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Is this emotional abuse?

Community Member

Hi, I want to leave my partner and take our 3 young kids (we would work out a parenting arrangement so he can still see them) but I’m finding it difficult to find the strength to just do it. My partner has made subtle criticisms over the years and can be condescending. He blames me for the washing machine and dryer breaking etc, comments on the distance I park my car from his, he used to stand over me while I was cooking telling me how to do it a ‘better way’. There lots more but basically making me feel like everything is my fault. It really hurt when he said our kids are like they are because I was too nice to them ‘earlier in the piece’ (our 5 year old has behavioural and sensory issues because he has anxiety from neurosurgeries a few years ago). Anyway, about a year ago my partner’s Mum realised we were unhappy and started saying you can’t leave him, you won’t be able to afford it etc (I actually never said I was leaving). I just agreed we were unhappy because she kept hounding me. She was telling me I should be having more intercourse with him and she started telling me what to do with my investments and that I should put my money into his house. Recently she was so rude and told me I need to make a decision about whether I’m leaving her son or not, told me my kids are out of control and that she thinks I had postnatal depression 3 years ago after my 2nd baby was born. My partner is all for his Mum and sticks up for her in any discussion I have with him and I feel like it’s 2 against 1. I feel like I’m not needed and they would rather me not be here. They tell me it’s better if I don’t come home straight after work because it revs the kids up! I feel so sick to the stomach and as if I’m losing control as my kids Mum. My partner’s Mum looks after the kids when I work 2.5 days a week but she’ll stay until 9:30 every night. She comes and helps her son if I work a weekend day so she’s too involved. If my Mum offers to look after the kids she will text me and ask ‘why is your Mum doing more days now?’ Anyway, sorry for the rant but I need the strength to leave and want to know if this is emotional abuse by my partner and his Mum? Thanks for ready.

8 Replies 8

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi welcome

I don’t think it’s emotional abuse but it is unnecessary pressure. I also think you are considering leaving too early.

I would arrange relationship counseling to sort out some issues.


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Goal2content, and a warm welcome to the forums.

I don't have different thoughts than what Tony has but believe this is emotional abuse (sorry Tony) because it can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more intimidation, manipulation, and refusal to ever be pleased and I believe this is exactly what's happening with you.

Emotional and psychological may not be about physical abuse but it's an insidious way of trying to control you and make you at fault, especially when she wants to know why your mum is doing more

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Sorry, it went through for no reason.

-------your mum is doing more to help you, because to your MiL that's encroaching on her time.

To tell you not to come home straight after work for any particular reason is not for them to say.

If you decide to leave can you stay at your parent's place or will you need to find some place else.

Hope to hear back from you.


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Dear Goal2content

Hello and welcome. So sorry to hear about your difficulties. Yes I do think this is emotional abuse and manipulation. I know how it feels because my husband was the same. In the end I believed I was useless and could not do anything. It is soul destroying and now your mother-in-law has joined in you are under more pressure.

Let your mom take the children while you work if possible. Have you told her what is happening? It really is bad for you to be under such continual pressure. It has nothing to do with your MIL, but is a difficulty between you and your husband. It took me a long time to believe in myself even after I left. I was there for 30 years. Please don't leave it that long.

Constant put downs and trying to organise your life for you are very difficult to complain about when you talk about them or think about them as individually they do not seem much. It is the accumulative effect on you that is doing the damage. Please do not succumb to the suggestion that you do not return home after work. Apart from your right to see your children and put them to bed it sends a bad message to your children that you do not care for them. It also gives your husband ammunition to say you are not a suitable mother if there is any dispute about where the children should live.

You can try telling your MIL that how you manage is your concern but it may lead to more abuse. Please consider your options and as Geoff says, perhaps you can live with your parents in the immediate future while you sort out a home for yourself. I also suggest you talk to someone from the Women's Legal Service in your state. It's easy to become overwhelmed by someone telling you what they consider your rights are etc and you may find you give up before you have started.

If you are certain you want to leave, then start making plans without discussing it with your husband and MIL. You need to have everything prepared as much as possible before you go.

Hope this is useful. Please continue to write in here.


Adding on to my story. I ended up leaving my partner but now I'm wondering if anyone can shed some light on what is wrong with me. I'm so angry that I feel rage sometimes, gritted teeth rage and I feel like I'm crazy. I hate everyone, except my kids and friends. I can't stand the sound of the kids' toys dropping on the floorboards but I don't get angry about this. I just feel shaky like my legs are weak, I'm so tired, my body aches. I'll try to keep my story short. 6 years ago my first son was born at 34 weeks. Then had a surprise pregnancy. I had an incompetent cervix so gave birth to him at 17 weeks (autopsy showed nothing wrong with him). I got a permanent stitch in the hopes I could hold another baby. Got pregnant with another boy. A few months
later my first son had 3 lots of neurosurgery. My MIL got cancer at this time also (we got along at this stage). Had my 2nd earth side son and he screamed, he is still a hard child to deal with at 4. Then I had my daughter who is still a happy child at 3. When my last baby was born I remember being finally content. Then my MIL just turned on me. She emotionally abused me when no one was around for 18 months, my now ex partner didn't believe me, my 5 year old was an anxious mess so I asked him what was going on. He
told what Grandma was telling him. I left because it was a bad environment for everyone. Oh, and my first son had behavioural issues for 4 years which I was blamed for, belittled and made to feel
paranoid, it's my fault and he's a spoilt brat. This was from people I should have been able to trust (partner and MIL at the time, even my own Mum). I finally decided this year after talking to his teachers to
get an Autism assessment and yes, he has it. I should have listened to my instinct years ago but my confidence had been squashed. The stupid thing is my ex MIL used to diagnose Autism and she constantly brushed me
off saying he?s just naughty. I have been a single parent for 10 months and I have spoken to counsellors on the phone. I went to psychologists but they always wanted me to come without my kids but I don?t have anyone to look after them. Should I be checking myself into the hospital? I think the things I?m depressed about are things I can't change so maybe I need to learn acceptance and to sit in my crap life for a while. I'm scared to be happy because the next crap thing will probably happen. Meanwhile, I've always had to sit here watching my
friends? easy lives. I'm so sick of it. TIA

Without knowing all the detail, the problem may not have been the marriage. You have had a run of bad luck; the fallout from that will not change overnight. In short, there are no quick fixes.

Generally speaking, "easy lives" come from good life choices. That being said, there are obvious exceptions.

Are you seeing a counsellor or a phycologist. If no, now might be a good time to start.

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member


I would like to politely disagree with easy lives being about making good choices

I think we are all doing our best for the moment, and when having mental health struggles of course it is hard and we don't always make the best choices....

but we try

In any moment to do our best...

I believe we are all trying our best

And the question is not if life is easy today...it may not be... and like mrPaul said -there are no quick fixes to ensure that in the next hour it can be easy, but if it is slightly easier slightly better than yesterday....we can hold hope

If you feel that u need to go to a MH hospital or for respite for any reason - there's no shame in that. Many ppl go and say it's thebest thing they could'v done

I hope u are doing okay

Hi Sleepy

I have no issue with what you are saying, MH was one of the many exceptions I had in mind when I said, "there are obvious exceptions". For brevity, I chose not to go into detail.

You can only play the hand you are dealt; what you make of that hand, is up to you. Good decisions tend to lead to better outcomes. Bad decisions will lead nowhere good.