Covert Emotional Abuse: What It Is and How to Identify It


COVERTnot openly acknowledged or displayed.

Synonyms: secret, furtive, clandestine, surreptitious, stealthy, cloak-and-dagger, hole-and-corner, backstairs, backroom, hidden, under-the-table, concealed, private, undercover, underground, hush-hush.

EMOTIONALrelating to a person’s emotions.

Synonyms: spiritual, inner, psychological, of the heart

DOMESTICrelating to the running of a home or to family relations.

ABUSE – to use (something) to bad effect or for a bad purpose; misuse. The improper use of something. Cruel and violent treatment of a person or animal, especially regularly or repeatedly.

In this article you’ll learn what covert emotional domestic abuse is, how it dehumanizes women and children, who participates in its propagation, how to identify covert abuse, why it is rampant in certain religious circles, what the cultural consequences are, and what we can and must do to expose and stop it.

What is covert emotional domestic abuse?

Using the definitions above, covert emotional domestic abuse is the SECRET, regular and repeated, cruel mistreatment of the inner emotions and heart of another person living within the same home.

Most of us know about domestic violence, but what about covert psychological abuse? Whereas overt abuse is easy to identify, covert abuse relies on covert psychological tactics so that even the victim may not realize they are being abused. It is used to gain power and control over victims.

Not sure if what you’re experiencing is actually emotional abuse? Here is an article on how to tell if your marriage crosses the line to abusive.

Covert Emotional Abuse is Secret

When something is a secret, it isn’t known. It can’t be seen. It can’t be observed from an outside glance. It is covered up. Hidden. Concealed. Not easy to identify. You may feel like your marriage is confusing and painful without knowing why.

Does this mean it isn’t happening? Is reality only what can be observed and noted and believed by the majority? Or is reality something a little more common sense than that?

Because it isn’t an observable thing from the outside, it has the opportunity to flourish, much like mold thrives in dark, closed, damp, and hidden places. When mold is exposed to the sun and air, it dies. When we find mold, we get rid of it. But if we don’t know it’s there, it grows and does unseen, systemic damage to the foundations of homes and the immune systems of humans who inhale it.

So covert abuse cannot be observed from the outside, it usually doesn’t happen in plain sight, and when we are in denial about its existence, it also gets worse and does systemic emotional and physical damage to everyone living in that environment.

Covert Abuse is Regular and Repeated

Abuse is regular and repeated. It is never resolved. An abuser isn’t empathic or sad over the damage he does. Instead, he blame shifts, denies, minimizes, and emotionally manipulates you. Regularly. Repeatedly. It cycles over and over and over again, a never ending merry-go-round of craziness with no end in sight.

Emotional Abuse is Cruel Mistreatment

Emotional abuse isn’t your run-of-the-mill marriage problem. It’s cruel mistreatment. It is meant to hurt and do damage.  In an abusive marriage, the purpose of that marriage is to hurt and destroy the other person. It’s the improper use of the marriage relationship which is meant to be a safe haven of love and commitment. When outsiders encourage an abuse target to stay in her cruel and unusual marriage, they are re-abusing her by enabling her abuser to continue his behaviors unchecked, and also by emotionally pressuring and controlling her to remain a victim with no way out. Often, these outsiders will use the Bible as a weapon of control, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Abuse of the Inner Emotions and Heart

Physical abuse is better understood because the damage is often done to the skin tissue found on the outside of the body. Bruises, broken bones, black eyes – these are things others can see and acknowledge. But emotional abuse is damage done to the emotions and heart of a person. If you could peel back the layers and see inside, you’d see a shredded, bleeding human being who is unable to truly live a fulfilling life due to the fact that all their energy is put into surviving emotionally, spiritually, and yes, even physically as they deal with the breakdown of body systems. It’s a hidden double whammy. The verbal abuse is only done when nobody is looking, and the abuse is only done to the insides of another person, where nobody can see even if that person did go forward to “tell.”

Covert Abuse Destroys Another Person

We aren’t talking about kicking a chair, ruining a car, or tearing down a house. We are talking about a human life. A person made in the image of God. A person with a heart and feelings and a history and a mind. A person who had hopes and dreams of loving and being loved. Knowing and being known. A person created with potential and purpose and meaning. That is what abuse destroys. A living soul.

Living in the Same Home

It’s not just any human life. It’s the person that someone promised to love and care for. Promised to cherish and honor. Promised to live in peace with. Promised to be safe to. It’s a vulnerable human being who trusted the other person. It’s taking advantage of that trust and vulnerability and betraying it.

