Abusive Relationship: Learning to Recognize Abuse By a Partner

Abusive Relationship: Learning to Recognize Abuse By a Partner


By Guy Stuff


One of the unique aspects of an abusive relationship is that many people don’t even realize they’re in one. Neither the person being abused nor the abuser usually recognizes that abuse is occurring. Both rationalize that it is love, not really abuse. You’ll be able to see that in the story below about Debbie and Scott’s abusive relationship.

Confusion and a warped sense of what’s normal are both typical of abusive relationships.

If you’re concerned that you or someone you care about may be in an abusive relationship then you’re likely to have many questions and concerns. One of the biggest questions people have is, “How do I know for sure?” The information below will help you figure that out.

It can be hard for either partner to admit their relationship is abusive. What comes along with that admission is embarrassment, shame, and uncertainty, even fear, over how it can change. And what’s required for change to happen is honesty, an open mind, and courage.

The experts at Guy Stuff who wrote this article have nearly 20 years of experience in treating relationship abuse. Below you’ll find real-life examples of abuse, a definition of relationship abuse and the different types of abuse, and find answers to the most common questions we get asked about abuse in romantic relationships by both women and men.

Read this article and you won’t be confused anymore.


Real Stories


Debbie glanced at the clock and began to panic. It was nearly 6 and the laundry wasn’t completely done and dinner was still cooking. Not to mention the kids were fighting and being loud. Scott would be home at 6:30 and he hated it when the chores weren’t done and dinner was late. The kids arguing would only make things worse.

Scott wanted to come home to peace. He believed the house was supposed to be a sanctuary and when it wasn’t it was her fault. He said he didn’t think it was too much to ask to have dinner ready, a clean house and well-behaved kids. When those things didn’t happen he would take it out on her.

He didn’t hit her or get violent – he just got mad and would yell and tell her what a “dumb, lazy bitch” she was. Debbie hated for the kids to hear him talk that way to her.

She tried to tell him that working, handling the kids and their schedules, doing the cooking and managing the house sometimes meant that the timing could be off a bit.

But he said that she was just too stupid to manage things and that any moron could do the pathetic, little bit that he expected of her.

Debby had become so confused about what she needed to do to make Scott happy.

It seemed that no matter how she did things, such as cleaning the house, it either wasn’t good enough for Scott or done the “right way.”

Debbie thought she used to be smart. At work, she still felt she was smart and appreciated. Lately, she had begun to think Scott must be right – at least on some level.

She really must be “some kind of idiot” to not be able to make things work and keep him happy. It never occurred to her that she could possibly be in an abusive relationship.


Scott had what he considered a stressful job. He didn’t particularly like it either, but it paid the bills and people respected him. He had risen through the ranks in his company, was well-liked, and considered successful at what he did.

Like a lot of people, especially men, Scott struggled to make the transition from workday to home life.

After a long, stressful day he just wanted to come home and relax – not have more stress. Too often what he came home to wasn’t what he expected or wanted – out of control kids and a messy house – and his disappointment and frustration got directed at the easiest target around.

Coming home was supposed to be the highlight of his day. He looked forward to seeing his wife and family – most of the time. Sometimes, however, he just didn’t get Debbie. He told her exactly what he wanted from her and he didn’t think it was that complicated.

When she didn’t do what he needed it would just set him off. He didn’t intend to get so mad, but she brought it on herself. After all, if she didn’t act like a “dumb bitch” he wouldn’t have to call her one. And he reasoned it would only get worse if he let it slide. If she was too lazy or stupid to get things done he had to call her on it.

In Scott’s mind, that’s just the way you run a household and deal with your family. Just like it never occurred to Debbie that she was in an abusive relationship, it also never occurred to Scott that his words and actions could be abusive. After all, he didn’t get angry for no reason. Besides, he never hit Debbie and, in his mind, that’s what spousal abuse looks like.



Understanding An Abusive Relationship

Abusive behavior in a relationship can happen in many ways. The most common forms of relationship abuse are physical, emotional, verbal, mental, sexual and financial. Any set of behaviors that are intended to harm, manipulate or control the other partner are considered abuse.

