How I Learned I Was in an Abusive Relationship

Man with hands on headI started my relationship with a very intelligent registered nurse in 1984. I was a clerk going to college part time and work full time to be able to afford college. She seemed very caring, if a bit too emotional.

We lived together and were married for 22 years. We had great times together. We had two children and finally purchased two houses. She was a lovely, helpful person, a great cook, and a good shopper.

She also had a dark side that I ignored. I thought that she was just in a bad mood—maybe tired and maybe stressed. Nursing is no easy profession, and I always admired her for her work.

Her mother died when she was 15 years old. This must have been devastating for her, and she reminded me about it constantly.



As the years went by I noticed the following:

  • Overly critical outbursts when the occasion did not even call for it
  • Inappropriate outbursts that did not make any sense
  • Morbid verbal abuse that involved withholding, name calling, saying things to harm me personally, and trivializing my thoughts and feelings
  • Physically assaulting me on seven occasions from 2004 to 2009.
  • Unusually controlling behavior
  • Embarrassing me to everyone that would listen

I had no idea what I was up against. I was raised in the 1960s as a gentleman. I am not violent. Abusing a woman is taboo.

The physical assaults stopped when our holistic couples therapist found out from me inadvertently that I was physically assaulted. I then was warned by the local police, our couples therapist, my sister (who is a therapist), and my divorce attorney about her behavior. They were all worried about my physical safety.

I moved out in 2010, and it was difficult. Because I moved and divorced her, her only way of getting back at me was the verbally abusive use of withholding. She told her family and our children not to have any contact with me, which I believe she did to validate her odd behavior.

I have not seen or heard from my children, who live 20 minutes away, for three years. I never abused them or anyone else.

While going through the divorce I became hospitalized due to lack of appetite. When I am depressed, I will not eat. I became hospitalized, and a doctor asked me how I was doing. Being the big tough guy I am, I said that I was just fine. He told me I was not fine and was not looking so good.

He sent me home with a medication that is used to treat people in physical pain. He said that this would help me.

After getting home to my lonely one-bedroom apartment, I called my primary care practitioner and asked for a psychiatric consultation. I saw three physiologists, one social worker, and a counselor.

All of them said that I needed to go to trauma therapy.

I had no idea the effect that 20-plus years of verbal abuse had on me. After therapy and medications, I am slowly getting my life back in order. I just did not realize what I had been going through.

If you even suspect or imagine that you are going through this, get help and do not be embarrassed about it.

It is real and does exist.

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  • Leave a Comment
  • Natasha

    April 14th, 2014 at 4:29 AM

    Isn’t it so sad when even the most educated individuals can still have no idea that they are in an abusive relationship, and just like anyone else often have a hard time leaving it behind even when they do learn that this is what it is.

    Being in a relationship like this is so difficult for a number of reasons, but I think that one thing that always strikes me is that those who are being abused still feel ashamed and at fault, as if they have done something wrong to bring this on.

    No matter what anyone else tells you, this is real and it is never ever your fault. The fault lies with the abuser, and if you can please get out of a stuation like this as soon as you possibly can once you recognize that this could be you.

  • A

    August 15th, 2016 at 8:37 PM

    Yes it’s sad and I think both abused and abuser need therapy. Violence of any nature, be it physical or emotional needs to be addressed and treated.

  • carmen

    April 14th, 2014 at 3:16 PM

    Would you say from your own experience that female on male abuse is a lot more common than what most of us realize? I never think about this dynamic, only male against female so this kind of puts a new twist on that whole way of thinking.

  • Anon

    April 14th, 2014 at 6:56 PM

    Abuse can be worked on. Leaving an abusive relationship is not the only answer. There is help to be had for both parties. And it can be successful.

  • Hunter Y

    April 15th, 2014 at 4:28 AM

    Another thing that I don’t think gets talked about much are those relationships where the abuse is mutual. One is doling out and the other is doing the same, and this is going to be a case where neither party will be healthy.

    This doesn’t have to be just physical abuse but we are also talking mental and emotional abuse as well. Some leave the bruises on the outside and some leave the scars within, and either way it can be scary to talk about and ask someone for help.

