"My husband is verbally abusive."
The realization is horrific.
It usually takes a while to sink in because your whole life has been based on loving this man. Accepting that he may not actually love you and that he has been abusing you and taking advantage of you the whole time often means that you have to reorganize in your mind the reality in which you have been living. This is no small task.
Depending on how much research you have done, you may also be struggling with the idea that "my husband is a psychopath" or "my husband is a narcissist".
Again, these ideas will rock the foundations of anyone's reality. I will discuss this idea a little later on.
I am going to assume that if you are reading this that the phrase "my husband is verbally abusive" has been going round and round in your head for some time and that you have read about the warning signs of abusive relationships and you have enough evidence that it's actually happening in your case. So the question then is what do you do about it?
In order to understand what to do, you have to know something about the problem. It's said that the first step in finding a solution is being able to state what the problem is.
For example, if your car won't start, you have to figure out what has gone wrong in order to know what steps to take. Your actions will differ depending on whether it's the battery, spark plugs, starting motor or lack of gas or petrol causing the problem. So the first thing is to gather information about the situation in order to understand what's happening, or not happening, as the case may be. So let's have a look under the hood of a verbally abusive relationship.
I don't believe that any normal, healthy person goes looking for an abusive relationship. Abusers know this and so they hide their real nature initially. They present themselves as wonderful people who are caring, helpful, intelligent, loving and attentive.
The chances are that this is how your relationship started, too. You met this marvelous man who seemed to tick all the boxes and offered you the kind of life that you really wanted. He may even have helped you out of a tight spot initially as well. Your initial impressions were that this was a great person and you quickly fell in love with him and it just made so much sense to commit to the relationship that you didn't have to think very much about it.
Another common scenario in these cases is that you may not have been particularly interested at the beginning, or you may even have not liked the man. But he paid you so much attention and was so persistent that eventually you gave in and went on a date. From there, things moved quickly and you got swept up in things and ended up married.
Initially things were good, very good, in fact. You had fantastic times together, you had all sorts of plans and life was great.
At some point this marvelous man started to do things that were somewhat out of character. There was something nasty or hurtful or downright abusive. But initially you excuse it for the very reason that it is so out of character.
At the same time, he begins to ask for more. Things that were acceptable initially, are no longer so. You are expected to do certain things, or not talk about certain topics. At this stage you go along with it because you are committed to making the relationship with this wonderful person work and you don't want to upset him.
But the situation seems to be getting worse. There are more hurtful things said and done. You are made to feel bad for some of the things that you do and say. You are blamed for the relationship not being perfect.
When things seem particularly bad, he apologizes, he promises he will change and that it won't happen again. He gives you gifts of some sort. You feel happy, relieved. Things are back to being nice again, the way they should be. This is actually a dangerous time for you, because you tend to forgive and forget the bad stuff.
And then he kicks off again.
During the bad times, you long for the good times and you make big efforts to please him so that you can have more good times.
But as time drags on, the duration of the good times get less and less and the frequency drops off. You are now living in a high stress environment. You are constantly on edge, watching his moods to know if you can do or say certain things. You try to control the situation by only doing things that you think won't upset him. But even that doesn't work. One day you say something and he is ok with it. The next day you say the same thing and World War III breaks out. You never know what mood he is going to be in when you meet him next. He is inconsistently inconsistent.
All those signs of a controlling relationship that you read about are now in play, although you are subjected to so much verbal abuse that you do not recognize how bad things are. You may not even recognize some of his comments as humiliating and abusive because you think they are actually true. You still think he loves you, you love him and you are trying to make things work because it seems there is no other alternative.
People close to you may be telling you that this man is bad for you. You can't see it and you defend him, saying that they don't know him like you do, or they don't understand him, or he has a valid reason for being that way.
They may also tell you that you have changed, you are no longer the happy-go-lucky, strong, independent woman that they used to know. You have lost your sense of humor. You no longer spend time with them. You are a shadow of your former self. What they say may or may not make sense to you. You think about it for a bit, but once you return to his company, those ideas melt away.
The reason that your friends and family say that you have changed is that all that verbal and psychological abuse affects people at their core. It literally changes who they are.
The victim's thinking is criticized by the abuser until it lines up with the thinking of the abuser. The abuser puts the victim on an emotional roller-coaster where the victim feels really good or really bad and they are kept off balance most of the time.
The abuser forces new beliefs onto the victim. Old ones are ridiculed and new ones are repeated so often that the victim eventually accepts them to a greater or lesser degree. The victim ends up believing they are stupid, worthless, inferior or defective in some way and that they are to blame for everything, to mention some of the more common beliefs that victims of psychological abuse end up with.
Your decision making is altered. You may have noticed how most of your decisions involve a step where you consider how he is going to react to what you choose. This is how the abusive and controlling husband gets you to do or not do things. If you know he will be upset, very often you won't do it. If you know he will be pleased in some way by a particular option, or at least that he won't be upset, it's more likely that you will chose that option.
And your behaviors are different, too. You spend more time looking after him than looking after yourself. You do things so his life is easier and you have little or no time to do anything that is pleasing for you.