An abusive relationship develops when one partner tries to exert power over the other partner through an intentional series of actions. There are a number of ways abusive behavior can occur, but regardless of how the abuse is happening, the primary purpose of the abuse is control.

Most often people think of physical violence when discussing abusive relationships, but the range of behaviors that fall into the category of abuse is much larger than just physical aggression.

Patterns of abuse can include any of the following:

  • Physical harm or use of physical intimidation
  • Threats of any kind
  • Psychological or emotional intimidation
  • Demeaning or insulting language
  • Controlling social interactions
  • Manipulation of affection
  • Controlling access to finances

Relationships almost never start out being abusive. In fact, many female victims of spousal abuse will say they never could’ve imagined their husbands becoming abusive. The same is even truer for men – as women can also become abusers in a relationship too. Although this may seem rare, it’s not. Because the typical stereotype is a man abusing a woman, the idea that they could be abused by a woman isn’t something that occurs to most men.

An abusive relationship generally starts off the same way any other relationship does – with two people falling in love. This love is one of the things that can make recognizing spousal abuse very difficult and make getting out of an abusive marriage even harder.

It isn’t always easy to recognize you’re being abused. An abuser will usually tell their partner they love them and what they’re doing is for their good. Because of the love they shared initially, and the victims desire to believe their partner still loves them, they can easily confuse the abusive behavior with loving actions. But abuse isn’t love no matter what an abuser says. Regardless of the explanation, abusive actions are unacceptable in any relationship.

Abusers want to control their partners. The means by which they accomplish this will be affected by the circumstances and psychology of the abuser themselves. Whatever the approach, their goal is to get their partner to do what they want.

It’s vitally important that partners realize that abusive behavior in any relationship isn’t normal or acceptable. A healthy relationship doesn’t include any of the behaviors listed above – even if they’re justified as being done out of love or for the person’s good.

What Is An Abusive Relationship Really Like?

An abusive relationship can arise in a number of different ways. Domestic violence is a term most people are familiar with and believe is used to describe physical abuse. In actuality, domestic violence encompasses all forms of relationship abuse. A number of terms are interchangeably used to describe an abusive relationship – domestic violence, domestic abuse, marital abuse, spousal abuse, and intimate partner violence.

Being abused doesn’t have to only mean you’re being hit or beaten. For example, physical abuse can also include other forms of physical aggression, such as throwing things, punching holes in walls, blocking doorways, taking and refusing to give back personal items such as house or car keys or a cell phone.

We all know that physical abuse is wrong and needs to be stopped, but many discount or don’t even recognize the other ways abuse can show up in a relationship. There are several other equally as damaging, sometimes more so, ways a person can be abused.

What an abusive relationship also includes are any of the following:

  • Emotional Abuse
  • Verbal Abuse
  • Mental or Psychological Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Financial abuse
Emotional Abuse

One of the most common types of abuse in a relationship is emotional. Just as with physical abuse, emotional abuse is about power and control. However, with emotional abuse, there are no bruises or broken bones as evidence of the hurt inflicted. The damage is subtle and not outwardly obvious when emotion is used as the method to abuse.

Much like Scott in the example above, a man emotionally abusing his wife can act as though he knows what’s best for her and may say his criticisms are for her own good. He’ll undermine her self-esteem by causing her to question her own abilities and self-worth. These things are often said they’re being done in the name of love, but love isn’t the driving factor – power is.

Emotional abusers can also use their love and affection as leverage to get what they want, making receiving their love conditional on their partners’ behavior. They may make their partner feel unworthy of being loved unless they do as the abuser wants.

Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse often goes hand-in-hand with emotional abuse. It most often takes the form of repeated name-calling, insults and put-downs that eventually take a toll by destroying a person’s identity and self-confidence. While it’s easy to assume that verbal abuse would be obvious, like the abuser who yells and berates his partner loudly in public, this is more the exception than the rule as most abusers are careful not to expose their behavior to others.

Again, the example of Scott shows how a perpetrator of abuse can use two types of abuse simultaneously:

He verbally abuses Debbie by calling her a “dumb, lazy bitch” while at the same time is emotionally abusing her with those same words.