What is Covert Emotional Domestic Abuse?

How does covert emotional domestic abuse dehumanize women and children?

God created all humans, regardless of gender, race, or socioeconomic status EQUAL and EQUALLY VALUABLE. Jesus set the pace when he rattled the cages of the religious elite by talking to Samaritan women, hanging out with lepers, and forgiving prostitutes. He didn’t take into consideration anything other than their value to Him as human beings. He humanized the dehumanized by his actions and his words.

But when people hurt other people behind closed doors by belittling them, devaluing them, treating them like slaves and sex objects, controlling them, lying to them, tricking them, pushing their buttons on purpose to make them scream and weep, criticizing them, ignoring them, dismissing them, and then act all loving and kind when they are in front of other people on the outside – this robs the victim of their humanity. Their God-given right to be treated with honor as human beings.

People who do this pick on the vulnerable. The children. The wives who long to please and win the approval of their husband and their God. The ones who have deep empathy and don’t want to embarrass their spouse by “tattling” on them.

Why is it so hard to find help for emotional abuse?

These vulnerable ones instinctively know that if they did try to explain to anyone on the outside, they would not be heard or understood. And, indeed, this is the experience of thousands of wives and children of covert abusers. When they have dared to pull a card out from their house of cards, the house falls, and everyone points in shock and disapproval at the one who pulled the card. Not the one who built the card house in the first place.

The “card-puller” is shamed, blamed, scapegoated, attacked, told she is a liar, told she is disordered, told she is a hysterical female tearing her own house down, told she is a Jezebel, and on and on. Basically, her covert abuser gets his buddies (often pastors and other “holy” men) together, and they collectively heap upon her the shame her husband had piled on her the entire marriage. It’s a double dose of abuse. In the name of God.

So many women and children stay silent. And covert abuse, like that mold, spreads throughout culture.

What is Covert Emotional Domestic Abuse?

Who participates in the propagation of covert emotional domestic abuse?

The abusive spouse, obviously. But even more so, the collective, quiet agreement of the masses who refuse to stand against it. I frequently post articles on my private Facebook page about abuse issues. I was recently berated by a family member for choosing a “ridiculous cause” to support when there are far greater causes to freak out about. And so our culture continues to collude with covert abusers, giving them free reign to dehumanize women and children without cultural consequences.

Worse, there are many churches who actually encourage and endorse covert emotional domestic abuse. Let’s talk about this a minute.

Why is covert emotional domestic abuse rampant in certain religious circles?

Did you know that back in the days of slavery, Christians used the Bible to defend their right to own slaves? Likewise, today there are specific theologies that use the Bible to teach that women are subservient to men merely because it is their nature to be so.  Slaves are black. They should be slaves because of their color. Makes perfect sense, right? So women do not have male body parts. They should stay home, keep their mouths shut, and stay out of the public square because of this missing piece of anatomy. Makes perfect sense, right?

These Christians would say, “Well, we take GOOD CARE of our slaves!” And “We take GOOD CARE of our women.” Therefore, it’s right and good and godly. And yet, in both scenarios, you’ve got dehumanization happening at the root. Where you’ve got dehumanization, you’ve got abuse.

I’ve connected with hundreds of women over the last few years. Most of them are coming out of the “reformed” faith tradition. They gave up careers to have a dozen kids, home school, and bake whole wheat bread. What did they get in return? Criticism, shame, blame, little support, little grace, pressure to perform, and random Bible verses slammed into their heads to remind them what failures they are as Christians, wives, and mothers.

If they go to their religious leaders for help, they get more of the same. “What? Well your godly husband tells us differently, and since he has man parts, like me, I know he can be trusted. You, on the other hand, are as a dripping faucet on a roof top corner. I feel bad for your poor husband. When was the last time you gave him the sex he needs? Oh, and how’s that submission coming? Are you being obedient to God in that area?”

It’s like getting run over by a car – and along comes an ambulance, but instead of picking you up and putting you inside to see if your heart is still beating, they back up a bit, and then drive over you again. Just to make sure you’re good and down.

Yes. They probably shouldn’t be driving the ambulance.

What is Covert Emotional Domestic Abuse?

What are the cultural consequences of covert emotional domestic abuse?

Catastrophic. In the church alone, you’ve got the secondary abuse of children. Many of these children grow up seeing first hand the hypocrisy of the church and take their leave of it as soon as possible. These young adults are ill equipped to deal with their own relationships in emotionally healthy ways, having been marinating in abusive behavior during their formative years.

