Verbal Emotional Abuse

What is Emotional Abuse

Any behavior designed to undermine and control someone else through fear, humiliation, manipulation or intimidation is emotional abuse. This can present itself in the form of verbal abuse, constant criticism or fault finding. Through these tactics the abuser makes their victims feel that they are inadequate and inferior and erodes their self-esteem.

Contrary to what some people believe, not all forms of abuse are expressed through physical violence. Emotional abuse can and often does lead to physical aggression but the abuser uses manipulation tactics as opposed to physical abuse.

Emotional Abuse - The Unseen Pain

Image Courtesy of ghetto_geura29 on Flickr
Image Courtesy of ghetto_geura29 on Flickr

What Influences People to Resort to Emotional Abuse

The need to control other people or degrade and belittle them often stems from a lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem. Abusers are psychologically and emotionally immature and may have been the victim of, or witnessed, an abusive relationship during childhood. As a result these people accept abusive behavior as the norm.

Emotional abuse does not discriminate against race, socioeconomic status, religion, culture or gender. However, in heterosexual relationships the victim in the majority of emotional abuse cases is female.

According to statistics on spousal abuse, emotional abuse occurs 6% more often than physical abuse. In view of the fact that emotional abuse is not considered a criminal act and that most cases go unreported until they eventually culminate in physical abuse the figure for emotional abuse is in reality probably much higher.

Almost 40% of women experience some type of emotional abuse either by a partner or someone with whom they have an intimate relationship. All victims in emotional abusive relationships have a very high risk of becoming physical abused. Emotional abuse is an attempt to take control of the partner - both mentally and/or emotionally.

As with all other forms of abuse the victim is bullied into living a life where the victim is in constant fear of the abuser and inevitably change their behavior and lifestyle to please the abuser.

In situations where the abuser becomes anxious of losing control over the abused or where the abuser feels guilt caused by any of his/her own actions the abuse tends to escalate. This will then allow the abuser to pass the blame of his own actions onto the abused and once again gain control over that person.

Social beliefs can also influence some men into believing that they are the stronger sex and have a right to discipline a wife or girlfriend that is disobedient.

Alcohol and drug misuse can aggravate but cannot cause emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is a personality disorder, however abusers often hide behind substance abuse as a means to justify their behavior.

None of the above reason are an excuse to be an abuser as any form of abuse is in violation of the basic human rights of the person being abused.

Emotional Abuse Can Be More Traumatic Than Physical Abuse

Image Courtesy of zt.viagens on Flickr
Image Courtesy of zt.viagens on Flickr

Who Becomes Victims of Emotional Abuse

People do not willing enter or stay in an abusive relationship but people who were verbally abused as a child often find themselves in abusive relationships as an adult. These people may not have learned how to validate their own feelings and perceptions and develop their own viewpoints. Despite the fact that emotional abuse is destructive these individuals are more likely to accept emotional abuse as normal, even comfortable.

Abusers transfer their own feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness, fear, hurt and anger to their victims. This allows them to feel more in control and avoids the issue of their own insecurities and self-perceptions.

People who are subjected to constant emotional abuse lose their sense of self-worth and no longer trust their own perceptions. Over time the victims lose all sense of self and ultimately become incapable of forming a realistic judgment of the situation. The end result is that the victim's self esteem is so low that they cling to the abuser firmly believing that they deserve to be treated this way.

Emotional abusers are masters in the art of manipulation and convince their victims that they are worthless and that no-one else would want them. The victims then believe that they have nowhere else to go and lack the self-confidence to be on their own.

Emotional abuse leaves wounds that are much deeper and lasting than physical abuse. It is also much more difficult to talk about and explain to the outside world. The abuser normally has a dual personality or "two faces". The "Mr Nice Guy" - everybody's friend, loving spouse, successful, life and soul of the party is the face that they present to the world and the emotional abuse is reserved for the victim.

If they suspect that their victims are strong enough to seek help they are known to spread rumors about their victims instability. This makes it even more difficult for the abused to walk away from an abusive relationship and they stay for fear of being labeled neurotic. In an attempt to conceal their abusive behavior they often isolate their victim keeping them away from family and friends.

Emotional abuse is the greatest indication of potential physical violence, especially where a woman is called names to humiliate and belittle her. Emotionally abusive partners have also been known to commit murder or murder-suicide. People who are subjected to emotional abuse may become suicidal.

Emotionally Abused People Can Become Suicidal

Image Courtesy of David Harvester on Flickr
Image Courtesy of David Harvester on Flickr

Tactics Used By The Emotional Abuser

The emotional abuser is invariably egocentric and as such can place unreasonable demands on his victim, expecting them to give all their time and attention to the abuser. In doing so they are denying their victim of any right to privacy and time of their own. They expect their partner to be at their beck and call and will still be dissatisfied irrespective of how much they are prepared to give of themselves.

Emotional abusers have an obsession with control and will go to great lengths in an attempt to control their partner's every move. If their wants are not met they will resort to threats or punishment to get control of the victim's life. Allowing someone to dominate them to this extent will cause the victims to lose any sense of self-respect.

The victims will be constantly criticized and berated for their inability to meet the abuser's needs. Emotional abusers also constantly criticize the partner's size and appearance breaking down their self-esteem until they believe that they are repulsive and worthless.

Isolation is another common tactic used by emotional abusers. They want full control over their victim's lives and try to prevent them from having contact with their friends and family. They may even prevent them from having independent activities such as work, irrespective of whether they can afford for the victim not to earn an income or not.

Due to their own low self-esteem they are overly jealous and possessive and falsely accuse the victim of extra-marital affairs if they even speak to a person of the opposite sex. They often pressurize the victim to have sex with them to prove that they love the abuser. This often becomes their way of making amends after each attack despite the fact that the victim may be in a state of despair and hurting.

Abusers often use children as pawns in their power game and will criticize the partner's parenting abilities. They are also known to threaten to ensure that the victim does not get custody of the children should they decide to end the relationship.

