How to Deal with a Cruel Spouse: 10 Powerful Ways
In This Article
Is there a way to deal with cruelty? When you marry, you naturally expect your spouse to be loving and caring towards you.
But what if that never happens? Losing the initial fizz in your romance may be okay. In fact, that happens with all couples at some point. But what if the person you love starts behaving completely differently toward you?
What if that love that once was is now replaced with cruelty, arrogance and even hatred? What can be done and how do you deal with a cruel spouse?
What is a cruel relationship?
“My husband is cruel, and I feel alone in our marriage.”
When a spouse is cruel, it won’t show at the beginning of the relationship.
Over time, you will notice how the loving person you have married turned into a different person, someone who attacks you or your relationship.
Cruelty in marriage is the opposite of your vows. It’s the opposite of love.
A cruel relationship is an abusive relationship. It’s where a person who knows how to hurt you deliberately and does it on purpose.
How cruel, right?
Indeed, if you see your spouse as cruel, is it possible to save the marriage? What can you do about it?
How to deal with a cruel spouse
If you think you have an abusive husband or spouse. Should you immediately pack your bags and leave? Or would you rather try and make it work out?
If you still have faith in the relationship and feel that things can work out between you and your spouse or that matters can still be repaired, here are some ideas for you.
Brick by brick, try to rebuild your relationship with them and start from the very beginning. Many people have been through such concerns before, so believe that things can be remedied with some effort.
Learning how to deal with a cruel spouse is important for you to keep your sanity and know that before you let go, you’ve done your best and your part as a loving spouse.
1. Identify the problem. Where and when did it start?
The first thing you need to do is understand the reason behind this behavior change.
“What happened? Why is my husband cruel to me?”
There could be many reasons for this. It could be that your partner is facing problems at work or going through financial troubles. Of course, this is no reason to be mean, right?
You see, sometimes even substance abuse can be the reason. Did you know that more than 20 people per minute are physically abused by their partners? Then comes another type of abuse which involves physical pain.
If physical violence is present in your marriage, what about other types of abuse? The numbers are much bigger and you should start understanding where you are.
Learn to look back and identify the problems; from there, list the facts and pinpoint where everything started.
Related Reading: 30 Common Relationship Problems and Solutions
2. Choose how you respond
One thing to learn on how to deal with a cruel spouse is to control how you respond. You can’t change this person in an instant, nor can you control what this person would do, but what you can control is yourself.
If you let triggers get to you and you yell, be defensive, and feel bad about yourself, then who wins?
Your spouse points out how bad your cooking skills are and how you’re inferior to others. Your spouse wants you to feel bad about yourself.
Please don’t do it. Control your anger and how you respond, which becomes your small win.
3. Call out your spouse when cruelty happens
Draw your spouse’s attention when you see cruelty happening. It’s a part of learning how to deal with a cruel spouse.
Unlike what your spouse might try to insinuate, it’s not your fault. This person is clearly and consciously creating drama in your relationship, so they must be aware of their actions.
You don’t have to create a bigger issue to call your spouse out. Sometimes, just ignoring your spouse or being cold is enough for this person to realize their mistakes.
“Whenever you laugh at how I gained weight. You hurt me a lot. Please stop doing that.”
This is one of the simplest ways to let your spouse know they are already hurting you. If it works, then good. If not, then you will need to check the other steps.
4. Discuss their issues and try to help
An emotionally abusive husband will often use commanding and bossy language, treating you as a subordinate to him. It is a good idea to pinpoint the harsh statements used while talking to him. Please do not allow them to abuse you emotionally.
On the other hand, emotionally abusive wives use “servant-like” language while communicating with their husbands. Imperious and short sentences are common.
Restrictions are the most dominant.
Try discussing these concerns with them in a non-violent, logical and constructive way. If there is a problem underlying such behavior, you should also discuss that.
Typically, there could be two types of problems:
The ones that involve you and your family.
