Am I Imagining the Abuse in My Relationship?

October 11, 2013 Kellie Jo Holly

You probably are not imagining the abuse in your relationship. The abuser has tricks that make you believe the abuse is all in your head. But is it? Read this.

So often, people ask me the question "Am I imagining the abuse? Is it just in my head or is there a problem with my marriage?" Sure, sometimes problems are just in our heads, and we might also make mountains out of molehills. I suppose you could be imagining problems where there are none, and you could be imagining abuse. But if outside of your relationship your judgment seems sane, then I really doubt you are imagining the abuse. More likely, the effects of abuse are messing with you.

You Think You're Imagining Abuse Because of the Effects of Abuse

The Effects of Abuse Undermine Your Perceptions

What is likely happening is that the abuse is causing you to doubt your perceptions, to doubt the abuse is actually happening. Your abusive partner consistently paints him- or herself as the one who knows the truth while you're oblivious to the big wide world around you. Because you love and admire your partner, you naturally consider their opinion - even when their opinion paints you as less than you are.

Over the years, suffering from this type of degrading treatment causes you to seriously doubt "who you are." And, in your confusion, you try to conform to "who your partner thinks you are." Being someone is better than being no one, right? The transformation happens slowly, quietly, until you wake up one day not knowing who you are or who you want to be. You're confused because even though you're working hard to be the partner that you're told you should be, that identity isn't working for you either.

Abuse in a relationship is tricky and the abuser has tricks that make you believe the abuse is all in your head, that the abuse is imaginary. But is it?Identity confusion (wondering who we are) leads directly into the abuser's other trick of making you doubt your perception--everything you see, hear, feel, etc. The combination leaves you so mentally wobbly that it is very difficult to see the abuse as real. It's easier to convince yourself that you're imagining the abuse than to believe someone you trust can behave so evilly.

Abuse undermines your perception so you will doubt your identity so abuse can undermine your perception some more.

The Effects of Abuse Make It Difficult to Think Things Through

Is the abuse in your head or is it a marriage problem? Let's think this through: there's you, there's your partner, and there's your relationship (marriage). Three separate entities. Because YOU + THEM = MARRIAGE, for the marriage to be healthy, both of you must be healthy. If one of you is not relating to the other in a healthy way, then there is no way for the marriage to be healthy. So yes, in that sense, there is a problem in your marriage.

And yes, you do have some personal issues to attend to because no one is completely mentally healthy 100% of the time. However, once your marriage is infected, the disease will infect the healthiest partner, too (by far, the healthiest partner would be you).

The thing many abuse sufferers do not consider is that their personal issues were mostly caused (or at least magnified) by the infected marriage. And the infected marriage was caused by your partner. Your partner is the one who wants power over you. Your partner infected the marriage in their attempts to get to you. Your marriage infected you. If your partner can cure themselves (a.k.a. change), they can cure the marriage. If the marriage can be cured, then you can be cured too. If the marriage cannot be cured, there's no hope for you either unless the marriage ceases to exist.

So, You're Not Imagining the Abuse. Now What?

Some people stay in abusive marriages and find themselves feeling better after detaching themselves from the relationship and their partner. You can sort of emotionally quarantine yourself from the infection. You can go along okay like that, but if you are not attached to the relationship or the abuser, then is it really a marriage?

You don't have to answer that question today. You don't have to leave now (or ever). The choice will always be there, and it will always be yours.

But I would very much like it if you and a mentor, counselor, or a volunteer at the National Domestic Violence Hotline could work together to prove to you that your perceptions are valid so you can believe in yourself again. Believing in you is the very best way to inoculate yourself against the infection.

You can also find Kellie on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2013, October 11). Am I Imagining the Abuse in My Relationship?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 14 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

July, 30 2015 at 7:52 am

Its articals like this that upset me. It paints abusers as inhuman monsters. Do you not understand what its like trying to find help for your issues when over three quarters of articals about abuse are for victums? It makes it hard for people to openly admit they have a problem when people are just going to call them a monster. Just thinking out loud but maybe there wouldnt be near as many abuse victums if help was more available for people who abuse and other people werent so fast to sentence.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
July, 30 2015 at 9:37 am

That comment blames the victims for speaking up about the abuse. It also assumes that people who abuse don't have the sense needed to understand they need help. You obviously know you need help. You should look in the places that would support you: talk to a therapist or even call the NDVH ( and ask about batterer prevention programs in your area. (You may not be a batterer, that's just what the programs are called.)
Fact of the matter is that abusive people get what they want when they abuse others. The abuser's method works, and it would take an extremely emotionally and mentally stunted person to be unable to understand that they're hurting others. (You understand this, so obviously, I'm not speaking to you.) Even people with Narcissism know if they care about another person's feelings or not (they don't - symptom of the disease - but they know they don't care).