Typical of an emotional abuser in order to maintain full control and power they will make all the decisions. This includes important matters such as family finances, what car to buy, where they live and which school the children will attend. They will withhold information from the victim and not consult them on any decisions.

A more aggressive form of abuse includes false accusations, name-calling, threats, blaming and ordering. The abuser assumes a superior position in the relationship by invalidating and judging the partner thereby undermining their equality and independence.

Aggressive abusive can also be more subtle and be disguised as an attempt to help the victim when in effect these are merely attempts to belittle and control them. This can lead to what is known as learned helplessness where the victim believes that they are helpless and remains passive in a damaging situation because they have been lead to believe that they are incapable of making a worthwhile decision.

Emotional abusers tend to deliberately start arguments as they have this uncontrollable urge to experience a feeling of power and control.

Denying is a very harmful form of emotional abuse and can cause the victim to lose all sense of self-worth. Besides minimizing of the victims opinion on anything they are known to deny that certain events took place or that hurtful things were said.Minimizing or trivializing is a more subtle form of denying whereby the abuser leads the victim to believe that they are over-reacting to events or things that were said. To hurt, humiliate or belittle their victims, abusers will question the victims perceptions, memory and even their sanity.

Constant invalidation of feelings, reality and experiences will inevitably lead the victim to mistrust their own perceptions and emotional experience. Emotional abusers can undermine the victims perception of reality by rejecting, mocking, diminishing, or judging the victim's feelings and opinions in an attempt to control the way the victim feels.

Abusers may often refuse to listen or communicate with their victims and withdraw emotionally as a means of punishment. This is what is commonly known as giving their victims the "silent treatment".

In an attempt to control their victims, abusers play on the values, guilt, compassion and fear of their victims to reach their goals. They may also threaten to abandon their victims in an attempt to expose the victims vulnerability and dependency on the abuser.

Abusers are often very moody people and may re-act differently to a specific situation depending on their mood. Drastic mood swings and emotional outbursts make a relationship with this type of abuser extremely draining as the victim is constantly on edge never knowing what to say or how to act to prevent an attack. This type of abuse is characterized by unpredictable responses and the victim, not knowing what to expect, is permanently on guard waiting for the next mood change which could lead to an outburst.

Characteristics of an emotional abuser

Abusers may demonstrate one or more of the following characteristics:-

  • Unrealistic expectations of themselves and others
  • Very demanding
  • Volatile temper and over-react to minimal incidents
  • Evade responsibility in a relationship and do not easily commit
  • Excessively jealous and possessive and very insecure
  • Have an obsession with controlling their victims and restricting their freedom and rights.
  • Very demanding of their victims
  • Make all the decisions and never take their partners feelings into consideration.
  • Manipulative
  • Never take responsibility or blame for their own mistakes
  • Never admit to the harm they cause - not even to themselves
  • Can not empathize with others
  • Dual personality

Verbal Abuse

Images Courtesy of Dakal on Flickr
Images Courtesy of Dakal on Flickr

Effects of Emotional Abuse

People who are emotionally abused lose the confidence to make decisions for themselves and tend to agree with everything their partner suggests. They will do anything to please their abuser despite the fact that this is basically an impossible task as the abuser finds joy in criticizing everything the abused does.

In order to justify their staying in the relationship people who are emotionally abused find reasons to excuse the abuser's behavior. This includes having a bad childhood, a bad day at the office but more often than not the victim's tend to blame themselves. Something that they said or did is the reason why their partner is being abusive and they often feel it is their fault.

Emotional battering can cause serious health and psychological problems and the victims often become forgetful and find that they experience difficulty in concentrating. The abused often resort to alcohol or drug abuse or may develop eating or sleeping problems. The emotional stress can cause the abused to become physically ill or they may experience abnormal fatigue or anxiety attacks. All people react differently but it is not uncommon for emotionally abused people to suffer depression and to show a loss of interest in the world around them.

Emotional abusers often try to isolate their victims and the victims often find that they eventually lose all contact with their friends and family. As a result of the emotional battering abused people lose their self confidence and fear if they end the relationship that they will be all alone

Emotionally Abused People Condition Themselves to Keep Quiet

Image Courtesy of Nathalie_Renaud Flickr
Image Courtesy of Nathalie_Renaud Flickr

Why Emotionally Abused Victims Don't Easily Leave

Victims of emotional abuse often stay in the abusive relationship in the hopes that the abuser will change. They often feel that by changing the way that they act towards the abuser they will be able to change the way the abuser acts towards them. Unfortunately one cannot control other people's emotions and neither can you change their personality.

One of the tragedies is that victims eventually believe all the degrading and hurtful things that the abuser tells them about themselves and truly believe that they are the cause of the problem.

The only possible way for them to walk away from this relationship with any dignity is to realise that the opinions expressed by the abuser are not necessarily their true opinion of the victim but only a means to get them to believe that they are worthless. If the victim has reached the stage where they can no longer distinguish between what could possibly be valid opinions and those given merely to hurt and control them they should seek outside help urgently.

It is very difficult for people who have been in an abusive relationship to just walk out without strong emotions of fear, embarrassment, self-blame and a host of other complex feelings. It is essential that the victims realize that there is a way out of an abusive relationship and there are trained people that will help them to overcome their fears and give them a greater understanding of the situation.

The foremost reason victims do not leave an abusive relationship is their inability to provide shelter and food for themselves and their children although threats, safety, fears and love are also contributory factors.

If you feel you are being abused, or know someone who is, you need to get help. Keeping the abuse a secret doesn't protect a person from being abused - it only makes it more likely that the abuse will continue.

Silence Hides Violence and Any Other Form of Abuse

Image Courtesy of Heraldpost on Flickr
Image Courtesy of Heraldpost on Flickr

What to Do if You Are Being Emotionally Abused

The very first step in the right direction is to recognize and admit that you are in a dysfunctional relationship and the victim of emotional abuse. This is a very serious situation to be in and is as bad if not worse than physical abuse. You must realize that you are not to blame for your partner's abusive behavior.

Emotional abusers often resort to aggressive behavior and this could easily lead to physical violence or murder. Have a safety plan in place and take your safety and that of your children seriously.

