouse and family as a value, not a hindrance or a threat. A good counselor can help him take each step until he reaches his goal. One of the critical steps is that the abuser needs to understand why his spouse is angry at him after years of abuse. He needs to show understanding and compassion to break the cycle of abuse and cannot simply brush it aside.

How Can The Abused Spouse Recover?

You can love your husband. But only he can make himself feel adequate of your love. It is your responsibility to accept yourself as a worthwhile person. Understand that you have the right to your own intellectual and creative freedom. You do not require permission to act or think in a certain way.

Once you accept this, you will gain self-confidence. You may become angry at past abuse and be tempted to lash out. That is natural. The fact that you are reacting to the memory of abuse with anger is actually a sign that you are in the process of healing.

Has Your Spouse Changed?

Many abusers repeatedly claim to be sorry for their behavior. When can you trust that the remorse is real? What are the signs that your partner is sincere?

A partner is sincere when, the partner:

  1. Shows that you and your needs are important to him.
  2. Genuinely listens to you. 
  3. Cares about your feelings and shows it.
  4. Doesn’t dismiss your value.
  5. Is affectionate.
  6. Doesn’t blame you..
  7. Supports you.

Advice For Abusers Trying To Change

  1. Hug your spouse every day.
  2. Arrange some time for just the two of you to have fun at least once a week. 
  3. Make a mental list of the positive values your spouse brings to your life. 


The scars of emotional abuse are invisible. That’s what makes them so powerful. Prolonged abuse can make you doubt your own best judgment (Maybe I am stupid). It becomes normal for you to walk on eggshells, waiting for the next criticism and insult.  

An emotional abuser can appear loving and supportive in public while humiliating you in private. Which behavior is the real abuser? What can you trust? He makes you feel that your doubts are your fault, as everything else is. If you disagree, the abuser can become argumentative. This behavior can lead to physical confrontations because, as your abuser will be quick to point out, it is your fault.

The first step is to recognize that you are being controlled. Emotional abusers are Olympian champions at twisting the truth when blaming others. That is why a neutral third party, such as a therapist, can be a true lifesaver. 

The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.

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