Even though someone outside the family isn’t likely to hear him say this to her, if a casual observer did overhear it they might think his language is a bit strong but not see it as a potentially abusive relationship.

Mental Abuse

Just as emotional and verbal abuse are often interconnected, mental abuse can be intertwined with them as well. Often abusers will use a number of forms of abuse at the same time and won’t even know they’re doing it. Mind games are an example of mental abuse that cause a partner to question their own thoughts and feelings, what is true and not true, real and not real. Leaving them dependent on the abuser to know the difference.

Scott repeatedly tells Debbie her cooking tastes like “crap” because she uses too many spices. She’s tried cooking without using any spices and he hates it. She’s stopped using certain spices and he still doesn’t like it. Rather than think the problem might be Scott, she believes what he tells her – she’s a “bad cook.”

Gaslighting is another example of mental abuse that is seen in relationships. When someone attempts to manipulate someone by making them question their own sanity and reality, they’re gaslighting them. Eventually, the abuser makes his or her partner feel totally unable to function without them because they no longer trust their own thoughts or instincts.

In the case of Scott and Debbie, Scott’s cruel and demeaning words were beginning to change Debbie’s view of herself. Where she once felt confident and intelligent, she was now starting to believe Scott when he tells her she is incompetent and stupid. This is a clear example of mental abuse in a relationship.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual activity forced by one person on another. Rape or child molestation is what comes to mind for most people when the term sexual abuse is used. However, sexual abuse can occur within romantic relationships as well. Typically it’s much harder to see since the relationship already includes an expectation of consensual sex.

Examples of abusive sexual behavior can be the husband who demands oral sex from his wife – “give me an orgasm” – whether she wants to or not. Groping, fondling or sexual activity while a partner is asleep and not willingly participating is another that isn’t uncommon in long-term relationships.

Financial Abuse

Finances are a challenging topic for most couples. This makes it easier for financial abuse to go unrecognized. Actions to manage spending can easily cross the line into controlling and abusive behavior. Partners who withhold financial information or keep secrets about money activity are being abusive financially. Ways this frequently occurs is a partner having an undisclosed credit card and accumulating debt that is kept hidden. Or the partner who’s kept from having equal access to the family finances and has to ask for money to spend can be a form of financial abuse.

What an abusive relationship is like most often is subtle. Since there’s not a black eye the abuse doesn’t really look like abuse.

Another thing that all forms of domestic abuse have in common is that they tend to start slowly and get worse over time. Nearly all abusive relationships start in a somewhat normal fashion with both partners feeling in love and hopeful. Because of this people usually don’t even recognize they’re being abused when it begins. By the time they, or someone else, realizes what’s happening they’re scared, lack confidence, and often feel as though they’re the cause of the behavior.


What Are The Signs Of An Abusive Relationship?

Recognizing the signs of abuse in any relationship can be tricky. While some signs are always there, depending upon the type of abuse and your vantage point they can be difficult to see. For instance, it’s easier to see them from the outside than it is from within the relationship. The victim and abuser always have the hardest time spotting them, partly because it seems normal to them.

A helpful way to look for signs of an abusive relationship is to separate them into two categories – outward and inward signs. With physical abuse the signs are often outwardly evident, but not always. Bumps, bruises, and broken bones anyone can see. Fear, however, is an inward sign that no one can see until it manifests in outward behavior.

Abuse signs are often intentionally hidden. Bruises can be covered over with clothing and explained away. Red, swollen eyes from crying can be hidden with sunglasses or just by avoiding in-person contact with people. These are also most often the signs of an abusive man, yet women can abuse too, just typically in different ways.

Emotional and mental abuse signs can be much harder to spot because they’re more inward than outward. Responses like anxiety or fear can be explained away as having another cause. As a result the person suffering the abuse, and those close to them, often don’t realize they’re in an abusive relationship. The signs of an emotionally abusive relationship are also much more subtle.

