Defining Emotional Abuse: An Assault on Identity, Worth, and Value

Emotional abuse is rampant in our culture of entitlement and autonomy. It is an element in almost every divorce. Here at the Marriage Recovery Center, our working definition of emotional abuse is an ongoing pattern of defensive behaviors used to gain and maintain power and control in a relationship.  At its core, emotional abuse is an assault against one’s personhood. The assault is multi-faceted: targeting identity, worth and value; twisting perception of reality; disregarding emotions and lacking empathy; and using anger  as weaponry. This blog is part of a series that covers each of those aspects. I will be focusing
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Separation: A Time for Reflection and Growth

In marriages characterized by coercion and destructiveness, a separation can create space for healing and open the door for potential reconciliation. It allows for time away from the destructive environment and constant triggers. There’s an old saying, “If you love someone, set them free, and if they come back to you, it was meant to be.” I don’t think life is really as fatalistic as that, but there is definitely something to be said for the deeper element of free will. When free will is taken out of the picture, love ceases to be love. If love is coerced, demanded,
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A Training Plan for Change

“Resilience isn’t how far you bounce when you hit the floor. It’s how you use what you’ve got left to work with to make something great.” – Author Unknown There’s something in our hearts that comes alive when we hear a story of courage, valor, and impossible odds. Hence, the latter part of the quote above gives us a much more meaningful definition of resilience than the first sentence, which speaks of resilience as if it were a passive act. Resilience is, in fact, active, creative, and inspiring—what will you do to make it work with what you’ve got? When
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Changing Your Course with an Intervention

The couples that come to us for help have often landed in a random, dysfunctional, unhealthy place. Frequently, one of them believes the best hope for change is an intervention. They’re at their wits’ end, having repeated a million times in ineffective ways what they are unhappy about. But they’re also not yet ready to walk away from the relationship. If only their spouse could be awakened to the harm and pain and dysfunction! That’s the desperate plea behind the desire to do an intervention. And it’s true that an intervention can be effective in bringing such an awakening. It’s
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To Be Told or Not to Be Told: Why We Use a Directive Counseling Approach

The majority of people who come to see me say they have been to multiple counselors, both personally and for their marriage, and that most of them have been less than helpful, if not harmful. I think there are two particular elements impacting the effectiveness of their previous counseling: 1) the dynamics of narcissistic and emotional abuse on the victim and the relationship are unrecognized, and 2) the ineffective use of non-directive approaches to address the issues.
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Is He Really Changing? Part 2

In part 1 of this blog (which you can read here), I wrote about the pressure some of you wives may feel to come up with the list of behaviors that your husband needs to change. I encouraged you to take inventory of where he’s gone wrong and what needs to change and share that list with him. When your husband steps up to the plate to take responsibility for his own behavior, he sets a much more effective stage for healing.
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Telling Him What Needs to Change: Part 1

Mary is a typical client. She has spent years looking for ways to better connect with her husband, Joe. She’s read numerous books and articles. She subscribes to relationship blogs and Facebook pages. She’s counseled with her pastor and consulted with her closest friends. She’s begged Joe to talk, to understand, to make her a priority and then behave like it. She’s prayed for hope and for God to change him. She has cried countless tears. And she is exhausted from trying to make the relationship different. Joe finally agrees to counseling, probably the result of a precipitating event in
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Narcissism and Emotional Abuse: Paying Attention to Your Path

Many of our blogs identify the narcissist as “him” and the victim as “her.” While most of our content leans that way, and most of the couples who seek our help lean that way, the reality is, not all narcissists are men, nor are women the only victims. We are all, male and female, quite capable of being absolutely arrogant, carelessly emotionally destructive, and acrimoniously self-protective. And the outcome is the same: relationships marred by trauma, brokenness, and deep pain. We end up in relationships that are shallow, void of connection, and wracked with fear and confusion.
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A Woman Scorned

By the time most couples seek help with their marriage, anger is a profound element of the relationship. I’ve also noticed, however, that it’s common for neither party to acknowledge their own anger, although they can often easily point out the anger within their spouse. Wives might bring up their husband’s outbursts, raging, or controlling behavior. Husbands tend to point out their wife’s lack of forgiveness, withdrawal, or depression. Each of them feels fairly justified in what they’re allowing to brew under the surface of their behavior, without recognizing how much damage their anger is doing.
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How do I Know if he’s Really Changing?

Lisa had recently realized that her marriage wasn’t functioning well. She had wrapped her life around Joe, managing the house, the kids, and the schedule to cater to his expectations. Now, several years in, she was becoming aware of some important issues, namely (1) Joe’s “expectations” randomly changed, (2) he did not take her seriously, and (3) he had no real empathy or understanding of her, nor did he seem to want to.
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