While not immediately apparent, the signs of emotional abuse in marriage are many. Unlike physical abuse, which can leave scars and bruises, emotional mistreatment may be difficult to detect. Many husbands and wives live in an invisible mental prison, held captive and bound with chains of intense hopelessness and despair. Victims are usually shy and introverted, withdrawn and insecure. Telltale signs of mistreatment may also include a lifestyle that is isolated or extremely limited; including a lack of contact with friends or relatives. An unkempt appearance, extreme weight loss or gain, or disorientation may also indicate marital mistreatment.
Beneath the signs of emotional abuse in marriage is usually a domineering spouse who desires to manipulate, control and intimidate through an attack on the victim's mind and self-esteem. Through some warped misconception of marriage, the attacker uses wedlock as a weapon to keep the spouse who is victimized in a constant state of emotional lows. The abuser engages in a cat-and-mouse game, constantly watching to see if the husband or wife is experiencing any peace or contentment in the marriage. The moment the victim strives to attain a measure of emotional well being and feeling of self-worth, the abuser immediately pounces with an unkind word, a negative response or worse, a belittling remark to quench any glimmer of joy the victim might experience. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; ...: "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church" (Ephesians 5:25; 28-29).
Men and women who display signs of emotional abuse in marriage may experience spousal mistreatment in the form of verbal attacks and some physical abuse, such as hitting or in extreme cases, rape. The goal of the abuser is to control and manipulate the abused into abject submission. Abusers may use language that berates and ridicules the husband or wife; or they may withhold expressions of love and sexual intimacy as punishment for some unexplained transgression. In extreme cases, some abusers may use sex as a weapon to punish the victim, perverting the normal act of physical intimacy into an exercise in mental torment.
Eventually, those who are constantly mistreated may show signs of emotional abuse in marriage by reacting negatively or even violently toward the abusive spouse. In many domestic violence cases, husbands and wives who have undergone years of mental torment at the hands of a domineering mate may shut down emotionally and begin to display aggression. Enduring years of alienated affections, perverted sexual intimacy, and constant denigration can take a toll. Some victims merely cease to feel anything emotionally for the abusive husband or wife; creating an impenetrable void. Signs of emotional abuse in marriage also translate into a lack of communication and a hostile atmosphere that can erupt into a physical altercation. Every word exchanged is wrought with irony, pessimism, and disdain; and having a pleasant conversation is nearly impossible. "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness" (Proverbs 15:1-2). Victims of domestic violence should seek help by calling a local crisis line or contacting a local social services agency or shelter.
From a child's perspective, the signs of emotional abuse in marriage may be perceived as the inability of one spouse to respond appropriately to another. Surprisingly, the victim--disheartened by constant berating--is often seen as the perpetrator of marital disharmony. Children witnessing their moms and dads constantly at odds tend to want to take sides: is Mom right or is Dad right? Why doesn't Mom show Dad any affection? Why do they seem to be always on the verge of an argument or engaged in a cold war? Without recognizing that the alienation of affection is one of the signs of emotional abuse in marriage, children may misinterpret the victimized spouse's inability to display affection and wrongfully accuse them as being cold or uncaring toward their intimidator. One can see that husbands and wives are not the only victims of marital disharmony and mistreatment. Emotionally alienated spouses should take care to observe how the children are affected and take measures to resolve issues before causing them permanent emotional damage.
The signs of emotional abuse in marriage can only be dealt with by discovering the root cause of the abuser's desire to torment, and by correcting negative patterns of behavior. Many times, tormentors have been victims of abuse themselves. Men who grew up with a domineering mother or abusive father may have witnessed a pattern of intimidation which they chose to emulate in their own marriage. Similarly, women who either grew up in an abusive home or were victims of rape, incest, or other types of physical mistreatment may be unable to relate to their husbands with genuine emotion. In any case, the way to uncover the reasons why spouses feel the need to denigrate a loved one is through psychological and marital counseling. An experienced marriage counselor can help guide couples towards a meaningful discussion of conflicts and work towards reconciling hurt feelings and wounded hearts. Negative behavior may also be a result of an inability to forgive past perceived or real transgressions; or the memory of a painful childhood can prohibit the abusive spouse from exhibiting normal affection. The abuser must be willing to face those "skeletons" buried in an emotional closet which causes them to want to dominate, intimidate and control their mates. And the abused spouse must be willing to forgive.
Signs Of Verbal Abuse In MarriageCommon signs of verbal abuse in marriage may be non-verbal, as a spouse under constant berating tends to become introverted. Too much quietness and a lack of personal expression may also be telltale signs that a husband or wife is being mistreated. While physical abuse leaves marks and bruises on the body, constant harassment through harsh words deliberately spoken to cause hurt can be mentally and emotionally debilitating. Spouses who habitually use profanity, spew out derogatory or demeaning names, or address a husband or wife in disrespectful terms can cause just as much harm as a loaded gun in the hand of a terrorist. There is never a justifiable reason to curse a loved one. A woman, especially a wife, should never be described as a female dog; neither should a man suffer similar disgraces. Husbands and wives should realize that holy wedlock creates a single entity; and denigrating a mate is equivalent to denigrating one's self. Sadly, some spouses may endure decades of belittlement and exhibit overt and covert signs of verbal abuse in marriage.
The Bible speaks against using the tongue, the smallest member of the physical body, to curse others: "Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be" (James 3:4-10).
Signs of verbal abuse in marriage can also cause otherwise outgoing individuals to become isolated from family and friends. Victimized mates can become so introverted that they may suffer from debilitating mental illnesses, such as depression, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem, or in rare cases, agoraphobia--a fear of the marketplace. Continual berating from a husband or wife can shatter one's self image and cause women or men to actually believe the derogatory remarks made by an uncaring spouse. Taunting epithets like, "You're stupid!" or "You're so fat and ugly!" soon enter into an individual's spirit; and begin to change a person's psyche and personality. Years of being told that you are fat and ugly result in husbands and wives who gradually become fat and ugly because of self-loathing. Day by day signs of verbal abuse in marriage soon become a victim's reality, until they are transformed into exactly what a cruel mate has accused them of becoming.
The objective of an abusive spouse is to control the weaker mate through constant intimidation, manipulation and domination. The aggressor takes pleasure out of playing a cat and mouse game with someone they should love. Words are used as weapons of mass destruction--pitted against an unwary husband or wife and doing major damage to the vital organs of heart, mind and soul. Overt signs of verbal abuse in marriage not only include an introverted personality and a gradual lack of personal expression, but also an unkempt or disheveled appearance. As hateful and hurtful words take affect, the victim ceases to care about how they look as the self-perception becomes a reflection of an angry partner's verbal onslaught. A person who living under constant criticism may also display changed physical features. Heads once held high become turned downward; smiles are replaced with frowns, and a gleam in the eye with dread. Covert, or hidden, signs of verbal abuse in marriage are less visible, but just as volatile. A husband or wife with low self-esteem due to non-stop lambasting may suffer such deep wounding of soul and spirit that they may eventually lose all hope. Those who give up may attempt suicide or choose infidelity as a means of escaping the pain of rejection and denigration.
Spouses who exhibit signs of verbal abuse in marriage and their partners may need professional or spiritual counseling to break free from a hurtful co-dependent relationship. An abuser needs behavior modification therapy to first determine why the need to belittle a loved one exists. The desire to inflict pain on another individual may very well be a result of receiving verbal abuse as a child or young adult, or being brought up in an abusive household. Psychologists or spiritual leaders can help a spouse with a filthy mouth get to the root cause of unacceptable behavior and begin to resolve personal issues. Uncovering the real reason behind objectionable language aimed at wounding a loved one will go a long way in alleviating unnecessary pain and suffering.
Once a verbally abusive spouse can address issues of personal inadequacies, a therapist or minister can help couples learn to love and accept one another. Learning how to criticize constructively without berating a loved one is also essential for signs of verbal abuse in marriage to be eradicated. Instead of constantly finding fault, couples should pray for God to remove the scales of cynicism from their eyes so that a loved one's qualities outshine their shortcomings. Fostering an attitude of thanksgiving to God and gratefulness for their husband or wife will help heal old wounds and mend hearts broken through careless words. Over time, abusive husbands and wives can begin to value and not victimize their spouses, fully understanding that to inflict emotional harm or mental anguish on a mate is tantamount to inflicting emotional and mental anguish on one's self.