Outward Signs of Abuse

  • Bumps, bruises, finger or finger nail marks
  • Repeated physical injuries that are down played as just being clumsy or silly accidents
  • Shying away from or discomfort with brief physical touch (hugs, pats on the back, handshakes)
  • Withdrawal from family, friends or social situations
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Vocalized apprehension about making your partner angry or displeasing them in some way

Inward Signs of Abuse

  • Needing permission from your partner to talk, offer an opinion, or agree to social engagements
  • Feelings like you’re stupid or worthless
  • Concern about bringing up topics because of the reaction from your spouse or partner
  • Not feeling loved even though your partner says they love you
  • Feeling like you’re walking on eggshells around your partner never knowing what response you’ll get
  • Depressed about your relationship with your partner
  • Anxiety over doing anything wrong, especially things within the relationship or household
  • Feeling like you don’t deserve anything good, to be happy, or any type of praise

If you think you see some of these signs of abuse in your relationship or that of someone you care about, then it’s time to get help. Abusers won’t usually stop without outside intervention, usually from a professional who can help them recognize their behavior, the damage it’s doing, and learn why they do it. There are many resources available. Counseling help can be invaluable for both the abuser and the person being abused as it can help them gain perspective and guidance in how to get things to change.

Why Are Some Men Controlling?

The line between showing care and concern for a partner and being controlling can sometimes get blurred. Since the outward behavior often looks the same at first glance, deciphering the difference ultimately comes down to the motivation. Is their behavior serving you or them? Are they seeking what is in your best interest or theirs? As has already been mentioned, abusers seek power and so controlling men are ultimately after power, not care for you.

What kinds of things can men want to control about their partners? You name it. But some of the most common areas where this occurs are:

  • Money
  • Family & household responsibilities
  • Friends
  • Where you go
  • How you spend your time

What does controlling behavior look like?

  • Having to know what you’re doing on your phone
  • Questioning how you’re using your time
  • Blowing-up your phone when they don’t know where you’re at

“Where are you? I’m worried about you.” Sounds like a caring partner doesn’t it? Maybe, maybe not. It’s not care and concern if it’s done solely to make the questioner feel good.

Why are some men controlling? They can be controlling for a variety of reasons. Generally speaking, they’re likely insecure and not comfortable enough with themselves to trust your decision-making. It’s really about them and not you. Some are narcissistic. Even though being a controlling man is a characteristic of narcissism this alone doesn’t make a man a narcissist.

We all want to control our lives and surroundings. Unfortunately, so much of it isn’t within our control. It takes a certain amount of confidence to accept the truth that we aren’t really in control of much. Some people, controlling men in particular, really struggle with this fact. It makes them very uncomfortable, so they fight against it by trying to control everything in their lives, including and especially their partner.


My Husband Has Anger Issues

Anger and abuse pretty much go hand in hand. So if your husband has anger issues it’s certain that the manner in which his anger gets expressed is going to sometimes (or most of the time) be in abusive ways toward you and others close to him.

Anger issues in men are pretty common. And one of the primary reasons guys become abusive is because they have unresolved anger management problems. That’s not an excuse, just an explanation why your husband can be abusive.

The most important questions about your husband’s anger issues are:

  • Does he admit he has anger issues?
  • What’s he doing about it?

At Guy Stuff we regularly hear wives say, My husband is always angry and moody,” which is typically meant to describe a man who has a quick trigger for exploding with anger. If your husband is often moody and angry it can make you feel like you’re walking on eggshells around him – having to be very, very careful you don’t “poke the bear.” Having apprehension or anxiety about approaching the man in your life is another sign of anger that’s become abusive. Anger doesn’t always lead to abuse, but when it’s not managed well lashing out at others in abusive ways is far more likely.

As in other forms of abuse, blaming other people and situations for inappropriately angry responses is common. It may even seem like your fault at times. Nevertheless, the one responsible for your husbands’ anger issues is him. You can definitely influence how he feels, but he’s still fully responsible for how he responds.

It’s tempting to think you can control whether or not your husband gets angry if you’re just careful enough. That’s a false and misplaced belief. This is what Debbie tried to do to manage Scott’s anger.

