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3 Signs of an Abusive Relationship

(and 3 Common Red Flags to Ignore)

Should you stay or should you go?

Most men are good guys. Not perfect, of course–but it’s safe to marry them, live with them, and have kids with them.

Chances are high that your guy falls into this category.

But there are a small percentage of men who aren’t safe to live with.

And although I’m an advocate for marriage, if you’re married to a man you aren’t safe with, then you are in an abusive relationship. In that case, I would be the first to endorse your divorce.

Fortunately, it’s not hard to figure it out. There are only three red flags to look at, but there are plenty of fake red flags that could throw you off. I’ll explain which ones are real and which ones to ignore.


UPDATE: When I wrote this blog years ago, that’s what I thought, and the rest of my thinking at that time follows below but I have since been SCHOOLED and found out…

I was wrong.

Here’s what I have learned about how to know when to get divorced, along with my mea culpa:

This newer blog is MUCH more informative.


I’ll break it all down in this blog so you’ll know exactly which category your guy falls into: Either he’s a good guy, or he’s a man you’re not safe with.

Here are the three red flags (and three things you can quit worrying about):

1. Red Flag #1: He’s Ever Hit, Punched or Sexually Assaulted You or Your Kids

Obviously if your man can’t control his impulse to physically attack and harm you or the kids, he’s not safe. But let’s take a look at exactly what that means, and how to know if your guy really falls into that category.

If your guy has hit you, punched you or sexually assaulted you or your kids, you are in a physically abusive relationship. I support you doing what you need to do to make yourself safe.

Another hallmark of a physical abuser is that he has a hard time knowing the difference between a wife or girlfriend and a hostage. He takes your cell phone, won’t let you talk to anyone, or bars the door when you try to leave the room or the house. He doesn’t want you to go anywhere with anyone else.

He may keep you hostage financially. That’s why it’s often so flipping hard to get out of such a relationship. By the time you could make a call, the crisis is over and he’s telling you that you’re overreacting.

The whole thing is crazy-making–and demoralizing and horrible.

I can’t offer you any hope that it will improve, but I can validate your desire to get out. I don’t want to minimize how hard that can be–especially if you have kids.

With a physical abuser you’re not safe. He could decide to harm you at any time, and there’s nothing you can do to avoid or prevent it.

A physical abuser gets a release from hurting you and no matter what he says, chances are high that he’ll do it again. You’re living with a ticking time bomb, and it’s terrifying.

No matter how many other good qualities he has, that’s a divorce I endorse.

2. #1 Red Flag You Can Ignore: A Physical Defender

If you initiate physical aggression by pummeling him with your fists, kicking him, shoving him or trying to get something by force, even a good guy will defend himself or restrain you.

This is not a physical abuser but a physical defender. He responds to your physical threat by restraining you–maybe holding your arms uncomfortably behind your back, or holding you down on the bed–or pushing or shoving you to keep you away from him.

Here’s why it’s important to separate a physical abuser from a physical defender: All you have to do to be safe with a physical defender is not attack him.

He doesn’t have an irrepressible urge to hurt you, but he will defend himself in kind from your physical threat.

In that situation, you have a good guy. Really.

I get that it’s high-drama, but you can stay and fix that without putting yourself at risk. (The Six Intimacy Skills are a great place to start. they cured me of being a rageaholic).

3. Red Flag #2: Your Guy is Actively Addicted to Drugs, Alcohol or Gambling

Addicts aren’t a terribly accountable, responsible or reliable bunch. They vanish when you’re counting on them. They call you crazy a lot, or contradict reality. They are hostile, and blame you for things that aren’t your fault.

You might call it verbal, mental or emotional abuse, but in a way that’s a distraction from the real issue. (If you wonder whether you’re in a verbally abusive relationship, I have a revealing post about that here.)

Alcoholics, drug addicts and compulsive gamblers will always serve their addiction first, above you or the kids or anyone else. Because of that, you’re not safe, which means you’re in an abusive relationship.

But how can you tell if he’s an everyday drinker or an alcoholic? Is he an occasional pot-smoker or a guy who has to get high? Someone who enjoys slot machines or who really can’t control himself in a casino?

An addict is someone whose substance use or gambling is detrimental to his work, relationships, finances, family or health.

This is not a black-or-white question, granted, but I’ve never yet met a wife who didn’t know the answer in her gut.

You have the answer in your gut too.

One wife worried that because her husband loved to play poker he might be a gambling addict. But since he never spent more on it than he could afford, and it wasn’t a compulsion that made him forget about or neglect his other commitments, he didn’t fit the addict category.

4. #2 Red flag you can ignore: Addiction to cigarettes, video games, food or his phone

All of these habits can be annoying, but in my experience they don’t affect your safety and therefore don’t qualify as a hallmark of an abusive relationship.

Your husband has a vice, but you’re not a victim.

5. Red Flag #3: Your Guy is Not Capable of Being Faithful

It’s such a painful thing, because these cheaters are often also really charming and tender when they’re with you. It can be glorious to have this man’s undivided attention, but the problem is, you never will have all the attention you deserve. So you become accustomed to settling for crumbs, and you put up with deceit and loneliness. You become insecure. It hurts your spirit, and puts you at risk for diseases.

If that’s not an abusive relationship, what is?

So how do you know if your man is capable of being faithful?

