Dynamics of Emotional Abuse in Relationships, Marriage

Emotional abuse in relationships, marriage, is not uncommon. Learn the signs of emotionally abusive relationships to ensure you are not in one.

Emotional abuse in relationships, marriage, is sneaky because while abuse is taking place, no physical marks or scars ever appear. Often the only sign that something is wrong in emotionally abusive relationships is just a feeling that something is amiss. Often the victim can't quite put their finger on it, but to outsiders, there is often no doubt that emotional abuse is taking place.

Emotional abuse in any relationship, including marriage, has the same dynamic. The perpetrator aims to gain power and control over the victim. The abuser does this though belittling, threatening or manipulative behavior.

Behavior in Emotionally Abusive Relationships, Marriages

Abusive behavior can be enacted by a female or male and either a female or male can be a victim. (Information about Emotional Abuse of Men) And it's important to remember that even though the scars from emotional abuse are not physical, they can be every bit as much permanent and harmful as the scars of physical abuse.

Emotional abuse is designed to chip away at a person's self-esteem, self-worth, independence and even make them believe that without the abuser they have nothing. Tragically, this keeps victims in emotionally abusive relationships as they feel they have no way out and that they are nothing without their abuser.

Emotional abuse comes in many forms, they include:1

  • Financial abuse – the abuser does not allow the victim control over any of the finances
  • Yelling
  • Name-calling, blaming and shaming – forms of humiliation
  • Isolation – controlling access to friends and family
  • Threats and intimidation
  • Denial and blame – denying or minimizing the abuse or blaming the victim; saying that the victim "made them do it"

These emotionally abusive behaviors seen in relationships, marriages, are all used in an attempt to control the victim.

Signs of Emotionally Abusive Relationships

Signs of an emotionally abusive relationship can sometimes be seen more easily from the inside out. Assessing an emotionally abusive relationship may first start with how you feel about the relationship and then move on to actually dissecting the nature of the abuse.

Signs an emotionally abused person in a relationship might notice are:

  • Feeling edgy all the time
  • Feeling they can't do anything right
  • Feeling afraid of their partner and what they might say or do
  • Doing or avoiding certain things in order to make their partner happy
  • Feeling they deserve to be hurt by their partner
  • Wondering if they're crazy
  • Feeling emotionally numb, helpless or depressed

How to Handle an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

The most obvious way of handling an emotionally abusive relationship is by leaving the marriage or other relationship. In fact, depending on how far the emotional abuse has gone, this may be the only option, no matter how impossible a task it may seem.

In more minor cases of emotional abuse though, other options may be available. Standing up against the emotional abuse and no longer being a willing party to it may lead to a change in the relationship dynamic. More likely, individual counseling may be necessary to address the destructive emotionally abusive dynamics in the relationship or marriage.

article references

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, December 17). Dynamics of Emotional Abuse in Relationships, Marriage, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Last Updated: December 30, 2021

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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