Debbie thought she could manage Scott’s anger by controlling her own behavior and it didn’t work. His anger issues, as are your husband’s, are likely about a whole lot more than whatever the trigger is at that moment. The root cause of anger issues goes much deeper. He’s also responsible to manage his emotions, not you. So don’t take that on.

When Your Spouse Says Hurtful Things

Does any of the following sound familiar?

“I know my husband loves me – he tells me all the time. And he would NEVER hit me or anything like that. But he calls me names a lot. He says he doesn’t mean it – it’s just what he does when I make him mad. Is it abuse when my spouse says hurtful things to me? I mean, I’m sure if I didn’t do so many things to tick him off he would stop, right?”

Yes, this is abuse. Making someone mad doesn’t give them the right to call you names or make you question your worth. Nothing any of us does entitles someone to be abusive like this towards us.

All couples get angry at each other from time to time, but communication in a healthy relationship doesn’t include name-calling or put-downs. Repeatedly telling someone they’re stupid, dumb, worthless, a bitch, or any other derogatory name crosses the line into verbal abuse.

The same can be said of a husband who mocks when you argue.

“Oh look, the pathetic little woman is crying – again. Why don’t you act like an adult and not such a sad little loser?”

Speaking to anyone like this is wrong and also falls into the category of abuse. A healthy relationship between two people who are loving and respectful toward each other won’t include these kinds of demeaning descriptions. Even if it’s explained away as humor or sarcasm, it’s still not okay.

So why is your husband so mean to you? There are a number of possible reasons. He could be angry, stressed, or hurting and doesn’t manage those feelings well, or he may take them out on you to make himself feel better. He may have low self-esteem and when your husband calls you stupid it also makes him feel better. It’s also likely he lacks empathy for others and so your pain doesn’t bother him like it would most people.

Remember the motivation behind an abuser’s words or actions is control. When your spouse says hurtful things to you it’s to control your actions, thoughts or feelings. They’re seeking to get you to do what they want. Why they want to do this varies from person to person (some reasons are listed above) and can be very psychologically complicated.


What To Do When Your Husband Calls You Names

Name-calling between romantic partners is a form of verbal and emotional abuse.

It may be subtle sarcastic jabs and occasional put-downs and insults, but it’s still abusive behavior. Even if it’s meant to be funny it still has a damaging affect, especially over time.

Unfortunately, this behavior tends to get worse as time goes on rather than better. Those on the receiving end can become desensitized to it, assuming that speaking and being spoken to in this way is normal in an intimate relationship. Some of us have also been talked to this way our whole lives and so we’ve never experienced anything else. Regardless, what you should do when your husband calls you names is to see it as a problem that needs to get fixed.

Derogatory name-calling in any relationship isn’t normal or okay. Over time it can erode a person’s self-esteem.

The person on the receiving end can start to believe they deserve to be called names, much like Debbie did in the story above – feeling as though she really must be an “idiot” if she couldn’t do the things Scott wanted her to so that he would be happy.

If you’re in a relationship where name-calling has become a problem you’ll need to work on strengthening your communication skills and setting healthy boundaries. This isn’t always easy to do, however. Often by the time this form of verbal abuse is recognized as a problem, it’s been going on for a long, long time and the behaviors (yours and your partner’s) can be hard to break. It can take the assistance of a professional counselor to help you see where you need to set boundaries and to learn how to do it.

Know that if your husband routinely calls you names or puts you down it needs to stop. And wives can be just as guilty of name-calling too – sometimes more so. This behavior has no place in a healthy relationship. If changing this behavior, either together or on your own, hasn’t gone well then seek help in how to make the changes you need.

Is Yelling Abuse?

This can be a tricky one. Yes, yelling can be abuse when it becomes a regular pattern of behavior, but it’s not always. Raising your voice or yelling is something we’ve all done at some point. Generally, it happens when we’re angry and have a lapse of self-control.

Yelling at your husband because he just recorded over your wedding video for instance isn’t necessarily abusive, but yelling at him and calling him a “worthless idiot” on a regular basis is.

Unfortunately, yelling can become accepted as just the way partners talk to each other. In counseling sessions, it’s common to hear either “my husband yells at me” or about a wife yelling at her husband. Many of us grew up in families where yelling and screaming were normal and so we see it as a normal way to communicate. This is Scott’s story – his dad did the same thing – and is partly why he doesn’t see his yelling at Debby as a problem.

