No one should have to live in fear of abuse by an intimate partner.

How to Overcome an Abusive Marriage

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Domestic violence is rampant in the United States, according to a November 2000 report from the U.S. Department of Justice. One in three women will be physically abused by an intimate partner in their lifetime, and 64 percent of violence against women is perpetrated by an intimate partner. If you are or were an abused wife, you need help to overcome an abusive marriage.

Recognize and Take Action

The first task in overcoming an abusive marriage is to admit you are being abused, physically, emotionally, verbally or mentally, according to Understanding the signs of abuse, such as isolation, name-calling, violence, belittling, sarcasm, fear and threats help you identify your situation so you can get help. Once you recognize that you are in an abusive marriage and acknowledge that the situation is getting worse, you can make plans to get out. Battered women’s shelters, police, friends and family are some resources you could have to get away from your abuser. Pack a bag and squirrel away money so that you can leave when the time is right.

Get Support

Even before you leave, you can get support you need to take control of your life. A battered women’s counselor or couple’s counselor can provide support and suggestions for staying safe, recovery and avoiding involvement with another abuser. You can also find help through support groups such as Sisters Overcoming Abusive Relationships (SOAR) and Adult Survivors of Abuse.

Become Free

Use counseling, job skills programs, housing services and any other available program to get on your feet, even if you stay in the marriage. The counseling will help you deal with the aftermath of physical and emotional abuse, and the other services will help you rebuild a life on your own. If you have children, they will also need counseling to recover from the abuse. Insist that your husband get help to stop the abuse or get out of the marriage and into a safe place. The first years will be the hardest, when you still jump at bumps in the night, work to overcome fear and depression from the abusive years and begin to slowly see yourself as strong, capable and worthy of having a good life. You might hear your spouse's words in your head, telling you that you are weak, stupid or worthless -- but they aren’t true. Stand firm and tell yourself that you can make a good life for yourself without abuse.


Getting on with life takes time, determination and deciding you aren’t a victim, according to Dr. Steven Stosny, psychologist and author of “How to Improve your Marriage without Talking about It” and “Love Without Hurt: Turn Your Resentful, Angry, or Emotionally Abusive Relationship into a Compassionate, Loving One.” Identify with the strength it took to stop the abuse and with an appreciation of who you have become through the healing, compassion and growth you have achieved. Stosny counsels that those who move into recovery should not identify themselves as victims or survivors, but they should thrive as they realize their full worth and potential.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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