  • Jennifer

    April 15th, 2014 at 3:55 PM

    Being in an abusive relationship can be such a demeaning experience that you start to wonder if there is anyone who will listen to you if you ever get the nerve up to talk about the experience. I have been there, and felt so desolate because I knew that the man I was with was a very good con artist and that he had probably turned many againast me. I was wrong, when I finally found my voice and found the ability to speak up and speak out there were more people there for me, friends I knew and those I didn’t who supported me and offered me the love that I needed exactly at the time that I needed it. There is always a lot more love out there than you realize, but sometimes it does take some initial bravery on your part to find it.

  • runninfast

    April 16th, 2014 at 4:35 AM

    If I am with someone who makes me feel unworthy of their affection that to me is like abuse too.

  • lt

    April 16th, 2014 at 3:40 PM

    I’m glad that another man has spoken out his abuse. It happens to anyone even if you are an adult or a man.

  • vivian

    July 5th, 2017 at 6:56 AM

    I only truly discovered that I was in an abusive relationship until after she finished it. I couldn’t see it at the time but just felt worse and worse and like I had to justify everything all the time and walk on egg shells to keep the relationship going. Thank goodness it’s over. It’s not always the girls that get controlled and abused…

  • Katya

    April 17th, 2014 at 4:17 PM

    When all you are thinking about is how to get away and out of the relationship then that should probably be a clue to you that something is not right. It might be abuse or it may be something else but when this consumes you then maybe it is time to leave this behind and move on if and when you can.

  • Darlene Lancer, LMFT

    April 21st, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    Emotional abuse leaves invisible scars that damage self-esteem and require healing. It often goes unrecognized and is largely ignored or even encouraged by the media. Learn more about what it is and what to do here:
    Darlene Lancer, LMFT
    Author of “Codependency for Dummies’

  • Alex

    July 15th, 2014 at 6:39 AM

    I was in an abusive relationship that lasted 12 years and got us 2 kids. After she left me for another guy, she turned up the abuse for the past year. I was hurt and needed time to heal, but the healing process wasn’t going fast enough for her so she’d lash out at me for not being on her timetable. Currently, I have trouble seeing the kids. When we fight now, no matter whos fault it is, the new boyfriend and her blame me, and forbids me from seeing the kids.

    She called me abusive for awhile in the past year. I researched abuse, to see if what I did was abuse. What I found out was, I apologized to her in person. I took steps to be a better person and in the process, discovered that she was far more abusive to me than I was to her. Everything she complained about in me, she did far more often, and a lot more cruelly. Literally, everything. And it confused me as to how she couldn’t see what she was doing. When I confronted her about it, she called it “being defensive”, “Everyone says things they don’t mean when they fight”, and “I need to fight to reconcile a wrong.” She also recanted calling me abusive saying she did it because everyone else told her I was.

    She abuses people around her but the people she surrounds herself with (like her new boyfriend) are the type of people that tell her what she wants to hear, not what she needs to hear. And she uses our kids as a tool to make people “comply” to her wishes.

    It’s tough to deal with someone who I believe is delusional, and is unwilling to make themselves a better person. She has the attitude that A)If you love me, you’ll change for me and B)If you love me, you wouldn’t ask me to change, you’d love me for who I am.

  • del

    October 11th, 2014 at 6:47 PM

    I got out of an emotional and mentally abusive relationship recently. I am still in the ‘what did I do wrong exactly’ phase. I lost me. I lost my identity from the very beginning, i lost friends, I lost who I was with family members, i lost what made me me.

    I could never do anything right, I was screamed at at all hours, I was told to sit down like I was 5, i was shoved, i was belittled, i was talked down to, I wasn’t allowed facebook and my phone was checked constantly. I was called every name under the sun including and i was compared to other people. I was mocked in front of people who I thought were friends, I was mocked at in front of family. These ‘friends’ no longer speak to me and even harder I felt some family members helped him more than me when I left him. I was talked down to. I had to take instruction. If I wore makeup I was wearing it to impress someone. If I wore a skirt I was seeing someone behind his back. If I wasn’t home before him I was with someone.

    What affect has it had. I do not trust. I do not look in the mirror and see anything worth looking at. I am having to build new relationships with past friends who must look at me and think why the hell did you get into that. I have anxiety. I don’t want to leave the house sometimes. I panic, i look over my shoulder constantly. My confidence is gone. I feel ashamed. I feel like it’s my fault. I let this happen.

