Emotional Abuse: A Reason to Divorce?

Emotional abuse forms a major reason for divorce. But the answer does not lie in simply walking away but to understand and help your partner deal with it. One has to understand that emotional abuse is a disease of the mind stemming from childhood insecurity and fear. Social psychologists and counsellors classify emotional abuse at two levels:

  • Minor emotional abuse such as not allowing the other person to watch television or listen to the radio – switching off the electric light not allowing the person to read in the evening – crying and complaining. Thus, minor emotional abuse can be described as childish and stubborn behaviour which can be treated.
  • Major emotional abuse which is more serious and often progresses when minor emotional abuse is not treated in time. Behaviours such as sexual abuse – always trying to control the activities and movements of the other i.e., restricting partner’s access to friends, relatives and social outings.

Social psychologists argue that when a person in a marital relationship starts to emotionally abuse the other, the first measure to take is to visit a psychologist immediately. In short, legal separation – blame game and consequent divorce are not a solution.

Identify the Type of Emotional Abuse – is it Minor or Major – can it be Treated – What is the Reason behind its Occurrence – What are the Triggers?

These are some of the basic questions a partner has to ask herself or himself before visiting a counselling psychologist for help. Minor emotional abuse usually stems from an unhappy childhood. Survey results from 2000 suggest that more than 25% of marital partners who had been classified as ‘low risk emotional abusers’ came from broken homes. These individuals had to face situations of poverty leading to neglect and poor education status. Consequently, they came to possess a few personal belongings in childhood. The notion of storage and life-long possession becomes an obsession with them. They are basically afraid of losing their personal belongings. This fear carries into their adulthood also.

They want to own their partner – the spouse becomes their possession e.g., candy owned by a five-year old is his personal possession. Similarly, the spouse takes the form of the candy for the adult emotional abuser. This possession is a compulsion with them – they are not sure of their partner’s love and trust and fear that the spouse will leave them. And, eventually they will be left alone without any personal belongings. Thus, possession stems from feelings of insecurity and fear of loss. This possession takes the form of minor emotional abuse. The solution lies in immediate professional help by way of a psychologist who is able to delve into the emotional abuser’s psyche and find the answers to his or her behaviour.

Once the psychologist is able to uncover the true causes, treatment in the form of behavioural exercise begins. Here, the emotional abuser is made to realise the wrong behaviour and its consequent sufferings. In other words, minor emotional abuse is a treatable behavioural ailment. However, if this minor emotional abuse is not detected in time, the abuse might take on serious tones of major emotional abuse. It is observed that major emotional abusers are suffering from a mental psychological obsessive sadistic disorder. It cannot be treated and such people are considered a danger to society. Social psychologists strongly argue that such abuse should not be tolerated. Spouses ought to opt for divorce as the only suitable solution when this scenario occurs.

Major emotional abuse is mind-numbing erasing any sign of normalcy in the behaviour of the abuser and the abused. It is normal to find the victims of major emotional abuse completely devoid of confidence. These victims are ruled by an overwhelming sense of fear. Major emotional abuse cripples all social support in the form of friends, work colleagues and relatives. Research indicates that more than 39% of victims leave rewarding work careers on account of major emotional abuse. It has been argued that usually women are the victims of emotional abuse and the male partner is the abuser. Social psychologists argue that this happens as men are physically stronger than women. This enables them to override women in the fulfilment of their desires. Emotional abuse begins innocently as ‘possessive love’ but soon becomes intolerable.

But the identification of emotional abuse including its solution is subjective. Some may decide that they cannot tolerate this emotionally abusive behaviour anymore and apply for divorce. There are others who feel an obligation to help their partner and seek professional help. These few couples seek to understand the causes of this abusive behaviour and help the partner to solve the troubling psychological issues.