Lies lead to weakness and dysfunction. Truth leads to emotional health, strength, and stability. Lies in the home and church and culture lead to weak, dysfunctional homes, churches, and cultures. Covering up abuse encourages apathy, neglect, selfishness, and broken lives. And that’s exactly what we’ve got.

Dehumanizing people promotes chaos, hatred, abuse, and war, whether it is national war, cultural war, or personal war. It’s the enemy’s lie – and the enemy’s agenda. And he is crazy happy that his greatest supporters of this particular lie are religious people, because then God gets a bad reputation among humans.Why, it’s like double prizes for him! Go Religious People!

What can we do to expose and stop covert emotional domestic abuse?

While we cannot control what other people do or don’t do to put a stop to this tsunami of pain, we CAN do our part in our corner of the world.

Are you a woman stuck in an abusive relationship? Start telling the truth to yourself, your spouse, and your family. Tell your church, and let them burn you at the stake. (Hey, it hurts at first, but then it really empowers you like nothing else. Ask me how I know.)

Are you an adult child of emotional or verbal abuse? Tell your story. Be honest. Get therapy. Find healing. Live your life to the fullest, create healthy relationships, and poke the Enemy in the eyeball.

Are you a therapist? Get training in how to help emotional abuse targets. Believe them and help them with their Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). Write articles in journals and magazines that illustrate how this kind of abusive behavior destroys people. Raise awareness on your Facebook page.

Are you a friend of an abuse victim? Listen and learn. Read books on the subject. Don’t stick your head in the sand and pretend this isn’t a horrible problem. I promise, it will touch your life personally sooner or later. Narcissists are everywhere, and their power to ruin lives is great.

Are you a religious leader of some type? Read books. Get training. Listen to victims and believe them. Start doing some research on how the Bible has been mistranslated by biased, misogynistic men, and start reading a Bible that is truer to the original languages. Learn how to learn from people who don’t have a penis. Value them in the same way your God values them. As equals.

Are you just a reader who stumbled on this blog, but you have no idea why? Maybe this is your first introduction to the problem. Now that you’ve seen it, be aware of it. Start to observe it in other places, because it’s there. The more we learn about the problem, the more we gain power over the problem.

And maybe one day the small things we’ve done to make a difference will change the course of history.


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    Family and “community” of the abuser also needs addressed. The community or “village” can be a horrible obstacle to overcome. In small communities, an abused woman can be gossiped about so badly that she can’t find a job that might support her getting free. His family can literally set the children against her by causing her to grovel for respect, money and dignity in front of her own children. The abuser’s family being the “saviors”. If the abuser’s family has status it is very hard to get out of.

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    Is animal mistreatment for many years considered emotionally abusive even though it’s not directed at me personally? The behavior has greatly improved but the damage to our marriage Im not sure can be healed. I’m an animal lover, train horses, raise dogs. The worst I saw was him putting a dog under a water tank and beat the top of the tank while screaming at the dog. This was only a year or two into our marriage. I’m almost 2 decades since I’ve seen and heard him drag, kick, yell, throw
    A dog multiple times jerk and yell and kick a horse multiple times, sometimes in front of my help and clients. He’s also very condescending in how he speaks especially to the kids and even though things are better now because we are both in individual counsel with someone specialising in emotionally abusive relationships and trauma, there is still a since and inability on his part to fully own the extent of damage he’s caused and be genuinely broken over it. Instead I feel like I’m on a time line to heal and gone his way again. There is no connection for me at all. I’ve removed myself to seperate bedroom for almost two years, no intimacy and I feel my heart will never heal even if his change was real and permanent. Even now apologies are laced with “you” this and “you” that. “You took what was me giving kind public accolades to you on our anniversary “ the wrong way…. No I don’t want a fake reality broadcast on FB.. ( just an example) “ I’m sorry for doing something “you” were uncomfortable with!… is this a covert unapologetic apology?
    Thank you Natalie.

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    Hi! Is it still considered abuse if any direct abuse becomes less frequent, but there is gossiping, lies, and smear campaigns are done behind your back? The abuse usually starts up again after a while, though. I plan on leaving in-laws that are narcissists and I think they’re feeling me detach and want to “act” correctly and I notice that no big incidents are occurring. Thanks.

    • Natalie Hoffman

      Do you think gossip, lies, and smear campaigns are abusive? You get to decide and make decisions accordingly.