If your partner has threatened to harm or kill you phone 911.

When you do make a decision to leave your partner seek legal advice.

  • Victims of abuse are at the greatest risk of being harmed or killed when they leave.

You and Me

the world knows a different you
you tell them i'm crazy and they believe it too
why shouldn't they - you're so gentle and kind
they don't know what goes on in your mind.

if i told them that there is a different you
a person they would loathe if only they knew
they'd probably think that i was to blame
and i'd only be putting myself to shame

cos emotional abuse leaves no scars they can see
you are not breaking bones - you are breaking me
you trample the core of my being - deep inside
taken away my dignity, my respect and my pride.

i can't wait for your leaving in the morning
and dread your return at night
being around you makes me edgy
just waiting for the next fight

what will i be ?- a slut or a bitch?
useless and ugly and an evil witch?
or will it be i'm just a cheap whore
someone nobody loves anymore?

or will you ask me what i did with my day
and then not listen to what i say
waiting to accuse me of lies and deceit
saying i slept with every man on our street

will you throw out the meal i prepared for you
find fault with every single thing that i do
will you punch me with words so hard that i cower
all in an effort to gain control and power.

or will you resort to threats of violence and death
i wish i could tell you to just hold your breath...........

cos you cannot kill someone who no longer exists
who died a slow death caused by words and not fists.

its always the same ending after a fight
you expect me to make love all through the night
when all i want is to be left alone and in peace
in a happy place where the hurting can cease

in this dysfunctional relationship that you call love
you torture me daily without a push or a shove
but the hurt cuts deeper than gashes and bruises could
and my heart bleeds more than my body ever would.

for time will never heal the scars that i bear
i just bury them deeper year after year
and change to who you want me to be
it makes it far easier than me being me

Laura du Toit - 2009

Comments 107 comments

girlanonymous 3 years ago

Oh, they are pros at manipulating therapists! And it should be no surprise that some become therapists....what better way to control? They have people at their most vulnerable, in the palm of their hand.

Tudor7 3 years ago

This is a great post :) I really felt better reading it. If the abuser assumes a superior position and the abuse is sometimes disguised as an attempt to help the victim I think I may have been abused by my therapist. Or maybe there was a lack of competence. Who knows, anyway, doesn't matter now :)

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 3 years ago from South Africa Author

Nobody - and that really means nobody, has the right to verbally abuse another human being. The fact that the person abusing you is older than you does not make the experience more or less acceptable. Unfortunately only you can decide how you wish to handle the situation and whether or not you need counceling. If you are suffering from PTSD then this in itself is obviously a factor that could influence your ability to handle any abuse and you should really get help to enable you to handle this and other stress situations. Hope you get the guidance you need as soon as possible.

SaneConcern 3 years ago

I found this article very informative. There were a few minor typos but overall I really appreciate the fact that someone took the time to type this and share it. Although this is directed most specifically to romantic relationships I felt it rang just as true when put in a wider context. For example, I'm currently receiving much emotional abuse from my Father who I suspect may be both an alcoholic and bipolar. I get yelled at to the point where it seems my Father thinks I'm his enemy and his facial expression seems to imply that he wants to physically hurt me. Instead he angrily demands that I "Shutup and Walk Away" or else. When I ask what will happen if I don't walk away he threatens to escalate his intimidation into a physical fight. I'm in my 20's and he's in his late 50's. I've tried blaming myself for being weak and deserving to be verbally abused but I have realized I need to get help. Up until this point I had been seeing a Psychologist because I thought I had PTSD from something that happened when I was a child. I didn't get my PTSD diagnosed for fear that it would affect my ability to live a decent life. The verbal abuse I have received most recently has been so bad I've considered seriously ending my life since it doesn't seem my Father wants me around. My friends said I shouldn't do it, that I should try and move away instead. I've decided to start seeing a Psychologist again because I have a strong gut feeling that the way I am being treated is wrong whether or not I have PTSD. It seems wrong for an older person to verbally abuse a younger person. I am trying to get help for my situation and want to at least try family counseling to see if my situation can get better.

Ebonny profile image

Ebonny 3 years ago from UK

This is an impressive article from which many will gain great insight. Thumbs up and more. Thank you for sharing.

Horsestance 4 years ago

I have Dementia. When my wife berates, hates and antagonises me enough I start blasphemy and shouting. This was judged to be assault and now I have a conviction. Next time is jail for a year. They say there is no excuse for DV, even medical conditions. It is also unfair and injust to assume that males are guilty and females are innocent. What normal adjusted person goes around swearing for no reason? (frustrated carers ?) I'm frustrated too !

Moon Maiden1968 4 years ago

My husband's workplace says "we as an organisation do not tolerate domestic abuse by any of our employees". When I complained about his behaviour to his bosses at the NHS they said it was "a private matter" and turned their backs on me. Shame on you Gemma Hughes.

She does not witness the torrent of swear words that come out every other word from his mouth. Nor is kept short of money. I can't buy a pint of milk because he won't give me cash.

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 4 years ago from South Africa Author

Good luck Chatty. I can only try to imagine what hell you must have gone through and are still going through with the terrible task of trying to get custody of your children. I hope for your sake that you manage to get custody of the child who has as yet not been influenced by the abuser. Just glad that you managed to walk away from your husband and start a new life. Good luck for the future and putting back the broken pieces. Time and counselling will get you through this - it can not be nearly as bad as suffering through an abusive relationship!!

chatty1998a 4 years ago

After 20 years and 2 children, I left my abusive husband. but not after making a very bad mistake of signing a separation agreement that is totally unfair and bias to him. Now, 6 months later, my attorney has the hard job of proving in court that my husband, harrassed intimidated and put undo pressure on me to sign this agreement. Unfortunately there are no other cases on file for him to relate my case to. I am in counseling, which is the hardest part. Realizing that I allowed this abuse for so long. It effected my family and friends. Friends I don't have anymore but luckily family I do. My 14 year old son has taken his father's footsteps and is now an abuser also. My 6 year old is not. I am also trying to get custody of my 6 year old. When I left my husband I left the children with him to be in the familiar home and routine. How stupid was I? I just hope we get a simpathetic judge who can see though my husbands pleasantrees.

