Emotional abuse is one of those tricky topics. Many people don’t like to admit that they are being emotionally abused because it makes them seem weak or thin skinned. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and the confinement of lockdown at home has made many people realise that it is time to confront emotional abuse in their relationship. In this blog we look at emotional abuse and your options on what to do about emotional abuse in your marriage.
What is emotional abuse?
As we gradually start to emerge from lockdown people are asking questions about their relationships, often because they have spent far more time with their partner in a relatively confined space than at any other time. Sometimes that experience has brought out the best in a relationship and at other times people have experienced far more physical or emotional abuse than they would normally have if their partner had been working or able to see friends and family. Sometimes, the stresses of working on the ‘’front line’’ in a key worker role has meant that a partner has brought their fears home with them and their behaviour has had a very negative impact on their partner and children.
Family law solicitors say that unless it is an emergency situation you should take time to think before you make any major decisions about your relationship. It is important to reflect on your partner’s behaviour and consider if it is emotional abuse. Whilst it is best not to make a rapid decision to separate it is equally sensible to look at whether what you are experiencing is emotional abuse and to ask yourself if there is any prospect of your partner or spouse recognising their behaviour as abusive and doing something to change their behaviour.
Sadly, for many husbands, wives, and partners, emotional abuse can become part of their daily life so they become inured to it. Often, it when their partner’s behaviour has turned on the children during lockdown, with the children being at home and underfoot all day, that the behaviour is seen for what it is; emotional abuse.
What is emotional abuse? It is difficult to define emotional abuse because unlike physical violence there is no obvious slap mark, bruise or fracture. The effects of emotional abuse are often not obvious but they are equally damaging as physical abuse.
Emotional abuse is all about control through the manipulation of your emotions. It isn’t a one off experience but is normally a slow and invidious process until it gets to the stage that you haven’t got the strength to leave the relationship. Sometimes it takes something as dramatic as the Covid-19 lockdown or seeing your partner start to emotionally abuse your child that is the ‘’wake-up call’’ to get help.
Emotional abuse isn’t about having rows, shouting at one another, or saying words you regret. We all do that in relationships, especially if we are under pressure because we are confined at home or are worried about work and financial matters. Emotional abuse is best described by example as it can be subtle. Examples of emotional abuse and controlling behaviour include:
- Constantly belittling you from telling you that you are a fool, ‘’incapable of doing that’ ’and judging your efforts
- Giving directions on what you should wear, how much you should eat, when you should speak, who you should see and if you can go out
- If you challenge the behaviour, telling you that you are insane and that no one will believe you if you speak out
- Refusing to speak to you or leaving the family home for days if you ask them to change their behaviour
- Taking over control of almost every aspect of your life from money management and access to funds to making all the important decisions about the children and to making the decisions for you from who you vote for to your choice of hairstyle
- Restricting you so you are not able to speak on the phone to friends and family as phone and internet activity is monitored and not able to meet with family because your movements are tracked or you fear that you will betray yourself and let something slip about having spoken to a friend.
Sometimes those in emotionally abusive relationships also experience physical violence. Many say that the physical violence is easier to cope with than the constant emotional abuse or living with a partner who is silent and won’t speak for days because you have committed some minor misdemeanour.
Emotional abusers can temper their abuse with gifts and kind words thus giving you hope that they have changed or that they can’t help their behaviour because they love you so much. This type of abuse is so subtle and powerful that people from all walks of life can find themselves caught up in an abusive relationship and not know how to get out.
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What help can you get if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship?
Many people think that they can’t ask for help because what they are experiencing isn’t ‘’domestic violence’’ or that ‘’no-one will believe me’’ or that ‘’I can’t afford to leave’’. None of those statements are true.
An experienced and understanding family law solicitor will talk you through your options. Importantly they won’t try to control your decisions or tell you what you must do. However they can guide you and support you, whether you decide to stay with your partner or decide that a separation or divorce is the best option for you and your family.
Many divorce and family law solicitors work with professional counsellors and therapists who can offer:
- Joint sessions for you and your partner to see if the problems within your relationship can be addressed or
- Individual help to an emotional abuser to get them to accept their behaviour for what it is or
- Individual help for you to help you recover your self-esteem and confidence after years in an emotionally abusive relationship.
A family solicitor can help you with:
- Advice on a temporary separation including whether you should stay in the family home and financial matters such as spousal maintenance and child support and short term parenting arrangements and contact (child arrangements order)
- A long term separation or divorce with help with a separation agreement, divorce proceedings, child custody and contact and a financial settlement
- Court orders to protect you such as an occupation order so you can stay in the family home or a non-molestation order.
Our Family Law and Divorce Solicitors
Whether you need legal help with an emotionally abusive relationship, a separation, divorce, maintenance, an injunction, financial settlement or children order the specialist but friendly and supportive team of family lawyers at Evolve Family Law can help you. Call us or complete our online enquiry form. We can set up a video conference, Skype or telephone appointment for you or arrange a face to face meeting at our offices in Holmes Chapel Cheshire or Whitefield Manchester.