Good news: You already know. You don’t need me to tell you. Every woman I’ve ever worked with whose husband was not capable of being faithful not only knew it, she knew it before she married him.

I was surprised to learn this, but it makes sense.

People tell you who they are. They can’t help it.

They do it right away–right on a first date or even before–long before you’re in a relationship.

Here are some of the examples I’ve heard about: One man told his date that he “wasn’t perfect” when it came to being faithful to his ex-wife. Another witnessed her boyfriend hitting on someone else when she came back out of the convenience store.

That said, there is a possibility that your man has both cheated on you AND is capable of being faithful to you. Click To Tweet I explain about that here.

6. #3 Red Flag You Can Ignore: He Watches Porn

There’s an old joke that 95% of men look at porn and the other 5% lie.

I know it’s not fun to think about your guy looking at other women doing graphic things online. It can bring up feelings of jealousy for sure.

There are all kinds of moral issues with porn, and I’m not dismissing those for a second, but I am saying that catching your guy watching porn does not constitute you being in an abusive relationship. You may not approve, but it’s not up to you–that’s between him and God.

He’s not cheating on you–he’s looking at a two-dimensional woman that he’ll never meet. That doesn’t make you unsafe.

Plus you have the advantage over her: You’re three-dimensional, in the flesh right in his bed. You’re the one he chose.

And if porn is the worst problem in your relationship, then I’m happy to tell you that you’ve got a good guy.

Not a perfect man, but one you can have a wonderful relationship with.

By Laura Doyle

Hi! I'm Laura.

New York Times Bestselling Author

I was the perfect wife--until I actually got married. When I tried to tell my husband how to be more romantic, more ambitious, and tidier, he avoided me. I dragged him to marriage counseling and nearly divorced him. I then started talking to women who had what I wanted in their marriages and that’s when I got my miracle. The man who wooed me returned.

I wrote a few books about what I learned and accidentally started a worldwide movement of women who practice The Six Intimacy Skills™ that lead to having amazing, vibrant relationships. The thing I’m most proud of is my playful, passionate relationship with my hilarious husband John–who has been dressing himself since before I was born.

64 replies on “3 Signs of an Abusive Relationship”

Hi Laura,
Love your post, as usual.

I need to say that with the porn, it contributed to the end of the marriage.

I’m pretty open minded and wouldn’t have had a problem with what you are describing here.

What we faced was an addiction. He would get out of bed, after having relations, and spend the rest of the night on the computer. He admitted that he snuck off at work to relieve himself in the bathroom. He claimed to have to “pleasure” (not really pleasure) himself over twenty times a day.

He went to rehab for sexual addiction, but there was no change.

I always felt “off” with him. Here, I loved him so much, but it never felt right. Now I know that is a red flag for sexual addiction.

I’ve also learned that this behavior, not the average use, but this type of use, can be an indicator of some pretty serious mental illness.

The turning point for me was he kept leaving the sites up on the computer and we had two toddlers, who saw them on occasion. I told him that needed to stop and he told me I was ruining his fun.

Now, they are grown, but they still see the porn on their dad’s computer. It’s sad. They avoid looking at his computer, and won’t help him fix it when it’s down.

It was only a contributing cause of the dissolution of the marriage. However, I feel the need to mention that there are rare occasions when it isn’t simply boys being boys. It can be very confusing to a partner.

Whether it is technically a “Red Flag”, no idea. But, it can be something that needs to be addressed.

Thanks for all you do!


Pati, Thanks for the vulnerable post! I’m sorry to hear about the crummy role porn played in the demise of your marriage, and especially about the two boys seeing those adult images. Yikes.

I’m always amazed at how powerful the Intimacy Skills are at effecting changes in relationships even like this situation you’re describing. Of course, I know only a little about your situation, and it sounds like it was a rough one.

I tried responding to this much appreciated reply several times and the page refreshed on me. (Windows 10????) So, if it appears several times in the next millennium, that’s why.

Thank you.

It was a really tough journey. You played a huge part in it. After reading your book, which I loved, I was a bit confused because the things you mentioned as deal breakers weren’t so cut and dry for me. Looking back, I was trying as hard as I could to stay in denial and if you said “and” and my situation said “plus”, I was going to be confused.

I wrote to you, explaining. You were so kind and had an assistant reply.

It meant so much. My therapist was taken in by my wasband’s charm (read “manipulation” He’d laugh after a session, “Sure fooled her.”). After a very serious situation, where in what was possibly a psychotic break, he attempted to murder me, literally….her reaction was to say that she guessed I was going to use this as an excuse to leave.

I don’t blame her. I have read that therapists will refuse to work with patients showing signs of Cluster B disorders, afraid of being manipulated.

But, I certainly had stopped seeing her as having an unbiased view. (And, had stopped altogether about then. lol)

My friends, chances were good that they’d tell me what they thought I wanted to hear.

So, there was my Creator….who, I admit, I was trying to ignore, and there was you.

I’ll always thank you for that.

As far as intimacy skills changing the situation I was describing, I think it boils down to is it a sexual addiction, and/or is it a symptom of a personality disorder. They are VERY different things.

