You knew when you met him that he was “the one”. He was so tender with you. He was always telling you how wonderful you were, and how happy you made him. But after you were married, things changed. Now it seems like he is always pointing out what you’ve done wrong. You don’t take the dishes out of the dishwasher soon enough; you never remember to buy him his favorite foods; you don’t keep him informed of where you’re going to be. “Why do you want to visit friends and family so much anyway? You should want to spend your time with me” He makes you the butt of his jokes with friends “Oh yes, the little woman bought that ludicrous wall hanging, its’ awful isn’t it? She has really lousy taste”. He laughs. He has taken to calling you” dimwit” as if it is some kind of pet name. You approach him to talk about the growing distance you feel between the two of you. He tells you that everything is fine, there is nothing wrong! It’s all in your head!” But you keep noticing him looking at you disdainfully. You really want to know what you can do to improve things, so you ask again. The next thing you know, he is six inches from your face and yelling at the top of his lungs. “I told you, there is nothing wrong! The only thing wrong is that you keep making things up in your head that aren’t true! I think you want there to be something wrong!” At this point you are crying. You are so confused. Why would you want there to be something wrong? You don’t know what is real anymore. You feel like you are going crazy. You are always anxious and depressed. You are always walking on eggshells, afraid that you will say something that will make him explode. He has never hit you, but you don’t feel safe. All you want is the return of the sweet man who was your husband. But that man doesn’t seem to be there anymore, and now you are not sure that he ever was.
Emotional abuse presents itself in many different ways. It can be overt like much of the abuse described above. It can involve yelling, name calling, humiliation, degradation, guilt- tripping, threats, intimidation, constant criticism, attempting to isolate the victim, blaming the victim for everything, and more. But it can also be more covert, and sometimes hard to put your finger on. For instance, it can involve denying the reality that is staring you in the face, and then saying that you “crazy” because you are perceiving reality correctly. This is known as “gaslighting”. The term gaslighting comes from an old movie called “Gaslight” in which a husband tries to drive his wife crazy by repeatedly changing her physical environment, and then denying that these changes occurred, or telling her that she made the change herself. One of the changes had to do with the dimming of the gas lights in the house, and then denying that they had been dimmed. Such a tactic can indeed be crazy-making.
If you are coping with emotional abuse and would like a free 15 minute phone consultation please call me at 707-210-4418.