Ask Erin: I Can’t Cope With My Emotionally Abusive Husband 

The love you have for your husband is not enough in the face of abuse. And make no mistake, you are in an abusive relationship. (Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez)

She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.


Q.

Erin,

I can’t cope with my husband’s demands. 

I'm 29, and I've been with my husband for five years, married for two. It has already been established that he can be verbally and emotionally abusive. By established I mean that we once had a conversation where I went through a 25 point list from an article about "These are the signs you're in an emotionally abusive relationship" and he even agreed he was doing something like 22 of them on a semi-regular basis.

I love him dearly, and we have been trying to work things out and have gone to counseling. But every time we try to talk about it, even when we've been at the counselor, I've been trying so hard not to point fingers and "accuse him." It feels like I always walk away with more stuff I need to be doing to make the relationship better, while he walks away feeling vindicated because, according to him, our real problems are things like "I don't listen to him enough,”  or "I don't pay him enough attention,” or "I don't feel like his money problems/debts are my problems,” or even "I complain too much." 

He never tells me directly at any point when he has an issue with my behavior, and only brings it up when I try to talk to him about something he's done or how his behavior has upset me. There is nothing that he can't turn around on me and make my fault to the point where I feel like I walk away from every argument feeling lost and depressed because he makes such compelling arguments regarding what I'm not doing/providing.

I don't know how much longer I should be trying to work things out (it's already been something like six months since the "abuse" conversation) or if it's time to give up on us. It’s getting to be so difficult even finding the courage to bring up something with him because I feel like I already know the conversation won't go "my way" and I'll just end up feeling worse. 

What do I do?

 

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A.

I think you know what I’m going to tell you. Often when people write to me, they already hold the answers to their questions. They just need someone else to “say it out loud.” Well, I’m here to say it out loud for you.

The love you have for your husband is not enough in the face of abuse. 

And make no mistake, you are in an abusive relationship. As you pointed out, he even admitted that he acts abusively towards you. You’ve sought counseling, and still, those abusive patterns have remained. 

The sentence in your email that stuck out to me the most was this: “There is nothing that he can't turn around on me and make my fault to the point where I feel like I walk away from every argument feeling lost and depressed…” 

This is gaslighting. And the thing I want you to remember is that this man and this relationship have you feeling lost and depressed. Life’s too short for this. 

I hope you don’t have children (I am hopeful you don’t since you didn’t mention any in your email). I am doubtful this man will change this behavior any time soon, and I would hate for you to bring kids into this toxic environment. 

I have posed this question time after time in my column when someone is so clearly in a toxic or abusive relationship: Is this the relationship you would wish for your sister or best friend or daughter? 

I would guess no. 

You are walking on eggshells in your relationship. Your spouse is aware of his behavior but still does not change it, even with counseling. You deserve better than this. 

Get out of this abusive marriage. 

So, how to proceed? 

Plan this out, but don’t take long to do so. Decide if you’ll be leaving or asking him to leave. Tell your trusted friends and/or family members what is going on, and lean on them for support. Continue counseling on your own, without him. Lastly, a support group could be beneficial. CoDA is a 12-step group for people who are working on developing healthy relationships. If you need any region-specific resources, please email me again. 

You can do this. You deserve to be in a partnership with someone who makes you feel seen, heard, and emotionally safe. 


The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendship, depression, sex, consent, what I’m watching, Kammerite, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at askerin@ravishly.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo
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