Anger Problems Take our FREE Husband Rater Quiz! Take a Quiz

follow Guy Stuff

Guy Stuff's Counseling Men Blog shares real stories from our counseling sessions, giving practical solutions and answers to the challenges men and women face.

subscribeSubscribe by Email

Your email:

Got a Question

Have a question you'd like to Ask a Marriage Counselor? 
Submit your question here and we'll try to answer it in an up coming post. Please keep in mind that we get a lot of questions and are limited in how many we can answer. (Be sure to Sign Up by Email or RSS Feed above so you'll get our answer as soon as it's published.)

Blog Privacy Notice

All the stories, people, and quotes described in this blog are real.  However, people's names and biographical details have been changed to conceal their identity and protect their privacy.

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

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

How An Emotionally Abusive Relationship Traps You


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).

Husband Rater QuizHow to Get the Husband of Your Dreams

Learn how your husband rates compared to other husbands and help him get back to being the man you fell in love with. Take our Free Husband Rater Quiz (quizzes for both wives and husbands).


I don't mind being the first to comment on your articles.I can certainly relate to abuse from both genders.I have been both physically, verbally and emotionally abused and have succumbed to manipulation.Both my parents did this, not only to each other, but also to their three children.As adults these children are still dealing with issues relating to their upbringing.
Posted @ Sunday, June 20, 2010 8:00 PM by Connor Delco
It is so easy to characterize the abuser as male. Has anyone written any articles about males dealing with emotionally abusive women? If we were to retaliate against their manipulations with abuses of our own, then we'd be vilified. Where's the help for us men who are dealing with out-of-control women that we can not just up-and-leave due to our commitments?  
Posted @ Friday, March 04, 2011 8:03 AM by Ino
I agree with 85% of the article, well the descriptions didn't fit me 100% but most of it is littered in truth. For starters I am a guy 46 and my wife is 31. I grew up in an emotionally, verbally and physically abusive environment. I should say this is or was my 2nd marriage - it was the 2nd marriage for the both of us. She left her physically abusive husband years before we met however our time dating was one of amazement. I had never felt what I thought was undying and unwavering love for Kelley. We had a few bumps prior to marriage and equally sought counseling. Nothing major and nothing that could be deemed as abusive. It was my idea (not that I was looking for kudos) We made it through one year of counseling and then were married about a year later. This is where the pain comes in... On our wedding night I kissed a coworker several times and then proceeded to lock my then bride out of the hotel room. I did so many terrible things that night that was supposed to be her special night. Future attempts to get me to see how badly I had hurt her were turned into moments of denial on my part because I tried running away from the problem. In my irrational mind I just wanted to run. There were many nights where we would enjoy movie night or glasses of absinthe or wine and we would get into an argument because of something I said. Of course when I woke from alcohol induced blur, I made promises, concessions and failed attempts to never do it again. I caused my wife so much heartache, headaches and pain and was unaware of it. How and Why? Because my mother was the type of person who could be sweet, lovable and caring and the next spankings with extension cords, late night get up and clean your room, no one will ever love you because your mean. I saw the types of relationships she had and as I grew, I learned to lie (not especially well) and I learned to hurt. I didn’t see when my first marriage that I had taken an already fragile woman and reduced her to a person who will NEVER EVER speak to me. It has been 12 years since that divorce. In my defense, she too was abusive – Punch and Judy. So I took with me nothing to learn because in my eyes, she had wronged me. With Kelley it was different. The pain of our wedding night led into many days and nights to where I wouldn’t speak to her (a friend of hers called the police after she cried on the telephone that I wouldn’t speak to her) still I didn’t learn my lesson. Weeks and months went by and I was the charmer I had been while we were dating and we decided to have a child (she had medical reasons that pointed to her not being able to conceive. In a drunken stupor I brought this up and she still stuck by me) Well we had a beautiful baby girl (thank God because I can’t throw a ball to save my life!) on 2/18/11. We were overjoyed. I said hurtful things while she was in the hospital while holding our new daughter. STILL I didn’t see a pattern or a problem. I forget what she said that triggered my sarcasm but I said something… In April I came home and started fixing dinner (I cooked 90% of the time and loved doing so in our marriage because I enjoyed doing things for us and can cook from scratch – muffins, scones, cookies, cheesecakes etc.) and she was crying because it was a very stressful day with Emily. No problem I thought. I went into the bedroom where our daughter was and I brought her into the living room, my wife was at the dining room table trying to eat. She said; “well now she’ll never calm down.” My blood pressure went up and I said; “well you should have stipulated what you wanted Kelley.” And marched back to the bedroom, Emily and I laid on the bed with her propped in my arms and I did a technique I had learned where I would slow my breathing and the baby would eventually calm down and fall asleep. My wife comes crying into the bedroom and says that she wanted me to move my car so that she could go to the store (wine I’m guessing) so I asked her to take the baby. She snarkily said that I could do both. Of course looking back on that evening now, I see that she was stressed, tired and hurting because as a new mother with a first born child, she wasn’t prepared fully how to care for the baby.  
I brusquely said under my breath that she couldn’t take this out on me since I had only recently came home and was in the kitchen. I went into the living room with baby in tow and now awake and instead of trying to quell the situation called her a terrible mother and felt the cold splash of water pass me and onto the baby. I told her that she was a terrible mother and laughed out of nervousness and how surreal the evening had turned out. She left that night for her sister’s. She came back several days later and we cried because she said that it was over and she wanted a divorce. I begged and pleaded and promised to change. We agreed on counseling and I would attend church with her every Sunday (I had been too lazy) We spoke to two pastor/therapists at the church and two weeks later she returned home. Then came the construction to the roof of our apartment and the loud noise from a neighbor (music) a crying baby we came to call the baby without a spine – we had a quirky sense of humor and built this whole world centered around this constantly crying infant. She returned to her sister’s but would come home every weekend. Mostly. I purchased Fireproof, the Love Dare for myself and Fireproofing your marriage. We wrote down our do’s and don’ts for our marriage and we cried and made love. I felt a change and I asked God to give me strength to make the necessary changes within my life so that I wouldn’t have to lose my family, my treasure. In my desire to change, I didn’t see that my wife was still hurting because of the number of times I had willfully emotionally kept her apart from the things that she loved (The Beatles) that I assumed that it was just this apartment. We slowly began to fall back to old ways. The surprising thing is that I didn’t see myself falling to old traits and she could see that I was making a concerted effort not to woo but to be the leader in the family. We decided to move to AZ and I set about establishing employment there. Everything was falling into place as we thought it was. Still the memory of the times I had hurt her plagued her. I tried to reassure her that I was here, present and wasn’t going to return to my old self and she took solace in that. She also worried that I was going to falter. Eventually I grew increasingly forlorn because she and the baby weren’t here in our house of pain that I resentful, still I didn’t show any outwardly signs. The beginning of the end or end of the beginning took place a week before Father’s Day. Bear in mind what I am about to type was a preplanned trip. This particular Sunday, she said that the place was filthy, gross and smelled (we had 3 cats, 1 of which started urinating on covers and the other would vomit in places.) I asked her to take the baby and go out for a while so that I could clean the apartment. I said go back to your sisters and I will do the laundry etc. I spent the better half of the day cleaning the place from top to bottom and was happy that I was doing something for her. I forgot to mention that week we celebrated our 3rd anniversary, when she came home, she found a dozen blueberry scones that I had made waiting for her. When I came home, I had two dozen roses and card. I also forgot to mention that Friday evening we sat on the couch watching Shark Tank and when I tried resting my hand on her leg, I asked is it okay if I rest my hand on your leg? She said that it didn’t matter. I felt dejected – still I didn’t get that she was in pain, I assumed that it was the apartment and all of the things that grated on her nerves. I went silent and we continued watching the show. Midway through she said that she was tired and I said why don’t you go to bed dear. She went. Back to Sunday… I received a text message from her telling me that she was so unhappy at the apartment and was worried about the baby seeing her being there when there was so much negativity between us. I will be honest folks, I didn’t know what was really bothering her,” Negativity between us?” We had planned on getting together once the baby was asleep and return to Fireproofing your marriage which also fueled my desire to make everything right in the apartment. Well I got upset and hurt by this and text back that I was going to be going to dinner with a friend (lied) and that if I hadn’t made it back by the time she got in, I would be home shortly thereafter. I then walked to the nearest grocery store and bought 2 bottles of wine. During bottle number 1 I saw a commercial for Father’s Day, it dawned on me that the following weekend that she would be in AZ with her family, I would miss out on a milestone with my family my treasure. This fact led me to further drown my sorrows and I had thoughts of no one cares about my feelings etc. Well Monday arrived and I heard the familiar knock on the bathroom door and it was my wife. She had returned for a meeting at work and I was fine until the grog of wine and hurt feelings overtook me. I said that I wasn’t going to work and was instead going to meet with an attorney because I needed to secure my parenting rights. I also said that I was moving and wouldn’t be seeing neither she nor the baby ever again. I said a bunch of other outright LIES to justify my ire and hurt feelings. In a matter of 10 minutes I had reduced my family and treasure to things of the past. When I came down from everything and returned home, the cats were gone. I text her and she said that she had given them away (we had been discussing giving them away but I planned on “forgetting to do it – 2 were hers and 1 she rescued at a gas station when it was a kitten) I called I don’t