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 4 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks for your comments Christy

Christy Zutautas 4 years ago

This is one of the best hubs I've ever read...and also one of the best poems I have ever read. Absolutely amazing - thanks for sharing this hub.

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 4 years ago from South Africa Author

Being in an abusive relationship is never easy and the longer you are subjected to this kind of abuse the more difficult it becomes to make life-changing decisions. My advice to you would be to at least go and see a psychologist even if to enable you to be better equipped to handle the situation or to give you the strength to leave. Your son will grow up witnessing this kind of behavior and will learn to accept it as the norm. There is a very real chance of him becoming an emotional abuser when he grows up and so the cycle of abuse continues. Best of luck and look after yourself. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and should not suffer because o0f other peoples insecurities.

scared 4 years ago

that poem made me cry. it best describes how my husband treats me. I am just so scared to leave. He is a CFO at a well known bank and everyone in my region respects my husband. He tells me I am crazy and need professional help. I'm scared to leave because I know he will convince a judge that I am a horrible mother and unstable. He makes alot of money and comes from a wealthy family. I gave up my career to take care of my son. I do not have the same resources to provide for my son. My family lives out of state and I'm afraid that even if i am granted custody, I will be forced to live in this state with no family support and means for financial support. It will make his day as he once said "I can't wait until the day that I kick your as* out of the house and see the dump you will live in and the loser that will marry you"

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Laura du Toit 4 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi Victor Even if yours is the only marriage that is saved by this hub article it was worth the time and effort that was put into writing it. Fortunately you were at a stage where you were mature enough to realize that you were at fault and you were prepared to do something to save your marriage. So glad that this article was of help as verbal emotional abuse can kill a marriage or any other relationship for that matter without the abuser ever really realizing that they are the cause. Wishing you a long and happy marriage.

Victor 4 years ago

I was converting from last 3 months to an abuser.  This site made me realize the way i was going and i am back on my normal track.  This is a miracle.  I have been married from 5 years and the first four years and 9 months went as smooth as  in any fairy tale would go.  But 3 months ago something happened between us that was very devastating for oour relationship (it was her mistake that she allowed something to happen which was a prank very unhealthy for our marriage) and little by little i started abusing her.  And little by little it became an everyday thing that i would yell at her.  Her self confidence went away little by little.  But i visited this site and i realized how i was going and thank God i am back on normal track.  Now i never yell at her, i never say bad words to her.  We are in a healthy and lovely relationship once again and my marriage is saved.  Thanks very much.  Thank God i visited this site. She has got her confidence.  May God save all the marriages in a way He did to me.  

blondey profile image

blondey 4 years ago

I broke up with an emotionally abusive man. Yet I still feel bruised and alone.

I discover too where it came from- mother and sister and siblings do the same.

Where do you go

What do you do

When everyone you know

Pretends to love you

How to make a fresh start?

Feeling so alone

Feeling so little like

I'm not full grown

Where to begin

To end this reign of "sin"

How do I start

With a broken heart?

Can I become free of this misery

who will I turn to if life is a stranger

Is there a free safe haven to go to

and learn

I feel like a lost child

~Adult child of an alcoholic

Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 4 years ago from Hawaii

I love this page. I feel like a lot of people don't recognize that emotional abuse exists or just dismiss it as someone being "overly sensitive" or too emotional. I don't think so at all. Thanks for bringing all this information to light. Voted up, useful and interesting.

iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

Laura, I am glad you wrote this...thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!

cwritesnow 4 years ago from Dushore, pa

Very good hub. I especially like your distinction on how alcohol does not cause but rather aggregates emotional abuse. I also like how you point out that victims often don't leave the relationship for fear of being labeled narotic (if the abuser has spread rumors about the victim).

All of the characteristics you have mentioned in both the victim and the perpretrator are what I have seen in reality. The victim is afraid of the abuser, and the abuser, while squaring their shoulders and standing tall when in the act of abusing, is actually very weak and dependent on the victim's weakness for their own source of strength.


Mary 4 years ago

I have never read anything that sums up my experiences over the past 10 years as well as the above article does.

Thank you so much.

Nathan Everett-Prokter 4 years ago

Indeed, i agree

Ashley 4 years ago

I wish I could say that I can't relate to the poem. My mother abused my dad for years up until they got their divorce, but She always had to have someone to pick on and I was the only one left after my older sister Audrie also had enough of her. For years I thought I was going crazy until I finally talked to my father about it. I've never been abused psychically, but I think the main struggle people have with getting over psychical abuse is the metal abuse that came along with it.

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The Frog Princess 4 years ago from Florence area of the Great Pee Dee of South Carolina

Excellent hub.

theSilentype 4 years ago

Usually I try to keep my mouth shut, and just bite my tongue, but sooner or later I expload... he tells me that I'm the problem, and all is to blame... I feel so worthless, like I don't deserve to be here anymore..

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 4 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks for your comment Mary. So glad that I could be of help but I am sure that you were already at a stage where you could distance yourself from his abuse and see it for what it was. Such a pity that people have to be abused to the point where love turns to hate before they become emotionally strong enough to handle the abuse. Hope you find the happiness you deserve someday somewhere.

mary 4 years ago

I loved the poem.. I had a stroke and it makes expressing myself difficult. I can't ever seem to find the right words.

I have been with a guy that came into my life when i was hurting the most. He seemed wonderful.. I remember the first verbal assault like it was yesterday.. It cut to the core.. I did what you say.. I kept thinking he was the good guy he pretended to be.. But over time the things he said started sounding more cruel and unfair.. Like "all my mother and me are trying to do is teach you how to be a good person".. I always believed i 'was' a good person.

well it took years.. And he is still assaulting me with his own perception of who I am and what I "really" mean when I speak.. act or how no one loves me and how I can just ask anyone and they will tell me I am just what he says I am.

