Emotional abusers can be subtle in how they control you

One of my friends, who lived in a remote area, suffered an insidious form of emotional abuse when her abuser was rarely home early, because he worked such long hours. This is a particularly effective and disempowering form of emotional abuse, if the victim is a mother without a babysitter for her children. She is tied to the house. The abuser does not have to say anything or forbid anything. He has created a situation of complete control, simply by being absent. He can excuse his behaviour by pointing out how hard he is working to earn ‘badly needed’ money. He can argue that her job is to mind the children. The rationalization does not alter the fact that the victim is a housebound hostage subject to his control. This type of emotional abuse creates guilt in the mother who supposes she should not resent being cloistered with her children. Her husband answers to no one. I have also witnessed male victims who were controlled by the “illnesses” that confined their wives to bed for long periods. The subtle emotional manipulation makes it difficult for these victims to recognise that they are being abused.
Sandra Horley tells one story of vicious emotional abuse, in which a ‘charming’ husband isolated his wife from family and friends, and then refused to visit her when she was in hospital having their first child. She arrived home to find the word ‘slut’ traced in the dust on a table. He prevented her from taking a class, and burned all her diaries, drawings, and blogs. When she tried to act independently, he threatened to have her committed to a mental institution.
Though Elaine Weiss’s stories describe physical abuse, emotional and verbal abuse is the context of the violence portrayed. One of the storytellers spent years in an abusive relationship trying to work out why her husband behaved as he did. She could not understand how anyone could behave is such a way, so she blamed herself. She felt that she must have been provoking him, though she did not know how. In an attempt to appease, she strove always to please him. She believed his taunts and accepted his expectation of perfection from her. The more she strove to be the perfect wife, the more he ridiculed her. He used perfection as a way of controlling her, as she tried to ‘get it right’. Because she spent herself on keeping her husband happy, she neglected to meet her own needs and eventually became suicidal.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

Posted in abuse, abusive personality, controlling personality, psychological/emotional abuse
Tags: , ,