Laurie Bryson
by Laurie Bryson, M.A., LPC
Member, EMS Weekend Specialist

Signs There Could Be Abusive Behaviors in Your Relationship

Hello. My name is Laurie Bryson and one of the roles I have at Affair Recovery is that I get to be part of the three-day EMS Weekend intensives that we offer both in person and virtually.

One of the most misunderstood concepts in the journey of recovering from infidelity is the concept of abuse.

Today, I'd like to help shed some light on this concept in a way that can help you navigate what you're dealing with in your relationship.

For those of us who have made it through to the other side of recovery, I can assure you that none of us want to go back to the first weeks and months after the discovery of an affair or some other type of infidelity. The "wild, wild West" barely begins to describe how primitive and intense our emotions can be in the wake of such devastating news.

Join other betrayed mates on the path to healing with our life-changing Harboring Hope online course and start a better, brighter chapter.

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The typical human emotional response to discovering betrayal is rage and the deepest feeling of violation one can feel. However, during the recovery period, which can last anywhere from 18 months to 3 three years, things can become really messy. Each person responds differently to their pain. Aside from infidelity, we have all found ourselves in situations where we've needed to cope with pain, but it's time we learn to identify and recognize the line between what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.

No one wants to go off the rails, but what exactly are emotionally abusive behaviors?

First, all are contrary to acting in our most mature self. Both men and women, both the unfaithful and the betrayed, can use one or many of these behaviors as a way to cope with their emotions. Notice as we go through them. Have you ever seen or noticed anyone in your life, including yourself, past or present, do any of these?

  1. Belittling. Belittling is a form of contempt for one's mate where they literally start to see them with contempt and disgust. As the term suggests, through words, actions, and attitude, the abusive partner sends the message "be little." It is ultimately an extreme form of pride that gives the message, "I am better than you." Chances are if you feel inferior, stupid, shamed or childlike, you could be experiencing this form of abuse from someone who clearly feels superior to you. It is one spouse feeling their partner is beneath them. Telling someone "How could you be so stupid?" is also a form of this type of harm. Belittling is abuse.

  2. Controlling. This one is tricky. At first, many people I've supported have had to do some work in their family of origin to see if either of their parents modeled control for them. No matter what it looks like, exactly, control is still control. It involves objectifying and dehumanizing one's partner. it can be a coverup of extreme insecurity, jealousy, or anxiety about their time, possessions, or relationships. Control usually looks like one mate having all access to finances or one mate constantly checking up on the other to monitor, suggest, or give "input" as to how one lives their life. You typically know controlling behaviors are present when one mate starts to fear the repercussions or fallout if they live, speak, or act out in a way that their mate would not like.

  3. Constant criticism or put downs. This form of emotional abuse can fall into a pretty broad spectrum from minor to severe. I say this because I think all of us can tend to be critical when we are under stress or we feel underappreciated. Sometimes, we set boundaries in our life that will protect us from not feeling so used up or burned out, but when times are stressful, we can be unkind to those closest to us. However, notice the word "constant" in the description. Criticism is a cousin of belittling. Chronic criticism is a problem. If there is a frequent pattern of pointing out flaws, it can be extremely destructive to our relationships.

  4. Excessive blaming. Have ever been around someone that seems to never do or say anything that is their fault? Not only is this behavior exhausting and predictable, but it can also become a pattern. Blaming others constantly, particularly a mate, can be a form of emotional abuse. For example, if every accident, from the dog running away to the lights being left on to burning dinner seem to consistently be traced back to one mate's lack of competence, there might be a pattern of excessive blaming. What's really happening is that someone who excessively blames their mate has made their mate too big and important in their world. And if you feel you are at the mercy of a spouse that is excessively is blaming you, take heart. Adopt the attitude of: "I am no one's solution nor am I anyone's biggest problem."

  5. Name calling. Name calling is exactly what it sounds like. It is never loving or okay to call someone a derogatory name. It not only hurts the person you are labeling but it also dehumanizes them. It reduces your mate to a simplistic label that is both insulting and damaging. Most commonly, we want to reduce women to the B (that rhymes with stitch) word and men to the A (another word for donkey combined with the word hole) word. Remember that all humans are just that — human. We can behave in a certain way but to call someone names is to back someone into a corner. If you have been called names, please know you will have to work really hard to find your voice and understand those labels are not an accurate description of you! And if you are the one doing the name calling, regardless of what the other person has done, you are reducing yourself to a form of protection that is unloving toward your mate.

  6. Coercing and threatening. Coercing is a way to manipulate your spouse into doing what you want by using threats, whether subtle or not at all subtle. It is selfish, destructive, and a really ineffective and immature way to control others. You know you are experiencing the abuse of coercion when you feel a loss of ownership over your time, body, or experiences. Statements like, "If you leave me, I am going to....(fill in the blank)." or "If you don't do this, I will...(fill in the blank)." are abusive and never okay.

