Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Wife or Girlfriend
Are you living with an emotionally abusive wife, girlfriend, ex-wife, or ex-girlfriend?
Or dealing with a psychologically abusive female partner or ex?
Wondering, "Am I being emotionally abused?"
Is a man you know and care about suffering under the weight of emotional abuse from 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.
What's in This Post
|What is Psychological, Mental, or Emotional Partner Abuse?
|How Many Men are Psychologically or Emotionally Abused by Wives and Girlfriends?
|Psychologically Abusive Relationships are Destructive Whether the Abuse is Coming from a Woman or Man
|Is She an Emotionally Abusive Woman or Not? How to Decide.
|Emotional Abuse Test
|Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Wife or Girlfriend
|Why are People Emotionally Abusive?
|Examples of Emotional Abuse
|Example of Emotional Abuse: False Accusations
|Amber Heard's Emotional Abuse of Johnny Depp
|Book About Abusive Women
What is Psychological, Mental, or Emotional Partner Abuse?
Partner abuse also goes by the names intimate partner abuse (IPV) and spousal abuse. Domestic violence is another term used for violent forms of abuse between partners.
All abuse has at its core one or more of these 3 self-centered goals:
- demean, or
Emotional abuse, AKA psychological abuse or mental abuse, causes emotional, psychological, or mental pain.
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.
How Many Men are Psychologically or Emotionally Abused by Wives and Girlfriends?
I get into stats more in my post How Many Men are Abused by Women? but there are reliable sources showing that men experience psychological, mental, and emotional abuse from partners as often as women do.
One example is the Center for Disease Control (CDC) 2018 report on the US National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS). Results from this telephone survey of 10,081 adults:
- Psychological aggression by an intimate partner during their lifetime: 1 in 3 for either gender (36.4% of women, 34.2% of men)
Psychologically Abusive Relationships are Destructive Whether the Abuse is Coming from a Woman or Man
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:
Is She an Emotionally Abusive Woman or Not? How to Decide.
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.
The Spousal Abuse Continuum
Behaviors that are potentially abusive can be placed on a continuum that goes from not-at-all abusive to very abusive.
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 Test
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)
- character assassination
- distorting the truth
- unfounded jealousy
- gaslighting: trying to make him feel crazy
- unreasonable expectations
- false promises
- sabotaging his ability to have another relationship
Why are People Emotionally Abusive?
If you're a man worn out with being controlled, manipulated, demeaned, or punished, you may be wondering why your girlfriend or wife is abusive.
The reasons for an individual's behavior varies greatly. One woman may be driven to be controlling because she lacked control in her early life. Another may be driven to control because she was raised to get her way.
While working on my book, Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time to Get Real About It, I came up with a list of 72 reasons why a woman might abuse a man. You can see them in this blog post: Why do Women Abuse Men?
Whatever conscious or subconscious reason someone has for their abusive behavior, remember that reasons for behavior don't excuse behavior. It's every adult's responsibility to notice when their behavior is harmful and figure out why they are doing what they are doing and learn how to make changes.
Examples of Emotional Abuse
I go into detail about each of the 21 signs of emotional abuse in my book Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time to Get Real About It, but I'll give you a couple of examples of emotional abuse here.
Example of Emotional Abuse: False Accusations
An abusive woman may pull an end-around play by falsely accusing the man she abuses of abusing her. It’s a mesmerizing circular move.
False accusations of abuse of her or the children can be conjured up to punish, demean, or exert control over a partner or former partner.
False accusations of abuse are abuse.
False accusations of abuse can be used to:
extort favorable settlements;
discredit him with family, friends, employers, customers, and divorce adjudicators; or
get him in legal hot water.
Threats of leveling false accusations are effective mechanisms of control.
The last thing a nice guy wants is to be lumped in with members of his gender that do things he finds abhorrent.
The thought of having to battle an abuse charge in the current cultural climate can strike fear in any man.
One Man's Experience of Being Falsely Accused of Abuse
A manipulative woman who had decided she wanted to end her marriage threatened her husband, declaring that if he didn’t give in to her financial demands, “I’ll make life miserable for you! I’ll run you out of town!”
She made up stories presenting herself as her husband’s victim.
She told her parents that her husband had yelled at her and been threatening. Her father was aghast and very angry with his “mean” son-in-law.
The false accusation of abuse motivated the father to try to protect his daughter and helped cement the father-daughter relationship.
The father joined in the spreading of the abuse stories in the community, trying to undermine the husband’s customer base.
The wife sprinkled her divorce court declarations with twisted, distorted stories that depicted her estranged husband as an abuser. While this divorce was in a no-fault state (supposedly the causes of deterioration of the marriage don’t matter), painting the man as an abuser was intended to color the judge’s opinion of the husband and result in judgments favorable to the “poor” wife.
The man was overwhelmed with worry over his livelihood and spent much more time, energy, and money on his divorce than he would have had to without the false accusations being leveled at him.
Luckily for this man, his business and reputation were so strong that the number of customers who were swayed by the lies was small enough that his business sustained the blows.
He eventually got a good-enough divorce settlement and has been able to move on with his life.
Amber Heard's Emotional Abuse of Johnny Depp
In 2016, Amber Heard very publicly accused Johnny Depp of abusing her during their short marriage.
Many people were pulled in by Amber's stories of abuse. Johnny lost his reoccurring role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and other work because he was labeled as a wife beater.
It wasn't until people witnessed the 2022 televised defamation trial and its competing testimonies for, and of, Amber and Johnny that the public got a clearer picture of the relationship. During the trial, people saw a treasure trove of evidence that vindicated Johnny in the eyes of many, including the jury, and demonstrated that Amber severely abused Johnny.
I created a summary of the Amber Heard and Johnny Depp cases in this post: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Relationship and Legal Battles Timeline.
During their relationship, Johnny and Amber were told by a counselor to record some of their conversations. In Sept 2015, they mutually agreed to record a 2-hour conversation that occurred the day following a night in which Amber had hit Johnny and Johnny had fled their home. (A small segment of the conversation is represented in the graphic at the beginning of this section.)
I transcribed the recording and analyzing its contents.
This recording gives a lot of insight into their relationship and is an example of many emotionally abusive tactics from Amber. Click here for a link to the recording, transcript, and analysis.
You may also find this post of an abused man's story in his own words interesting:
Another story of emotional abuse:
Book About Abusive Women
For further explanation of each of the ways women emotionally and psychologically abuse their male partners, and all other forms of partner abuse where a man is the target of abuse and a woman is the source, check out my book:
- Ann Silvers