From my perspective, sexual addiction is treatable, and a wonderful part of the path would be to work with Intimacy skills. If it is addiction, however, it does require treatment and while the partner might help, the addict has to seek healing. I would think practicing the skills would be a wonderful practice in creating that space. I sure know I tried. What I saw then, really helped me get clear as to what was happening.

“Love is the greatest healing force in the Universe.” Jampolski

I am sure practicing the skills creates a safe place for someone willing to heal.

On the other hand, it is very important that people understand that it can also be a strong marker of a personality disorder. It’s one of the basic markers.

Doing a bit of research, finding someone knowledgeable in the field….not just any therapist, btw…in fact, not most….might be wise and in order.

Thanks again. That moment you took years ago was one of the biggest moments of my life.


Pati, I’m happy to hear that we were able to help you find clarity. Anytime someone attempts to murder you, you’re not safe! That’s the big headline in your situation for me. Hugs back at ya!

Hi Laura,

The murder attempt was after contacting you and having decided to leave. I believe it happened during the small window between my decision and sitting down with him.

Though, there were other times that were probably psychotic breaks and two different therapists acted like it was fine. That really has my goat. It was not fine, and it nearly got me killed.

But, wanted you to know I phrased that wrong. Murder attempts, even unknowing ones, are kind of a red flag. ha ha

I totally disagree with your assessment on porn. I have 2 good friends who are divorced because of controlling husbands. Both were porn addicts and would go from the computer to their sleeping wife and expect her to be their hooker for the night doing things they were extremely uncomfortable with. One would run crying to the bathroom afterwards. They didn’t get that what they were forcing on their wives was wrong. That is not a safe environment.

I have another friend who taught special ed in a prison. They were taught about sex offenders and how they advance from porn to child porn in order to get the same thrills and become pediphiles.

Tammy, sexual assault is not the same as porn, and that does sound very unsafe! Child pornography is also a terrible violation of the innocence of children, of course.

Lula, that one I find the Six Intimacy SKills work like magic. It’s not a deal breaker, in my experience. It’s a very common response to lack of respect. Most women don’t realize when they’re being disrespectful, including me! My husband was emotionally unavailable when I was emotionally unsafe. Now that I’m safe, he can’t get enough of me.

There are times when inspite of being Respectful a husband withholds love sex praise —intimacy and he is no longer emotionally safe .. I’ve since learned that it is called intimacy anorexia and falls under addiction ..I wonder if your programs would be helpful in those circumstances

Porn is devastating to a relationship and yes it is cheating. If he can’t be faithful with his eyes he’s not being faithful with his heart.

You are TOTALLY off base with your advice concerning pornography. Totally.
It is NOT “okay”.
Pornography is as addictive as cocaine. It actually changes the brain chemistry.
It wouldn’t take 5 minutes to find thousands of articles online about the devastation pornography causes.
Ask any wife who has found it on the computer.
It IS unfaithfulness to the marriage covenant.
I’m extremely disappointed in your stance.
I expected better of you.

Hi Beth, everyone,
I am no expert on porn for sure.
I just had to chuckle at the coincidence.

I was just reading a beautiful article by Dr. Oliver Sachs on how Bach affected brain chemistry in a way that was different to how Beethoven affected it.

Then to read this about porn affecting brain chemistry….. Been fun to see that MRI in the line up.

I will say, I’m a survivor of sexual abuse. I’ve known several women who were so shut down sexually and part of their healing was looking at porn, trying to find a reaction within themselves.

Not saying right, wrong. It’s a complex, emotional issue and we all have to find what is right for ourselves.

Wow, I am almost ready to stop getting your emails if you are saying porn is okay, No No NO, Porn in never okay, never, please reconsider your view on this telling woman this and take this off your site, It ruins your credibility as a professional with the work you do.

Linda, I didn’t say porn is okay. I said that it presents lots of moral issues, and they’re between him and God.

All three points are important and at this point porn for him is probably his form of sex now. #4 is not contributing to the household obligations. To me, a man who desires and who is capable not work more than part time is worst than the first 3.

Bird, That’s something I struggled with pre-intimacy skills, but now my husband has a successful business for more than a decade. We wives often hold the key in this situation.

Laura, I read your post yesterday afternoon but wasn’t sure if I would write a comment. I am very glad I waited until others had posted comments about porn. Your post was tremendously helpful to me in a very good and positive way. About three years into our marriage, I discovered a couple of porn sites when I was looking for files on the computer. I was shocked and dismayed. I didn’t say anything to my husband but it upset me. In time I brought it up and he said, “you need to understand that this has nothing at all to do with you and not worry about it.” I did not ask him not to look at pictures or videos but would still become upset when occasionally I would run across something. The images I found were not disgusting, but for the most part tasteful in their own way … they were not offensive to me nor did I feel anyone was being degraded. However, I felt that I SHOULD be offended and feel threatened. And, that was actually the problem for me the fact that I felt I SHOULD be shocked, hurt and offended. I could not discuss this with anyone because I have heard other women talk about the subject and they are offended. Also, research on the internet on the subject turned up the same negative responses. At the same time I know that pornograpy has always been a part of life … think of images on the walls in Pompeii! I finally decided that this was not hurting me or anyone else and it was his private “indulgence.” If the word erotic was substitued for pornographic the images would immediately conjure up a different judgement. The importance of your post to me is that you have validated my own feelings that in its own way this is an innocent activity for my husbandt. Also, and probably importantly, he is a wonderful, gentle and sensitive lover and we both enjoy and are grateful for the special time we have together in bed.

I must also remark on the other posts as well because the behaviors described were not the same as what I have experienced. There are sex addicts just as there are people addicted to alcohol and drugs and I think think those situations are completely different. I think the behavior is basically the same .. obsession and disregard for the partner or family’s feelings and well-being. I agree with you completely in encouraging women not to stay in those kinds of relationships because sadly, the men will not change and the women’s lives will eventually become unhealthy and unsafe.

Thank you so much for being brave enough to speak about this difficult subject. Now, I can quit trying to turn it into something more and enjoy our lives.

Hi Virginia,
Loved your comment!

I smiled. thinking of a couple I knew. The husband was a hilarious, wild guy. He’d sit up in the balcony of the church, draping his bare feet off the balcony. He’d make hand gestures and write things on poster board for me while I was supposed to be seriously singing a solo.

He also left notes in my hymnal. Truly a rotter.

His wife was one of my best friends there. She sat next to me. VERY straight laced, well, managed a great persona there at least.

It cracked me up to find out they would have porn nights. They had a special inflatable mattress they’d pop on the rec room floor, watch some porn, then play.

She’d have a special smile some Sunday mornings and we’d laugh about it. Our code was “Movie night”.

You are right. Like many things that can be addictive, it can also be healthy, my opinion.

So good to hear your take, and to read about what it is like to be with someone that wonderful.

Okay, tried posting again and it went bye bye. Sorry if it is a repeat.

What a conversation! lol

Laura, rereading your post, this stood out for me.
“And if porn is the worst problem in your relationship, then I’m happy to tell you that you’ve got a good guy.”

I agree!

I also speak with a lot of folk that have had intimate relations with people that seem to be disordered….Sociopaths, Antisocial, Borderline, Narcissists.

Often, way back in the beginning, the only thing that seemed off is they discovered the partner looking at porn.

I didn’t know it was a marker. I didn’t know what the other markers were. It’s considered a very basic one.

I think it can be overdone, I think too many people jump to diagnose a pretty complicated disease by looking at a web site.

I also think it can be the tip of the iceberg, and it can’t hurt to find some good information somewhere. Hopefully it will ease your mind. Sadly, though, it may help you to see some things that you hadn’t pieced together.

I also want to stress, you can’t go to just any therapist. If they don’t have specific training in personality disorders, you can get some bad, dangerous advice.

Pati made me laugh with her story of her friends. I might add that I have been married almost 17 years and my husband I were in our mid50s when we married. And, again, I am glad I decided to share my thoughts. I think the important to think about in this discussion is that one’s time and energy can often be wasted on issues which are simply not that serious or important which takes away time and energy which could be used on things that are important. I feel I’ve put this issue to bed now … and I can concentrate on areas which really do need work to improve my/our life. Thank you again, Laura.

So many points in this article i disagree with. Porn not a problem? It can be an addiction and result in the loss of connection and intimacy with the other partner. Same goes for being a phone addict. That’s emotional abuse and shoudnt be ignored. Food addiction is more than a vice. It can result in obesity and a litany of health problems and illness that has a negative affect on the other partner and the quality of the relationship. Also if the woman is pummeling with her fists and he is being a physical defender? Hellloooo who is the abuser and why not point out that if a woman is acting this way she needs some serious help but you dont address that. This article does not do service to the insidious problem of abuse.

I believe Laura did address this issue of the woman’s physical attacking: “All you have to do to be safe with a physical defender is not attack him” – and this is addressed in more detail in her books. She certainly doesn’t appear to condone women abusing men in any of her writings. Though I too have difficulty with this issue of “emotional abuse” not being considered real abuse, and the idea that the 6 intimacy skills will in every case cure the man’s behaviours, bringing out the “hero” and revealing “his true desire to make her happy”. They help a whole heck of a lot in correcting the woman’s behaviours and are tremendously helpful in teaching respect, which I think is enough for most “normal good guys” to create a safe, respectful, loving environment with room for both partners to be free and be good to each other and to feel cared for …. but I really have issues where it comes to some who seem to lack a capacity for empathy, caring, giving, respect – no matter how much they are given….

Wow Laura……you seem very un-informed about the porn issue and how it effects men (and women.) I am a therapist and have seen many couples who have a problem with porn. I have suffered with porn addiction myself and it started quite innocently with watching adult x-rated movies with my ex-husband.

What I have seen is that watching porn excites and satisfies at first, but as it continues the same amount of excitement (via porn) does not bring the same amount of satisfaction. The amount of excitement and stimulation needs to be increased for the porn user to reach satisfaction. Over time the amount of excitation necessary to bring about satisfaction can escalate to include more deviant porn, visiting strip clubs, and using prostitutes. And it can all start with just one image.

I’m not saying that everyone reacts to porn this way, but is it worth the risk? I have not yet seen a woman whose husband uses porn feel good about it.

I am definitely not a prude, but in my experience I have never seen a case in which porn has increased the intimacy in any marriage.

I follow the ideas from the book “The Surrendered Wife” and they have changed my marriage so much I can hardly believe it. I have a long way to go but the way he treats me now and trusts me is amazing. When I trust and respect him, he changes into his “best self”. Thank you Laura!

