Identifying The Signs Of Spousal Abuse: A Guide
Spousal abuse can refer to any kind of abuse occurring in intimate relationships between any number of partners. There can be many types of spousal abuse, such as coercion, intimidation, limited social interaction, financial control, education or career control, physical violence and sexual abuse.
If you are experiencing any type of spousal abuse, you may wish to seek legal assistance, medical attention and/or therapy. Online therapy can be an easy way to connect with a licensed mental health professional and find support in surviving spousal abuse. Read on to learn more about possible warning signs, experiences and supportive measures that can help many.
What is spousal abuse?
Domestic abuse can form behavioral patterns once it occurs, which is why seeking support can be so critical to a survivor’s experience.
Additionally, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, spousal abuse is generally one-sided, with one of the partners attempting to exert power and control over the other person or people in a relationship.
Spousal abuse can develop gradually over the course of a relationship. After the first occurrence, survivors are encouraged to seek help to protect their safety and quality of life.
Domestic violence is viewed by many as a significant problem in the United States. It can be important to note that the issue is typically not limited to any one group of people. It can happen to anyone from any background.
Domestic violence can be challenging to identify, and it might often go unreported due to its nature. As you continue to read, you may find many examples of spousal abuse to look out for or that you resonate with. If you find that you relate to any of them in your current relationship, please don’t hesitate to seek help. There are many avenues of support available to you.
Below, we’ve listed possible examples and experiences that can be present in patterns of spousal abuse.
Coercion and intimidation
Perpetrators of domestic abuse might resort to tactics like bullying, threats and belittling to gain emotional control over their target.
For example: They might criticize your appearance or how you carry yourself. They may also attempt to control what you wear or other aspects of your appearance. If you don’t comply, they may raise their voice or otherwise intimidate you until you do. They may even try to accuse or blame you for things that have nothing to do with you, or that weren’t your fault.
The purpose of these actions can be to maintain control over the person they are with. This can be considered a form of emotional abuse, and it doesn't have to be tolerated by survivors.
In cases like these, it can be helpful to remind oneself about our inherent sense of autonomy and worth as humans—serving as a possible reminder that all members of the relationship can make their own decisions.
Limited social interaction
Another sign of domestic abuse can be when the abuser may try to limit who someone can socialize with—possibly showing reactions that could be deemed to be “out of proportion” or that might be rooted in jealousy.
For example: Let’s say you want to visit your family or friends. You may need to ask for permission, and if you do, an abusive partner may try to watch and keep tabs on you.
If they follow you to monitor you, this can be considered stalking by definition, which can be common in many cases of domestic violence. It can be resolved with police involvement and documentation. Alternatively, an abusive partner may prevent you from spending time with friends and family altogether—finding ways to come between you and your support system.
Additionally, they may attempt to humiliate you in public in an effort to make you avoid interaction with others. This can be a form of manipulation designed to encourage self-imposed rules of restriction in your own social life, possibly prompting you to feel as if any effort to go out “isn’t worth” the possible embarrassment.
These examples can be considered domestic abuse, because their general goals are to attempt to control you emotionally.
Financial and educational or career control
One of the more subtle signs of domestic abuse for many can be related to how the money in the household is handled.
In cases of economic abuse or excessive control, the abuser might give themselves full economic control—and may refuse to give you money for the things that you need, even if you earned it yourself. They may even try to prevent you from working to reinforce their control over the finances.
In some cases, you may not be allowed to attend school to further your education and find a career path that benefits you because that would empower you in a way that could take control away from your abusive partner.
Online therapy can be a valuable tool to help many to draw proper boundaries; possibly helping many to limit the effectiveness of these tactics.
If you are experiencing physical violence from your partner, it is generally an indication of an abusive relationship.
Get the support you deserve from a therapist
Physical abuse can refer to many things, such as your partner putting their hands on you and hurting you, or using weapons to physically intimidate you (or threatening to use them).
It can also include not being fed or being allowed to bathe or sleep. You also might not be allowed to see a doctor or find medical care, because this could reveal signs of domestic violence—such as bruises and cuts—to medical professionals.
However, this type of abuse doesn’t necessarily need to involve pain, bodily harm or discomfort. Getting locked out of the house on purpose, or being left stranded in an unknown area can also belong in this category of domestic abuse, as well as being forced to consume drugs and alcohol against your will. This can be because these actions are generally considered “risky” or possibly dangerous, which could be directly affecting your physical health and safety.
Lastly, one of the most underreported forms of domestic abuse can be sexual abuse.
This type of domestic violence can be between two or more partners, and can occur if at least one isn’t actively consenting.
For example: One might be forced to have sexual contact against their will, or might be made to do things they aren’t comfortable with.
Some other tactics of sexual abuse can include making you feel like you owe them sexual favors, refusing to use any form of birth control or lying about using it.
In some instances, one partner might deliberately try to pass an STD onto the other, either as revenge or as an attempt to control who they can be with.
Survivors of this form of abuse might benefit from supportive strategies (such as online therapy), possibly helping them to build back their confidence and supporting them through the healing process.
Finding help for spousal abuse
While telling stories can be an important part of overcoming an abusive relationship, survivors may need to find additional professional help through supportive strategies to fully heal.
It may not be easy to move on, but please know that it can be possible with support.
Depending on your situation, getting law enforcement involved, creating a domestic violence case and seeking out legal help may be necessary to keep you safe.
Secondly, domestic violence can result in injuries that require medical care. Unreported cases of abuse can be discovered through physical exams, as there are some typical signs of physical abuse—such as marks, bruises and fractures on the head, face, limbs and chest.
Your practitioner can connect you directly to resources that can help in your safety and quality of life. The examinations themselves can also be used to convict someone of abuse and validate your experiences as a survivor.
Lastly, survivors of abuse can benefit from seeking out therapy to help them during this difficult time.
There are therapists who generally specialize in treating individuals who are experiencing spousal abuse or who have survived it. These professionals can help you navigate through a very confusing and difficult situation.
When survivors of abuse leave the situation, they may question if they truly made the right decision or if it really was “that bad.”
A therapist can affirm your choice, support you in the transition and remind you that you are worthy of safety in a bond.
We do want to note: You may feel like something in your life is missing in the aftermath, similar to when any type of relationship ends. However, it can be helpful to remember that it can be possible to rebuild and thrive.
Online therapy may give you the closure that you need to move on.
Therapy can be a crucial step in healing after abuse. However, traditional in-person therapy can be intimidating and inconvenient for some people. If this is the case for you, you may benefit from online therapy. Online therapy can make it simple to connect with a licensed mental health professional who can provide you with the help and support you deserve.
Is online therapy effective?
Survivors of spousal abuse might experience PTSD symptoms as a result of what they have survived. As this study explains, online therapy for PTSD can be as effective as in-person therapy. Survivors undergoing this type of therapy were able to reduce healing time by 25%, possibly as a result of the lowered barriers to support.
If you’ve experienced abuse or are experiencing other mental health challenges, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
How do you deal with a toxic spouse?
Dealing with a toxic spouse of any gender or sexual orientation can be challenging. Remember that you don’t have to go through everything alone. Reach out to loved ones for emotional support and see if any of them can offer help if you need it. If you need to talk to your spouse about ending the relationship, bring a friend with you. Knowing that you have support may help give you the courage to leave the relationship. If you choose to leave your spouse, change your phone number and block your spouse’s email, phone number, and social media accounts. That way, you can limit their contact with you. Make time for self-care, and get support from a therapist or domestic abuse counselor to come up with a safety plan.
What are the 4 principles of abuse?
There aren’t really any principles of abuse. Principles are rules or standards that may be applied to decision-making. While there may be patterns of intimate partner violence and the actions of abusers, there aren’t any principles of abuse.
What are toxic traits in a spouse?
Toxic spouses can have many traits, including gaslighting, isolating, humiliating, blame-shifting, threatening, stonewalling, and forcing dependence, all of which can significantly affect the victim's life.
What is the behavior of a toxic spouse?
Some of the behaviors of toxic spouses may include constant complaining, constant criticism, perfectionism, lying, and insecurities. Toxic spouses may lack self-awareness and may not know how to read social cues, so they may not be aware of how they are affecting other people. They may not know how to communicate in healthy ways. Some toxic people will intentionally hurt others, targeting and singling out their spouses or trying to control them. Toxic spouses may also cheat on their partners or mentally, physically, verbally, or sexually abuse them.
What are the signs of a toxic marriage?
Toxic marriages are all different, but some signs of a toxic marriage can include the following:
- Lack of communication
- Blame games
- Feeling like you’re walking on eggshells
When should you leave a toxic spouse?
You may be able to repair a toxic relationship if you and your spouse are willing to go to therapy. If your spouse has toxic behaviors or is physically abusive, fixing the relationship may be challenging. If your spouse seems unwilling to make the necessary changes or if they continue to ignore your boundaries, it may be time to consider ending the relationship. If you need help deciding what to do next, talking to a therapist can help.
Can a toxic marriage make you sick?
Every toxic marriage is different, and domestic violence affects people in many ways. Research shows that those relationships that involve abuse can lead to a variety of health issues. Some of the biological effects reported in this study included gastrointestinal problems, headaches, and ulcers. People in these relationships also experienced weight loss, teeth grinding, acid reflux, nausea, chest pains, asthma, and high blood pressure. A range of other conditions were reported, including hypothyroidism, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Physical injury and denying medical care are also concerns.
How do you know when a marriage can't be saved?
Not all marriages are healthy relationships; some signs that can help you know when a marriage can’t be saved may include the following:
- A lack of respect for one another
- Constant arguing
- Lack of physical intimacy or sexual acts
- One or both spouses engaging in substance abuse
- One or both spouses having an affair
- Physical, mental, emotional, sexual or verbal abuse
- Financial problems significantly strain the relationship
What is the most common type of abuse?
There is no way to determine which type of abuse is most common. Many cases of abuse may go unreported or unrecognized, and some people may be unaware that their relationship problems qualify as abuse. Some common types of abuse include physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, or psychological abuse.
What is the cycle of abuse?
The cycle of abuse has four parts. This cycle may not apply to every case of abuse, but generally, spousal abuse tends to follow this cyclical pattern.
- Tensions build. Strain builds in the relationship, which can be due to external factors or stressors. The abusive partner gets increasingly angry, while the abused person may try to appease them or get anxious because they can feel the tension mounting.
- The incident occurs. Eventually, tensions will build to the point that the abuser will lash out and engage in abusive behavior. This can take many forms, including imparting or threatening physical harm or physical force, but it usually boils down to the abuser attempting to exert control over the other person or maintain power in one way or another.
- Reconciliation. In this stage, the relationship seems to return to normal; sometimes, this can happen when enough time has passed after the incident, or the abuser apologizes, makes excuses, or attempts to woo their partner.
- Honeymoon stage. This stage is a period of calm during which the partners may feel like things are good again and may believe that the abuse will not reoccur. It can last for weeks or months until something happens that causes tensions to increase again, which restarts the cycle and leads to more abusive behaviors.
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