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    One thing to add to my comment is that my X did go to counseling and I even went to a couple sessions with him to see his counselor. I laid out to them both the things I’d already told him privately. After the 2nd session, his counselor said to him in front of me, “Maybe you need to find someone with less problems” …. needless to say, later on I just cried. I felt she may have become an enabler to him as I had been for years and maybe his family and others too. However, I know he feels sorry for whatever he did to me, not sure how truly repentant, as you describe repentance elsewhere on your blog. Of course, the unhealthy marriage dynamic evolved as it did in part because of my own unhealthy motional constitution as well.

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      I had a therapist do the same.somehow his behavior was ignored,insignificant yet my complaining about the abuse was the problem
      I was treated like the abuser,my cries for help were ignored,and somehow I became the abusive one,even though his behavior was the narcissistic behavior .I suppose I was the one who made him do it(I’m being sarcastic here).I became enraged after2 years,avd started reactive abuse,which of course only made me the “real” still so angry,I have never felt this much rage in my life.

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    I’ve read this post before but today I read it again because I have finally seen through the lies. I’m no longer a practicing Christian but when I was in the church, king penis ruined my life. After sobbing and winning an academy award for best crazy scene, my husband finally conceded and we left.

    I never thought he was abusive. He doesn’t call me names, hit me, and is the epitome of calm and collected. But he manipulates, has to always have his way, and silently controls me through guilt and omitting details and other BS that is dysfunctional.

    He has neglected me for years and years. I told a few people that I wrote a “compassionate demand letter” as suggested by my counselor, laying out boundaries and telling him if he doesn’t change, I cannot stay. One person told me that no marriage is perfect. Another seemed to suggest that I already had written him off so what’s the point? Not entirely true. I love him deeply but I also know if he can’t change, I have to leave.

    To suggest I’m to blame is ridiculous. There’s more than one way to leave and he divorced me in his heart a long time ago. I can’t unsee the abuse. It’s real and it’s painful and raw. I’m not sure how I’ll move on after 21 years of being with him but staying isn’t an option unless there’s actual real change which I’m not counting on.

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      I should say I was the one who had to act crazy to get him to concede. I’m the nut job. He’s normal.

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        Yes…. my husband says to me every day…. when are you going to get help? We all love you and you are n such denial … creepy!!! I’m in the first stages of paperwork to getting away from him. I filed for divorce. He’s got everybody thinking I’m crazy.

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    My whole family are Jehovahs Witnesses and there are several generations of dysfunctional people around Australia, families ruined by this sick culture of institutionalised abuse.

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    So glad I ran across your site! I am trying to get the word out into the public about this type of abuse! My niece was in this exact marriage for 20+ years, her husband had every one convinced she was depressed, mentally unstable, she was the problem not him! Well he never fooled me I know things that no one else knows! I tried so hard for years to get her to leave him but she never got the courage to do so. He would emotionally & mentally like send her flowers abuse her then do something nice like send her flowers, take her on a trip but then behind closed doors it was a whole different story! He made her withdraw from her family, her friends she couldn’t even hold a job because he would show at her place of employment and glare at her or point to his wrist as if he a watch on to let her know it was time for her to leave! My niece committed suicide 6 weeks ago and I believe it my heart she felt this was her only way out! I have lost family members & friends over her death because they think she done this because she was depressed , No she done this because he drove her to it! And I tell them the truth about her husband and they don’t believe me that he was abusive to her that’s because he has them all fooled! He wants people to think he is such a great guy well I know different . I will stand behind my niece and speak for her she did not deserve to leave this life so early!

    • Natalie Hoffman

      I’m just sick hearing this. I’m so sorry for your loss, and I’m livid with rage that a woman is forced to kill herself to find relief from covert abuse. This kind of tragedy will continue to happen until we can turn this around. I always say that emotional abuse IS physical abuse. This is the perfect, ultimate example of that. The truth of the matter is that your niece was systematically murdered. My heart goes out to you and her loved ones.

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        If I don’t act like he wants me to act he sulks, leaves the room and writes bad things about me in his journal, gives me one word answers, etc… Things he would never do in public….I hate living like this…I always have to look over my shoulder until the next time I can’t love up too enough of his expectations.

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      Praying for you and your niece Thank you for seeing her and knowing her and not giving up on what you know is the truth. I unfortunately recognize her story from personal experience. You have eyes that see the truth. I only escaped by a true miracle. It took seeing what was happening to my babies and having a family member believe me at the right moment. The amount of courage it took to leave is indescribable, if I had hesitated or known how hard it would be I would not have gone.

