Mental and Emotional Abuse in Marriage


Marriage is a sacred, intimate relationship that relies on trust and respect between two individuals. However, abuse is no stranger to marriage, be it emotional, physical or mental. Being in an abusive relationship can damage a person’s self-confidence, ability to trust and self-respect. It can even lead to withdrawal, depression or suicidal thoughts and attempts. While signs of physical abuse can be visible, emotional and mental abuses in a relationship are more insidious. Most people have no idea they are being abused, and if they do, they are too weak and timid to leave the abuser.

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What Is Emotional Abuse In A Marriage?

Emotional abuse can be devastating and unlike physical abuse, it is not easy to comprehend. It involves a series of manipulation and shaming tactics, demeaning the other person at every possible opportunity. A person who abuses emotionally strives for dominance and superiority and often undermines the other person’s self-worth. Verbal threats, bullying, intimidation, blaming and threats, constant criticism etc. are all tactics of emotional abuse in a relationship.

What Are The Signs Of Emotional Abuse In A Marriage?

Unlike physical abuse where the wounds can be seen, the signs of emotional abuse are subtle. It often takes long time to surface. However, below signs can be considered alarming in a relationship:

  • Demeaning behavior: Disregarding your opinions, being sarcastic, constantly trying to correct you, demeaning and devaluing your presence etc. All constitute signs of emotional abuse. Subtle threats and negative remarks are often part of their conversations. This often leaves the victim being labelled as “too sensitive”.
  • Dominating traits: When someone tries to control everything in a relationship, you can be sure you are dealing with an abuser. They might also try to control personal things like, friends, you’re coming and going, e-mail accounts, simple everyday choices etc. They might even also try to have their say on what you wear, how you talk and above all finances.
  • Constant criticism: Belittling all your efforts, undermining all your achievement and crushing all your dreams, hopes and aspirations by constantly criticizing you is a tactic often used by emotional abusers. Your feelings are flushed down the toilet.
  • Blaming, shaming and humiliation: Public humiliation, blame games, and shaming by constantly pointing out your flaws and mistakes. They also call you names, repeatedly crossing boundaries and disapproving you. These approach can make you feel you are always wrong. And this is what an emotional abusers desire in a victim.
  • Refusal to be pleased: No matter what you do and how hard you try, emotional abusers are never happy or pleased. These people do not show any empathy or consideration to your efforts and play the victim. They also become emotionally distant and even withdraw sex.

The victims of abuse do not see this ‘mistreatment’ as ‘abuse’ and often live in denial. This is why effects of emotional abuse can be severely damaging to a person as a whole.

What Are The Effects Of Emotional Abuse?

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Emotional abuse can have devastating and damaging effects, broadly classified into short-term and long-term effects-

Short-term effects of emotional abuse: Emotional abuse can render a person question himself as to how did they arrive in such a situation. They get surprised, confused, shocked and live in anxiety and fear. Slowly, the victim starts to change his or her behavior and thoughts towards the abuser. Some signs of short term emotional abuse are:

  • Surprise, confusion and shock
  • Shame, guilty, anxiety and fear
  • Aggression and compliance
  • Frequent crying, remorse and feeling undesirable
  • Feeling manipulated, used, dominated, powerless and helpless
  • Loss of confidence and feeling defeated.

Long-term effects of emotional abuse

Because victims find it really hard to leave an abuser in an abusive relationship, they tend to do everything to bring the relationship to the point where it was non-abusive. But the abuser strategizes in such a way that the victim begins to believe him and conclude he or she is not worthy of a normal, better relationship. Instead, the victim:

  • Goes into depression and withdrawal mode
  • Complains of superficial physical pains without any cause
  • Suffers from low self-esteem and has a disturbed sleep
  • Often succumbs to substance abuse
  • Feels trapped and alone, has extreme dependence on the abuser
  • Has suicidal thoughts, tendencies and attempts

Infact, people in an emotionally abusive marriage tend to blame themselves and even defend the abuser. However, people in an abusive marriage often live a life of loneliness, feeling low and slowly detaching from everything they do.

What Is Mental Abuse In A Marriage?

Just like emotional abuse, mental abuse also largely goes hidden and unreported, because there are no visible wounds like physical abuse. A marriage in which a partner abuses the other mentally mainly wants to take over dominance – financial, physical, social and psychological. The abuser largely possesses an aggressive personality and sees abuse as a way to resolve conflicts by exerting supremacy.

What Are The Signs Of Mental Abuse In A Marriage?

Psychological abuse is not easily differentiable, because the abuser does not hit physically, but breaks down the other person mentally. These signs are quite similar to signs of emotional abuse, because both abuses aim at making a person feel mentally unstable. Signs of mental abuse in a marriage can be summed up in under, though they are not limited to the ones listed:

  • Dominance and control: From smaller things like what you wear and who your friends are, a mental abuser slowly takes control over all aspects of the victim’s life. So much so that the victims become utterly indecisive in their thoughts and actions. Victims of mental abuse are so unsure that they cannot even make simple everyday choices like what to eat without the approval of the abuser.
  • Attacking self-respect: Repeated attempts to lower the victim’s self esteem are made to kill the victim’s self-confidence, sense of worth and self-respect. The victim ends up thinking low for himself and feels he is not worthy of a better relationship.
  • False accusations, threats: Abusers blame the victims for any shortcoming that they have, and hold them responsible for any crisis that may arise – sometimes even fabricate crises to frame you, and then threat you with ‘justified’ punishment.
  • Malicious humor and public shaming: Abusers are never pleased and refuse others to praise the victim either. They constantly target malicious humor on the victim and snub it off just like that. They do not hesitate to glorify victim’s flaws and mistakes and often make it a point to shame the victim publicly.
  • Refuse to ever be wrong: An abuser never acknowledges his mistakes and flaws. When confronted, he will apologize and resume the behavior shortly. Abusive patterns soon raise their ugly head and the cycle goes on and on.

What Are The Effects Of Mental Abuse In A Marriage?

Mental abuse damages a person’s sense of self-worth and attacks the very foundation of a person. The victim starts to look at the abuser’s acceptance as the measure of his or her self-worth. Slowly, the abuser takes control of the victim entirely, weakening every sense of ‘self’. Victims resort to lying , even to themselves in an attempt to believe that they are probably at fault for causing so much anguish to the abuser. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, lower confidence, indecisiveness etc. are some of the many demoralizing effects of mental abuse in a relationship.

How Do You Know You Are In An Abusive Relationship?

Psychological abuse, also known as mental of emotional abuse renders a relationship ‘one -sided’. You will feel off balance in the relationship and the partner will often exert control and dominance into all your personal spheres. If you feel you are being manipulated, constantly blamed and shamed, and end up believing that everything wrong with the relationship is your fault, it is time to take a serious evaluation of the relationship.

I am sure this article making marriage happy might be add-on after going through this article.


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