How Can I Tell if My Husband is Abusive?

*If you are being abused, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE (7233)) for information, support, and resources.

Guess what? By the time the abuse begins, you are already most likely fully devoted to your marriage and your husband. Most likely you’ve invested a lot of your time, money, and effort into being the “perfect wife.” You and your husband have probably purchased your first house by now, uprooted much of your “former lives,” re-routed your personal routines, ingratiated each other into your families, church communities and other social circles, and built a boatload of trust. You may be pregnant, considering pregnancy, or even have a child or two.

Your lives have become thoroughly intertwined – even before the abuse has started. You are legally, financially, and spiritually bound to your abusive husband. The truth is, the main goal of an abuser (any abuser – boyfriend, friend, parent, spouse, partner, etc.) is to pull you in and push you out.

In other words, the aim is to entice you with sweet words and gestures, thus, making you 100% dependent. Then, he/she uses hurtful and destructive tactics like belittlement, control, degradation, and criticism to isolate you from friends and family and lower your self-esteem. The objective? For you to end up feel like you are worthless without him/her.

How Can I Tell If My Husband is Abusive?

Most psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health workers, physicians, and social workers define abuse as any action that is deliberately degrading, psychological harmful, mentally/emotionally cruel, violent, life-threatening, and/or dangerous to another individual.

However, even with this definition, truly understanding the nuances of abuse and identifying it can be extremely challenging. Why? Well, many times, the signs of abuse are so hidden that even those closest to the victim don’t know it is happening. As a result, the victim often suffers in silence for many years or decades until something pushes him/her over the edge and he/she is forced to do something – whether they want to or not.

Did you know that approximately 35% of couples have experienced at least one dangerous, aggressive, life-threatening, or violent event during the course of their marriages? Another 24% of marital couples will experience ongoing domestic violence during the lifetime of the relationship. Well, it’s frighteningly true.

The severity and longevity of domestic violence, aka abuse between spouses, depends on the type of abuse and a variety of other factors. But, it’s important to understand that it doesn’t matter what gender, race, socio-economic status, educational status, religion, culture, weight/ height, or age you are – it can still happen to you.

Abuse does not discriminate. 

How Can I Tell If I’m Being Abused?

The most common forms of abuse are mental/emotional/psychological, sexual, verbal, and physical. Keep in mind, there are other “lesser known” types and subtypes of abuse like neglect. For instance, domestic violence is a subtype of abuse that occurs between spouses.

An abusive husband is usually extremely controlling and belittling. He also tends to be ridiculously overprotective, pushy, intrusive, violent, and upsetting. For instance, an abusive husband will want to know where you are at all times. You will have to “check-in” with him multiple times a day, and be where you said you would be – or there is hell to pay. There is no room for mistakes. He will also have a detailed list of extremely strict and limiting rules and guidelines for you to follow – at all times.

If you break these rules, you are confronted with an onslaught of psychologically-damaging words – i.e. “stupid,” “worthless,” etc., and/or physical acts – i.e. beatings. You will have to account for every minute of your day and your ability to communicate with friends and family will be severely limited, if not non-existent. In addition, you will most likely be confined to the house most of the day.

You may be lucky enough to get small allowances for any items you need, but will not have access to any bank accounts or substantial amounts of money. You may or may not have a phone or television. As a result, you will most likely feel lonely, scared, and dependent on your spouse for everything. You will fear upsetting him, so you will tip-toe around him, and try you best to keep him happy, but it won’t work. It never works for too long. Your life (and your children’s lives) will feel bleak, depressing, and utterly hopeless.

Okay, So My Husband is Abusive – Now What?

If you are being abused, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE (7233)) for information, support, and resources.

They can talk you through the options and important next steps you need to take to help ensure that you and children are safe.

What If I’m Still Not Sure?

If you’re still unsure, try confiding in a close friend, church pastor, counselor or other trusted advisor for support.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline also has helpful resources on their website, including a page titled “Is this abuse?” and confidential live chat feature where you can talk to an advocate every day from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. CST.

In Summary…

I would do you an injustice, if I told you that this would be easy – because that is a lie. Leaving an abusive husband will be hard, painful, difficult, frightening, extremely emotional, and gut-wrenching – especially if you have been together for a long time. You will cry and get cold feet many times before you finally use your voice and/or get away.

You may love your husband and you may be dependent on him like a young child is dependent on his/her parents. You may be scared to venture into the world – by yourself – for the first time in a really long time. I get it. But, it’s important to dream about who you used to be before your husband dwindled you down to the shell you are now.

Who did you used to want to be? Did you want to be a nurse, teacher, doctor, etc.? Did you used to want to feel important? Valued? Did you used to want to be a stay-home-mom, fully immersed in your happy children’s lives? Who did you used to be? Because, you can still be that person. Your husband will tell you can’t be – but that is a lie.

There are programs out there that can help you get on your feet – programs for women and women and children. Professionals, who can help you find a job, go back to school, get counseling, find housing, provide childcare for your children, pay your own bills again, protect you and your children (witness protection programs) and just start over. You just have to gather the courage to tell someone – anyone what’s happening to you and accept their help.

The former you is still inside. The brave and courageous you. You just have to find her again – for you and your children. Keep in mind that the longer you stay in a dysfunctional environment, the more harm you will do to you and your children. So, put you and your children first – and tell someone. It will change your life.

*If you are being abused, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE (7233)) for information, support, and resources.  


The National Domestic Violence Hotline. (2019). Abuse statistics. Retrieved from: