Justifiable Abuse?

After eight years of marriage, I’m calling it quits. Why? I feel that my spouse subjects me to cruelties that no human ought reasonably be expected to bear.

For the past three years or so, when we argue, she will make profane suggestions and insults in explicit language. And this is with no regard for the presence or absence of our young (2-4yo) children. Calling me a fking ahole or suggesting that I f**k my mother or brother are reasonably common examples.

I have told her repeatedly that regardless of our difficulties and differences that this is one tactic that is way out of line. I love my children dearly (my wife knows and acknowledges this) and they do not need to hear this. IMHO, my wife understands my feelings about this issue only too well and uses the profanity strategically.

When pressed, she explains that her behavior is justified. That the pain I feel as a result of her statements is comensurate with how my actions and statements make her feel. Now I’m fairly mild-mannered. I don’t cheat, don’t beat, don’t cuss in front of the kids. That being said, I haven’t been the ideal husband either. And while our prospects are (were?) bright, we haven’t exactly been living in ideal circumstances lo these eight years. But have I done anything that could actually justify my wife’s behavior?

IMHO, this is abuse. Even if it were a justified, I’d still face the near impossibility of renewing intimacy with my abuser. Thus, our marriage’s final curtain call.

But perspective can be a vacuum. Is there something I’m not seeing? I’m interested in getting input about my wife’s justification. Could she be right? In some circumstance, might the repeated use of profane insults and suggestions in front small children actually be justified? I hope that doesn’t sound facetious as I ask it sincerely. And to make this a poll, what exactly IYHO (in your humble opinion) would I have to have done to justify her behavior?

Sounds like she’s simply mastered the art of manipulation to me. “Justifiable abuse” is a contradiction in terms… and, given how she uses it, she’s shown that she doesn’t want to show any regard to her family. She’s only out for Number One.

But don’t call it quits just yet. Get a small tape recorder. Keep it with you at all times. Next time you two start arguing, hit the “Record” button. There’s the evidence you need for divorce court without having to wind up paying alimony OR having to share the kids.

Just don’t let 'er know you have it… or if you do, put a few messages of “Daily diaries” or something on it as cover. Yeah, I know it’s sneaky and underhanded, and it’ll feel unpleasant doing, but she’s shown that such steps are necessary.

I think in order to answer fairly we’d need to know why you weren’t, in your own words, “the ideal husband”.

Verbal abuse is only very rarely justified, and it sounds to me like your wife has recognised a useful weapon when she sees one. She feels hurt by what something you’ve said or done, and so she tries to hurt you back. Perhaps you could think together about a better way to resolve a hurtful situation. Have you discussed with her alternative behaviours for when you’re both upset? Before she yells at you, does she try to explain why she feels like yelling, or has it gone past that? It sounds to me like she just got exasperated with the usual methods of trying to get her point accross and doesn’t know anything else that works as well as being verbally abusive does.

I have no doubt that her using these words, especially in front of the children, is upsetting, but have you really thought about why it is upsetting? When she says these things how do you actually feel? Genuinely insulted? Or undermined?

Disclaimer: I don’t know you or your situation, so if i’m way off the mark, forgive me. Take care.


I don’t have a problem with the harsh lanquage. Tempers flare and some words are better at driving the point home.

But the kids do not need to witness the exchange of such words.

I don’t care what you have done, ** choosybeggar**, using that kind of language or even just yelling at you in front of your children is wrong, wrong, wrong. They cannot understand their parents fighting like that and should not under any circumstances be subjected to it. It must scare the crap out of them and whether or not it is abusive to you, it is certainly abusive to them.

That said, IMHO, her behavior toward you is wrong even if it were in private. Fighting is one thing, and I understand that couples fight, but the kind of things you describe her saying make her sound as if she cannot discuss the issues that are contentious. Sure, the occasional “F**k you” when one is really angry is forgivable, IMHO, but then you have to discuss the issues. If she cannot do that, what are you left with in terms of a relationship?