    My bruises aren’t on the outside. The scars are within. It’s scary to talk about and even harder to ask for help.

  • mandy

    October 12th, 2014 at 12:56 AM

    I feel for all of you who have suffeered at the hands of an abuser. as a domestic violence worker it is important to answer the question asked above about what is most common. Violence against women makes up over 87% of cases of domestic violence, 4% of cases are male victims. Male violence against women is also different in that it is often more severe and leads to greater injury and death. Whilst i understand that it’s important to support those men who are experiencing abuse, we must not ignore that fact that dv is primarily a crime against women.

  • Scott

    November 5th, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    I meet her when I was 30.
    There was allot of red flags. She had said that in past relationships she had been abused.
    We married and when we would argue and things turned to the worst I thought that I did not remain calm and I did not say the correct things. if I could just show her how adults are suppose to compromise and respect each other.
    I was married for 12 yrs and it was not good. I called the police allot of times and was told if I don’t stop they will take away my son.

    2yrs into the marriage one night I came home. She went was like a light switch nice or down right mean. She proceeded to physically assault me for over two hrs. I could not use the phone, could not leave, could not put my clothes on and she took the car keys from me.

    I made a run for the car with my son in my arms and held the door locks down as she was beating on the car. She tried to unlock the doors but held the locks down. After awhile she went back in the house and feel a sleep.

    I went in the house and sat there with my son in my arms.

    the next day she was scared I was going to divorce her and get custody of our son. So she claimed I abused her. I never lifted a hand at her.

    There was no possible way in law enforcement or legal system can a woman abuse a man. I plead no contest to the charges in a fog of my mind. I thought the truth would prevail and I was shattered.

    After 12yrs I realized that when she walked into the room I could not breath because I was scared. She was being nice to me now what does she want. Through the years I suffered all the forms of abuse from her.
    Of course I heard I am sorry it will never happen again ect ect.

    I broke free from the abuse and was treated for ptsd from my life with her.
    I am shocked at society can not accept that woman can not abuse a man and the demiss it.

    Be strong and we are survivors not victims.

  • Arline m

    March 1st, 2016 at 2:22 PM

    I was a widow 4 yrs. And met a man much younger. We for along well had so much interest in common. I let him move in with me. Looking back now he let me are what he New I liked. We had one occasion where I called police he went to jail. He wrote constantly we got back together. I was so old school never been in this as my late husband was 360 the other kind that I fell for every thing he said. When he got out the belittling cursing name calling degading started everything was my fault. I pay everything and if he has to help he threatens to move. I’m sick 28th high bp and have had heart sugery. He takes my truck or bullys till he gets it. Used all the gas and can’t keep a job. He says he has bipolar. Help

  • The Team

    March 1st, 2016 at 5:45 PM

    Dear Arline,

    Thank you for your comment. The Team is not qualified to offer professional advice, but we urge you to reach out.

    Emotional abuse is one form of domestic violence, and we encourage you to seek support and advice. You can find out more information about domestic violence here:

    If you feel you are in immediate danger, please go to your nearest emergency room or contact local law enforcement immediately.

    The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-7233 (TTY: 1-800-787-3224). You can call at any time, day or night. You can also access private chat services 7 a.m.–2 p.m. (CST) here:

    Please know help is available. You are not alone.

    Kind regards,

    The Team

  • Tene

    March 4th, 2017 at 3:30 PM

    i am in a verbally abusive relationship now,, when i met him the first yr things were great, then he started drinking again using the excuse it is to fit in with the boss and his lackies. i am seeing a counselor, and looking to leave but i have to play it safe. He owns this house and as of lately all i am is the house keeper basically, i dont pay rent with dollars i buy all the food with my foodstamps do all the cooking,,, he has for the past 3 months now been drinking every day, i have had one heart attack from the stress. i am really not wanting to do the shelter cause i have been in one before,, place was beautiful but the people were to busy worrying about what everyone else is doin then ficing their own issues. as much as i love him i cant do this,, i am staying to feel like he is right. he says its all my fault. all though i am still tryng to figure out y. he tells me to forget the past yet he throwsx it in my face everytime he is drunk. my ex husband was abusive but not a drunk. i dealt with him cause of the kids. i know not an excuse, i been abused my whole life

