I have been candid about verbal and emotional abuse. Sharing how words can cut deeper and leave a more permanent scar than even some physical wounds. There are many ways that abusive spouses use to manipulate to get you to bend to their own agenda or plans. And though I can share many thoughts on the subject I am thinking primarily of one of the more subtle yet particularly damaging ways that is not often talked about and that is isolation. Isolation is very damaging because it allows the abused spouse to be thoroughly and methodically brainwashed while eliminating outside, loving, healthy relational influences.
Now you may be thinking “Oh I would know if I’m being isolated.” Or maybe thinking “Well I go to work and do all kinds of things without my spouse so I’m not being isolated.” There are different types of isolation that may be surprising.
Here are a few ways in which isolation is used in an abusive marriage to control a spouse.
1. Isolation is used to weaken a partner by preventing them from hearing other people’s views and perspectives. It helps set the abuser center stage to influence and bring the victim in line with their beliefs, feelings, and views.
2. A spouse may be isolated because the abuser is trying to cut off their support. Abusers see anyone’s opinion different from their own as a threat. So they isolate the spouse from the one’s who feel differently therefore cutting off the victim’s support, often that is family but can also be a best friend.
3. Another way of isolation is the abuser may even present their marriage to the spouse as it is “us against the world.” They may say things like “no one in the world understands but you.” Or “you should not listen to those opinions because they don’t have the same beliefs as we do so they couldn’t possibly understand.”
Now, here are 3 different types or examples of isolation.
1. Emotional Isolation: This is when you are able to visit family or friends but not being able to be yourself. At first it is primarily when the spouse is with you. For example, you may not say things or talk freely for fear that it will cause anger and a horrible fight later with your partner. But as this kind of abusive behavior continues you are slowly brainwashed into the desired behavior of your abuser. You may contact the same ones you are being kept from but you will not talk freely or be yourself even if the abusive spouse is not with you because slowly you are conditioned to only behave, act , and speak in ways that only your abuser has approved of.
I received a call from a friend a few years ago and she was sharing with me how things had been really tough in her marriage. Her husband had convinced her that somehow her family and best friend’s influence wasn’t good for them and their marriage. Although her parents were good Christian people, they were not in the same denomination as her and her husband and he had convinced her that their opinions and thoughts were not right and did not support her husband’s ideas.
2. Verbal Isolation: It can go hand in hand with emotional isolation and is a very useful brainwashing tool in the abuser’s belt. Verbal isolation is when the abusive partner uses words to plead the case against the ones that they do not want their victim to see. It can make the other person feel that their choices in friendships or relationships with family members are just not right and should not be continued. It is such a twisted thinking process that typically this kind will actually keep you from pursuing or communicating with loved ones. It also keeps you from verbalizing your own feelings about your spouse to others.
That same friend told me that whenever she would try to reach out and see her family or when a rare holiday visit to her family was granted, prior to going, her husband would say things like “You’re just going to talk about me and what a bad husband I am after all I do and how hard I work.” Out of fear, guilt or shame or to trying to convince her abuser that she was not a bad person, she would not speak out against her husband. She could not share the despair or problems and would mislead them that all was alright. It robbed her from her support system and receiving validation that she indeed was a good person.
3. Physical Isolation: Obviously this is being kept from physically seeing and interacting with your loved ones. They are not allowed over at the house or you may not be allowed to call or stop by to see them. The abuser will sometimes go to great lengths to keep outside influences away from you, even wanting to move away to ensure that you don’t have a loving support network and rely solely on them.
A few years ago, a lady at work told me how she nor his father or extended family are welcomed at her son’s and that they have been denied access to their grandchildren because his wife has issues of disagreement with them.
Isolation in an abusive relationship is like being stranded on an island with no one but your abusive partner as the voice of God! But there is hope and freedom. God loves you and does not want you to be treated this way. Your partner’s abusive behavior is selfish and is designed to advance their wishes and their own selfish agenda and the bible is very clearly against that!
James 3:13-18 (MSG)
13-16 Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.
17-18 Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
Donna Mott is known as the “Blendermom” thrown in the mix of a blended family on her blog www.blendermom.me. She has a fourteen year old daughter and a nine-year old son, as well as a ten-year old bonus son. Together with her wonderful supportive husband, she is trying to teach her children the truest Christian values of loving God and loving each other through compassion and service. She is a 2009 graduate of “She Speaks” through Proverbs 31 ministries and has written for www.upliftingfamilies.com. She enjoys writing personalized poetry. She also writes and composes personalized songs for special occasions. She loves snuggling with her seven pound fur-baby, Maltipoo, Brady. You can follow her on Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram @blendermom3.