I am finally strong.. Or I just simply don't love him at all. But I look at his screaming snarled up face.. and I see the ugly person he is inside.. And I don't care to try to change what he thinks anymore..

Thank you for your web site.. It helped me to stand firmer in my decision to never let him back..Firmer in believing he has no desire to ever allow me to feel good about myself. The nice guy is long gone, he never comes out for me anymore. I "don't deserve to be treated nice"...

Sad that there are people who must hurt others this way..He has been married three times now And I am sure another woman will get his kind of "love" again.. He needs some one to tear apart.

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jeyaramd 4 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

Thanks for your hub on emotional abuse. Sometimes, these kind of abuses are not taken as seriously as physical abuse. Some elderly parents are emotionally abused at home for being a burden. I couldn't resist linking my hub on "Caring for Aging Parents" to your informative hub. Voted up. Awesome.

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Laura du Toit 4 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks for the comment Marwan. Unfortunately very few people have the self confidence to be able to escape the damage that verbal abuse causes. As you so rightly say not necessarily from a spouse but from any person that you come into contact with.

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marwan asmar 4 years ago from Amman, Jordan

Excellent and so very true. I look around me and feel what you say, it exists all the time, between fathers and mothers and children and parents as well as friends. I wish this was never the case, but unfortunately we are humans with feelings, predjuices, hang ups and many negative vibes that hover around us. Thanks.

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Laura du Toit 4 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks for the input ACLinn. Unfortunately non-institutionalized "safe homes" would be very expensive and beyond the means of most abused women. Most women in abusive relationships are prevented from working - this would diminish the control that the abuser has over the victim. I would think that using the "instutionalized shelter" as an excuse not to leave the abuser is just that - an excuse. People who really want out will be prepared to go anywhere if they know they will be safe and in a position to break the chains.

ACLinn 4 years ago

Laura, thank you. I think one of the main reasons why women don't admit they are being abused to family and friends* (*if 'isolated' they have any left). Is (a) because a lot of the time a family member may 'not want to hear about it,' because they see it as being 'disloyal' to the (alleged) abuser (which only makes the victim feel ashamed and guilty for being 'disloyal), (b) because the victim knows that the family member (or friend) is not in a position to help, and doesn't wish to impose on them in any way. Or (c) because the victim is either too weak, ill or has no funds to go anywhere, even if she desperately wanted or needed to do so.

Additionally, I think the only way that the cycle of abuse will be broken, is when (and if) women stand together (against it) and help each other. Also, as no woman wants to go to (or live in) an 'institutionalized shelter,' the day that non-institutionalized 'safe houses or homes' - where a victim may fully recover - come into being. Is the day more women will leave abusive relationships in the early stages, rather than put off leaving indefinitely or never leave at all.

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Laura du Toit 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi Kenneth, I am so glad that you found my hub! My heart goes out to you because I can just imagine how absolutely awful it must be suffering from both physical disabilities which on their own can be emotionally draining and then still having to contend with emotional bullying as well. In honor of you and all the men that suffer emotional abuse I have edited my hub to include male victims instead of concentrating on female victims of emotional abuse. I hope some day that your wife gets the opportunity to read this hub and your comment. Maybe just a very slight maybe, she will realise exactly what kind of hell she is putting you through. May you find the inner strength to realise that it is she that has the problem and thereby be able to build a wall around your emotions so that she does not drag you down in the process. Keep your head up!

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kenneth avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Dear Laura, this has to be THE BEST HUB on this sensitive subject that I have ever read. Lay-out and graphics are EXCELLENT as well as the text. You do not know how talented you really are, Laura. And as I read this, and I am so afraid to say this, but "I" as a man, can really relate to emotional abuse. I have learned that emotional abuse cannot be seen in public like physical abuse with the awful satantic scars, but emotional abuse, notwithstanding, is a "mute beast" that is growing among men as well as women. Honestly, I cannot contend with MY situation. I just agree even though my abuser is wrong about the various fantasies they say about me which are not true. This abuser is a very religious person and I cannot part from them (a woman, not a man, okay?) for her church would instantly take her side and label ME as the abuser. You said the key word in your hub: Manipulation....I know all about this slick, deceiving tool of evil. It is used on me many times each week. But I have to just keep my mouth shut in order to survive for I have Accelerated Fibroymyalgia in my back, spine, bones and joints as well as Neurothopy in my nerve endings--I can not work, just do "her" work in the house that she tells me to and if I do not do it just right, MORE abuse and punishment. Oh well. I didn't mean to dump on you. I do not have anyone to tell this to. Thanks for listening. Kenneth Avery, Hamilton, Alabama.

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blondey 5 years ago

@Maya, beautiufl

Maya Chiy 5 years ago

The Happiness Thief

You made love so sweet and tender

But it was your words that I would lay there and remember

Crushing my soul yet once again

O’ Lord will this ever end?

You were my brother, my lover, my partner to the end

My children’s father

But never my friend

There isn’t anything I would not have done for you

But give up the me, you never knew

You made me strong, because I had no choice

I had to search and find my own inner voice

I never knew what you wanted from me

You would change your mind so impossibly

The frustration I felt could be cut with a knife

I don’t know how I lived under this kind of strife

When your Father died it seems your demons were set free

And all they wanted to do was have there way with me?

We had it all, what seemed like a beautiful life

Two beautiful children, the perfect husband and wife

I was ALWAYS in trouble, no matter what I did

And when you came home the kids ran and hid

You battered my emotions to the point I couldn’t feel

It was my happiness you insidiously always wanted to steal

Maya Chiy 2011 © All Rights reserved

blondey profile image

blondey 5 years ago

At times I have to deal with emotionally abusive people that come into the home of my mother where I stay, like my brother who's staying for a couple months, I'm not sure what to say back to him when he speaks rudely and belittingly to me at different times...he is not always. I know he uses substances and alcohol so I try to not take it persoanlly!!!

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Laura du Toit 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks GMWilliams - Sadly emotional abuse is often only recognised for the abuse that it is when once it has become difficult for the abused to walk away from the relationship. If more people know what the warning signs of emotional abusive behavior are then they could be spared the pain and humiliation of emotional abuse.