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      I believe it .the real problem with this abuse is that the people commiting it are people who manipulate the outside world .they take a beautiful innocent soul and burn it alive.when they react to the abuse it’s used against them ..see how crazed she is,now you see what I mean….it makes me sick it enrages me.i am so sorry about your niece.know that God knows the day the abuser will have to answer to him.

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    Thank you for your words. I am a man however and am just now realizing the abuse I have been enduring and trying to constantly fix and heal because “I was not a good man”. Constantly told I was not worthy of her love. I relate to your words and the experiences talked about, but I want you to know that this happens to men as well. At the moment I am still blaming myself and in the mind set of thinking I can make it work if I could “just be a better man”. But in my mind I know it will not. I fear the long journey as for some reason I love this person and think if she would just lean toward love it would’ve perfect. It has been heart crushing

    • Natalie Hoffman

      George, you’re right. I’ve known several narcissistic women, and I wouldn’t want to live with any of them. You may benefit from the website: – It’s specifically geared toward male victims of narcissistic abuse. I hope you will find the hope and healing you need to be free from narc abuse and find joy again.

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    My daughter has just left a 15 year emotionally abusive marriage and I have opened up my home for her and one of her sons.

    Her ex is doing exactly what your articles are saying “thank you”! He even has convinced her sons that “she is the problem”. I have seen this for years and am glad she has finally seen, but now I’m here with my hands full and need any advice I can get from those who have experienced this first hand.

    I want to provide a healthy place for her and her family. How can I best help her?

    Thank you for any advice!

    • Natalie Hoffman

      You are helping her just by listening, seeing it, and validating her experience. That is a HUGE help for a survivor. Be sure to check out the Flying Free membership group at It’s helped hundreds of women regain their sense of self and get out of their destructive relationships. You can also sign up to be on my mailing list at the top of this website.

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      Listen to her,as much as she talks,validate what she says to you let her know you care abd let her know you believe her and will stand by her no matter what.
      It doesn’t sound like much but after this type of abuse,when everyone mocked or ignored or called you a liar when you tried to reach out for help,this will do so much for her
      Trust me ,victims need someone on their side to talk to ,to be told they are believed and to feel safe with at least 1 person in their life it’s the best thing anyone can do short of putting the abuser in prison for the rest of their lives.

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    This article was one of a few that opened my eyes to what was really going on with me and my 14 year emotionally abusive marriage. Even though I have worked in a Violence Against Women organization and a private counselling agency, I could not identify the problem because oddly, there was no discernible cycle. Only a slow increase in the abuse, very much the “frog in the boiling water” effect.

    So thank you so much for this. It gave me the courage to say “Ok” the next time my husband threatened me with divorce and I ran with it. I’ve been separated from him for almost 3 months and as you described it in another post, am attempting to work my way through the many steps to freedom. The story is probably nothing new so will skip to the point of my comment.

    I’m so stuck.

    I’ve been struggling with so many symptoms of various mental health issues that every year my doctor has given me a new dx. I feel as crazy as it all sounds… depression, celiac, fibromyalgia, anxiety disorder, OCD, panic disorder, PTSD, which I realize is actually C-PTSD and insomnia. A year ago and a half ago I developed a sleep disorder that causes my body to jerk and convulse uncontrollably when I try to relax and let go to sleep This occurs pretty much every night and can last for as little as half an hour or as long as 8 hours. Sometimes I can fall asleep for an hour or so but wake up jerking. Even on nights when I don’t experience this, insomnia keeps me from falling asleep. As well, the panic overwhelms me almost constantly some nights, and just enough to keep me from getting into a deep sleep other nights. I haven’t slept more than 3 hours at a time in forever. And that I would consider a long stretch. Because of fibromyalgia, my system is highly sensitive and I don’t react well to most pharmaceuticals. Tried every potential natural tx with no success. The panic/C-PTSD just overrides everything I try. So have very limited resources medically. I do devotions twice a day, meditate, don’t watch TV and avoid all news, eat Paleo, take supplements, go for as much of a walk as I can manage, doing everything I know to do.

    I’ve also just this past weekend moved myself and my 94 year old mom to new house away from our former community, church and friends. We actually bought (she bought, I have no money) and moved in 5 weeks which was exhausting and extremely stressful. I expected that once I was in our new home away from him, I would be able to relax and finally get some sleep. Unfortunately it’s only gotten worse. Does anyone else experience these issues with sleep?

