How to recognise emotional abuse in a marriage

All marriages have their ups and downs and all couples will argue and have disagreements. This is perfectly natural and normal part of married life. During an argument it can be unpleasant for both people, but it will pass if the marriage is based on mutual respect and communication.

However, where emotional abuse is taking place the dynamics are very different. It can be incredibly difficult to spot emotional abuse for the victim and their close friends and family, but if you are a victim it is essential you seek immediate help to remove yourself from the situation.

The initial signs

Emotionally abusive marriages don’t start off being emotionally abusive, instead they slowly get worse over time until the victim is trapped in the situation. The abuse may not start until long into a marriage, after a trigger or a change in circumstance.

It may start with small comments that undermine the confidence of the victim, such as about their weight, professional ability or clothing. At first these comments can be brushed off and the abuser may apologise for them, so the victim barely notices them, but over time they can have a huge impact on their confidence.

A huge part of emotional abuse is separating the victim from outside support. It is not as obvious as the abuser standing at the door and not letting the victim out, but instead the abuser may get jealous or start to sulk, leaving the victim feeling guilty about seeing their friends so it seems easier to stay at home.

As it gets worse

As time goes on, the victim will have dramatically diminished confidence and feel completely unable and unwilling to leave the situation. When it happens gradually the victim often accepts the abuse as normality.

The abuser will ensure that the victim rarely sees family and friends and will become increasingly unpleasant and insulting, while still playing on the victim’s empathy to get them to stay.

What to do about emotional abuse

If you are the victim of emotional abuse, it is vital that you seek help. It can be difficult at first to get friends or family member to believe how bad things are as you struggle to admit it yourself and they won’t recognise you as a typical victim. If you can get the support of friends or family you must do so, otherwise there are a number of organisations that you can contact who will help you.

Your GP will be able to help, but if you can not get to one you can contact any of the following organisations:

SupportLine: 01708 765200


You should also enlist the help of a family lawyer straight away, so you have legal backing behind you.

It is important to remember that emotional abuse can happen to both men and women.

Leaving can be the most dangerous time for a victim of emotional abuse as the loss of control can push the abuser into violence. Once you have made up your mind to leave ensure you do so safely and have a safe place to go, with the assistance of your friends and family, or the support of a specialist organization.

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