The ones that do not.
If it is the latter, you should thoroughly explore all the things that bother them. Offer to help as much as possible in exchange for mutual love and respect. If it is the former, you should seek professional help.
5. Speak out
“My husband is cruel and mean, but I don’t know how to stand up for myself.”
Sometimes, because of the shock, the victim doesn’t know how to defend themselves against their abuser. Start when your spouse talks down on you.
“Great. I married a pea-brain like you.”
You can say that you’ve heard those words loud and clear and your spouse should stop using those words.
Be firm with your words and don’t let your cruel husband or spouse intimidate you. If you keep giving in, you cannot get out of your toxic relationship.
Related Reading: 10 Ways to Speak Your Truth in the Relationship
6. Start setting boundaries
“Is my spouse mentally cruel when all this person does is belittle me, shout at me, and throw hurtful words?”
The answer is a big YES. At the first few signs of verbal abuse, you need to learn how to set boundaries for yourself. If not, verbal abuse will escalate and become worse. Soon, you might even experience mental torture and physical abuse.
Let this person know that if the abuse continues, you will no longer tolerate it. Leave if you’re having a conversation and your spouse belittles you again.
It is better to do this than to absorb all the negativities.
7. Plan an exit route
If you see signs of abusive behavior in your spouse, always prepare an exit plan. First, let this person know that you’re not someone who will stay in a relationship filled with abuse and cruelty.
But be very careful.
There may be some cases where the abuser can also burst and become physically abusive. So carefully plan an exit route.
Talk to people that could help you and save money. You can also prepare a small bag that you can take and, of course, your kids, if you have any.
8. Get all the support you need
Toxic relationships might end, but do you know what you need in this tough time of your life?
You need the support of your family and friends.
You need these people who won’t judge you but will lift you up. Most likely, the trauma of learning how to deal with a cruel spouse has affected your self-esteem and even your thinking.
Don’t hesitate to seek support and help from them.
Peter Levine, Ph.D., offers two amazing and effective body-oriented techniques that you can use to feel safe outside of your session.
9. Discuss the future of your relationship
If you feel that your efforts still did not change their cruel attitudes and tendencies, then it is time you seriously think about discontinuing the relationship.
Separation, especially after many years of marriage, is difficult. No matter how cruel your spouse was, there may even be feelings of regret. Your emotions may tell you that it is perhaps not the right thing.
However, as a victim of their cruelty, you have every right to leave them. Remember that you deserve to be in a loving, committed and happy relationship. Move on to make this a possibility for you in the future.
10. Reach out for professional help
Many couples believe that asking for professional help means discussing your privacy with someone new. However, many professional therapists have successfully been able to help hundreds of couples.
There could be much help, such as Marriage.com’s save my marriage course, relationship courses, and other programs to help you and your spouse. That is if you still want to work things through.
It may not be easy to talk your spouse into this. Explain to them that it is for the best. After all, being cruel and abusive tends to affect both partners after some time.
Therapists offer professional advice as well as some really interesting scenarios. You will go through a series of imaginary situations and role-plays. This will make you reconsider your love and start looking at your relationship from a different perspective.
A therapist can also make sure that there is a clear line between mutual combat and abusive behavior. When the line is drawn, they will also determine the level of “power difference” that exists in the marriage.
If you find that a therapist cannot help, it is time to move on to a new one. It is not unusual for this to happen. Their methods may not be suitable enough for you but another professional can help.
Should you even stay in such an abusive marriage?
Cruelty can become violence and violence can lead to horrible consequences. The cruel partner may eventually indulge in physical abuse and make you go through awful psychological traumas.
That is why any form of reconciliation is out of the question.
It is important to know that you are not alone in this.
Once everything is over, it is important to see what your marriage could have become if you had stayed together.
