(emphasis is ours)
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By Nancy Globus-Goldberg
As someone who suffered abuse throughout a 15-year marriage and beyond, I would like to share what I believe to be some sure signs of emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is more insidious than other abuses and just as damaging. Through this type of persecution, my partner attacked my very soul — using words and mannerisms that caused much pain and suffering. Over time, he systematically eroded my self-confidence and self-worth and created hurt so deep I could no longer bear his presence in my life.
My partner never took responsibility for his own actions. He blamed me incessantly, even for his own abusive behaviour. When confronted, he always had some excuse to justify himself. At his hands, I was subjected to insults, put-downs, shouting, threats and sarcasm. I was criticized, called names, humiliated, intimated and given ultimatums. Sometimes, he disguised his snide or cutting comments as humour. I found that even his subtlest comment could hurt me as much as his stronger, louder and more obviously denigrating statements. He typically ended his verbal assaults by accusing me of provoking his abuse or telling me that I deserved it. He shunned my explanations and what I might say in my own defense. (EA editor’s note: One EA abuse survivor’s partner told her – after humiliating her in public numerous times and after her confronting him with it: “You DESERVE to be humiliated in public, you bring it on yourself!“)
Body language too spoke volumes. For example, my partner habitually chose to walk or stand in front of, rather than beside me when we were out together. The messages I got were that he couldn’t care less about me, was somehow better than me…that I could never be his equal anyway. Often he verbalized these sentiments too.
My partner rarely had anything nice to say to me or about me and always made me feel completely undeserving of even the minutest amount of appreciation and support. He was also secretive and dishonest with me. He would lie and withhold information about important matters such as our financial affairs. Often he made plans or commitments affecting both of us, without my knowledge or consent, and refused to answer my questions.
Typically, my partner would not communicate with me without being abusive, and would never listen to me. He was intolerant of any opinions that differed one iota from his own. Moreover, his constant accusations and dogmatic way of speaking always made me feel like an unequal, rather than equal participant.
I learned the hard way that living under the cloud of emotional abuse does affect one’s health and well being. Because I believe that relationship partners can and should discuss ways to ensure that their words and actions do not inflict discomfort on one another, I made many attempts to alert him to how his words and actions made me feel. Sadly, he rejected them all, telling me repeatedly that whatever I had to say was not worth his time or attention. Ironically, he accused me of not being able to communicate effectively. He became deeply entrenched in denial over his own abusive behaviour. He was solidly convinced that I alone was to blame for his inability to relate to the children and me in a loving, accepting and non-abusive way. Eventually, I saw that under those circumstances, I would never be able to end the cycle of abuse and the anguish it brought me and my children, and I began to implement my options for breaking free.