Signs of an emotionally abusive wife or girlfriend

Signs of an emotionally abusive wife or girlfriend

Are you living with an emotionally abusive wife or girlfriend?

Or dealing with an emotionally abusive ex-wife?

Is a man you know and care about being emotionally abused by a woman?


This is how one man describes the relationship that nearly destroyed him:

“My ex-girlfriend was an emotional terrorist.”

Emotional and psychological abuses tear a person up inside.

Emotionally abused partners feel drained, distracted, and debilitated. 

All other categories of spousal abuse (financial, verbal, sexual, physical . . . ) have an emotional/psychological component. This is true when the source of the abuse is a man and the target of the abuse is a woman. It is also true when the genders are reversed: the source of the abuse is a woman and the target is a man. 

Abused men have the extra degree of difficulty in that it is so hard to get your head around the idea that you, a man, are being emotionally, financially, physically, sexually . . .  beat-up by a woman. Our culture pretends that what is happening is not happening. 


Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time to Get Real About It, signs of an emotionally abusive wife or girlfriend, domestic violence against men


If you have a bully wife or girlfriend, you are likely feeling extra confused and isolated. But, you are not alone. Abuse OF men BY women is, unfortunately, all too common. And, contrary to media representations depicting the actions and attitudes of abusive women as funny and amusing, it is neither funny nor amusing. It is hurtful and destructive. 

You might find this video enlightening or confirming:


Spousal Abuse Continuum

It can be challenging to figure out whether a particular behavior is abusive because that same behavior might be properly labeled as healthy depending on the circumstances. Behaviors that are potentially abusive can be placed on a continuum that goes from not-at-all abusive to very abusive.


Spousal abuse, emotionally abusive wife, girlfriend, woman continuum


Major deciding factors for where a particular behavior belongs on the continuum  are the reasonableness of the behavior given the circumstances and the motivation behind the behavior. The conscious or subconscious goals of spousal abuse are to control, demean, or punish. 


Emotional Abuse Example

A woman who gets upset and "makes a fuss" when her husband says he's going to go have a beer with his friends could be seen as controlling and demanding (abusive) if the husband is usually available to her and doesn't have a history of overdrinking.

But if the husband has previously promised not to drink any alcohol because he has a history of drinking and driving, or of becoming belligerent or of having affairs when he's been drinking, then the woman's reaction may be reasonable and belong on the non-abusive end of the continuum. 

When trying to decide whether something is abusive or not, look for patterns of behavior and attitudes. What would a reasonable person do in the circumstances? Is she being controlling, demeaning, or punishing? Or is she having a reasonable response to a situation given the situation and backstory of your past behavior?

Keeping the spousal abuse continuum in mind, let's take a look at the ways that women sometimes emotionally and psychologically abuse their partners. 


Signs of an emotionally abusive wife or girlfriend

A woman may emotionally and psychologically abuse a man in a myriad of ways:

  • isolation from friends, family, or other supportive people
  • alienation of his children’s affection
  • minimizing his time with his children
  • playing helpless
  • abdicating responsibility for decision-making or her bad behavior
  • making him feel responsible for the abuse
  • neglect/withholding affection
  • false accusations of abuse (of her or the children)
  • harassment
  • stalking
  • character assassination
  • manipulation
  • distorting the truth
  • unfounded jealousy
  • gaslighting: trying to make him feel crazy
  • unreasonable expectations
  • false promises
  • brainwashing
  • corruption
  • exploitation
  • sabotaging his ability to have another relationship

    Signs of emotional abuse, a controlling and abusive wife or husband, verbally and emotionally abusive wife, girlfriend, husband or boyfriend, Abuse OF Men BY Women book

    For further explanation of each of the ways women emotionally and psychologically abuse their male partners, check out my book:


    abused men, abusive women, husband abuse, abuse of men by women book, domestic violence, abusive relationship, emotionally abusive wife or girlfriend, battered husband, signs of a controlling wife, physically abusive bully wife or girlfriend, signs of and how to deal with an emotionally abusive wife, domestic abuse against males, female violence against males



    Previous Post Next Post

    • Ann Silvers
    Comments 23
    • Nick

      I’m in the same situation. My girlfriend is 8 weeks pregnant, we got into a fight the past week and reasons being that I gave her a call at an inappropriate time. That became a huge argument, she started insulting me and so forth until she even stopped communicating with me and eventually blocking me from contacting her. She made me feel so guilty and I blamed myself for her reaction. It’s just so confusing, I don’t know what to do.