Jennifer, Glad to hear you’re having such great results in your relationship. That’s awesome! As for porn, I didn’t say that you should run out and get some and that it’s great for marriages–just that you’re not unsafe if you husband views porn. And that it’s not up to you as a wife–it’s not in your control. Hope that I’m making myself clear there. Him using prostitutes would be a whole other category for me.

I love all of your advice you’re very wise Laura. My husband is currently in jail and they’re recommending inpatient treatment for his addiction to drugs. I’ve been through hell with him but I’d like to save our marriage. I complained, nagged, cried for love & affection but this made things worse naturally. Do you think it’s possible your tools may work while he is in recovery or should I cut my losses and move on?

Monique, If he’s in recovery then absolutely you can! I’ve even seen cases where excessive drinking has vanished with the use of the skills. You can’t lose with practicing the skills as they’re all about Monique. As long as you’re safe, I don’t see a downside and who knows? You could have a miracle. I see them a lot around here.

Thank you Laura for your positive response. I just purchased both of your books. You are truly a blessing!

I enjoyed your book Kill Marriage Counselors but I wonder if you don’t think sex is an addiction problem as you don’t mention it. I had a really bad relationship with a sex addict and the first red flag was massive porn links on his computer. At the time I didn’t think it was a big deal and all guys looked at porn but as I snooped further I saw that he was seeing prostitutes. Porn is a gateway to that. I would like to hear your thoughts on sex addicts as it is not addressed at all as a deal breaker.

Mary, Sorry to hear about your previous relationship with a man who cheated on you with prostitutes. That’s terrible. I can see why you feel so strongly about sex addiction after an experience like that.

Anytime the man is not capable of being faithful that is a divorce I endorse. You call it sex addiction, I call it a tragic character flaw. No woman deserves that kind of crazy-making and betrayal, and she won’t be safe with such a man.

However, I make a distinction between a man who is cheating and a man who views porn. Viewing porn involves two-dimensional women he will never meet. Cheating involves a real, three-dimensional woman. Although your man was involved in both, many men who view porn occasionally are faithful for their entire lives.

You might like to think you could control your man’s porn viewing and make him stop because it’s wrong or you don’t like it, but since we can’t control anyone but ourselves, that’s not within my control or yours.

Men are created to be attracted to the female form, and I’m pretty happy about that because that’s what I have and it’s something my husband was attracted to about me and had him pursue me all the way to the altar. To him I’m the most special woman in the world, his wife.

I don’t see how any two-dimensional woman can compete with that.

Thanks for your response Laura. What about strip clubs and massage parlors? Where do you draw the line as far as what’s acceptable? Do you consider it still ok if your husband visits strip clubs but doesn’t have sex with the strippers but just lap dances?

Mary, What you describe is your man having physical, sexual contact with a three-dimensional woman, and I call that cheating. That’s a divorce I endorse.

I really have questions surrounding the whole issue of “control”: I am careful to respect my husband’s choices (and apologize when I tread on his ability to run his own life), but he does not show any such respect for things within my sphere. For example, he is pretty much consistently critical of what I want to spend money on, saying it’s frivolous or reckless, that I should save it… I try to consistently express admiration for his thriftiness and his financial ability – I’m always building him up… yet he does not show me this respect. He judges and criticizes my decision-making and wants to make all these decisions himself – even when they have nothing to do with him. I feel like I have no ability to make choices in my own life – or if I do, that he will be sullen and angry and withdrawn – “punishing” me for doing stuff he doesn’t agree with by withdrawing affection… I feel like he never wants to make me happy…. If I try to let him know he simply says “do whatever you want” – clearly angry underneath. He wants me to respect his choices and neither comment or disagree, yet he seems to think he is in charge of everything to do with my life…. I too am concerned that this is severe enough to be an indicator of a personality disorder – that emotional abuse is real: holding the reins of everything, controlling all decision making… Showing respect and expressing desires purely and all your other six intimacy skills don’t seem to have an impact…. This quote above under the headings of abuse stands out – even though he has never hit me, is not addicted to anything, and would never cheat (all of which I tremendously appreciate…):
“It can be glorious to have this man’s undivided attention, but the problem is, you never will have all the attention you deserve. So you become accustomed to settling for crumbs, and you put up with deceit and loneliness. You become insecure. It hurts your spirit…”

I understand the part where you say verbal abuse is most likely due to disrespect
Now what if I do acknowledge there was “disrespect” or lack of doing something that’s expected and would be more respectful

But what if you add the alcoholic part in there

Case in point stepdad mad at mom for reasons of being ignored or perhaps not being that grateful for what he does and provides and then add a teen stepson in the mix that also ignores and doesn’t acknowledge husband as the “king” of his home ….. Feeling slighted and unappreciated this hubby

So husband blows up in a verbally abusive tirade directs it to stepson

Can u tell me that this is not a dealbreaker due to son showing minute signs of disrespect or is it a deal breaker due to the alcohol

Hello, It’s awful to see your son get verbally abused by your husband. That sounds very painful. I don’t know if this is a deal breaker, as you are the expert on your own life, but I can tell you it’s a very common problem in homes where there is no alcoholism. For me, there’s no downside in this situation to cleaning up your side of the street to see what emerges. I’d love to see you get some support. Consider applying for a complimentary discovery call to uncover the best move for your marriage. You can do that here:

