What is Abuse?

Just because he’s not hitting you doesn’t mean you’re not in an abusive relationship. (If he is hitting you, there’s no doubt.)

Abuse can be subtle, insidious, even silent. What are some of the signs that you – or someone you care about – may be in an abusive relationship?

  • Secret-keeping – You protect the abuser’s public image and maintain the façade of a healthy, happy family.
  • Fear – You are constantly trying to avoid or quell the abuser’s anger. If you cross him, he may tell you that you made him act out or that you deserve it.
  • Confusion – The abuser keeps you off balance and questioning your own views, value or abilities.
  • Isolation – The abuser tries to keep you from family, friends and other sources of emotional support.
  • Dependence – The abuser may threaten you with a loss of financial security or try to convince you that you would fail without him.
  • Verbal abuse – The abuser will use verbal tactics such as put-downs, manipulation, yelling, name-calling, shame, sarcasm, or threats.
  • Emotional abuse – The abuser may withhold provision or affection, throw things or destroy property. He may use posturing or the silent treatment to intimidate his victims.
  • Spiritual abuse – The abuser may use religious doctrine to justify his demands for submission or conformity.
  • Mixed messages – The abuser may tell you he loves you, but treats you badly.
  • Physical or emotional symptoms – You may struggle with ongoing anxiety or depression. Abuse victims may exhibit physical signs of stress such as headaches, digestive problems, eating disorders, muscle stiffness, chronic fatigue or sleeping disorders.

Nothing will change unless you demand change. 

If you believe you are – or someone you care about is – living in such a relationship, don’t wait. Get help. Learn more about the dynamic of abuse, develop a support network and prepare yourself for change.

Learn more about:

The abuser’s ongoing demand for priority attention and control.

The abuser’s unpredictability: Am I living with Dr. Jekyl or Mr. Hyde?

Magic Words, Buy-offs and Hooks – Manipulative tools the abuser uses to appease you when he has crossed the line.

The abuser’s real objective: not relationship, but control.

The truth may initially upset you, but it will also provide you with the knowledge you will need to recognize abuse when it happens and develop the convictions, strength and strategies you will need to stand up for yourself, reclaim your value and force change.

Learn from the observations and experience of a woman who has been there:

I didn’t realize what we were living with. I thought it was my fault – that I was a failure as a wife.  

My husband’s behaviors became increasingly unpredictable and frightening. Although my children and I finally escaped and survived (and are quite happy now), it pains me to realize what we endured and what they were exposed to. If only I had known then what I know now, I would have acted earlier to end the abuse. 

* Statistically, the overwhelming majority of reported abusers are male; therefore, male nouns and pronouns are used for the sake of simplicity. It is understood that females are similarly capable of abuse, as well. The reader’s understanding is appreciated.

There is a light, not only at the end of the tunnel, but in it.


6 thoughts on “What is Abuse?”

  1. Thank you for these articles…I`m 65 years old…living in a different state with my son, then my husband. These articles are very truthful and I can identify with what is being said in them. I`ve lived this life for way to long, I can only take one day at a time, God will lead the way..I feel I`m safe where I am for now.Thank you for writing these articles and keeping me out of denial of what is happening to me again, after remarrying my husband again. Its hard for me to believe I`ve wasted almost 37 years of my life with this man. Retirement is suppose to be a fun time of your life.

    1. Hello, Linda. I know you are hurting, and I am very sorry. Know that escaping the abuse is also the beginning of healing. I, and others like me, will help you along this road. Give yourself time and room to grieve and work through things, and you will soon see that your life can be different and beautiful. It may not seem like it, but it’s true. God can restore the years that the locusts have eaten. Joel 2:25

      I gave 20 years to my abuser and thought I’d never recover and would always live in regret. But that was then. And this is now. ‘

      You have now.

      I’m glad you wrote. Thank you for taking the time to share.


  2. Oh, these signs of abuse are so true. If only I knew then, what I know now. Thank you for helping to get the word out there so woman can spot an abuser, before they get involved. And to know, if they’re already in an abusive relationship, there is hope and help.
    God bless,
    Wanda S.

    1. Hello, Wanda.

      Thank you for your kind comments.

      I sure wish I had understood abuse before I ended up an emotional basket case and put our children through a hell of their own. Sadly, most of us only figure it out when we have reached a terrible breaking point. And few churches are willing to have this discussion because it’s messy, and it means acknowledging that a both marriage and a family are being harmed from the inside. My goal in this ministry is to educate people and spread the word about abuse, so that others won’t go through what my kids and I did.

      Thanks again for taking the time to write and for your kind words of encouragement.

      In Him,


  3. I lived and survived 31yrs. I look back on it all,and this elephant was always in the room.I was in such denial I have learn so much I am a different person.I thought I has recovered but now I work with co-worker who is verbally abuses.I feel like am going though this all over again.that I didn;t seem to learn anything. I have to work Please help me.I feel like I am dying all over again. My e-mail mt979@comcast.net
    I hope I hear from you. Marie

    1. Hello, Marie.

      I am so sorry that you finally escaped one abusive relationship and find yourself in another one. However, in a work environment, there should be several options for recourse. And, there are no easy answers, nor is what I share here gospel. I’m sure others may have better suggestions, depending on the situation, but I will offer my thoughts.

      Not knowing the person’s role, if he or she is a peer to you, you have every right to put that person in their place. You will likely need to tell them straight out (which we enablers are not accustomed to) that he or she is being disrespectful and that they need to find another way to communicate with you. If you have a supervisor to report the abuse to, you should do so and ask the supervisor to address the issue with your co-worker. You should also document the incidents. Keep records of conversations on these issues, and move up the ladder of authority of nothing is accomplished at the lower levels. A hostile work environment can be a serious offense, depending on the laws of the state where you live and retaliation for reporting such an problem can also result in legal action against an employer.

      The abuse will not likely resolve itself. You are going to have to take proactive steps to attempt to address the problem by standing up for yourself. You may have to address it head-on, such as confronting the abuser. You might tell him or her that he or she may be having a bad day, but that is no excuse for the person to take it out on you. Or ignore the person unless he or she speaks to you in a proper manner. If they ask why you aren’t listening, tell them that you aren’t going to listen to them if they insist on being rude.

      If it seems unlikely that any change is forthcoming because of the situations, I urge you to try to find another job. Still, I know that can be very time-consuming and difficult, but it doesn’t hurt to move in that direction if it is feasible.

      Take care of yourself. Don’t let an abuser run you over.

      Hope this helps. Pray for wisdom.

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Help For Victims of Verbal and Emotional Abuse