Is Divorcing An Emotionally Abusive Husband The Right Decision?

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by Annie Kaszina on July 19, 2016

Is divorcing an emotionally abusive husband the right thing to do? asks Lauren, thereby summing up the dilemma of every emotionally abused woman.

No emotionally abused woman that I have ever worked with has woken up one day and thought, “How about divorcing my emotionally abusive husband? That should be fun.”

Divorcing an emotionally abusive husband is never a decision that comes out of a clear blue sky.  Women have to go through a tremendous amount of pain and soul-searching before they are willing to take that step.  Not least because divorcing an emotionally abusive husband means turning their backs on “the best thing/person that ever happened to them”.

However the more or less constant unhappiness they feel tells a different story.  In reality, an emotionally abusive husband will always be one of the worst things – if not the worst thing  – that ever happens to them.

Before you can start the process of divorcing an emotionally abusive husband

But before she can even start the process of divorcing an emotionally abusive husband, an  abused wife must, first, her justification for doing so.  She has to prove to herself that she feels as bad as she does because she is on the receiving end of abuse. Until such time as she can establish – beyond all doubt – that she has been living in The Abusive Kingdom she will wonder whether she is just crazy, needy, frightened, pathetic, or just plain wrong.

Her need for clarity may well lead her to read up on emotional abuse. Her  need to believe the best of her husband leads her to doubt what she learns. So, like one new client, she may recognise that her husband is:

  • Aggressive
  • Manipulative
  • Dishonest
  • Cruel
  • Critical
  • Negative and
  • Unloving

But he is, also, an apology-free zone. Therefore he does not tick the Says-“Terribly-Sorry-It-Won’t-Happen-Again” box.  Therefore  he cannot be abusive. Therefore it must all be her fault. (At least, that was how she thought until she started reading my blog.)

Because an emotionally abusive husband does such a good job of undermining your – already fragile – sense of self, you feel you need to be 1000% certain that he fits the abusive profile.  Hence any subtle deviation from the classic abusive profile will be used to exonerate him.  That kind of fatally flawed thinking will  expose you to yet more abuse and self-blame.  Here’s how it works:

My beloved  dog Basil is a Shih Tzu. He is registered with The Kennel Club and has an illustrious pedigree. Is he, therefore, identical to all other Shih Tzus?  Not at all.  He is unusually small and delicately built for a Shih Tzu.  His markings are relatively unusual.  He lacks the haughtiness of most Shih Tzus. He is not a prima donna. He has an extraordinary, atypically magnificent tail. He is not remotely greedy.   You can leave him sitting alone at a fully laden dinner table (although I can’t imagine why I would) and he will not steal food.  He has all sorts of individual quirks, and characteristics.  However, he is a thoroughbred Shih Tzu.

So it is with emotionally abusive men.  They may not tick every box.  But here’s the thing:

The desperate unhappiness you feel around your partner is all the proof you should ever need that the relationship really is abusive – and downright toxic.

Once you have established that truth, you then need to convince yourself that divorcing an emotionally abusive husband the right thing to do.

What will you lose by divorcing an emotionally abusive husband?

The conventional list of what you will lose by divorcing an emotionally abusive husband looks like this:

  • Financial security
  • Being married/having “someone”
  • The marital home
  • The status quo
  • The ‘stability’ your children have previously known
  • The social credibility having a husband confers on you… allegedly

The reality of the things you think you will lose by divorcing an emotionally abusive husband looks rather different from your take on it – and life can only get very much better without him.

Your financial security in any emotionally abusive relationship is illusory. An emotionally abusive husband, ultimately, works on the principle that what is yours is his, and what is his is his own. He will not hesitate to deprive you financially – no matter what he might say.

Rather than having someone, someone has you.  That someone treats you as the hired help rather than a loved – and equal – partner. (In fact, the chances of him getting away with speaking to a “normal” employee the way he speaks to you, are very small indeed.)

The marital home is no home in the true sense of the word.  It is a place where you – and quite possibly your children also – are always under attack. It is a roof over your head but not a place where you can ever truly rest. The king of your domestic jungle is always on the prowl.

The status quo is not working for you. There may be money coming in, but your sense of self, your sanity and even your health are headed out of the door.

Your children’s stability is none too stable. It is inconceivable that an emotionally abusive husband will put his children’s best interests first.  He is far too self-centred for that. However, the children are marvellous leverage for him.

Any social credibility you may “enjoy” when you walk in his shadow is never going to be a fair trade-off for everything that you lose by putting yourself at his “mercy”.

The things you really lose by NOT divorcing an emotionally abusive husband

The things you lose in the relationship that more than justify divorcing an emotionally abusive husband are not the ones you prize – although it would be far better for you if you did. They include:

  • Your self-respect He does not respect you and teaches you to disrespect yourself also.
  • Your happiness. When was your happiness last of any consequence to him – or you?
  • Your hopes and dreams. Trying to keep up with an emotionally abusive husband’s needs and demands leaves you no space to think about anything except him.
  • Your self-worth. Your self-worth is surplus – even damaging – to his requirements. He actively discourages it.
  • See self-worth.
  • See self-worth.
  • Your future. He has already resolved the problem of your future: it will be spent servicing him. Unless, at some point, he chooses to replace you.
  • Your safety. You will never feel safe from attack for as long as you will with an emotional abuser.
  • An emotionally abusive husband is a big fan of Isolation.  He expects you to be, too.  If he were a Yankee fan, he wouldn’t tolerate you supporting the Red Sox.  By the same token, he’s an Isolation fan, therefore you MUST not cheer for Connection.
  • There is only ever enough freedom for one person in an emotionally abusive marriage. That person is never going to be you.
  • See Freedom.
  • See Freedom.
  • Financial security. See freedom.

It is hard to see how divorcing an emotionally abusive husband  could possibly be the wrong thing to do. Just as I would not advise you to invest your life’s – financial – savings on the strength of a promise, I would not advise you to invest your entire life’s emotional resources on the strength of a promise, or two, that he makes to keep you sweet.  Divorcing an emotionally abusive husband is a far better thing to do than accepting – and thereby enabling – a situation that will keep intensifying the damage you experience. Many emotionally abused women waste years agonizing over whether or not they should leave an abusive partner. Please share this article on social media (by clicking the icons below)to help other women see beyond their worst fears.

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