    • Ann Silvers
      Ann Silvers

      Hi Anonymous Victim. This sounds like a hopeless situation. There are so many negative signs that it seems unlikely that things will get better — and more likely that they will stay as is or get worse. It’s difficult for me to go into all the ways to work through your decision making process, but my book “Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It’s Time to Get Real About It” has a whole section on how to decide whether it is time to end the relationship, and how to prepare for ending it if that’s the direction to go in. -Ann

    • Anonymous Victim
      Anonymous Victim

      I was with a woman for over ten years, and for most of it she was wonderful. However, over the past year, she lost her job. After multiple months, she got another one that pays $400,000 and started going out multiple nights a week with sketchy people she refused to let me meet for more than a second. She also started dealing marijuana. She also has family-of-origin issues (her dad was abusive), so I asked her to get into counseling. In the process, she rediscovered that she had been raped in college (for which I have a lot of sympathy) and now she is not only withholding sex and looking outside the relationship, but she wants me to do the same. I don’t want to. She is also entertaining the idea that she is gay. Since getting her new job, she has become financially controlling and I only realized recently that all the savings we had had been put into her retirement account, leaving me with nothing. She has put innumerable charges on my credit card because I was nice enough to support her when she was irresponsible and would lose her. She continues to charge things to it. I was also supposed to get half of our savings upon the dissolution of the relationship, but through shifting money about, the $125,000 I was initially promised has dwindled to $60,000. Since last year, she has pushed me, withheld intimacy, lied about things she didn’t need to, and deprived me of any kind of emotional support. She yells at me, starts fights, and then blames me when I try to explain my perspective. I daily fear her financial control and verbal aggression. I know she’s suffering and that hurt people hurt people, but I really feel like I’m being punished for someone else’s crimes and have no way out. I’ve always dealt with depression, but I’ve never had such a good reason to be in its clutches. I have a network of family and friends, but I’d trade them all to have the woman I fell in love with back in my arms. Sadly, that is apparently not an option. How do you finally decide when enough is enough, and how do you stop loving someone who doesn’t love you back?

    • Ann Silvers
      Ann Silvers

      To T.B. Thanks so much for sharing your story. So much of what you say fits the stories of other abused men that I’ve talked to. The cultural blindness to the reality of women abusing men makes it incredibly difficult for men to recognize what is happening to them. I’m glad that you have been able to go on to have a happy relationship. I created a journal for helping people process the emotional baggage left from traumas. You may find it helpful. “Learn, Let Go, Lighten Up: Silver Lining Emotional Detox Journal & Workbook”


    • T.B.

      It’s been sixteen years, but I have finally come to understand that I was in an abusive relationship. It lasted only 9 months, but I’m afraid I’ve been scarred for life.

