How To Replace Abusive Behavior with Positive Love

Annie's husband was often abusive to her. Usually, he would get upset if she wasn’t paying him her complete attention. A week before today, she was finishing dictating her daily report for work in the phone, when he began to scream at her for not paying attention to him. He slammed the door when leaving the house. But Annie - even when hurt - did her usual routine: she cleaned, cooked for him and kept the house in order besides attending her full-time job.

She decided that the most adequate response was to continue as if nothing happened; she attributed his behavior to exhaustion and had her best face on when he came home. Was she being empathetic to him? Or was she being a person unable to stand up for herself? Even more important: was her response the right behavior for stopping emotional abuse in the future?

The answer to the last question is “NO.” There are many factors by which people decide to ignore abuse, but it will not make the abuse disappear if you ignore it and be nice to your abuser.

Annie went through much of the early relationship believing that if she could be accepting and supportive, continually creating a loving home atmosphere, her husband's abusive behavior would disappear. Unfortunately, she was in fact rewarding her husband's negative behavior.

In response to his temper tantrum, Joe found her being attentive, nice and caring toward him. Ask yourself: why would he change his treatment of his wife if she responds so positively to his abuse?

We know through psychological research that behavior varies depending on its consequences. The “no critique, no punishment” that is Annie’s ideology only sends a message that she can take it, and that Joe will get what he wants when he acts abusively.

Hence, if Annie is nice to Joe when he treats her badly, she is signaling her submission to his anger and teaching him that is OK to continue being abusive.

So, what is the right attitude for healing emotional abuse? A firm, assertive response that clearly expresses your unhappiness. No grey areas here, but a strong condemnation of the abuse, and a definition of what is acceptable in the future.

As in:

“When you become so angry with me that you yell and curse like this morning, I feel really upset and hurt. That abusive behavior threatens the trust I have in you.”

“If this abuse goes on, I will leave the house. I will stay by myself until we can both reconsider what kind of marriage we want and how to get it.”

Learning to speak up assertively has to be following by congruent actions: If you say that you will leave the house temporarily when he yells at you, then do it. There is no other way to teach an abusive husband what are your limits about what kind of behavior will be acceptable.

If you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, being assertive requires respecting yourself. You need to realize that you are worthy of gentle, caring and respectful treatment by the person who says loves you the most. You also need to realize that you have a right to demand that treatment from the person who calls himself your “partner.”

Do you need help learning assertive techniques, or learning how to respect and empower yourself? We have many resources that you can start with:

  • A coaching session with Coach Nora to talk about your personal situation and what is best for you.
  • Healing Emotional Abuse,” a book specifically for women who have left (or want to leave) emotionally abusive relationships.
  • Our Healing Emotional Abuse blog, dedicated to giving you more information about what emotional abuse is.

You don’t have to suffer silently through abuse for a single day of your life. Learn what your options are today, and start living the life you want NOW.


Neil Warner
Neil Warner
I'm the “relationship guru,” and my main focus is to increase the quality of love-based relationship experiences. In this ground-breaking guide I offer useful strategies on healing a difficult angry relationship with love and compassion. You don't have to stay in an unhealthy relationship one more minute. Let us share our tools with you today.We can begin by you having a complimentary consultation at Conflict Coach, with a plan for action to change your life with new skills included. Just click this link and get started now!

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