I just ready the last comment about verbal abuse being directed at the stepson when actually intended for the mother … and your comments as well. Ironic, that I read it. I have been having a dreadful time after going on a trip with my husband and his son. I have watched my husband over the years work very hard to give emotional and financial support to his son who never shows any gratitude (though sometimes he says thank you) and never sends cards or gifts for his birthday or any holiday. His is simply a taker. My husband me to go on the trip with them and it was heartbreaking for me to wee his efforts to please his son and the usual lack of appreciation as irresponsible behavior. When we finally got home I was terribly depressed and finally told my husband it was hard to see the interaction. Guess what, my husband blew up at ME! Horrible time. I, too, have been thinking, I’ve had enough of this … don’t care how old I am. But, your words … “no downside to cleaning up your side of the street to see what emerges.” I will hold onto those words.

Hi Laura thank you for your advise, I did read #3 and I believe in 12 years our marriage we were great solid, But after he cheated and the porn thing, I have questions as to why and feel as if I know why I could try and work on this with him.. That is probably what I should not be doing! I just want to return to the old me before this happened, He has promised me it will not happen again but again I question why did it happen in the first. I can see as I read all of your blog’s I am doing the opposite of what I should be. How do I stop my mind from thinking into it as to the why’s and to the damages that it caused in our family.
Do you or your staff do private counseling? Can you recommend someone or where to go.
Thank you I have learned so much since reading all of your blogs and really enjoyed your perspective. I once read a book Surrendering to your husband and that book was a total eye opener, I took alot with me and probably made our first 12 years so great.

In Need of Advice, What you’re going through is hard. You could definitely use some support.
You can apply for a complimentary discovery call to connect with one of my coaches and uncover the best move for your relationship here:
I think you might be referring to my book The Surrendered Wife. Maybe not.

Thank you Laura !
I apologize yes that’s the book I did not realize that you were the author, It has been some time since I read it.
Wow that was full circle that I connected so much then with your coaching and then this Blog caught my eye and brought me back without even realizing you were the very person that I took so much advice from. I absolutely loved that book!
I am Wow’d (Gods work for sure)
Thank you for what you do! I will go to the link and apply for the discovery call.
Thanks for responding!

I do not agree about the porn issue at all, and neither does the bible:

Matthew 5:28
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

In most cases, porn isn’t even “just looking”, it involves action as well. An action that God intended for the covenant of marriage.

Interpretations differ; however, this could be grounds for divorce. Matthew 5:32; 19:9

“But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

The bible says looking lustfully at another woman is adultery and last I think we agree that adultery is immoral.

I was looking forward to working through the content, but this is a game-changer for me.

Porn is NOT just between the man and God…and anyone who has been devastated by this type of adultery knows it is very real and in many cases is just as painful as human contact adultery. Are you saying adultery is just between a man and God?

Note: The term “man” could also be “woman” in reverse cases.

Shelley, I can see why you feel this way. I’m not saying I encourage porn watching. I’m saying that it’s not within your control to keep your man from viewing porn. Trying to control anyone beside yourself is an exhausting waste of energy. I’m also saying that in my experience, him looking at porn does not make his wife unsafe, like the other 3 signs of an abusive relationship. Of course, you are the expert on your life and must do what you think it best. I respect your decision for yourself.

I discovered porn on my husband’s computer about 19 years ago. Needless to say, it devastated me for so many reasons. I’m a small busted woman who has struggled a bit with this part of my body. Unfortunately, most of the women in porn are large busted.

When I discovered the porn, I immediately went to my husband to discuss it. I let him know that I disapproved of him viewing porn. He told me he would stop. That was 19 years ago, and nothing has changed. In fact, it had gotten to a daily habit, combined with compulsive masturbation.

I am not a prude; I love sex, intimacy, making love but with only one man. And that was my husband. I desired no one but him; matter of fact, I fantasized about him if I ever had to “relieve” myself.

For 19 years, the porn has broken our marriage down. He lied so often about using it, only for me to find it again and again. I caught him watching x rated movies on our tv, which our kids (especially daughters), could have caught him watching. I cried, begged, threatened for him to stop. Suggested counseling for him and us on so many occasions. He always said it wasn’t really a problem and could quit at any time. We couldn’t go to counseling because he was always worried about spending the money. I told him repeatedly that I felt him viewing porn was disrespectful and degrading to me as a woman, but more importantly, as his wife who hated it. I told him that it would ruin our marriage one day if he didn’t quit.

I filed for divorce in 2013, but changed my mind because someone told me that the porn had nothing to do with me. Darn Catholic guilt got the best of me!! I stayed and our relationship continued to go down hill. At one point, we hadn’t had any physical contact for 10 months. One night I decided to give it a try; really wanted to make love with him. It was horrible.

We’ve been separated since October 2015. Can’t seem to pull the plug. I can’t seem to share myself with him in any physical manner; kissing, touching, holding hands, etc. It appalls me when I think of being intimate with him. I don’t believe I’m in love with him but don’t want my family separated. Not sure how to move forward????

Sure could use some help!