      We were in our early twenties, in film school and it was my first relationship. The sex was good, but everything else was horrible. I wasn’t allowed to meet my friends outside our art circle. Female friends were all untrustworthy and just trying to break us up, she explained. She publicly put me down and humiliated me in the circle. She would invite me too her apartment in the city and then throw me out after sex or when somebody else would call her. When I received a grant for an art project she demanded me to give the money to her for her film project. When I refused, because I had to account for the grant, she became furious and, as I found out later, started cheating on me with the DOP of her film. I also worked on her film and after our break-up she intentionally misspelled my name in the credits, as my surname can be turned into an insulting term. She even submitted the crazy credit to IMDB.
      We first broke up when she and the DOP were caught by a fellow student. I was weak and we would still hook up, but she never said she was sorry. After hooking up, she said something about me making the DOP jealous and I actually felt bad for him. When she finally dumped me for the DOP at the end of semester I went a bit crazy. I begged her to come back, despite hating her. She told everyone that I was the abusive one, I was ostracized from the circle, ended up transferring to another school, attempted suicide and eventually gave up on art.
      Now I feel ashamed that I put up with it, but somehow I was convinced that it was all part of a normal relationship. I somehow thought that she can’t be abusive, as everyone else adored her, and that I was just being overly sensitive. Now I know that I was actually very depressed, codependent and that I had internalized the abuse.
      About a year after my suicide attempt I met my now wife, but for the longest time I was convinced that she too would just end up hurting me on purpose. We started as long-distance friends, which probably lowered the bar just enough for me to take the chance with her. It took too much time and a lot of CBT and meditation to allow myself to trust again. Actually, I still have trouble trusting people. It is a constant battle not to remain a bitter hermit.
      Even though it was just a nine month relationship sixteen years ago and I have completely moved on, I still have occasional nightmares about my abusive film school ex. It happens whenever I have a depressive relapse with suicidal thoughts. I don’t know if having nightmares about the abuse makes me suicidal or if having suicidal thoughts makes me have nightmares. The crazy part is that when I’m ruminating while being depressed I still want to contact her to tell her how much damage she caused, as if that would inspire her to apologize. I still crave acknowledgement from her. Maybe deep down I still believe that I was the abuser and that I deserved everything that happened.

    • Ann Silvers
      Ann Silvers

      To Anonymous: Life is an experiment. Ideally, we’re always looking for what’s working and not working, then create new plans based on that information. It sounds like you’ve run the experiment of being in a relationship with this woman long enough. If you don’t want this to be what the rest of your life looks like, then it’s time to make an exit strategy. -Ann

    • Anonymous

      This is happening to me. My girlfriend will fly into a rage if things don’t go her way. In the year and a half i have been with her, it was a struggle to get her to get a job. She is 27 and had never worked in her life. Finally she got the idea it was important to pay for things and not let me do it all as I was going to go under. But in this whole time, who do you think has had to drive her to work because she never bothered to get her license? This has stressed me as she is more codependent than independent.

      Then she kept looking at diamond rings and wanted to get engaged. I found a beautiful timeless diamond that really didn’t cost much. She was happy for about a week. Then that quickly faded. She works all week and everytime a weekend comes up she will ruin the whole weekend by picking fights. She has talked to her therapist about this. But its not helping.

      I am disabled and struggle with my own issues. All I wanted was happy, healthy, and a loving relationship. How could this happen? She got everything she wanted. She wanted to live with me at my apartment. I allowed it. I have supplied everything. Our home. Our transportation. I ask very little of her and she is never happy.

    • Ann Silvers
      Ann Silvers

      To the person who left the comment entitled “Impossible Abuser”: Sorry to hear about the abusive trap you are in. It is very challenging to be in this situation. Hopefully you can find some ways to not take the raging personally. -Ann

    • Impossible Abuser
      Impossible Abuser

      I have read the lines above and I find myself exactly in the same position. We have a 1 year baby and she is completely impossible to live with. She continously screams and rages very often to me and to the baby.
      I wish that I could leave house and go away, but have no solution at the moment.

    • Jeffrey

      I have a girlfriend who is 9 months pregnant and I think she has been emotionally abusing me. She often makes me feel like it’s my fault so I want to educate myself to make sure I’m not the terrible person she makes me think I am.

      We will get into a petty disagreement and she will make an assumption based on my response, usually a vastly exaggerated summary. She will then use that summary to inform me of what my own thoughts and feeling are. Anytime I confront her about my actual feeling and thoughts, and that I do not think it’s fair that SHE defines them, it always turns into a huge blowup in which she; becomes destructive, makes ad hominem arguments, threatens to leave me, and now uses my unborn child as leverage to control me.

