Abusive Husband

February 20 2023 | by

Dear Mr Pfister: I have been married to my husband for almost 13 years. We have had a relatively happy marriage, free from any infidelity or other bad happenings. We have four children, all of whom are wonderful, polite saints-in-the-making. Our marriage began to change, however, approximately two years ago. At that time my husband began focusing pointedly on my appearance. He would make comments such as, “You could really afford to lose a few pounds,” and “I had really hoped you would age with more grace.” These comments have been causing wounds for me for the last two years. I don’t know how much longer I can take this abuse. My non-Catholic friends tell me to just get divorced, but I made a covenant before God and I will not break it. What can I do to make him stop hurting me like this?


I couldn’t be more sorrowed to hear your husband has forgotten your dignity as a human person – not to mention his spouse – made in the image and likeness of Almighty God. At the same time, I rejoice over your commitment to the blessed Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

There is a technique used by exorcists when working with demoniacs called ‘disappropriation’. Essentially, disappropriation seeks to turn the focus back on the one who is causing the harm rather than on the one being harmed. It reverses the abusive relationship that demons try to form in cases of possession, giving the possessed relief from their persistent mental and emotional attacks.

These relationships put in place by demons mirror quite remarkably marital relationships where mental or verbal abuse is present. The abuser tries to, among other things, manipulate and change the self-perception of the abused using deceit and falsities. They do this in part to cause the abused to feel as if they don’t deserve any better than how they’re being treated. If anything, they deserve every mistreatment they’re being given, and more. This leads to isolation and self-doubt.

Disappropriation can be extremely helpful in these situations because it turns the focus back on the abuser, shining the light on their behavior rather than what they are trying to push onto the abused. For example, when your husband makes a comment about your weight, rather than defending yourself by saying things such as, “I am not overweight” or “I have been eating really healthy and exercising” or “You’re so mean to me,” you turn the focus away from the subject of his comments and towards him as the generator of the comments. This is because defending yourself by addressing his comments says to him, “This subject is open for discussion,” when in reality it’s not. He has no right or authority to treat you with such a lack of charity.

Therefore, instead of defending yourself, say something to the effect of, “Have you always been so judgmental of others’ appearances?” or “I think your time would be better spent focusing on God and not how others look. It really is a waste of time.” This way of addressing the abuser turns the focus back to them and the real problem – their behavior. This isn’t done to cause them harm of any kind, but rather to metaphorically hold a mirror up to them and say, “Is this the kind of person you desire to be?” This can be an incredibly effective way of getting them to change their behavior – if they are at all virtuous – or at the very least to stop attacking you because they are no longer having the same effect or getting the same reaction with their hurtful words.

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Updated on February 22 2023