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gmwilliams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

To Laura du Toit: This is an excellent hub. You are so correct, emotional abuse is just as lethal as physical abuse. However, I want to add that emotional abuse is more lethal than physical abuse because it cause irrevocable damage to the receiver. People who abuse people have little or no self-esteem which they sublimate by being abusive because it makes them full better. Abusers are in actuality bullies. Bullying is not just a childhood phenomena but it sometimes continue to adulthood when the bully becomes an abuser, either physically, verbally, or emotionally or indulge in all three types of abuse. Again, great hub.

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Laura du Toit 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Thank you for your input Julie - I could noy agree with you more.

Coach Julie profile image

Coach Julie 5 years ago from Richmond, VA

Thank you for posting this information. Both men and women fall prey to emotional abuse. We need to work toward empowering all victims to believe they have worth and deserve to be treated with respect. Until the victims start to realize their worth, it is difficult to stop such horror.

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Laura du Toit 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Lizzie - emotional abuse is not the norm. I suggest you seek help so that you can learn to live a life free from emotional abuse.

Lizzie 5 years ago

After more than four decades of abuse at the hand of many men and the women who gave birth to me, this is the norm, I don't know how not to be abused. I like your poem.

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Laura du Toit 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Wsimon - You are neither weak or stupid - the abusers are weak and insecure.

Me - Glad to hear that my article is real true to life information on emotional abuse and really very glad that it ould help you realise that you are not alone!

me 5 years ago

I knew that I was being abused. I have said it over and over. This article confirmed it. I thought that I was going crazy. Just about everything in this article, I am living. I have seen it in movies and wondered how could someone get to this point and allow someone to treat them in such a way. Now I know first hand how. I have been told that no body else thinks like me, I am the only one who thinks in such a ways. I have said sorry for things that I did not do. This person makes it a point to punish me when I do not do what he wants. He makes me wait for every question that I ask. He tells me all of this is in my head. Reading this lets me know that I am not crazy. Reading this article is like reading our life story. I have to watch what I say to him, so we will not fuss. He makes sounds like he is so frustrated with me, when he is the one causing the frustrations. This pattern has followed him throughout all his relationships. I did not see it at first because he pretended to be so nice and sweet. Thank you. I mean it. Man! I am not crazy!! I knew I wasn't!! But, it feels good to read what I already knew!!

wsimon 5 years ago

Thanks for that, I feel like I must attract this first by my parents and siblings, then by my wife and others, I must be weak or stupid or both.

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Emotional abuse knows no race, gender, age or social standing. Anyone can become the victim of emotional abuse and emotional and other abusers are found in all age groups, in all races, rich and poor as well as males and females.

WSimon 5 years ago

Very Helpful, does the same apply to a man who feels he is been belittled by a current relationship, even after one in childhood.

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Laura du Toit 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi Funmontrealgirl - as I have said even if this hub only helps one person then it was worth all the effort. Emotional abuse can leave such deep scars if you don't walk away from it in time.

funmontrealgirl profile image

funmontrealgirl 5 years ago from Montreal

This hub helped me. =)

ritika purohit 5 years ago

nyc 1

opened up my eyes

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Laura du Toit 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks for the comment Starting to Heal. Your name says it all - the only way you can start to heal is to break away from the abuser. Well done and wishing you and your children all the strength and support that you will need until you have healed completely.

StartingToHeal 5 years ago

Thank you for this site - your poem really hit home. Almost every word described my estranged husband and our relationship of too many years. It took so long for me and my children (not his thank God) to be able to leave, but God made a way. It's hard for someone to understand who has not been there. Now he's trying to sweet talk me into coming back - but it's too late. I am finally sleeping at night and having some peace. He will not change - it is a cycle of good and bad behavior - don't be fooled by the remorseful part of the cycle. When you get out don't get pulled back in by nice behavior - it won't last. the bad behavior always comes back. Thanks again for your poem and your site.

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Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

Very well written.

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Tirzah Laughs 6 years ago from USA

A nice hub but the one thing that is missing is non-romantic emotional abusers. My mother was an emotional abuser with all the baggage that comes with it.

This hub is really nice but geared toward those in abusive romantic relationships.

momgramwriter 6 years ago

I sure found your articles helpful and might I say chilling since it sounded just like me and my children's life a few short years ago. Everything you state is so true and real. Domestic Abuse is heartbreaking and leaves many scars not just on the outside but inner as you mention with the children, as mine to this day.Your articles are truly amazing ,thanks for spreading the word as no one should have to live this way ever! A heart is not meant to be broken and is is not right or fair for any one to endure and mainly the children that do suffer most!

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Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi Abused Guy

I would advise you go for councelling as emotional abuse can be devestating if you do not have some support system in trying times.

Good luck for the future!

Abused guy 6 years ago

I've been emotionally abused by my mom for ten years now, I fear for my own mental health as a consequence of what I've endured...

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Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks hubpageswriter,


hubpageswriter 6 years ago

A very good hub, which entails on how to detect an abuser. Victims have a right to voice out when being abused, and I hope those being abused will come across this hub and be able to seek help from their love ones.

sad1 6 years ago

wow.. its funny but your poem just made me realize how fucked up and disfunctional my relationship is.

its funny how it first starts with words, then w/ threats and last with a twist of an arm that still hurts.

but what to do when u scared even to call the cops, because your scared that maybe they wont make it in time.. and your son is only month watching for the crib, what happening wright in front of him.


Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 6 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

Thank you for a well written hub which will help alot of people dealing with emotional abuse.

It's a topic that needs to be discussed more.

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Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks Kimberley. Glad you found the hub interesting!

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Kimberly Bunch 6 years ago from EAST WENATCHEE

Very empowering hub. Great job!

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ljsmarketing 6 years ago from Google


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Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks Recover Today. Glad you found the hub informative.

RecoverToday profile image

RecoverToday 6 years ago from United States

Wow! This article is full of good advice and insight. Absolutely 5***** stars!