      I feel like I’m backed against a wall to just deal with it among other things she does, I walk on eggshells to not upset her, and I’m so invested in what life we have built together that I don’t know how I could even start over alone – not to mention that I’m afraid I won’t get to be a major part of my daughters life.

    • Ann Silvers
      Ann Silvers

      Thanks for sharing your story Harry. – Ann Silvers

    • Harry

      I am in a relationship and my girl friend is still abusive. Apart from work I always hangout with her, keep myself available for all the time. Yet at instances when I hangout with friends she picks up a fight out of nowhere with abuse. When some good is about to happen for me, she is happy genuinely and all of a sudden picks a fight out of thin air and spoils the moment. When her good moment happens, she wouldn’t spoil it. I recognised this pattern and tried spoiling it for her. Later told, I deliberately did that as a lesson for her. She wouldn’t realise though. I have quit and come back to her a couple of times. I have taken her to three different psychiatrists in the last two years, she wouldn’t continue but quit. The psychiatrist told its called adjustment disorder. She is been taking pills and it calms her down. People like this need professional help. We love them for who they are. I always have a great time with her. We love each other so much but its in a wink of time, she changes to another person I suggest everyone to get professional help to sort it. Love can heal , at least hoping so.

    • Harry

      I am in a relationship and my girl friend is still abusive. Apart from work I always hangout with her, keep myself available for all the time. Yet at instances when I hangout with friends she picks up a fight out of nowhere with abuse. When some good is about to happen for me, she is happy genuinely and all of a sudden picks a fight out of thin air and spoils the moment. When her good moment happens, she wouldn’t spoil it. I recognised this pattern and tried spoiling it for her. Later told, I deliberately did that as a lesson for her. She wouldn’t realise though. I have quit and come back to her a couple of times. I have taken her to three different psychiatrists in the last two years, she wouldn’t continue but quit. The psychiatrist told its called adjustment disorder. She is been taking pills and it calms her down. People like this need professional help. We love them for who they are. I always have a great time with her. We love each other so much but its in a wink of time, she changes to another person I suggest everyone to get professional help to sort it. Love can heal , at least hoping so.

    • Ann Silvers
      Ann Silvers

      Hi Jack

      It’s difficult to know what to do in your situation. There are many extenuating circumstances. Of course, she should not hit you no matter what, but sometimes people are genuinely remorseful and do change.

      I suggest that you read my book “Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, And It’s Time to Get Real About It” if you haven’t already. It will likely give you more insight into your situation and has a chapter on steps for thinking through options. Here’s the link for the book on Amazon:


    • Jack

      I know my ex girlfriend for 5 years, we have been living together for 3 years . We went though a lot of things. Especially me, she sacrificed many things for me. The thing was that I cheated and after that this crazy psycho behavior of hers started to blossom up.. She started controlling me, acting differently, saying nasty comments regarding me cheating and sometimes bullying on me just to get back on me. Which I understand, I wasn’t honest with her and should have been better because she really did everything she could to be there for me, even my family hated her. So nothing was easy for her. Then now recently she got pretty sick and we both were worried she had cancer and went to hospitals many times. During this period she became so weak, lack of sex between us because of her pain, stressed, worried and mean. So I couldn’t handle it anymore. I felt I did everything for her but she couldn’t be thankful or appropriate what I do. We had an argument, I tried to tell her she should help around more in home, then before I even knew it I called her bitch accidentally but on purpose still somehow.. She freaked out and hit me. Then I left her and never tried to even hear her out, she tried to reach out to me to apologize and talk out about things but I just got so feed up and was scared she wouldn’t listen to me or understand me. Now being alone for some weeks I have to admit I do regret leaving her especially in the way I left her in. She was always there for me, she was just being worried about her health condition would get worse so she acted very aggressive lately by freaking out.. I’m not in denial, I have tried to talk to friends and family but since they never knew or liked her they don’t see the whole picture. Off all the wonderful things she actually did and how lovely she can be. I would like to give her a second chance but ofcourse I would lie if I didn’t say I was scared she would continue this bad way. The key to a successful relationship is to talk to the partner about the issues. And that’s something I never actually did. I just left her with no warning. I would appreciate if someone could help me to tell me how to reach out to her but in the same time make her understand that this is serious and have to be obeyed. I’m not doubting she won’t change it’s just that I made such a thing of it .. I told everyone what happened. But that shouldn’t matter I shouldn’t be worried to get judged by them for going back. Thanks for taking the time to read this!

