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 book, women abusing men, women who abuse men, a controlling and abusive wife, verbally and emotionally abusive wife or girlfriend


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


A major deciding factor for where a particular behavior belongs on the continuum given the circumstances is the motivation behind the behavior. The conscious or subconscious goals of spousal abuse are to control, demean, or punish. 

Here's an 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:

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    • Ann Silvers
    Comments 8
    • 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.

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