64 Abusive Actions That Spell Trouble for Your Marriage

We live in a culture and world racked by a rising and alarming number of sexual abuse accusations right now. But in marriage, the issue of abuse of every type can be extremely murky and convoluted. I think that’s because it’s so hard to know when your spouse is crossing a healthy and appropriate boundary line in your marriage.

This reminds me of the old “frog in the kettle” metaphor. Are you familiar? The frog starts out in a kettle filled with room-temperature water that’s slowly ratcheted to the boiling point. Unfortunately, the frog never jumps out and is eventually boiled to death—all because the temperature was increased so subtly and slowly he didn’t even notice.

Abuse in Marriage

If you’re in an abusive marriage or relationship, the abuse probably started out small, incremental and subtle. You probably even grew up in a family where abuse was the norm. So your abusive spouse feels more “normal” (or familiar) than if you were married to someone healthy and boundary-loving. In the interest of helping pull off any “blinders” you might be wearing, I’m going to list abusive actions that are troublesome indicators in any relationship and marriage.

Pull the blinders off of abuse in marriage. #64AbusiveActs #StoptheViolence #StoptheHurt Click To Tweet

If you see one or more of these abuses in your marriage, don’t panic or even declare that your spouse is “abusive.” Consider how often and how many of these lines get crossed, as well as how destructive the abuses are—all within the context of shorter periods of time. In other words, don’t recall one time ten or twenty years ago when your mate really lost his/her cool with you. And thus, claim that you’re in an abusive marriage. Try to be as objective as possible.

64 Abusive Actions …

Emotional Abuse (some, but not all)

Your spouse frequently does these to/at you or your kids …

  • Yells
  • Insults, belittles and ridicules, especially in front of others
  • Curses
  • Ignores your needs and requests
  • Tries to frighten and intimidate
  • Forces you to do humiliating things
  • Demands obedience to whims
  • Treats you like a “servant”
  • “Loses it” when a household task isn’t done
  • Acts jealous or suspicious of your friendships
  • Puts down your friends and/or family
  • Monitors and/or controls your time away
  • Sulks or gives you the “silent treatment”
  • Makes decisions—especially big ones—without you
  • Withholds affection
  • Threatens to leave, beat, and/or kill
  • Withholds resources like money for groceries, etc.
  • Refuses to help with household responsibilities
  • Does things to spite you
  • Restricts/controls your use of a phone or car
  • Keeps you from leaving the house
  • Forces you to adopt his/her way of thinking/believing
  • Tells you your feelings are irrational
  • Turns others against you
  • Blames you for your mate’s own violent or problematic behavior
  • Keeps you/kids from receiving medical care
  • Throws objects (though not at you or others)
  • Damages your home or possessions
  • Makes threatening gestures at you/kids
  • Threatens to kidnap your kids
  • Drives dangerously in order to scare you
  • Spits on
  • Threatens with weapon
  • Had or has had an affair (yes, this is emotionally abusive!)

Sexual Abuse (some, but not all)

Your mate will often do these to you/your kids …

  • Demands and/or forces sex
  • Demands and/or forces sexual acts that you’re uncomfortable with
  • Demands and/or forces penile penetration (oral, anal, &/or vaginal)
  • Inserts objects or fingers in any way against your will
  • Drugs you in order to rape you
  • Physically abuses sexual parts of your body
  • Insists on risky or dangerous sexual acts
  • Knowingly exposes you to sexually transmitted diseases (with or without you knowing)
  • Forces participation in viewing pornography
  • Forces sex while others watch
  • Forces sex with other sex partners
  • Forces you into prostitution
  • Forces sex with an animal
  • Forces participation in sadomasochistic acts

Physical Abuse (some, but not all)

Your mate will often do these to you/your kids …

  • Slaps or hits with open hand
  • Scratches
  • Pushes, grabs or twists forcefully
  • Pulls hair
  • Hits with fist
  • Throws objects at you/kids
  • Stabs or slices with sharp objects
  • Kicks and/or bites to injure
  • Throws or body slams you/kids against a wall
  • Pushes, shoves, drags down/up stairs or raised platform
  • Scalds or burns
  • Forces you/kids out of moving vehicle
  • Holds down to tie up against your will
  • Holds down in water to drown or torture
  • Locks/chains you/kids in room or small space
  • Chokes/strangles
  • Attempts to or use a weapon against you/kids

After reading through this list, you might have found more of these being committed than you ever expected. But I want to warn you against running out and finding a divorce lawyer OR quickly trying to separate from your spouse without support and guidance.

Please understand: if you’re truly in an abusive marriage, separating can be the most dangerous thing you do! Separating might just put you in your abusive mate’s crosshairs! Read Brad Hambrick’s article—How to Develop a Safety Plan for Domestic Violence—for more insight and resources, before you try to escape your abusive spouse!  

Separating from an abuser can put you in your abusive spouse’s crosshairs! Only do this with support and guidance! Click To Tweet

Want to know some initial and proactive steps you can take for dealing with a mate who is abusive? Then consider reading my most recent post, 8 Red Flags That Might Mean Your Mate is Having an Affair. In that article, I offer 5 ways you can bring calmness, comfort and perspective to yourself in the midst of the chaos and confusion that situations like abuse and affairs create.

Also, if you only identified a couple of abusive actions that your mate does frequently or even occasionally, this is not okay either. In these lower-level situations, you need to know how to confront with graciousness and must learn how to set boundaries. A good Christian counselor can be an invaluable resource for you.

However, if you’re experiencing frequent and severe abuses, do not hesitate! Immediately GO to a good Christian counselor and/or pastor so that you do not walk through this confusing maze alone.

Sadly, the amount of good Christian books on the subject of abuse—especially physical and sexual abuse—are slim to none. But here are some I would recommend on the subject: The Verbally Abusive Relationship, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, Self-Centered Spouse, Finding Your Way Through Domestic Abuse.

Also, Leslie Vernick, author of The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, is a Christian expert on all types of emotionally abusive relationships. She offers a tremendous amount of insight, as well as resources, on her website.

Brad Hambrickauthor of Self-Centered Spouse, did an entire series of blog posts on Marriage with a Chronically Self-Centered Spouse and is a great Christian resource and expert on abuse, PTSD, grief and other important issues in life and marriage as well.

Remember, if you’re in a physically abusive relationship, separating from you spouse can ignite more and even WORSE abuse! So be sure to contact the sources of support and information included below for how to separate safely:

National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1.800.799.7233

National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1.800.656.4673

National Child Abuse Hotline – 1.800.222.4453


How would you encourage a spouse who realizes s/he is in an abusive marriage?


What abusive actions could be added to the list above?


64 Abusive Actions


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