    • Antonio

      James, my girlfriend would do the same. I would try and walk away and she will just follow and yell and try to make me feel bad. She also will cry to the point where she’s weeping and will tell me that I’m not a good person. I try to apologize but she will continually tell me that I’m not doing enough to make up for it. All this just continues and continues. I broke up with her about a month and a half ago because I mentally couldn’t take it anymore, but I really do love her and have been trying to get her back. I thought things were going to change as we both said we’ve made some changes, but just yesterday she said that I wasn’t doing enough and started accusing me of not changing and telling me that I’m the same person as before, all the while crying and yelling at me. I’ve remained calm through it all, and have tried to apologize, but at this point I don’t know what else to do. In the past, she has hit me and thrown things at me, to the point where I had to goto the hospital for a stitch on my lip because of something she threw at me. I’m at a loss for what to do. She keeps telling me it’s my fault and that I need to make up for it, when I just feel hurt and drained.

    • Ann Silvers
      Ann Silvers

      James: It is hard not to retaliate when someone abuses you, but it’s important to not engage. It will only backfire on you and potentially on your child. It’s an unfortunate reality that when we mate with abusive people we have to deal with them as a co-parent forever. It’s somewhat easier once you recognize their patterns of behavior and are less taken by surprise.

    • Ann Silvers
      Ann Silvers

      Tom: Good to hear that you have gotten away. Stay strong if she tries to woo you back. -Ann

    • Tom Hohman
      Tom Hohman

      I am a day removed from this. She was psychologically and very physically abusive. She bit my private area and entire body to excrutiating pain. I believe even tried to sever my achilles tendon in my sleep with a knife. I’ve had to lock myself in the bathroom to escape, now I’m gone for good and hopefully safe. Needless to say I’m still very shaken up. I can’t tell anyone because of the male stigma of being tough.

    • James

      I have been suffering for years and always ended up having to take the responsibility. Arguments would push me to my limit where I’d walk away but she would follow, continuing to verbally abuse me. It was an attempt to get me to snap and then the worst of the culpability would fall on me and all the power was with her. She had a history of this and I ignored it for years – always apologizing. I left her and that abuse has turned into deviousness and using our 18month son as a weapon against me. I even took a huge financial hit on the house so that she had enough money to raise our son in his home. I still get mentally abused now because I’m now happy and she’s bitter and miserable. It’s hard not to retaliate to her abuse.

    • dh1786

      Verbally and emotionally abused by my ex gf for 8 years. Finally kicked her out of the house but now my life is a living hell sharing my son with her. She alienates me, refuses to coparent, always instigates, continues to insult me, manipulates others and even invites them to join her in character assassinations.

    • pablo morales
      pablo morales

      My girlfriend and i just broke up and she verbally and physically abused me time after time i try to justify it by blaming myself i even try to address it and she didn’t feel she was behaving that way she used personal things against me to hurt me emotionally

    • Awesomecat

      My gf is all of this. I’m leaving her when she goes on holiday to see her family. I refuse to be here and break the news that I am leaving based on her past record of physical abuse towards me.

      It disgusts how abuse to men is ignored.

    Leave a comment
    Your Name:*
    Email Address:*
    Message: *

    Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.

    * Required Fields