Q: I'm male. Right now I don't know what to do. I think my wife is emotionally abusive. Some days I try to keep my mouth shut. Today I was mentally hurt by her. I was feeling sad. I should have not told her I was sad because all the sudden she screamed at me and told me she wasn't staying at home. Saying how sick of it she is, slamming stuff around. I'm afraid of this behavior. I don't want to be separated from my kids. But I realize my wife emotionally abuses me. I feel like she might be rubbing off on the kids and maybe someday they will be abusive. That is my biggest fear, for my kids. -- Ryan V.
A: You've come to an important realization -- there's a problem in your relationship that needs to be fixed. Too many people in emotionally abusive relationships either never get to that recognition or don't get there fast enough. Congratulations, you've taken the first step towards change.
What you describe does sound like emotionally abusive behavior. Some of the signs of emotional abuse are the volatility, anger, threats, aggression, blame, and personal attacks by the abuser; then fear and self-blame for the victim. Although there may be things you don't know about that are contributing to why she responded this way, the behavior is still emotionally abusive.
You're right in being fearful about how your relationship is negatively affecting your kids. Fear is a common feeling in emotionally abusive relationships, and unfortunately people can allow it keep them feeling trapped and stuck. You need to be concerned for your own well being as well. A characteristic for victims of emotional abuse is not valuing yourself enough.
Emotional abuse is a really hard issue to deal with on your own, so get some support from a professional counselor. If your wife is willing, going to couples counseling together would be a great way for you to get the help you need so that you both can feel heard.
-- Kurt Smith, Marriage Counselor
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