Counseling Men Blog
Advice for men – and the women who love them!

How An Emotionally Abusive Relationship Traps You

Posted by Kurt Smith, LMFT, LPCC, AFC on Sun, Mar 21, 2010

Victims and Abusers In An Emotionally Abusive RelationshipsPart 2 of 2

One of the most crucial steps to escaping and changing an abusive relationship is to recognize how it works and traps you.

This is the second article describing emotionally abusive relationships and focuses on the affects of abuse on the victim. You can read the first article here: Signs of Emotionally Abusive Relationships.

These are excerpts from the article Expert Advice on Surviving Abuse written by Steven Stosny, Ph.D. who appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show.  Keep in mind that although Stosny uses male labels (husband/man) for the abuser and female ones for the victim (wife/woman), they are interchangeable because men as well as women can be victims of emotional abuse. In my counseling for men I work with men who are victims as well as abusers.

Can you see yourself, or someone you know, in these descriptions?

  • Whether overt or silent, all forms of abuse are failures of compassion; he stops caring about how you feel. Compassion is the lifeblood of marriage and failure of compassion is the heart disease.
  • It actually would be less hurtful if your husband never cared about how you felt. But when you were falling in love, he cared a great deal. So now it feels like betrayal when he doesn't care or try to understand. It feels like he's not the person you married.
  • The most insidious aspect of abuse is not the obvious nervous reactions to shouting, name-calling, criticism or other demeaning behavior. It's the adaptations you make to try to prevent those painful episodes. Many women engage in constant self-editing and self-criticism to keep from "pushing his buttons." Emotionally abused women can second guess themselves so much that they can lose themselves in a deep hole.
  • Only a handful of the more than 4,000 angry and abusive men I have treated sought help on their own, without their wives or the courts pressuring them. That's because their addiction to blame makes them think that they are merely reacting to everybody else.
  • The hard fact is, you may have to leave your husband to motivate him to change. If he is violent or threatens violence, call the police or file for a civil protection order. (Most communities have domestic violence hotlines to help you.) Leaving or calling the police may seem drastic, but they are the most compassionate things you can do. Your tough-love demands are likely to be the only way to help him stop the behavior that makes him lose his humanity as he harms you and your children.
  • The vast majority of angry and emotionally abusive men can change, says Dr. Steven Stosny, if they have the courage to give up blame and do the hard work of recovery.

If you think you may be the victim abuse -- emotional abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse, psychological abuse, spousal abuse, partner abuse -- or possibly an abuser, get some professional help from an expert counselor and learn how to make it stop.

* This is the second article of two examining emotional abuse.  In the first article we examined the pattern of abuse.  You can read the first article here: Signs of Emotionally Abusive Relationships.  Sign-up for our blog on the right side of this page and be sure you don't miss more articles like this (you can get notified by email or RSS feed).

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Tags: Abusive Relationships