SwimmingMa, I can see why it’s been so devastating for you to have your husband promise to stop and then deceive you about it. It sounds like you’ve stayed committed to this marriage for the sake of your family, which I admire. I tend to agree that the porn has nothing to do with you, but I can imagine what a challenge it is to not be able to share yourself with him physically because you know he is watching porn. The good news is that this is all solvable. I know it doesn’t seem like it from where you stand, but I have seen situations like this completely heal and the marriage be amazing again. I invite you to apply for a complimentary discovery call to see if working with a coach and applying the Six Intimacy Skills would be right for you. You can do that here:

What about someone who gaslights, shuts off communications through distraction when he doesn’t care about or dislikes the topic of conversation, erupts anytime, controlling finances and using finances to manipulate, blame shifting – but no porn (that one is aware of, no physical violence, no substance abuse or gambling?

Verbally Abusive
Financial abuse and intimidation
Blame shifts
Treats wife like personal maid

The problem with your approach is that you think your experience is definitive. It’s not. You have stumbled upon a some principles that benefit a wife regardless of her husband – principles that will benefit her personally. However, in the case of a socio-path husband, she will soon discover that no matter how surrendered she is, her husband won’t change for the better and the wife might erroneously come to the conclusion that she is not surrendering ENOUGH, or isn’t nice ENOUGH, or loving ENOUGH – all the while her abusive husband will not prove to be reliably stable. He may get in a good mood AS LONG AS THE WIFE TOES THE LINE – which means never rocking the boat, always having to be catering to his *feelings*. It’s not a give and take ever with a emotionally and verbally abusive husband. He will never think about her unless it benefits his selfish motives.

Your list of three things needs to be reworked I think.

Elizabeth, It sounds like you’re not familiar with my work. I don’t recommend that wives toe the line or cater to his feelings. Quite the opposite.

I hear that you’re very focused on someone else’s negative behavior. I remember doing that in my own marriage and feeling hopeless and exhausted. I’m wondering how it is serving you to have that focus?

I felt very much the victim in my marriage, but all of it was my own doing. How can you be sure you’re not doing the same thing?

I use to hate when I found my husband looking at porn. I would feel threatened and upset about it. So I understand everyone’s points. But i came to realize that it didnt matter. He still loved me and he that was just a release for him. Women need to get over it. Its really not a big deal unless he is addicted to it. As long as I am number one and it isn’t affecting our marriage its fine for him to do that on his own time. Its really no big deal. I would rather have intimacy than go crazy on him about something as small as porn viewing because then I feel like Ive become his mother instead of his wife.

I think Casey’s approach is a useful one, and I think is the situation Laura is trying to address…where there is occasional porn use, but it hasn’t gotten to the point where it is destroying the marriage.

Deb, I agree with Casey’s wise comment about porn. She’s making a great choice to focus on what she can control and let go of what she can’t control and doesn’t impact her.

I’m not sure how porn use could destroy a marriage. Sometimes it’s lumped in with cheating, which is a whole different ball of wax, in my experience. There are many wonderful husbands and fathers the world over who view pornography regularly and it does not destroy their marriages. Studies show it’s not an addiction, so I don’t like to make it more of a big deal than it is.

When they choose porn and masturbation over connection and sex with his wife… it’s an issue.

And what about discovering that your husband has been lying to you and going to Escorts, aka prostitutes for over 10 years!
Young couple with 2 kids – together 22 years, married 16 years. Perfect marriage- no. But not an angry marriage, love & support were present. Looked healthy and happy for all intensive purposes. A lot has come to make sense in hindsight to me re: intimacy issues and spending/ shopping habits on his part. He was a great liar and continues to lie and alienate anyone who knows the real story of his behavior. He sees the
Kids and is good with them but I have made that possible – I have encouraged his role as father but I get no credit for that from him.

Can he change? Can I ever trust him again?

Jen, Wow, that sounds incredibly painful to be betrayed like that. I would not like that at all. Are you saying he has been cheating with prostitutes for a decade? This deserves a longer conversation than we can have in the blog comments. I invite you to apply for a complimentary discovery call to connect with one of my coaches and figure out the best move for your relationship. You can do that here:

Hi, Laura ! I just got finished reading 2 of your books, and although I do not feel I fit the criteria for being a nagging, overtly controlling wife (more of a subtly manipulative experimenter), I found much of your advice to be very wise. It stands to reason that if you treat someone with respect by staying on your own paper, things will likely improve. I don’t like to be nagged and controlled, so why would he like it any better ? I’ve seen so many women nitpick and nag their husbands. I always cringe inwardly and wonder how the guys can stand it. I do understand how this could slowly murder intimacy in some cases.
I particularly adore and condone the idea that women can benefit tremendously from prioritizing self-care, no matter what the situation ! I keep suggesting this course of action to my female friends (thus trying to control my friends, but I’ll work on that)
I am fortunate enough to have a man who already does many of the things I love, like giving me plenty of attention, affection and sex. He is the kind of man who will text me throughout the day and tell me he loves me every morning. I feel our relationship might be a candidate for the 6 intimacy skills, and I have already begun implementing them. It is amazing how much of a mirror he is to my expectations of him.
I also had great results with saying “I would love…”. My very first experiment with it resulted in him delighting in purchasing me the thing I had expressed a desire for !
I’m rambling,however, and will now get to the point.
My mostly wonderful, kind, sweet man has never hit me, but he has pushed me on 3 occasions, and restrained me and intimidated me on one occasion. This was not in physical self-defense, because I believe it is wrong to physically assault one’s partner, and would never do it, even if he weren’t twice my size. I notice you don’t mention pushing in your description of physical abuse. He does not believe it was physical abuse, since he did not hit me. Several authorities on abuse would disagree, however. What say you ?
Given that any argument also involves a ton of verbal abuse on his part, and that he comes from an abusive family, and used to have a serious drinking problem, but has cut back, do you think this relationship is salvageable ?

