Getting Out: Leaving An Abusive Wife
Updated April 01, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault
Abuse is a hot-button topic. As gender roles shift and change, and the attitudes surrounding marriage and relationships change, it seems to be coming to light more and more that abusive relationships are painfully common and are often swept under the rug or hidden, whether from pride, shame, or abject terror. Although there are plenty of news stories and resources available for women who have been abused, there are often not as many resources and news stories about men who have been abused, which can make coming forward or getting out of your situation seem impossible. Despite the lack of research and support, men should not be forced to stay in a relationship filled with abuse.
What Constitutes Abuse?
Abuse is any behavior that mistreats, harms, or otherwise negatively impacts another person through control or an imbalance of power. Abuse can happen across various ages, backgrounds, nationalities, belief systems, and ethos. Some people can justify abuse on religious grounds (citing the notion that women are supposed to be meek and subject to men), supposed defensive grounds ("he was trying to intimidate me!"), and more.
By its very nature, abuse is usually hidden to keep the receiver quiet and continue the cycle of abusive behavior. It is often not readily visible to others, even when it is physical abuse because abusers are often master manipulators who are excellent at lying or telling half-truths to seem more reliable. Abusers can be well-off, "upstanding" members of society or come from backgrounds in crime-regardless of their exact origin; abusers leave psychological, emotional, mental, and physical scars.
Abuse: Different Types
Although all types of abuse are reprehensible, each type of abuse manifests differently and can have different psychological and physical effects. Few people who abuse others do so within a single type; most abusers venture into all abuse areas. This type of behavior is borne of anger, and a lack of regard for others-jumping from one form of abuse to another is rarely seen as cruel or unkind. Indeed, most abusers manage to justify their behavior to themselves and those experiencing the abuse, which can perpetuate a cycle of confusion, distrust, and uncertainty. The three most common types of abuse are verbal abuse, physical abuse, and emotional abuse. Each form of abuse can be committed by anyone, including friends, family members, romantic partners, and parents.
Verbal abuse is any language that suggests cruelty or violence. Verbal abuse can be obvious, as in the case of a woman screaming that her husband is "useless trash," or something similar, but can also be far more covert in its delivery. Abuse can masquerade as honesty ("What? I'm just honest."), kindness ("I just don't want you to be disappointed."), and pragmatism ("It just isn't realistic. You aren't smart. You can't accomplish something like that."). In any case, verbal abuse is designed to strip the receiver of their strength, confidence, and autonomy to create unhealthy co-dependency between the abuser and the abused.
Verbal abuse is often intertwined with emotional abuse, but does not have to be; verbal abuse can be used with emotional manipulation and gaslighting, as is the case when a verbally abusive wife tells her spouse, "I can't stand you; no one can. You are a big, whiny baby, and you are so lucky I am even willing to be with you. You should be grateful." In this instance, she delivers verbal abuse by insulting her partner and emotional abuse by making her feel as though they are the problem, and she is a saint for deigning to be with them.
Perhaps, physical abuse is the least common form of abuse used by women but is nevertheless real and should not be taken lightly. While women may sometimes be smaller than the men they are attacking, this is not always the case, and some men may feel as though they cannot defend themselves for fear of being charged with attacking or hurting a woman. Physical abuse is usually associated with being hit with fists or kicked. Still, many different actions fall under the umbrella of "physical abuse," many of them demeaning and painful.
Striking someone with an anything-an open hand, a fist, a foot, knee, elbow, or any other part of the body, with the intent to injure. While a one-time slap might not feel like anything to be upset about, a pattern of abuse might be seen through not only physical altercations but through verbal and emotionally abusive tactics, when can then culminate in physical action.
Physical abuse often contains violent and intense behaviors. These can include willfully burning, scraping, cutting, or stabbing, often only to the point that the abused cries out or shows pain, and often only to the point that it will heal quickly to avoid suspicion. Physical abuse might be delivered in readily visible areas, but most abusers will hurt others in areas that are easy to cover up, such as the upper arms, thighs, stomach, and back. These can be covered by clothes, even in summer, and are not as likely to arouse suspicion.