    I’ve been hunting online for help with this but haven’t found anything. I’ve been to one neurologist, (who told me I was fine), and am waiting for the referral to a second. In the meantime I’m so exhausted, extremely irritable, in a total fog and in so much pain, I don’t live. I just exist. I need to be healthy to care for my mom. I see both a counsellor and psychiatrist as well as my regular doctor but am not seeing any improvement. Is it just too soon? Are these effects permanent damage?

    I’m hoping that at some point you might write an article addressing the physical effects of C-PTSD and how to heal them, if it’s even possible. My faith is struggling as well. God created me to need sleep, and I know He could make it happen! I’m so desperate, and have become quite resentful that He hasn’t answered my hundreds of prayers for some relief and I’m doing everything I know how to on my end. I want nothing more than to heal at least some, and find my purpose for being here. Seems like I’ve always existed so bad things to happen to me (this marriage is just one of them). I wish I could think straight. But with the sleep deprivation and panic I’m not even sure what’s real or what is just my confused brain. Thank you for any advice or help you may have.

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    Thank you Natalie. I wish I had read your words of wisdom 10 years ago.
    Still I love your site.

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    I left an emotional and mentally abusive husband this early evening. Thank you for your website. This was my 3rd abusive marriage However I am learning and practicing boundaries. This marriage lasted 15 months instead of 15 years. I was sodomized and forced to perform oral sex by my adopted father from infancy to my early teen years. Text book background for attaching to abusive men. Love equals pain.

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      Vicki, I highly recommend Dan Allender’s books, Wounded Heart and Healing for the Wounded Heart. They have helped me immensely in dealing with sexual abuse.

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    I agree to comment policy

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    So would you consider a wife who was told for 10 months that there was no affair and then finds out he’s hiding all your savings. You leave but come back and he won’t go back to counseling because you’ve benn to 2 that we’re really screwed up. He shows you the money and spends the next two years trying to make it up but the ow messes with you on FB. Oh… no supposed Ow. You then see a post of the same style guest house and Home you picked out 3 weeks ago when you are supposed to move and build with him. On her page with nothing said. Abuse maybe? God help me!

    • Natalie Hoffman

      Definitely abusive. There is no honesty, respect, or care. I hope you will get the help you need to take care of yourself. The Flying Free Sisterhood group is available to you at

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        What is entailed in that. I need a new email as the one I use I’m not able to get back on. If you could let me know here. Thanks so much. I have no young children anymore… thank God but we still have some young adult kids living at home. Been married 35 years. This all happened in the last two.

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            Thank you Natalie! I wasn’t able to sign up for that before the cut off but I’ve read a lot of what you’ve shared and will figure out how to do the new free email.

            This all basically started for me over 2 1/2 years ago when I began to wonder if my faithful wonderful husband was having an affair. He was definitely going thru something and I knew it but I thought we were fine. It started with him losing his cool one night with a young adult son who was still living at home. Four days later I had his phone on a Sat. night while at my moms. It was professional but rubbed me the wrong way.

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              So, I brought it up to him that night and he went ballistic. He had never acted like that before in our over 30 year marriage. As I began to uncover some things and figure out his lies and who she was, I was devestated. I would talk to him privately but he would throw me under the bus in front of our young adult kids still at home.

              That is honestly when I knew something was wrong because he never and I mean Never even came close to this before. I wanted to hear what was coming out and it was crazy! All the while he was denying there had ever been a thing with her and that he had just lied to me about some things.

              We went to a counselor we knew. Twice. The second time I knew something was wrong with the counselor. We had known them for years. It took 2 weeks for his wife to get back to me. She had left him. He was physically abusive. They are divorced now after 27 years. He’s remarried. Ugg. She’s better off honestly. He was so narcissistic.

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              Trying to finish my comment…. So, after the fiasco of the first counselor, he picked an older man from our church who was not a counselor. Just a man who loved our family and had much wisdom.

              He didn’t help… lol Just leave that there.

              For 10 months Of circumstantial evidence and him swearing to me, groveling and even crying at times, I discovered he was hiding almost our entire savings and left his ass for 2 weeks.

              During that time he spoke to two people but didn’t tell the whole thing. He showed me all the money. He still had it.

              I went on the promised mission trip with our youngest son and came home with the promise from him we would find a decent counselor.

              He took me on a 6 day Anniversary. Trip that was actually very nice. He still swore no affair. I still had things I didn’t understand. We talked a lot.

              Two days later after trip, my brother committed suicide and we spent months helping my mom and sis in law as they both moved.