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Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi Bethelbee. Thanks for the comment and glad that my poem could help you see things in perspective. Don't ever look back or worse yet - go back! At least you will know what the warning signs are when you enter new relationships. Good luck!

Bethelbee 6 years ago

Thank you for the poem. It really helps. Walking away has been the hardest hike of my life. Mainly because I soo believed in him. How could such a sweet, entertaining, smart man also be so abusive? His wife went to a Domestic Violence Shelter and put out an order of protection on him. What a brilliant man that could reverse that pointed finger back to his wife and have the whole community and his new girlfriend believe it. Fast forward 2 years later. I would like to talk to his wife to apologize for even thinking it was ever her, and give her a big vote of support and understanding. Do they all have Narcissitic Personality Disorder??? Keep up your wonderful work.

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Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author


Only you can break the chain.....You need to decide whether you will allow someone to abuse you emotionally or whether it is best to walk away.

May you find the strength to make the right decision.

MoonOrBust 6 years ago

The poem reminded me of today, yesterday, last week, last month, last year... My fear is it is the rest of my life.

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Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks for re-visiting the hub and leaving your comments. I am flattered by the fact that the poem moved you.

Emotional abuse is such a difficult thing to deal with - mainly because most of the time one can not quite put a handle on it.

Thanks for the visit - I really appreciate it.

RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

I read this when you first posted it, but couldn't bring myself to comment. Moving poem - it speaks of an intimate knowledge. Watching someone you care for suffer can be even more terrible if you are unable to help them.

I certainly agree with your answer to vikas. It is so easy for abusers to proclaim their 'evil deeds' and wallow in self pity, and then threaten to end their lives. This, of course, takes the focus totally off their victim and puts the abuser in the spotlight. And forces even more guilt on the victim for causing this - because, you know, according to the abuser, it is always the victim's fault - "you made me do/say this." NOT

I have witnessed this in action a time or two, and the sad thing is that the abuser gets the sympathy and support that should be given to their victim.

Sorry - my hobby horse ;) Another thoughtful and thought provoking hub, Laura.

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

I am sure they do Sara - that is why they keep doing it- they want to hurt you to give them a feeling of being in control. That is what emotional abuse is all about!

Thanks for dropping by!

SaraM1283 profile image

SaraM1283 6 years ago

I was wondering if they actually over time dont even realize what there saying even when u bring it too their attention??

Gasoline 6 years ago

i married someone who had not only one or two signs of emotional abuse, she had all the signs, and much more. maybe you should put in the characteristic, that they cheat as well, because they already have a victim, so, what, they can do that too. and they dont have a problem with it. since they have no respect for the victim, they dont care if they cheat too. well, now is over, from a month, it took me a while to understand what life i was living and dealing with, and what glory future i had in front of my eyes. thanks, this post really opened my eyes!

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author


Sorry to hear about your emotional abuse by your own son. May God give you the strength to work through this terrible situation. I can imagine that this abuse must be worse than emotional abuse by a partner. It's easier to walk away from an emotional abusive partner than it is to try to understand why your child would become emotionally abusive towards you.Let me know how the appointment went.

RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 6 years ago from Tucson, Az

gorgeous oem laura

worse thing for me was finding that it wasn't my son that hates me,rather he is the abuser!! he abused me just to see me cry/saying he never wanted to have me in his life got the reaction he wanted, now i get the silent treatment from took mid life/grad school/admitting my emotional abuse started in childhood/death of my beloved father/ and getting the fact that abuse fom my own child to really unstop the dains..pray hard please laura/psych appt tomorrow,rather today at 1100 hours..

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Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thank you Cathleena. Emotional abuse is sad but true!

Cathleena profile image

Cathleena 6 years ago from USA

It is so hard to break this cycle. Reprogramming our minds, relearning what normal should be. Overcoming guilt because somehow we bought into the lie that love should last forever no matter what. The poem is heart wrenching sad and true. No one should have to live like that!

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Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Hope to see you soon Lorraine

poetlorraine 6 years ago

a lot there, read most of it will come back, so much truth in it

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thank you Janet, Wendi, Joannie and Lisa

Sorry to hear that all of you were subjected to emotional abuse!. Just shows how much emotional abusers there are out there

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 6 years ago from Massachusetts

Laura, excellent Hub and poem, needless to say. What I think many people may not realize is that a person can have healthy self-esteem and actually think the other person is "just a jerk" (and have contempt for him/her); and kind of think there's no damage. Upon closer thinking about it, though, there can be the realization that the damage isn't to self-esteem on a conscious level. It can come from the humiliation and self-disgust at not being able to stop something as "simple" and "non-violent" as words. The person with generally good self-esteem, pride, and a sense of being capable in all other areas of life can wonder why, when it comes to this kind of thing, s/he can't be his/her usual "effective and capable and strong". Feeling helpless for this kind of person may actually feel worse than it does for someone who generally leans toward helplessness in other areas of life, as well.

Joannie 6 years ago

Love your Hub. I cried when I read your poem, it could have been me who wrote that. I have finally managed to get out of an abusive relationship, but he is still trying, this time begging my forgiveness and that he would never do it again. Like your poem says, the scars will never heal. He blew it.

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wendi_w 6 years ago from Midwest

Thank you , no one knows the true pain of emotional abuse with out living it. They don't understand why we stayed or how hard it was to leave. So many blame the victim not understanding the true hell they lived.

Janet 6 years ago

This whole hubpage sounds like my exhusband. He became my ex in 2004 after putting up with 8 years of verbal/emotional

abuse. He would call me every single day when he knew I was oon my way home from work acting all nice and when I would walk into the house he would ignore me. I once said something like; You didn't say anything to me when I came in. O my, he yelled and said: the person coming home is the one that is supposed to acknowledge the other person.

Within, five days after leaving him, he sent out a four page letter telling my family that I am going to destroy my o13 year old daughters life, I am irresponsible (that was his most favorite description of me). It contiues on saying I need help and so on. Anyway, it is all behind me now. I have our daughter living with me full time (it's been 1 year) and her dad has not contacted her for 5 months. The moment I walked out I actually felt empowered by freedom, family and friends. I was my own person for the first time in 8 years.

