What You Need To Know About Psychological Abuse Before & After Divorce
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By Wendi Schuller, Featured DM Blogger - July 14, 2016

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Psychological abuse can affect your inner thoughts and feelings as well as exert control over your life. You may feel uncertain of the world around you and unsafe in your own home.


Psychological Abuse during marriage can leave a former spouse questioning their own capabilities and mental status. It is debilitating and can have long lasting effects. Psychological abuse is sometimes referred to as “gaslighting” after the 1941 thriller starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer.

In the film, Paula is a newlywed returning to the house of her murdered aunt. Her new husband manipulates her into doubting her memory, experiences, and eventuality her sanity. Paula sees the gaslights flicker and hears footsteps overhead when her spouse is supposedly not home. He convinces Paula that she is going insane for his own sinister purpose.

A spouse committing gaslighting may be setting up a situation (as in the film) and telling their spouse that it is all in their head. The goal is to have someone question what is real and exert control over them. Psychological abuse is using words and actions to destroy another person without physical violence. Partners may be told that they are too sensitive, suspicious or jealous. Making a “joke” that demeans a spouse when the intention is to tear them down is abuse. It is a stream of criticisms and cruelty over a period of time.

A look at the abuser and his techniques:

A psychological abuser often attempts to isolate the person from their friends and family. This increases their power over the spouse and lessens the chance others will persuade them to initiate divorce. When someone feels helpless, they are less likely to leave.

The target of this abuse questions their intelligence and being able to be on their own. Think about your marital situation. Have your friends fallen by the wayside? Are you out of touch with relatives? Are you doubting your talents? Are you belittled when in the presence or others?

If feeling uncomfortable and doubtful about your well-being and abilities, get some help. A family doctor can recommend a therapist. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for example, can help change faulty perceptions, and give a reality check. A professional can help you sort out your situation to decide which path to take.

How psychological abuse impacts children of the marriage:

This is an unhealthy situation for children to witness. They do not know how to help and can be caught in the middle. Parental alienation can occur when one parent is constantly putting down the other and children might question the targeted parent’s authority. If the kids think this marital situation is normal, then they run the risk of emulating it down the road in their own relationships.

When coming out of this type of marriage, consider having the kids check in with a therapist or divorcee coach. The youngsters may be traumatised and the fallout from this abuse is toxic.

One may not realize the extent of the psychological abuse until after getting divorced. Being away from the abuse helps one gain clarity and a new perspective on what was endured. Some have described leaving a toxic marriage as stepping out of a fog into a clear area.

Keep a low profile and cut ties after the divorce:

Post-divorce, psychological abuse may continue. The perpetrator pretends to act concerned about you to your friends, in order to get them on their side. They may post menacing or false allegations on social media. If this is occurring, consult with your attorney as you may have to give them a warning for slander and not to post anything publically about you. In some cases, a restraining order may need to be issued. One may want legal advice if the abusive ex is starting rumors or contacting your co-workers post-divorce. Avoid taking their calls, particularly while on the job.

Keeping a low profile and cutting ties with some mutual acquaintances can help prevent psychological abuse from continuing after parting ways. Take time to heal and become stronger before getting involved in a new relationship.

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