And even your way of perceiving the world, and your place in it, has changed. He has become your purpose in life. He is at the center of your universe and everything revolves around him. Your sense of self worth is different, your sense of obligation has changed and your values and criteria are different to what they were before you met him.
So after all the abuse, your thinking, your emotions and your behavior is different. Basically you have a different personality. This personality has been forced upon you without your knowledge and without your consent.
This is a false personality or pseudopersonality that has been imposed on you by the abuser. This pseudopersonality is programmed to believe what the abuser says, to look after the abuser, putting his needs and wants before yours, and the pseudopersonality is made to be very dependent on the abuser. This latter point is very important so we will have a closer look at this.
There are many things that an abuser does to a victim to make them dependent. The abusive husband can withhold funds from his wife to keep her financially dependent but the mental dependence goes far beyond that.
Angry and controlling men will typically insist that their wives check with them before deciding things. There may be hell to pay if the woman makes a unilateral decision. This will help to keep a woman constrained. The abusive husband will also make his wife doubt herself. And if she doubts herself, who does she go to for guidance? Straight back to him, of course.
Alternating compliments and criticism in a mind control environment has the effect of making the victim more determined to try to please the abuser in order to try and get compliments and avoid criticism.
And of top of all that, there are the threats. The abusive husband may threaten to commit suicide if his wife leaves. This is a very powerful emotional manipulation technique because no one wants to think that they were responsible for someone else's death. The abuser may also threaten all sorts of things if his wife leaves. Things such as harming her, ruining her reputation, taking the kids away, damaging her property, injuring her family and even hunting her down and killing her.
All these things add up to make more than the sum of the individual parts. Remember, too, that a woman is already afraid of her abuser, although she may not be aware of just how much fear she is experiencing while she is still in the relationship. It's often not until a woman has the chance to put some distance between herself and her abusive husband that she realizes how fear and terror were used to keep her under control.
The dependency of the pseudopersonality can be so strong that it's almost impossible for a woman to leave an abusive situation. There may be phobias about leaving. A woman may feel that she will not be able to manage without the abuser. Some people even feel that they will not survive, that they may actually die. In order to develop the capacity to leave in these cases it often means undoing the pseudopersonality so as to reduce the dependency to allow the woman to make the decision to leave, and to act upon it.
The answer to why women stay in abusive relationships is fundamentally this dependency. The other reasons, no money, nowhere to go, the threats, no support, the children, are all typically the rational justification for not leaving. Because the victims are not overtly aware of this psychological dependency they cannot tackle it head on. They justify not leaving because of other things. but even when they get these other things sorted out (for example, they save money, they organize a place to stay) it's still incredibly difficult to leave.
The pseudopersonality and the dependency built into it is a very useful description of what happens in abusive relationships.
If you think you are in a relationship with a psychopath or a narcissist then it's very important to learn about these types so that you are fully aware of what you are dealing with. A few things to keep in mind...
- These people are professional abusers. They make a living at it.
- They are practiced liars.
- They are not going to change
- You cannot negotiate with them
- They have no remorse, guilt, empathy, compassion or love. That means that they never feel bad about anything they do.
- You will lose in the relationship. No matter what benefits you think there may be, the price you pay is too high.
You can read more here about these types in this article on controlling husbands.
The best thing you can do is to undo that pseudopersonality.
That involves learning about mind control and psychopaths/narcissists.
When you understand the subtleties of coercive persuasion or mind control, when you can see the techniques that were used against you and what effect they had on you, those effects diminish and disappear. You need to challenge those destructive beliefs that were imposed on you and replace them with beliefs that serve you. You must understand how your behavior was changed so that you can develop choices about how to respond in situations in the future. And once that pseudopersonality is disappearing you have to rebuild your own personality, your own identity, once again, so that you can make your own decisions and choose your own life.
This is not an easy task and is best done with the help of an expert in this field. Avoid going to any therapist who does not understand manipulation and psychological abuse. They will not be able to help you and often make matters worse. A specialist in this area will help you understand what was done to you, make it clear to you that none of it was your fault and help you to avoid the common mistakes and errors that people make coming out of mind control environments.
At some point you will have to get out of the relationship. I know it's an incredibly difficult thing to do, but as long as you are in contact with the abuser you can expect to be abused. Even if there are children, it's best for them to also have time away from the abuser. When you separate from the abuser you will be in a position to provide a healthy environment for them to recover, too, (Yes, they have pseudopersonalities as well.) You can read more suggestions for specifically how to do this in this article about how to divorce a sociopath.
While you are doing all that, get rest, get sleep and get help. You have been chronically stressed for years and you are going to be exhausted. Sleep and relaxation are vital. And treat yourself a lot, too. It's time to learn to look after yourself again.
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
You have the theory but how do you actually apply it? This book spells it out...
Do you think that you might be in an abusive relationship? Are you realizing that the group you are in may be a cult?
Do you think you are being taken advantage of emotionally, physically, sexually or financially in your relationship? Do you want to leave but you can't seem to get away?