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks prettydarkhorse

Glad you stopped by and thanks for the comment!

prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

hi again! this is another once extensive article on emotional abuse, it is worst than physical abuse at times because it takes time to heal...I like the poem...

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

donotfear - Could not agree more - The question is how?

av8erprince - Write a hub about your experiences when you are ready to share them.

Lisa HW - Thanks for the comment.

cindyvine - Thanks for the support. I will add your book to my Amazon capsule.

cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

Excellent hub Laura! I wrote a hub on how to know whether or not you're in an abusive relationship, as well as a book on how to break the pattern of bad abusive relationships in your life which is available on Amazon, called Fear, Phobias and Frozen Feet. I escaped from an abusive relationship, fled from Cape Town to Durban under assumed names. I wrote about my escape from the abusive relationship, but made it fiction. That's also on Amazon, set in Southern Africa. Had to make it fiction, otherwise my ex will seek me out and kill me lol!

Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 6 years ago from Massachusetts

Laura, this is an amazing and dead-on Hub - beautifully put together and, again, right on the money.

av8erprince profile image

av8erprince 6 years ago from Sacramento, CA

I agree with donotfear. But I bet you guys have not heard anything like what I have been, and still going through. Maybe some day I will write it all down. And yes, I am a man, and a victim, and all of this hub is sounds like my story, and then I have some more.

donotfear profile image

donotfear 6 years ago from The Boondocks

Man oh man, do I relate to this one. I can tell you that every victim's story is similar. The same patterns of abuse surface in all abusers: control, intimidation, explosive, passive-aggressive behavior. It's a cycle that needs to be broken.

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Hi stricktlydating

Glad to hear you managed to get out before it was too late. I am pleased to hear that my poem manages to get the message across ( even if it is not the happiest of messages). Emotional abuse is such a devastating experience - let's hope I can help to open people's eyes so that they too leave before it is too late.

stricktlydating profile image

stricktlydating 6 years ago from Australia

Hi Laura,

Your poem made me cry. And you describe this situation so accurately. I also hope your Hub reaches someone in need, to help them understand their situation more clearly, because it's easier to leave the relationship once you can really see what's going on.

Years ago I was in this kind of situation and his abusive behaviour totally confused me. I couldn't understand why someone who apparently loved me so much could also hurt me so much. I was not educated about abusive relationships, and at the time was unbeliveably frustrated that nothing I could do would fix his problems with me! Luckily I realised quickly that the problem was not me at all. I'm so glad I didn't end up living my life with him.

Best wishes.

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thank you Rebekah

I like to think that I will be able to reach and help somebody , some day with my articles on abusive relationships.

Thank you for commenting on my poem. I have not written poetry for so long - was not sure what reaction I would get. Glad it gets the message across.

Thanks for reading!

rebekahELLE profile image

rebekahELLE 6 years ago from Tampa Bay

Laura, you've written such an important article here and I hope even one person can be helped by your caring, informative words. Your poem is amazing, so powerful.

well done. :)

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Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Killing yourself will just make your wife feel more guilty and if you have been abusing her that is the last thing that she deserves. Let her walk away from the marriage if that is what she wants - but let her do it knowing that she does it with your blessing. If you do anything to harm yourself you will make her suffer for the rest of her life.

vikas 6 years ago

Your poem is so realistic,it made me cry. I am an abuser in my relation with my loving wife. I itself do something. either i leave her to live her new life or i kill myself.

Long live laura.

god bless

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Tank you for your comment Bruised Inside

Abuse in Children will be dealt with in a future hub,

Thanks for reading.

Bruised Inside 6 years ago

You didn't focus too much on the emotional abuse of children which is horribly common. It might be mothers who use children to meet their own needs,for a listener for instance, or fathers whose only form of communication is sarcasm. Whatever it is. the child never gets the things they need. Often those children will go on to form abusive relationships themselves. Damage begets damage.

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks Paradise

I think that as soon as the woman admits it to you she has to admit to herself and the world that she is allowing this to happen. Unfortunately for any abuse to happen one person abuses and the other allows the abuse. That is just a fact!

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

Excellent hub, and I've seen these all-too-familiar patterns. I wish we could erase them completely. It always puzzles me, why WOULD someone want to talk down their partner, why WOULD someone want to verbally bully their partner, or take all their partner's self-esteem away? I don't understand the motivation, but I've seen this happen, and I never know how to help. If I have the temerity to say something to the woman, she denies anything is wrong and is hurt that I said anything, most of the time. If I try to stick up for the women against the man, the woman turns on me half the time. I've learned to ignore it as best as possible while socializing, but it sure makes me uncomfortable, and I don't think ignoring it is the right thing to do, either.

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks MPM

I've seen it happen and I know what emotional abuse can do. Thanks for reading the poem and the comments!

Laura du Toit profile image

Laura du Toit 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks lorlie6

Glad you enjoyed the hub. I agree it is tragic when you see it happening to someone you know. Emotional abuse is such a crippling thing.

manlypoetryman profile image

manlypoetryman 6 years ago from (Texas !) Boldly Writing Poems Where No Man Has Gone Before...

Wow...Laura...That ain't one should ever have to be abused...of any a relationship. God...there's thousands of people waitin' to verbally abuse us out in the real world...why have to deal with it at home? This obviously hits pretty close to a "mark" with you...because of your poem. Very awful thing to endure...or have endured...or know of someone that is close to you that has endured? Hopefully...all this is now far behind the person ...that made you able to describe this well in a poem. Sincerely....MPM

lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

This hub is excellent, Laura, and well researched. As I was reading, I recalled a movie from the 50's or 60's called "Gaslight" which refers to a man essentially convincing a woman that she's gone mad.

I am currently in the uncomfortable position of watching a once confident, handsome and intelligent man being emotionally abused by his spouse. I know it's not as common, but it is so very tragic to watch those marvelous qualities slip away.

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