Related Reading: 6 Reasons of Spousal Abuse In A Marriage
5 short-term consequences of emotional abuse
At first, you might feel that it’s normal for a married couple to experience such trials in life. You might view it as a tough phase of your relationship, but soon, learning how to deal with a cruel spouse can affect you.
These are called the short-term effects of cruelty in marriage. You may start feeling:
- Fear that you might be in an abusive relationship
- Confusion about what went wrong with your marriage. Who’s at fault?
- Uncertainty if you can still fix your situation or move on
- Hopelessness because you see that the person you married may not be the one for you
- Shame, as you must face all the people close to you because you’re in a cruel relationship
These short-term effects can show up in behavioral and physical side effects. You may experience the following:
- Difficulty concentrating on your daily tasks
- Moodiness because of frustrations
- Muscle tension every time you experience cruelty or abuse
- Nightmares and a fast heartbeat because of the trauma
- Various aches and pains in your body due to the effects of stress
5 long-term consequences of abusive behavior
If you stay in an abusive relationship, expect to have long-term effects in your life.
All types of abuse are equally destructive. Even emotional abuse is as damaging as physical abuse; over time, the victim shall exhibit long-term side effects.
Two of the most damaging are low self-esteem and depression. We all know how these two can ruin a person and sometimes, it could lead to more severe long-term problems.
Aside from these, a person in an abusive relationship shall have the following:
- Chronic pain
- Uncontrolled fear
- Social withdrawal or loneliness
Unfortunately, it’s not just you who will have to deal with a cruel spouse. If you have kids, they too will experience severe long-term effects that can hinder their mental health and future.
How does abuse affect children differently?
As with adults, the emotional abuse of kids may not show upfront. Though, an emotionally abused child may show:
- Social withdrawal or lack of interest in socialization
- Aggression toward other kids
- Regression of their feelings or not being able to express themselves
- Sleep disorders that may hinder their growth
If these signs don’t get treated and the abuse doesn’t stop, these kids will grow up carrying these signs that will later develop into something worse.
Other people might think that those kids who grew up in an abusive environment will grow up to abuse their future partners, but most of them don’t.
They might grow up to tolerate the painful abuse until they attract the same abusive traits to their partners.
As adults, the signs of abuse might develop into:
- Sever eating disorders
- Heart disease
- Mental health issues
- Substance use disorders
Commonly asked questions
What should a wife do when her husband is cruel?
“I hate to admit it, but my husband is cruel and abuses me all the time. What should I do?”
Disagreements are normal. Sometimes, we don’t even feel like seeing our spouse, but being mean? What else could it be?
It’s the exact opposite of love and affection. Being mean is a conscious decision that you want to hurt your partner by any means you can.
So what should you do with it?
Understanding and tolerating are different things. You may try to understand why this happens and if there is an underlying issue.
But if this continues, then you should know how to set boundaries, call the destructive behavior, and leave, if you must. The point is that you need to stand up for yourself and not let your spouse disrespect you.
How to cope with an emotionally and verbally abusive husband?
Learning how to deal with a cruel spouse depends on the situation. Some mean spouses can still change with the help of being called out, given boundaries, and through professional help.
But what if it’s beyond cruelty? What if your spouse has started abusing you?
Remember that abuse, may it be in the form of psychological, emotional, or physical, is all the same. It would help if you did not tolerate abusive behaviors.
Coping isn’t just being silent or being an understanding spouse. Coping also means standing up for yourself, gathering all your strength, and leaving.
Sometimes, coping means being strong enough to walk away from your marriage and ask for help.
To sum up, when you have to deal with a cruel spouse, it is important to be the one who does not lose the nerve.
Aside from not allowing triggers, you should also be strong enough to know what you deserve and in this matter, you can set boundaries. If the abuse or cruelty escalates, it’s time for you to know what to do next.
Seek professional help as soon as possible. If everything fails, the only logical step is to divorce.
You deserve nothing more than a loving spouse and a parent to your kids. Any form of cruelty or abuse should not be present.
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