know how many shelters within the area to no avail. She told me a few days later to get and sign the 30 day notice (after telling me that every time I act up and say hurtful things that it pushed her further away.) I started getting where we were heading on that day and walked around in a fog of denial and sadness. It was over, I had destroyed everything and she was not going to return. Fast forward to Friday, I knew she had to come back to pack for the trip and I decided to go home for lunch to speak and beg for forgiveness. I saw the blinds to our bedroom had been drawn and couldn’t remember if I had done it prior to leaving for work. On the kitchen table where I had left a card, and two letters outlining how and why I said the things I said on Monday, I found only the envelope. I also found the 30 day notice which I had signed gone. She had taken her bible and as many things as she or they could possibly take. I noticed that she had taken her addition of the Fireproofing your marriage and took slight solace that perhaps this was a temporary thing since I knew she didn’t want to live here anymore. We had planned on leaving to Phoenix once it had been guaranteed that I had gotten the position. Well it’s over, she had or has been looking into an attorney and I know that she isn’t coming back. Me? I hadn’t been able to eat for 4 or 5 days, all I do is cry and wander the near empty apartment and wonder HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN SO BLIND TO HER WANTS AND NEEDS. After all, we had eventually joked about how her crazy ex, she sent a text on Friday night telling me that she could no longer trust me and that it was over and that I had lied too many times and had broken her damaged beyond repair. It’s true, we had a baby and I said, did and acted out in ways that I would never treat even a stranger. On the surface I am a nice guy and everyone who knows me on the surface would agree. It’s on the inside that I am flawed and bitter. I told her that I was seeking help, she sent text messages of Emily while waiting for her delayed flight to Phoenix and she said not even the power of prayer nor God could fix what’s wrong with us. She’s right. On the day that “supposedly” led to my outburst on Monday arrived, she sent pictures of the baby but never called me by name – Actually, we work at the same company and I am in IT and she has needed help with VPN access off and on since Thursday. I helped and sent several 100’s of text messages and even helped this morning with notebook problems on her side. I asked her to please type my name (she’s grieving, healing and distancing herself from me and I know this) and she did. She told me that she still cared for me as a human being and father to Emily and wished me well. She also was sorry that I was hurting and this was a hard lesson to learn and it is. Before I end this thing, I searched for email messages from her in the past (to help my find joy) and I came across an email from July 2010. In the email she TOLD ME all of the reasons why she was hurting and all of the times I had broken her heart and how she worried and felt trapped by me, by us. I’ll be honest, I read the message last year but because I am me, I dismissed it as oh that’s your thing. HAD I taken to action and heart then when I she gave me the roadmap to her heart, I would still be sitting her but I wouldn’t be sitting here typing out this long message of pain and loss. I lost her forever, my wife and my friend. The Moral of this story – IF you’re in the midst of an abusive relationship, ask yourself if this one life on this planet is worth it. If YOU think that it is, then by all means get the abuser to take a look at this post. To the ABUSER – is being right more important to you than loving your mate? Are the feelings of rage, manipulation and fear more important than the person you claim to LOVE? If so, then sir or ma’am do EVERYTHING in YOUR power to change for no one but yourself, or you’ll eventually find yourself where I am. Alone, scared, sad, and remorseful for the damage I have caused not only to myself, but to the one I took a vow to be her protector and father to his daughter. I will seek help and I will end the cycle of abuse that I caused my everything.  
Posted @ Sunday, June 19, 2011 7:07 PM by TobiasMerriweather
How about the reverse here? How about the Wives that Second Guess their Husbands every decision? What harm does that do to a mans emotions? Honey, why did you park there? Why didn't you go this way dear? Why are you using that door? Don't you want to go out the other door? Constant challengs to every decision I make! And if I ask her to stop telling me what and where to go, then I'm the ass! Why do Women get the role of just being abused emotionally? Then I get, I'm just asking a question!!! Yeah Right...Little Pin prick Questions, that say I don't know how to make the correct decision!
Posted @ Thursday, October 03, 2013 9:25 PM by D Johnson
As well, the Guilt Noose! I beleive in equal free time for both men and women, as we all need time to ourselves to recharge inside. She can be out with her daughters until 1 or 2 AM during a social event. But let me stay out to 11 PM with a couple of my friends at a rally, and let the Guilt fly when I get home! Boy, you sure are running late! What took so long? No equal treatment here? But I don't dare bring up the lateness of her last outing! She'd say...But you knew where I was! She doesn't understand that her insecurities and guilt slinging, only makes me resent her for saying these things to me. She likes to push buttons I say, as well as act passive aggressive. But then I'm pushing buttons she says! If you want a happier Man, stop second guessing him and stop guilt mongering him! Then he might not be so angry about things??? Equal Respect Equals Happy Partners!
Posted @ Thursday, October 03, 2013 9:44 PM by D Johnson
Post Comment
Website (optional)

Allowed tags: <a> link, <b> bold, <i> italics