  • Frankie

    June 19th, 2017 at 4:10 PM

    Every relationship I have had, I have been abused mentally and physically. I have been kicked, dragged, concussions ,beaten, stomped, held over a balcony, slammed, choked, pulled hair beaten until I menustrate, stomped in my private parts, punched, shamed embarassed, ridiculed in front of others, raped by my uncle who served no time for it, when i was 4 and im still osterisized to this day for it by my family and handcuffed and beaten for hours. I have been beaten by my men in the middle of the streets, I have been grabbed and punched so many times I lost count. My mother abused me well. She would grab me, when she was drunk everytime. Her friends were always entertained. Im almost 50 and I’m still affected. My panic attacks are on ten. Anxiety is the only friend I have. Im afraid of everything and everyone. Im shut up in my house and afraid to got out. I go to work and come home thats it. At work I talk only if asked something. I talk to customers cause they cant hurt me. My mind was blown even more when throughout my life i couldn’t even commit suicide right. And that was after tryna many times. I then realized that God didnt even want me either. I am doomed. Death would be welcomed. But Im too numb to even attempt anymore. My doctors wont see me anymore because of the overdoses. Im on my own. And I feel nothing. Absolutely nothing. I am a robot.

  • The Team

    June 19th, 2017 at 7:53 PM

    Thank you for your comment,Frankie. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about what to do in a crisis at

    Warm regards,
    The Team

  • kajia

    September 12th, 2017 at 4:28 PM

    I find it hard to express in words the amount of pain that I’ve not only experienced myself at the hands of others but also seen dealt to those I love. Both of my marriages involved abuse – the first was physical as well as emotional, and ended with me being in the only safe place I had at the time (which was a Safe House with my two children). To this day, he has not apologized or acknowledged the damage he caused on an emotional level to not only me but to his two children. My second marriage was both good and bad. Some days everything was fine and other days the world was ending. I tried to leave him twice and failed. He is a manipulative and controlling person who would use every sort of humiliation, name-calling, threats, you name it to keep his control over his family – all behind closed doors. The community regards him as a model citizen as he is in the Army National Guard and serves his country (but I know who he really is behind the facade he puts out to the rest of the world). I am now one year seperated from him and going through a nasty custody battle over our one son that we have together. When I filed for divorce, he initially coerced me to sign the paperwork, giving him full custody, the house and all of our possessions besides the clothes on my back and my two bedroom apartment. After I retained a lawyer to fight for custody of my son and my possessions (not only mine but also my two older children’s), we went to court for an Interim meeting. He wrote a 42-page Affidavit that was littered with lie upon lie, even so much as to say that I was having sex in front of our son with multiple men, did not graduate high school, and have basically been a worthless person since the day I was born. I not only graduated high school, I graduated a year earlier from my classmates and finished college with a BS degree. I was a good wife and I am still trying to be the best Mother I can. I nursed all three of my children, and spent a year nursing my youngest son, staying at home for the first 4 months and then pumping all day when I went back to work. The Judge read his Affidavit, looked at his place of residence (our 3500 sq ft home) versus my 2 bedroom apartment, looked at his military status and my job, and decided that he was the better parent. So he has had full custody of our son, who was only 2 at the time, since December. I continue to be manipulated by him, coerced to go back to him with threats and promises depending upon the day; he has tried to convince most of my family and friends that I have mental health issues and “need” to be back with him. If I stand up for myself and ask him to stop harassing me, he sends LONG pages of text messages saying that I have bipolar, schizophrenia, and other mental health issues and need to get checked into the hospital, that he will even PAY to take me in. I no longer believe in myself, I have zero confidence in myself and I feel trapped by my situation. I do not even know how to take care of myself because of being in such a controlling and co-dependent relationship for so many years (and not just once but twice). Every exchange of our son involves him asking me to come back to him, making promises to me, telling me he’ll do this or that. And when I say that its not what I want, he’ll lash out at me, accuse me of mental health issues and bring our son into the middle of things as a way to hurt me even more. All I want is to have him out of my life. I miss my baby boy very much and want him to be ok.

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