Your post made me sad for all of you. I hope, no matter what you choose to do, that you and your family have a better situation soon. No one can be happy with things the way they are now.

I agree with SPOOFE Bo Diddly that justifiable abuse is a contradiction in terms, and I also believe that it is never justifiable to try to win by intimidation or manipulation. Have you tried marriage counseling?

Good luck to all of you.

I cannot imagine any situation where talking to your spouse this way is justifiable. To speak that way in front of your children is just awful. I can tell you this: I (and my sisters) all clearly remember a fight our parents had where my mother went off on a vicious rant. We were all terrified. I was about 3 at the time, my sisters 5 and 7. We all remember it, every single word. All these years later, I remember how scared I was to hear those words.

You are correct- she has no right to do that, and no right to do it in front of the kids, period.


I grew up in a home in which violence between my parents was common. And “violence” to a 4 year old is not the same as “violence” to an adult. It is true, you remember every word of every argument, and you carry it with you into your adulthood. This is their example of how a marriage works. This is, in my NOT so humble opinion, absolutely outrageous behavior on her part. If it doesn’t fall under the heading of “child abuse,” it should.

How is she going to treat a child who she has difficulties with later?

You do not deserve this type of verbal abuse no matter what you’ve done. If she doesn’t like your actions, she has other options, such as leaving the marriage. Abusing you and your children is NOT one of those options.


Thanks all for the support.

I think this is on the mark.

Fair enough. So as not to bias this to my advantage, I’ll try to relate my shortcomings from her perspective as well as my own. To sum up, she feels unloved. That I’m there for her only when it’s convenient for me. That I’d rather be playing ultimate frisbee with my friends than spend time with her. That I won’t ever take vacations with her. That she makes all the effort in the relationship and had from day one.

We are both fledgling physician/researchers and have hectic schedules and lives. My response to many of her complaints is that given the career paths and family life we’ve both chosen, not having enough time for one another is a perennial fact of life.

She also feels that I fail when it comes to life’s little moments. I’ll leave the house without a kiss goodbye sometimes, for example.

IMHO, initially I was an amazing husband and initially my wife was insecure about our relationship. Whatever the effort I put in, it fell short of the mark. Over the years, my efforts have fallen off. Relationships will take on a downward-spiralling pattern when left to their own devices. Less effort meant more insecurity. More insecurity meant more demands and hostility. More demands and hostility meant less effort, and so on.

So that’s me strolling down a road paved with good intentions. Again, I appreciate the supportive posts. The original query of this thread was what kinds of behaviors on my part, would justify my wife’s actions. I wish to compile a list, something to counteract my wife’s, “but what you do to me makes me feel the same way you do when I swear.” When she says this, I can’t help but think that she has moved to a plane far beyond the justifiable. But maybe I really have done some things that others would feel justifies my wife words? Therefore, please suggest a hypothetical list of actions, that had I taken them, would lead you to feel that my wife’s actions were justified.

For example, had I cheated on her at every opportunity, is she justified? If I were a drug addict, what about that? What if I were unaffectionate? What if she felt I put my career aspirations ahead of hers? These are just examples, please feel free to suggest your own. And remember, you need an action that justifies calling your spouse a fcing ahole in front of the kids on a fairly regular basis.

Don’t know about this one. Very hard to imagine doing this, and I think we’re much too close to the end to make it practical.

Zette and SexyWriter bring up some valid points. Do you intend to ask for physical custody of the children, choosybeggar, or do you think that the verbal abuse will be only directed at you?

Listen. Nothing justifies the actions you describe. However, it might just be possible to excuse her tirades if you can identify some deeply felt need going unmet. From the complaints you describe, I gather she hasn’t made a lot of meaningful connections outside the home. If she’s relying entirely on you for her emotional support, she probably feels pretty lousy. No matter how attentive you once were, you can’t be everything for her. And feelings of worthlessness will often be expressed in unreasonable, incoherent rage. If she is, or was, an otherwise lovely person, get professional help to identify what is doing this to her. It’s probably too late for this marriage, but you both need to learn from this before you move on.

