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Emotional spousal abuse is a form of domestic violence in which a husband or wife continually harms his or her spouse psychologically. While this abuse is not physical in nature, it can be equally damaging to the victim as other forms of domestic violence. This type of abuse usually involves using words to control a victim, undermine his or her self-worth, and create an environment of fear and helplessness. There are a number of ways in which victims of emotional spousal abuse can find the help and support they need to escape from their lives of abuse.
Many people associate domestic abuse solely with physical violence. There are other, non-physical forms of abuse which a husband or wife can inflict upon his or her spouse, however. Chief among these is emotional spousal abuse, or the continuous psychological harm of a spouse.
A spouse who is an emotional abuser strikes with words rather than fists. He often uses various tactics to undermine his victim’s self-worth. For instance, he may constantly criticize his spouse’s appearance, intelligence, and performance of domestic duties. He may also intentionally humiliate his spouse in front of their children, extended family, or friends.
Often, an emotionally abusive spouse will seek to create an environment of fear for his partner. He may threaten to use physical violence if she fails to fulfill one of his demands, sometimes breaking or throwing things to add emphasis to his threat. If the couple has children, the abuser might threaten to take them away or harm them.
Another common characteristic of emotional spousal abuse is the creation of a feeling of helplessness in the victim. The abuser may insist on having total control over household finances, thus making the victim financially dependent on him. He may forbid her to interact with her family and friends or to participate in activities outside of the home. Barred from contact with the outside world, the victim often feels as though she has no support system to whom she can turn, and escaping from her abusive marriage begins to feel impossible.
Escaping emotional spousal abuse need not be impossible, however. There are a number of ways in which victims of this devastating form of abuse can find the help and support they need to rebuild their self-esteem and begin to live more positive lives. Victims of this type of abuse should consider talking to a trusted loved one, consulting an abuse hot line or website, or visiting a victims’ support center or shelter.