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When Marital Abuse Is Invisible: 11 Things to Be Aware of in Your Marriage

I had no idea how unhealthy my marriage was. I knew there were issues, but I assumed all marriages were like mine.

Just because there are no bruises, doesn’t mean there is no abuse. Picture this. You and 3 friends are having lunch. The conversation is lively. The topic: ridiculous things your husbands do… such as… Talks to himself in the shower. Has a pair of “lucky” underwear. Prefers plastic cutlery at home. Is addicted to “Southern Charm: Charleston”. Everyone is laughing.

You would never know that one of you is in an abusive marriage.

But which one? Here’s a hint: She’s the one silently thinking “tells me I’m worthless and makes me sleep on the sofa.”

25% of all women in the US are in an abusive marriage or partnership. And most of time, there are no visible traces of the abuse.

There was a time in my life when I was the one secretly in an abusive marriage. I was the one going through the motions of being happily married, when actually I was being psychologically, emotionally, financially and verbally abuse.

I had no idea how unhealthy my marriage was. I knew there were issues, but I assumed all marriages were like mine. I’d suffered a slow-drip of erosion to my self-esteem for so many years that I couldn't see how abusive the relationship had become. On top of it, I was too ashamed to give details to anyone, even my family or closest friends, so I had no one to hold up a mirror to show me what my marriage really looked like. 

So here I am, holding up a mirror for you. Here’s a chart of characteristics of an abusive marriage versus a healthy marriage. How am I an expert? Well, aside from being a certified life coach and transformational divorce coach, I personally have experienced one of each.

If your marriage is healthy, then PLEASE share this with a friend who you think may be in a toxic situation, even if she can't see it herself. You'll be doing her a huge favor -- maybe even saving her life. I will never forget the friend who saved mine by holding up a similar mirror for me.

How many of these characteristics are true for your marriage:

In a Healthy Relationship, Your Spouse:

  • Communicates regularly and effectively
  • In an argument, sticks to pertinent issues that are relevant
  • Always says "I’m sorry," even when not solely responsible
  • Empathizes with your feelings 
  • Consults with you on all household decisions
  • Puts your needs/feelings/desires above his 
  • Wants to do things together because he enjoys your company 
  • Wants you with him to share experiences  
  • Wants you to have control of your own money
  • Recalls past events accurately
  • Embraces your family                                                                                                  

In an Abusive Relationship, Your Spouse:

  • Keeps you constantly guessing/off guard
  • In an argument, brings up things from the past that aren't relevant
  • Never takes responsibility, even when it’s his fault 
  • Ignores your feelings   
  • Makes household decisions without conferring 
  • Puts his own needs/feelings/desires above yours
  • Wants to do things together to make things easier for him
  • Wants you with him to use you as a human shield 
  • Insists on controlling your money  
  • Twists past events 
  • Disparages your family 

So how does your marriage rate? If there are more characteristics on the "abusive" side than on the "healthy" side, then it's time to do something about it. If talking to your spouse doesn't work, then get some support.

A good first step would be to visit The National Domestic Violence website: https://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/, or reach out to family, friends or an expert in the field.

Victoria McCooey is a transformational divorce coach, motivational speaker and founder of The Divorce Course for Women. She has had numerous articles published on DivorceForce.com, Ezine Articles, IveMovedOn.com and has been interviewed on “Women of Strength TV”, "Divorced Mommy,” “Unleash Your Mojo Online” and “You Be You & I’ll Be Me” podcast. She’s helped scores of women acquire the skills and courage necessary to leave toxic marriages and create happy new lives they can’t wait to live. http://www.victoriamccooey.com/

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