R, Congratulations on having so much intimacy and connection in your marriage, and for expressing your desire so beautifully! Sounds like you took to the Six Intimacy Skills like a duck to water. As far as your question about the shoving, of course, safety always comes first. If you truly feel that you are not safe with your husband, then I would be very concerned about that. However, from the rest of your post, I don’t get that sense. I’m sure those were terrifying incidents, so I don’t want to dismiss them, but I definitely see your relationship as one that can be amazing and vibrant even with what you’ve shared with me here. I don’t think you’re weak for staying with him–I think you’re strong. I admire your commitment.

I would have to disagree with the porn red flag completely. Coming from a wife who’s married to someone that’s all he does. It makes you feel unwanted, that your not good enough, and it kinda of emotional abuse. This has been a on going fight to the point we have almost gotten divorced and then I decided to try again and oh guess what same crap. It causes you to build resentment completely. Then you aren’t the problem the turn it into some how isn’t your fault because you don’t want to sleep with them. Why would I?? Things affect everyone differently. Porn in itself destroys marriages. When anyone makes anyone else question why aren’t they pretty enough, good enough, thin enough or simply why can’t you respect me. There’s no point to be in that relationship

Noname, I hear how painful it is to feel less than because of your husband’s porn use. I can see why you’re feeling disrespected. I appreciate you sharing so vulnerably about this struggle.

I remember what it was like to feel unwanted, not good enough, resentful and blamed. There seemed no point in continuing my marriage. Then I found the 6 Intimacy Skills, which replaced all that with me feeling cherished, desired and adored.

I hear your commitment to your marriage and would love to empower you with the tools to turn things around. I invite you to my upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at

Hi Laura, thank you for those points you listed. Addiction/Gambling is a problem i’m having in my home. To the point of him borrowing money,without my knowledge, from people to feed his gambling addiction.There have been times were the police have been involved because he’d been reported for not paying back his debts or people threatening the family. Indeed it is a hard decision to make if i should walk away or i should stay and fight for my marriage. Will his lies to cover up his gambling ever stop? I am at a point where i do not believe anything he says.

I would agree with the porn part if it did not replace the intimacy. And I have been told by professionals that doing it after repeatedly promising not too is a form of abuse, and after 15 years will be one of the main reasons my marriage is ending.

if its stated at the beginning of a relationship that one of the people involved looks at porn as cheating, then it’s cheating. how dare you down play the kinds of damage porn causes in relationships, you obviously need to do more research on the emotional abuse, and countless marriages that have suffered and been destroyed from ” just a 2d image on a screen”. when porn is kept secret, when one spouse is asking for sex and the other is never ” in the mood” because they have gotten pleased by the image of real woman that are actually real people somewhere in the world, that’s most definitely called cheating. maybe you should educate yourself about what porn is actually doing to people, not just the people watching, their spouses, but also what the porn actors are having to go through, before you pop off about a topic you clearly have no clue about, how about you try giving real advice about functioning healthy relationships instead of telling men it’s OK to emotionally stomp on your partner, or to woman that if they are feeling hurt or replaced or not good enough that their feelings are not valid. people like you are the cause of problems, not solutions.

I agree with you sooooo much . 18 years of pain . It’s a serious problem . I file for divorce in January 2024 . Abusive verbally , emotionally ect to me also, from the guilt to my kids and grandkids now . Enough. He says he stopped, but hasn’t. Still doesn’t touch me . I’m done . Totally destroyed Mr.

Lee-Ann, I’m sad to hear all the years of pain and abuse you’ve been through. No one deserves to be treated that way. I can see why you’ve reached the point where you’re done. I remember feeling the same way. Kudos to you for doing your research and even reaching out for support on a site where our mission is to end world divorce. I’m curious what kind of support you’re searching for?

Also want to add the reason why many men show arch porn don’t want sex or sex with their wife as much as sex to live out what they see in porn is because when they get used to what you call three dimensional women they rewire their brain to want that more and it becomes harder for them to be with three dimensional women. Please don’t downplay this

Your com comments on porn I have to very strongly disagree with , he watches anything that can have sex . 18 years of it , I get touched once a year if I’m lucky and he is verbally and emotionally abusive to me and my kids (step dad) even now and they are adults with children . It has ruined us , we will be filing for divorce in January 2024 . Porn that long feels like your spouse is having an affair . I caught him out numerous times . It’s demeaning, makes you feel worthless , ugly , fat , useless, body Image issues. I have severe extreme depression and stress and anxiety. I have put 10 kg on due to stress eating . And you think it still can be a good marriage . Are you serious????? Wait till someone does it to you . It is extremely painful , I feel betrayed , unloved or wanted , no matter what he says . Actions speak louder than words . I know longer have trust , respect or faith in him . I feel nothing for him anymore , and you think it’s survivable. No it’s not . Maybe you should do a lot more research before say anything .

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