June, 30 2014 at 4:40 am

I was with a noncommittal man for over 7 years. However, he has dependent on me for the first 5 while trying to get his medical license reinstated. I hung in there thru recovery/rehab, all the job rejections and requirements of the medical board. Slowly he started getting more and more verbally abusive. We are now apart because the last cussing was so bad that after he went to work I packed up and left. I was driving 2 hours a week as I did not quit my job when he relocated. I heard he was on and in touch with his previous girlfriend. Every time I would bring up something he did with regard to inappropriate conduct he would cuss me out so bad with terrible words telling me that if I didn't change my attitude I could get the --------out. I could never prove anything but my instincts were so strong it would wake me from a dead sleep. He constantly pushed every weekend to know exactly what time I was leaving on Sunday and if I talked to him any time after I left he was always hateful. The majority of the time he was so good to me, kind and giving with all of the gifts, trips, dinners at the club, etc., etc. We have talked a couple of times and he says for me to get counseling and then we can discuss things because I need it for me insecurities. He said he was sorry for "raising his voice" but I am the one that is delusional. I wrote him a long letter and just let him have it about how I had sacrificed the time in my life, my kids and grandkids and all the support/money/time off work to help him, etc., I guess now that he has his big house, big truck and is making $500,000 or more a year-guess I'm not needed anymore.
How can he possibly justify all of this? I am so hurt and so sad as I can't believe after 7 1/2 years a man would just walk away, see other women but in the same breath say "I love you more than anyone I ever loved but we can't live like this until you get help." I can't quit thinking about it all the time. I have done a lot of research and have realized that perhaps I have just been in a narcisstic relationship and was too dumb to realize it.

February, 24 2014 at 5:30 am

I am feeling really crazy today. After being in the honeymoon phase for two months things have started to shift. He’s putting a lot of pressure to get me to move back in with him (I moved our 2 1/2 years ago) and this weekend he was full of jokes about killing me. He often teases when we watch one of those ID channel shows but I’m starting to realize that it is getting to be constant. We saw a show where someone hired a killer to kill their spouse and he looked into my eyes and said “F**k that! I’d want to do it myself!” Then he laughed it off. Funny it wasn’t until I got home that I started shaking and crying. I’m still feeling traumatized. But I know that if I called him now he would be “normal” again and it makes me feel crazy. Should I be worried? It’s so hard because he’s been the sweet guy I fell in love with over the last couple of months and I was actually thinking about moving back in. Now I am scared to death to even talk to him.

Jean Turner
January, 30 2014 at 10:42 am

I know my marriage is infected. It's been 27 years and I decided about 8 years ago to be me and do what I want to do. That was only after taking out loans to go to college so I could support myself. My husband is textbook. I am so tired of educating myself on abuse. With him it's verbal, psychological and spiritual. He rages, breaks things (my things) and the next day or even the same day he wonders why I'm still mad at him. He'll tell me it never happened or minimize it. My youngest daughter graduates from high school next year and that's my countdown. It's all too confusing to try to figure out. He's never going to change and although I have changed, in that I try not to let it get to me, he still throws temper tantrums and uses fear and intimidation. I take acid reflux medication and anxiety medication. I daydream about running away and wonder if I can make it another year.

January, 11 2014 at 9:29 am

leah till, can we talk. I just got out of an abusive relationship..well ive "gotten out" multiple times and go back. I think he is changing, but my doubts are there and all the damage and crazy abusive emotionally sexually and psychologically and verbally that he has done makes me straight up confused. looking for some advice for people who actually have been through it . sicne abusers are so chamring most people say 'stay with him'

Leah Till
October, 16 2013 at 4:49 am

Article is great.
I was married for 20 years, to a Narcissistic abuser. The abuse I suffered was more mental than physical, but the beratements and control have left a lasting impact on me, and my trust of other people.

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