I’m not going to say she’s justified in her language, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s wrong about your behavior making her feel the same way you do when she swears at you.Are you really asking if she’s justified in swearing at you, or are you asking if she could be correct when she says your behavior makes her feel the same way? Those are two different questions,and it seems to me from the above, that you feel not only that her behavior is unjustified, but that her comparison between her feelings and yours is also unjustified. That one doesn’t have a clear answer.

Again-not saying she’s justified but are any of her complaints valid? Would you really rather spend your limited time with friends than her?Will you really not take vacations with her? Having had similar complaints about my husband (him wanting to spend one of his two weeks vacation on a bowling trip with friends instesd of with me and the kids was a big one), I can tell you being told that due to careers we’ll never have enough time for each other is one thing. Being told that he doesn’t have time to spend with me, while he does have it to spend with others is quite another. And if he were to persist in behaving this way and dismissed my complaints by saying essentially “that’s life” {he doesn’t and I’m not saying you do},it would be far more hurtful to me than if he called me a “f***ing ***hole” every time we had a fight.Profanity doesn’t really bother me (everyone’s different),but feeling like I come last on the list of people he wants to please does.


Thanks for your thoughtful response. Much of what you say would make sense had the profanity not been consistently in front of our kids. This is the line that has been crossed. This is the unbearable transgression. I’m curious as to your thoughts.

Zette, Sexy Writer, Spider Woman,

My wife actually is quite good with the kids. They are young right now, though, and I do wonder how things may change when they begin to assert their independence. It is quite one thing to be doting with a four year old that thinks the sun rises and sets around you. Quite another to love a fourteen year old that wishes the sun would fall on you.

The prospect of a custody fight, yeesh, makes me shiver. In the short term, hell for all. But in the long term, it’s impossible to know for sure, impossible to know whether 20 years from now I’ll regret having fought for the kids or not having fought for them.

Again, thanks all for your kind and thoughtful support.

Hmm…more things for me to stress about. Some days I wish my parents would just get a divorce already…

choosybeggar, there is no rational defence for injuring children. (IMHO) None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Mentally, physically, spiritually. Her behavior is abusive to you (eh…you’re adults work out a tolerable level) and to your children (Not Acceptable. Ever)

Drag her aside and tell her that. She obviously wants to hurt you. But tell her that you cannot allow her to hurt those kids. If this can be established, get therapy together. Work the rest of it out. Her insecurities, your unwillingness to try to assuage her every fear, yada, yada. Between you and her and my relationships are so nutty I won’t even try.

If she insists she has the right to hurt her kids to get to you, get them out of there. Now. Check out my user name, I’m serious on this one. (I’m kidding mostly on that last one, but the reasoning stands. Medea was damaged by Jason and gave into her passionate ideals that she could and should give that pain back. I honor and respect her independance and willful passion, I can not truly defend her violence. Medea’s. Your wife just sounds insecure and unfulfilled. Isn’t your fault, people are fulfilled by themeselves, getting married should never be the act that makes them complete. Wow I can ramble.)

Anyway, that’s my take.

I’m not too bothered by profanity, but like most of the other posters, it’s the presence of the kiddies that’s getting to me. Y’know, a final “fuck you” before she walks out the door or even in private is one thing, but the “fairly regular basis” is unacceptable. I heard my mother called all sorts of things by her then-husband (what stands out in my mind aren’t the vulgar things he called her, but the times when he said she was stupid).
My $0.02: I think, while her behaviour is obviously manipulative/lashing out, she’s also created an unfortunate stalemate where what you’re hearing/reacting to is this issue of swearing/yelling in front of the kids…not the conflicts that are making her unhappy in the first place. :rolleyes:

Best of luck, choosybeggar.