              My husband never physically has laid a hand on me. I actually punched him a few times when confronting him over the money. He honestly deserved it.

              So after dealing with the family drama over brothers suicide, he decide we didn’t need counseling. He just won’t go. He says he’s told me everything. It’s been a year and a half since I discovered the money. I have access to it all but I did before.

              We left our church. I had actually gone to two people and begged/ groveled for help without going into any detail.

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            I’ll finish up and hope you can piece it together. My other comments are below. I

            I’ve stayed with my husband in the hope that he’s told me the truth although the circumstantial evidence is ridiculous!

            He still swears no affair!

            I know how he treated me during that time was horrible emotional abuse. I didn’t realize it at the time. I do now that’s to reading some of your many valuable resources here!

            I will never allow that in my life again. Although I don’t have any reason to suspect it could still be going on, he still denies that it happened. I would really like to believe him.. She has messed with me on FB in the last year. He knows about it and even sobbed over one of them! Seriously did!!

            So when I see the exact style of the guest house ( not the actual picture though) but exact style of the one we picked out to build, shared on her page…. I’m like okay God… Can this be a coincidence?

            I’m watching everything carefully. He is back at an old job and does no work for her company. It took me a week to tell him. She has messed with me on FB in the last year 3 times. He knows it. She is simply evil. And married. And has preached in her church 3 times in the last year.

            There is a decent amount of money at stake here and his reputation with our kids.

            She has a husband and grown kids too. We also know about 50 mutual people.

            • Natalie Hoffman

              Wow. Crazy story. I can’t believe the stuff people go through. I hope God reveals all the crap going on. This is the worst part about abuse – how it is covered up and glossed over. So confusing.

            • Avatar

              Yes. It started out confusing for me because I was so blindsided. We were at a good place…. I thought….

              I really prayed for truth and clarity. It has honestly been eye opening to me. Honestly wanting to believe and trust the man that I thought I knew so well.

              I honestly believe he made a mistake. I’ve honestly asked the Lord to make it so clear to me before I take the next step because it won’t be pretty.

              I’ve never had this kind of drama in my life before. Except High School…. lol

              It’s not really funny but just ridiculous! I’m 57 and it’s crazy. I’ve loved my marriage up until this point.

              I read your story and others on here and realize honestly just how good I had it up to this point.

              We were young when we married and went thru stupid things but I never felt like I was abused until his emotional abuse from this situation. I can look at that time frame also and see he was being controlling in certain areas and I let it go because I didn’t want to stress him.

              Fresh… forget that shit now! I don’t allow for any of it. I’m watching. I would really prefer him to leave if one of us has to. He’s already tried to use me leaving as the bad thing and I stopped that in it’s tracks.

              I’ll keep you updated. I check your resources and they help. I’m praying for others on here too!

              Thanks Natalie!!

          • Avatar

            I got the new email. Thank you. I’m going to give it a test run first to make sure nobody can get on it before using it on regular basis. Thanks again.

  15. Avatar

    Thank you for everything you do. Your articles were some that gave me the conviction to leave, and helped me to maintain the strength of the conviction through the separation process. I’m proud of myself and hope that I can help others.

  16. Avatar

    Wow, so interesting. Is it really only women and children that can be abused like this though? I know it’s probably more likely given the church situation you explained… but I still get the idea that I might’ve seen the gender rolls you explained here switched on occasion. Curious to hear your opinion on that.

    • Natalie Hoffman

      Usually when the gender roles are switched under this type of theology, the man is believed to be the victim. So either way – the man is the victim and the woman is in the hot seat because women are viewed as “tripping up” men and causing their downfall more often than not. It’s a flip of what the Bible teaches – that women are created as Ezers – warriors who “saved the day” in battle. The enemy like to flip God’s truth upside down. It’s the way he spits on God.

      This blog is written for women – so the focus is on women healing from emotional and spiritual abuse. I hope there are blogs out there written to help men who have been emotionally abused as well. But that’s not my calling.

  17. Avatar

    I received your emails and been following your blog for many months…just yesterday I listened to another one of your videos.

    And I thank you for all you are doing in educating us all on what Domestic Abuse is.

    In this article, “What is Covert Emotional Abuse?” You hit the nail on the head.

    However, there is one group of people you didn’t mention who suffers at the hands of a Covert Abuser…. the family of the one who is a victim of this abuse,

    My daughter is married to a Covert Abuser, a Narcissistic Covert. The last 16+ years of the marriage has been ….awful….