Emotional abuse often comes in the form of manipulation, gaslighting, and guilting. These three frequently form something of a trifecta; However, they can each exist without the other. They are all too often used together, and the negative effects they have on those that experienced abuse compound to create a powerful, painful, and overwhelming mental and emotional state.
Emotional abuse differs from verbal abuse in its delivery: verbal abuse insults belittles, and mocks someone, while emotional abuse is used to manipulate. Manipulation can be the most difficult to detect a form of abuse, as it often comes with some seemingly uplifting or loving message. "I only want what's best for you," "I just love you so much," "I love you too much to let you," and more are common phrases used in emotionally abusive relationships. These phrases simultaneously exert control over the abused while making them feel as though they are ungrateful and undeserving of even basic kindness-which then paints the abuser as a saint-like rescue figure.
Getting Out Of An Abusive Marriage
The first step in getting out of an abusive marriage is recognizing that abuse is present. Each of the types of abuse described above constitutes abusive behavior that warrants leaving a marriage behind. Many people stay in abusive marriages, citing divorce's difficulty on children, finances, and similar issues. Still, abusive relationships systematically break down the receiver's mental, emotional, and physical well-being and create toxic, unstable, and terrifying home environments for both parents and children, both.
Getting out of an abusive marriage is rarely easy, though; many abusers have a firm hold on their victims. They may feel helpless or unable to leave, whether that is through lack of resources or the feeling that they cannot function without the help of their abuser. Leaving an abusive wife can feel even more difficult: women are not often seen as perpetrators of abuse, and family members and friends might express hesitation or outrage when a woman is accused of abuse. Even so, no one deserves to live in an abusive marriage, and even without ample resources, getting away from an abuser is possible. Finding help and strength through online support groups, a doctor, or another health professional can help partners find the strength to leave their abusive wives.
Before leaving an abusive wife, there are several things to do: prepare to leave, create a backup plan, gather evidence, and leave. Preparing to leave means beginning to separate lives. As much as possible, separate finances, material items, and friendships that are not supportive. If these things are not possible, try to set aside just enough to get out-enough money to get to a safe place, enough clothing to last a few days, or at least one friend you can rely on.
Creating a backup plan involves researching places to live, possible new job opportunities, and even another form of transportation, as you may not have access to a vehicle apart from your wife. This could mean enlisting a doctor's help, a friend who has also experienced abuse, or a law enforcement professional. Getting other people involved can help protect you against further manipulation, abusive behavior, and terror.
Next, gather evidence of abuse. This could be saving texts or emails, recording incidences of abuse, taking a catalog of physical injuries, and more. Proving abuse can be difficult without concrete evidence, so it is in your best interest to make sure you can provide thorough and convincing evidence to support the supposition that your wife is abusing you. Unfortunately, as it is, judges will need evidence of abuse to award custody situations, sign off on divorce decrees, and put restraining orders in place, if need be.
Finally, leave. If you have children, you have to be careful, as taking children without your wife's knowledge and refusing to let her see them could constitute kidnapping. You also will not want to leave your children in an abusive home. If possible, arrange to let your wife know where you are after you have already gone and have a lawyer already in place, ready to defend your decision.
Leaving an abusive wife can be a simple enough process, wherein you leave, sign divorce papers, and are done with one another. Still, it can also be a long, drawn-out process involving plenty of court battles, lawyers, and frustration. Ultimately, though, the peace of mind and healing that comes after leaving a toxic, unhealthy situation is often worth the struggle-both for you and any children resulting from your relationship.
If you are struggling to come to terms with a decision to leave or suffer from depression and anxiety far too much to begin taking steps, consider seeking help from a qualified mental health professional, such as the therapists available through ReGain.Us. A mental health professional can help you find the strength and determination required to get out of an abusive relationship, find healing, and begin moving on from the exhaustion, malaise, and terror that accompany living with an abusive wife.
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