Dad Verbally Abuses Mom

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My dad is verbally abusive to my mom. They have been married for 30 years. When they got married, he prevented her from continuing her education and made her become a housewife. He’s always belittling her and crushing her self-esteem with criticism. He puts an emphasis on how simple minded she is (which she isn’t). Years of abuse, however, have lead to her believe that she is and sometimes it shows through her low self-esteem and insecurities. A couple years ago he used to beat her but now he’s stopped, he just verbally abuses her. He used to cheat on her all the time and whenever she mentioned it he would go crazy and hit her. He always tries to find things for her to do for him, and if she refuses he gets really angry and starts yelling at the top of his lungs. She’s like his slave, doing things for him night and day. He gets irritated by everything that she does and constantly yells at her. Throughout this abuse, my mom still manages to put a smile on her face whenever she sees my brother and I so that we don’t hurt and always tells us to be kind to my dad because he’s had a rough life. He ran away from home at the age of 18 and started from zero. He struggled throughout most of his life and among the many terrible things he’s been through, he’s even slept at graveyards because he had no other place to sleep. He’s been through A LOT. He’s also very harsh on my brother and I, always criticizing us and yelling at us. I understand that he’s had a very rough life and sympathize with him, however, I am very worried about my mom. I don’t want anything to happen to her, I don’t want for my dad to abuse her anymore. Whenever he fights with my mom, he ends up regretting it later and tries to make up for it by being nice to her. What can I do to help my dad stop this abuse? Does he have a mental disorder?

A: I’m so, so sorry your family has been dealing with this for so long. I understand that your dad had a tough life. But that doesn’t excuse him from making a tough life for the people he loves. It’s long past time for him to deal with his demons and to make the family he wishes he’d had instead of repeating the one he did have.

What you are describing is domestic violence. Your mother needs help freeing herself from the perpetual cycle of abuse – sweet making up – abuse – making up that is typical of this type of marriage. Fortunately, there is a program in your city that can help all of you. It’s called Becky’s House. Please call the 24-hour emergency hotline at 619-234-3164 or email frontdesk@ywcasandiego.org to get information about the services available.

If you used a home computer to contact me, please delete your email and this message. It’s not unusual for men who behave like your dad to fly into a rage when they discover that someone in the family is looking for help. Use the library or a friend’s computer to investigate services.

Then do everything you can to encourage your mom to get help for herself and her family, including your dad. If they love each other, they could still create some good years together that are not shadowed by verbal and physical abuse.

I wish you all well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Jul 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Dad Verbally Abuses Mom. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/07/19/dad-verbally-abuses-mom/