    It’s a long story, yet she feels stuck to stay in the marriage, because of their two little daughters., who are 2 and 4. She left him once and he made her life pure hell, that she went back and feels for the safety and sake of the children she needs to stay with him…

    It breaks my heart to know that she gets tormented verbally every single week of her life.

    I pray for God to expose her husband sin and to be found out …I pray for a miracle for the sake of my daughter and precious grand daughters…I pray that I can remain strong for her….

    Have you had any other Mothers who worry for the emotional well being of their adult daughters?

    Her husband hates me and resent anytime she or the girls are with me or anyone in her family and he verbally makes her suffer each time…

    Any thoughts would be appreciated….

    • Natalie Hoffman

      I do know other moms/grandmothers who are going through this. It’s horrific. Unfortunately, if the victim is unwilling to go to a shelter or call an abuse hotline and get help, there isn’t anything a family member can do. Now, if you were to find evidence of physical abuse on the children, you could report that to CPS and they would investigate. But if the mom lies about it – or covers for her husband, there isn’t much you can do about that either. I’m so sorry. You must feel desperate to help. What a hopeless, sorrowful feeling.

      • Avatar

        Hello again, Natalie,

        I do want to let you know that my daughter has gone for help many times…

        Professionals, a Domestic Abuse Counselor andChristian Counselor and after the last one….she will never go to a Christian Counselor again.

        This woman was terrible…she actually told my daughter, in front of her husband that her husband was a “gentle giant” and she was a “Whistle Blower”

        You can imagine the damage that counsel did to her …and her “gentle giant” of a husband in all of his Narcissistic way…has held onto that and threatens to take away her daughters from her if she would ever try to leave…because of the “counseling” they have gotten through out the years, he says he could PROVE her an unfair

        Even the professionals were at a lost on how to help her…as he is a very clever Narc

        It’s not that she is unwilling to get help as you stated…..she did , many times, and was further abused….

        So she stays….

        It’s sad and it’s complicated…pray for her, for us…

        Thank you Natalie

        • Natalie Hoffman

          I’m so sorry. The damage done when a woman goes forward is just as bad as the damage done in the home. I experienced this exact same thing over the course of two decades. Would she be interested in going through the Flying Free membership courses? They are life changing. She can learn more at

  18. Avatar

    Thank you for writing this. People do not consider this abuse. Gas-lighting is also a favorite. And you are correct. They are two different people. One is a public persona designed to discredit you before you’ve even spoken. I’ve learned to play the game. Yes, my eyes are open I’ve grown up. It’s not that easy to just leave.

  19. Avatar

    I love you. Enough said.

    • Avatar

      I hope you understand that I meant, “my love of you says it all!” Please keep speaking up for all of us and passing on your courage!

        • Avatar

          I also went through a marriage and divorce with a Christian man. He manifested many characteristics of a covert emotionally (not physically) abusive person. His dad was far worse. I would say it was even more subtle than what I see described on most blogs or books. This is what makes it hard for me to discern, i.e., did I make the right decision to divorce. I had an emotionally neglectful mom, probably very narcisstic in many ways, and a loving, caring dad. Thankfully for the latter. So my marriage evolved into codependency, with me attempting to care for a very needy, insecure, self-absorbed man. He was emotionally neglectful, occasionally underminded me, never encouraged me in any way. Was never happy or thankful about anything. He didn’t have the capacity. I had a breakdown annd soon after, after 19.5 yrs, I separated, then months later divorced. People in my church didn’t know what to make of it, seemed more interested in preserving the marriage than taking care of me, and here I was a drowning woman. I do realize most people just don’t understand this kind of a dynamic in a marriage since it is so hidden. I do go to counseling now. Did lots of reading of blogs, books like yours, and listened to videos. Helped alot, still not sure I did the right thing, but I want to thank you so much for your work!

        • Avatar

          Natalie, thank you for your outstanding work! A couple individuals have mentioned bad counseling experiences. This is very common. Unfortunately, secular counselors receive absolutely no coursework or training on emotional abuse or domestic violence. They often blame the victim for being co-dependent (etc), mutualize the marital problems, are easily charmed by the abusive husband, and find it difficult to imagine he is really that bad. I thought I would be getting help. Instead, I was disbelieved and even blamed. I was shocked! I would recommend either for counseling or their article on how to select a therapist. Unfortunately, a lot of what you have described about going to the church for help, applies to general counselors. Again, thank you Natalie for dedicating your time to providing education and other resources that we desperately need. Thank you!



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