Frequent yelling in relationships, however, is an element of verbal abuse. People who verbally abuse can struggle with anger management problems and so yelling is one way their anger gets expressed. Not learning how to manage anger is how someone can become abusive who wouldn’t otherwise do so. Problems with anger can also potentially escalate into even more dangerous forms of abuse, such as physical abuse.

If you’ve told your partner to “stop yelling at me” and they’ve refused to change how they talk to you then the yelling has become verbal abuse. When a person is made aware of what they’re doing and the negative affect it’s having and they still refuse to change then it’s a problem.

If talking to them and asking them to modify their communication style or work on the anger issues driving their behavior isn’t working, it’s time to get help.


What If You Have An Abusive Wife?

This discussion about abusive relationships has primarily focused on men being the abusers. However, this isn’t always the case. There are abusive wives too.

As a society when we think of abusers it’s typically men that come to mind. And statistically speaking women are more likely to be victims of abuse rather than abusers. It’s possible, however, for a woman to be the abuser in a relationship and when this happens it’s often harder to recognize.

Signs of an abusive wife generally manifest in different ways than in a husband. Despite the stereotype, research has found women to be the perpetrators in more than 40% of reported domestic violence cases.

Nevertheless, most often women tend to be more emotionally and verbally abusive than physically violent. They’ll leverage their love, sex, or even the children to get what they want and exert control over their partner. Women may also pinpoint areas their husband or boyfriend feels most insecure about and exploit that in an attempt to undermine his confidence and make him feel emotionally dependent upon her.

As with men, there are usually underlying issues that give rise to such hurtful behavior by a woman, such as a history of being a victim of abuse herself. It’s also not uncommon for a female abuser, just like a male abuser, to have a drinking or drug problem that makes these things worse. Even though pain and anger can be the underlying source for the abuse, how it manifests may not look like anger at all.

The signs of an abusive woman in a romantic relationship can be subtle. Often friends and family will have no idea she behaves this way.

Women who are abusive tend to have a few traits in common, however. They’re often controlling, impulsive, and routinely jealous of others.

Because it’s neither well known nor stereotypical, men with an abusive wife often either don’t recognize the behavior as abuse or resist seeking help.

Being abused by a female partner can be humiliating and emasculating. This makes something that’s already difficult for most men – asking for help – all the more challenging. Admitting you could be being abused and requesting help and can feel like a sign of weakness. Yet it isn’t weakness. It takes courage to seek assistance.

If you think you could possibly have an abusive wife then it’s time to get help. Abusers rarely ever stop without assistance and things usually won’t get better without help.


There is Hope

How To Get Abusive Relationship Help

Recognizing that you need help with an abusive relationship is a big first step. Changing an abusive relationship or getting out of one, however, is no easy task.

It’s normal to feel helpless when it comes to stopping abuse or trapped in being able to break away from your abuser. You may also be holding on to the idea of the love you once shared and hopeful it could still return, or possibly truly feel like you’ve done something to deserve the way you’re treated. The way victims’ think about themselves and their situation gets twisted is an important reason why you’ll need help with your abusive relationship.

Your partner will likely make it difficult for things to change. They may cause you to be fearful that you’ll lose them. They can use your love to create guilt and doubt in your mind about your ability to live without them. They may threaten to harm you or even themselves if you leave. None of these are reasons you should continue to accept their abusive behavior. It’s just another indication of why you need to look for help for what is clearly an abusive relationship.

Victims of abuse aren’t responsible for their abusers behavior. A wife who is suffering physical abuse didn’t do anything to make her husband hit her. And a man whose wife routinely calls him names and threatens to leave him and take their kids didn’t do anything to make that behavior acceptable.

Keep telling yourself that no one deserves to be abused, including you, and getting help is the right move. An abusive relationship doesn’t magically improve on its own, so if your circumstances are going to change it’s going to be up to you to make it happen.

