Marriages end for many reasons and often more than one of them. Rightfully, abuse of a spouse or family member is reason enough to terminate a marriage. It can be induced by external circumstances like alcohol or drug use or stress. More often than not, the behavior occurs on an irregular basis, sometimes with promises to “never do it again.”
Physical or sexual abuse is the most serious and obvious example. Any incident should prompt victims to leave home or call 911 for help immediately. But, other less obvious behaviors are also damaging to victims and other family members.
Other signs of abuse
These are behaviors that the victims may not immediately recognize as abusive or harmful:
- Emotional manipulation: A spouse use certain behaviors to ensure compliance with their wishes. It can involve exploiting emotional vulnerabilities, withholding affection or serial infidelity.
- Verbal abuse: Some relationships are passionate, and others do not communicate healthily. This abuse can involve yelling, but often it is the insulting, demeaning and emotionally damaging words used that are harmful. Ridiculing a spouse alone or in public is an example.
- Financial abuse: One spouse may be in charge of the finances, but all major or big-ticket decisions should be discussed and made collaboratively. Abuse occurs when the spouse takes complete control of the money.
- Parental alienation: This involves a parent’s attempt to taint the other parent’s relationship with the children. It can involve subtle innuendo or sharing unflattering, untrue or inappropriate information with the children. While this is more typical for divorced couples, it does happen during the marriage and can be harmful to the other parent and the children.
Change starts with them
Many believe they can fix or change a spouse’s behavior, but change starts with the abusive spouse. Families can learn about the issue and support them from a safe distance, but the spouse needs professional help. In the interest of the family’s wellbeing, it ultimately may also be necessary to separate or divorce.