  7. Withholding or abandoning. This is an outright and deliberate refusal to communicate for the purpose of hurting or showing spite to the other person. This is anti-relationship and does so much harm to a partner because it robs them of their voice. When one partner is deliberate in their refusal to communicate because they believe the other person does not deserve it, this is a form of abandonment. When one mate deliberately withholds time, money, information, or attention, there is likely abuse. Note: this is not the same as one partner being silent in their hurt or shutting down because of trauma or pain. The key here is an underpinning of deliberation and tends to be used liberally once it has been successful in bringing the intended harm. With all patterns of abusive behavior, it has the motive of "I deserve and you don't."

With all forms of emotional abuse, it is helpful to identify the behaviors in your relationship. It is also helpful to seek support from a trusted counselor or therapist or small group that can help you validate what you might be experiencing.

Please know at Affair Recovery, we are committed in every way to helping individuals restore their lives after the crisis of infidelity and addiction to extraordinary meaning.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is find a group of supportive individuals who are walking the same road and working toward the same goal: HEALING. You can find that in Harboring Hope, our online course for betrayed spouses and Hope for Healing, our online course for wayward spouses. Our programs draw their greatest power from the strength of small group support, because those who are currently in the same circumstances truly understand. By providing support, as well as receiving it, couples and individuals get new insight, perspective, and wisdom.



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Emotional abuse

Hi,for years before her affair and subsequent cold hearted discard,4y ago,after a huge move to Spain for a better climate for HER autoimmune problem,,She had witheld intimacy,belittled name called,criticised and showed contempt,for my apparent Laziness,this seemed to happen a few years into our 23y marriage,i had felt fatigued and depressed,and recently,(many years too late) i discovered my many years of playing guitar and singing in smoke filled venues,had severely compromised my cardiovascular and respiratory systems,her abuse,further compounded my health problems,as i developed stress anxiety,and comfort ate,and gained even more weight,earning the regular name call those years ago when she began to withhold intimacy,she would blatantly flirt with other men,and in conversations,would somehow use her body to line up and shut me out,leaving her in a one to one with whichever guy,

I at some point,drcided to go elsewhere,and didn’t want to break us up with a third party,so paid for it,,she a few years later on a night out,stayed out with a much younger Spanish guy,Ironically,her affair partner many years later 4y ago,was Spanish,he discarded her many times,and in Jan 2023 she ended up on medication briefly.she had moved out for a few months after COVID in may 2020 to chase him back,, She has always had obsessive friendships, And in between her lover, she befriended gay drag queen, And was also besotted with him, As well as her elusive lover. I’ve been trying to work out with her. She is narcissistic and if that was where the abuse came from.

Emotional Abuse

Similar kind of stuff here as well.
15 year relationship she began to put me down. Started with my driving i gradually became over cautious and drove like an elderly old man in in the end complete loss of confidence. Then how I spoke she didn’t like how I pronounced words although that how I had spoken all my life. Then I didn’t open doors for her to an acceptable standard I either got to it to slowly or to quickly then she had a hissy fit. If we were out with other couples I couldn’t walk to far ahead talking to the other guy by that I mean 5 metres or she would kick off.
If we went for a walk and I couldn’t keep up she thought I was doing it on purpose to upset her which she always seemed to think everyone was trying to upset her. If we climbed a hill she always got to the top 1st when I got there she would laugh and walk off. Belittle me to the foster children for being slow. I fee went to social events and played board games and I was not on form she put me down to friend's and family In the end I used to sit quietly and didn’t speak in case I gave her a chance to go for me about something In the end I lost all self belief and confidence. Her own grown up children could see it going on and she disgusted them.
In the end she had an affair then converted me to just a freind then dropped me completely we have been apart 18 months I can see the abuse to friends and family and she won’t hear about it she says it’s everyone else. I have mostly recovered but have fear of another relationship as I absorbed her abuse for years believing it to be my fault trying to be me again but it gets ingrained but I think I will get there. G

Hits home

It’s hard to hold back your rage and anger when your met constantly with denials, lies, reasons, defiance, defensiveness, counter accusations of cheating, more inappropriate sexual activities and flirts with others, when your not and they continue to. Their refusal the unfaithful to be submissive and broken. To be poked prodded to get over it, the refusal to talk and still being dishonest withholding details-for their own fears of being left for good.
I agree with the withholding of affection when you’re so broken and damaged from many betrayals. You not only feel small in a sick an undesirable sense, but moreover how disgusting you feel sexually and intimately. It repulses you and you don’t want to, not because you don’t want to let se, you just can’t ! Beciase it makes you physically sick ! And they take it as rejection again which led the non their own path of sabotage with no understanding for why. They take it as your rejecting them again. Completely oblivious to their actual degrading dehumanizing rejection and abandonment of you as a human.

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