I have been with my husband for 9 years and we have 3 young children. I recently came to the realization that he has been verbally and physically abusing me for virtually the entire relationship. He has always called me horrible names and said downright mean things. The physical abuse started shortly after my first child was born. He was drunk and pulled me outside by my hair and locked me out. Since that time he has hit me, pushed me, slapped me, broken my things, threatened suicide multiple times, and most recently, he choked me out. I called the police that time; he was arrested and convicted of spousal battery.
He is now attending a court-ordered batterers program. Recently he has been telling me that his classes are helping him realize that I am abusive as well, and he wants me to admit that I am an abuser. He says I am deluded and crazy if I won’t admit to that. This has caused me great distress, and my question is, how can I know if I am an abuser as well? I have never outright verbally abused him — called him names, etc., and I have never physically abused him. I asked him for examples of me abusing him. The only specific example he gave me was he said that the night he choked me out was because I was yelling at him and he was just reacting to me. Other than that he said I just make him so mad.
Is there any way I can determine if I am an abuser as well as him? Our whole relationship is so blurred together in my mind and I cannot think of anything specific I have done to him that would for sure be abuse. I worry that maybe I have become passive-aggressive or used manipulative behaviors over time to try and communicate with him which maybe are emotional abuse. I feel very guilty at the very thought that I have been the cause of any of this, and if I am the abuser then I want to do everything I can to change myself. I do not want to be that person. Thank you.
Your abuser is still abusing you. Instead of taking full responsibility for his behavior, he is blaming you. You are so beaten down emotionally from years of abuse, you are questioning yourself. So — no, I don’t think you are an abuser. I think you’ve tried to defend yourself as best you can. You are a victim who has been victimized so much that you are even vulnerable to thinking you are a victimizer.
You and your kids need help to extricate yourself from this relationship and to re-orient your thinking. Please, please call The Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault. AAFVSA is a nonprofit organization that was started in your area and that is committed to stop domestic violence and sexual assault. Their 24-Hour Hotline is (661) 327-1091. They can provide counseling for you and the kids, child care, case management, shelter if you need it, and on-going support.
Despite being in a batterers program, your husband is showing that he isn’t going to stop the abuse. So it’s up to you to protect yourself and your children. But you don’t have to do it on your own. Please reach out and get the help you need.
One caution: Abusers often up the abuse when they find out their victim is looking for help. Delete this response from your computer. Use a friend’s phone or a computer at your local library to make contact with AAFVSA. The counselor on the hotline will give you guidance on how to protect yourself and the kids.
I wish you well. Dr. Marie
Are We Mutually Abusive?
Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker
Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
APA Reference Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Are We Mutually Abusive?. Psych Central.
Retrieved on May 24, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2015/03/07/are-we-mutually-abusive/
Last updated: 8 May 2018 Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018 Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.