Changing an abusive relationship can be very difficult to do on your own. If you can, look to those who love you for support and assistance. Not everyone has someone though. But if there’s a family member or friend you can confide in do so.

Suffering abuse can be embarrassing and shameful to admit, but it’s not – it’s courageous and necessary. Breaking the silence is so important.

There are also resources in many communities for victims of abusive relationships staffed with people trained and ready to help you move forward and stay safe.

An abusive partner is the one who ultimately needs to make the biggest changes. And change can happen, but it takes time, work and the assistance of a qualified counselor. It may also require time and space away from one another. If talking, efforts to set boundaries, and requests for respectful behavior haven’t gone anywhere, you may need to separate for a period of time. Your physical and emotional safety is what’s most important. Time apart can also be a wake-up call for your partner to see their part in your abusive relationship as well as their need for help too.


The Rest of the Story


One more outburst and Debbie was done.

After another night of him telling her she’s a “lazy bitch” she’d had enough. Through her tears she looked at Scott and felt nothing but hatred.

For a brief moment, she thought that if he were dead things would be so much easier. With that thought, a wave of nausea ripped through her and she cried harder.

This wasn’t supposed to be the way things went. Marriage wasn’t supposed to mean constant anxiety and unhappiness. Tomorrow she was going to get some help – if not for her and Scott, then for her and the kids. There had to be something she could do because she knew that she couldn’t do this anymore.

So Debbie started looking for help. Little did she know that Scott would end up doing the same thing that night.


Scott looked at Debbie as she was crying. It didn’t use to be like this. She didn’t use to make him so mad or push his buttons so much.

He wondered what had changed – Was it her? Could it be him? He didn’t like to see her cry, and disliked even more that the kids saw her cry and heard him yell so much.

His dad had been like that and as a kid, he had hated seeing the way he acted. He hated his dad now. Would the kids hate him someday, he wondered. He didn’t want that.

He didn’t want so much hate in his house and in his head, but he didn’t know how to get rid of it. This wasn’t the way he wanted their lives to go, yet he didn’t know how to change things. Maybe he needed to find someone to talk to who could understand.

So Scott picked up his phone and started searching. He knew he didn’t want to go to the typical counselor. He wasn’t going to be told he was wrong by someone who doesn’t get what his life is really like.

When he stumbled upon the Guy Stuff website something just felt right.

Sure, Dr. Kurt didn’t sugar coat it about what was wrong about Scott’s behavior, but even though that was uncomfortable to hear he liked that the “doc” was a “straight shooter.” Scott didn’t want a bunch of B.S. and he didn’t get it here. He also liked that he read in Dr. Kurt’s bio that he struggles with anger too.

Scott didn’t tell Debbie what he’d found. He wanted to keep it to himself at first.

After he’d met with Dr. Kurt a few times he decided to tell Debbie. She said she’d noticed a change in him, but didn’t know where it was coming from. She was thrilled and proud of him. She knew it really took a lot for Scott to admit he had a problem and ask for help.

There was a lot about their relationship that needed to change. Scott learned how to better manage his anger and stress. Debbie got her self-confidence back and learned how to set limits on how Scott talked to her. They both learned healthier ways to communicate and how better to love and respect each other.

You’d never recognize them today. Yes, Scott still has his stressful job and has to control his anger, but he and Debby love each other and you can see it in how they treat each other.

Is there any part of Debbie and Scott’s story that you can relate to?

Relationship abuse can become a normal part of life, so it can be hard sometimes to really see it as the problem it really is.

Fortunately, people can change. With abuse it just usually takes a little help.

What To Do Next

Abuse in relationships has typically gone on for some time, so reversing it takes time too.

Even though it can be difficult to change, there is hope.

We know how demoralizing it is to have a partner tell you they love you but act in ways that say they really don’t. Through the years we’ve heard countless stories from women and men trying to understand how their relationships have gotten to this point and what they can do to change them.

At Guy Stuff we successfully work with couples wanting to learn to love each other better. This is one of the reasons over 300,000 people just like you visit the Guy Stuff website every month looking for answers and hope.

We understand how difficult an abusive relationship can be and the specific issues each couple faces are as different as the couples themselves.


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