Verbal and Emotional Abuse – A Primer Part VI

Seeing an Abusive Relationship for What It Is

The slow and painful progression from a loving spouse with hopes and dreams has taken the enabler-victim to a place where she has been compelled to ask for help, acknowledge that she is living in an abusive relationship, build a support network and do what she must to protect herself. After years of emotional assault, she is exhausted but determined to demand change.

Many women lack the strength to face their abuser or would clearly be unwise to do so. Physical violence is one short step beyond the verbal, and it may be safer for the victim to simply leave without abuser’s knowledge, taking children out of harm’s way, as well. This is where it is important for abuse victims to have a plan. In developing a support network, she needs to consider safe places where she may stay and get legal protection (such as a legal separation or a restraining order), if necessary. Threats or retaliation should be taken seriously.

The abuser will not let her go so easily. He will feign shock and disappointment at discovering her discontent or departure. He will tell her that she is overly sensitive or question how she could possibly be unhappy, lay out his manufactured history of his sacrifices on her behalf, contend she is foolish since no one will ever want her, or tell her that he’s sorry for everything and “it will never happen again.” She must be prepared for all of the potential magic words, buy-offs and hooks he will use to try to draw her back into his world. Manipulation is deceptive. Talk is cheap. So are gifts. The enabler-victim should never consider these as signs of change, only efforts to reassert his position and secure his dominance.

Unfortunately, often the victim is so eager to believe that her abuser really does love her that she will take hold of the slightest favorable overture, graciously accept his apology and convince herself that he really does care, and he intends to do whatever is necessary to make her happy. She wants to believe it – the first time around. In many instances, she will return to him (probably within days) and cling to the smallest signs of attention and affection as signs of heartfelt change. As he may initially fawn over her, she will embrace these overtures with gratitude – what a joy it is to feel loved and appreciated. This is what she has always dreamed of.

Will it last? The abuser wants her back, but he also wants to be in control. Which does he want more? Only time will tell. He’s an abuser, remember? He can’t afford to give her any ground, because he may never get it back. He needs to re-assert his dominance and re-train her to accommodate his will – as soon as possible. He cannot waste much time on niceties.

Perhaps the next time she leaves – if she leaves – she will wait to see if there is legitimate, long-term change, or she will get out of the relationship for good, begin the hard work toward personal healing, and discover what it means to live again. Unfortunately, if she is living with an abuser, that may be the most favorable option. The abuser may never change; but she can.

It’s not easy. But the possibilities are endless after taking the time to work through our own feelings of inadequacy, questioning what love is really supposed to look like, and reclaiming our own sense of value

For those trying to survive in abusive relationships — refuse to be abused. You deserve better. You really do.

See part VII

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5 thoughts on “Verbal and Emotional Abuse – A Primer Part VI”

  1. So it’s okay to just leave without telling him first that I’m planning to move out? I have a safe house to go to, and I was going to slowly start moving my stuff there then let him know that I was done. After reading this post, it seems to me that it might be better to just leave and then explain. My kids are basically grown, and three out of the four are coming with me. I don’t think he will be violent about it, but he did come close about 20 years ago. I just didn’t think that I could leave first and explain later. Now I am rethinking how I go about doing this. I’ve got some more work to do to get ready to go.

    1. Hello, Becky. I am glad that you took the time to write.

      You have spent a lot of time and energy over so many years trying to make things right for him. That’s what we do. But, now it is time for you to do what you must to take care of you and your children – something he has failed to do.

      I’ll be blunt here: You owe him nothing. It is not your job to soften the natural consequences of his actions or to try to make things easier for him. That doesn’t mean you should throw it in his face; just do what is best for you for the sake of emotional and physical safety under these circumstances.

      Based upon the fact that he threatened you physically, you have good cause to leave without telling him anything. Do you have an understanding of what you anticipate after you leave – file for legal separation, divorce? Wait and see how he responds?

      Because of where you find yourself at this juncture, I hope you will read “Leaving An Abuser: What to Expect and How to Stay Grounded,” , as well as “Checklist Blackmail.”

      (If these links don’t work properly, please search for them on the site. We are just adapting to this program…)

      These will give you an idea how an abuser will respond when you leave.

      Be wise and be safe. And feel free to write, and let me know how things are going and how I can help.


  2. Thank you, Cindy! Your words helped me tremendously! I have always been an emotional caretaker, afraid of upsetting him, and I can’t do that anymore. I have read both of the posts you recommended, but I will go over them again. My 3 girls (23, 21, 16), who are also ready to leave, started moving things over to the new house today. I see a lawyer on Friday. This is moving along faster than I imagined it would.

    By the way, I’m the pastor who commented on a post on your other blog. I am so very thankful that God placed me in a church with loving, spirit-filled people who are going to love and support me through this. Wednesday, I am telling my personnel committee, and I expect their full support.

    1. Praise God, Becky. God is making a way for you and your daughters. I will add you to my prayer list as you move through this transition.

      I also owe you an apology… Life gets in the way sometimes, and I failed to respond to your earlier message. I am so impressed with your church’s response and would love to connect with you further to “discuss” how we might better educate the body on this issue.

      Keep in touch…


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