By Richard Bleil
When I was married, I was abused. I didn’t realize it at the time, in part because it felt very familiar to me, and therefore comfortable. Not too much after my marriage ended, I ended up working as a civilian employee for a police department, and realized that many of the actions that have been legally determined to constitute spouse abuse was, in fact. actions to which I was subjected.
- Controlling of relationships. Past and present, male and female, emotional abuse often includes determining who the spouse can and cannot be friends with, and how they are “allowed” to interact with others. The truth is that my wife was gorgeous. I had every reason to be suspicious of other men, but i never worried about it, because I trusted her. Controlling relationships and friendships in a spouse is the first step towards isolation. This is why legally it is recognized, and emotionally it is true that deciding who a spouse can and cannot have in their lives is spouse abuse.
- Controlling sleep. Sleep deprivation is another form of spouse abuse. This can be nefariously subtle and “innocent” as well. My ex-wife used to do things like blare music so as to create an environment that prevented me from sleeping, trying to pull me out of bed to “dance” with her, or keeping me up with constant touching, touching that would otherwise be sweet, but even when I would ask her to stop because I needed to sleep for something coming up the next day, she wouldn’t stop. Ignoring requests, making noise or other tricks to deny sleep is emotional abuse and legally recognized as so.
- Physical rape. Spousal rape is all too common, and, unfortunately, all too often emotionally manipulated. Rape occurs under a variety of circumstances, and is defined as penetration of any depth in any orifice by any part of the rapists body without consent. It’s important to note that this includes if consent cannot be given, and in spousal abuse, this includes beginning sexual activities while the spouse is asleep without prior consent. My ex-wife told me that she loved waking up being penetrated, but I could never bring myself to do it, even with her prior consent. How would I know if that particular morning she still wanted it to happen? Sadly, this can be covered with things like claiming that the spouse wouldn’t like what was happening, or that they had played some game with a safe word in the past. Unfortunately, spouses will also cover these actions up by apologizing, claiming ignorance or even becoming upset, but any intelligent adult should know better than to do these things without consent at the time.
- Controlling actions. Relationships are always compromise, which means there are going to be times that one individual or the other in the relationship will not be able to fulfill their desire. However, setting rules and refusing to discuss things like finances, children, sexual desires and more is a form of emotional abuse. A spouse is a partner, not a child, and should be treated as such. Setting conditions for actions is the same. Refusal, for example, to do something until the spouse reaches some form of job or income is control, and emotional abuse.
- Intimidation. When we think of intimidation, often we think of threats of physical violence, but it goes much further. My ex-wife used to threaten suicide, or put safety needles through her skin when she didn’t get her way, and threatened divorce. Threatening to end a relationship rather than working out issues through open communication, compromise and accepting at least partial responsibility is not just immature, it is abuse.
- Gaslighting. This term means “turning the tables”, making the victim believe something other than what is happening. My ex-wife had a violent streak, and would periodically put her fist through a wall. Unfortunately, every time I would try to discuss something like this, she found an excuse that made it my fault, or diverted the discussion completely and would begin fighting with me about something completely unrelated and, in her eyes anyway, was also my fault. In the end, the discussion was diverted away from her actions, and she tried to make me feel guilty for something instead.
If you are being abused, it can be incredibly difficult to get out of the situation. Teh National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233, and many communities have support services as well. If you suspect that you are in an abusive relationship, don’t keep it to yourself. You are not alone. I was in an abusive relationship, so I am right there with you. It also means that I see these dangers in the relationships of others. Those in abusive relationships are not the only ones being hurt; those who love the victims in these relationships feel the abuse as well. If children are involved, they learn that the practice or acceptance of these practices is just proper behavior, and they are hurt as well.
There is no shame in asking for help. Please reach out to someone.