I used to listen to a very popular radio show on AM radio where callers could call in an ask ethical, moral, or pseudo psychological questions to the host, Dr. Laura. Quite often the callers would begin with a query on if it were "alright" to get divorced, because of abuse. You can be pretty sure the abuse was not terrifying or physical, or these gals would not be calmly calling for the advice of a stranger. IT was usually the type of behavior that would more commonly be described as a "complaint." As in, "Is it 'alright' if I divorce my husband, because I have a complaint about his dirty laundry, or his loud snoring, or his really awful birthday gift giving habits."

Except that was not how the calls would begin. The callers would use the word "abuse" and Dr. Laura would request clarification on the type of abuse. Chattering away, they would quickly run down a list which inevitably included, "verbal abuse, emotional abuse, spousal abuse. . . ." they would try to get as many in there before the talk show host would cut them off for further clarification. "What do you define as verbal abuse?" She would ask pointedly. Most of the callers refrained from answering. They would get vague or repeat the litany. If she got tired of the coyness, the host would hang up. More often than not, the caller would describe an example which would reveal "verbal abuse" as meaning, when your spouse says something you don't like. After that it would be all over for the caller. Dr. Laura would read them the riot act for creating babies and then getting divorced over stupid trivial reasons. Even after the caller had hung up, she would continue to use her show as a platform for trumpeting the importance in children's lives to have a stable environment.

I agree with Dr. Laura in principle, that people are stupid to take marriage and divorce so cavalierly when the consequences are immense to the children involved. Many women sink into a poverty they never get out of. Some attempt to stave off the poverty by remarrying again and again, subjecting the kids to further and further emotional issues. However, what Dr. Laura generally misses, because it is not the platform of her show, is that just because a person is inarticulate, doesn't mean they are wrong. A person considering as big a step as divorce has some type of problem going on. Abuse by manipulation can be just as deadly, if not worse than true verbal or true emotional abuse.

In the old black and white movie, called "Gaslight" the husband manipulates his wife into thinking she is crazy. He keeps moving the painting around their house, and telling her SHE did it but doesn't remember. When she looks frightened and perplexes he encourages her to think HE is the only person she can trust. There is no name calling, he doesn't punch her in the face, to everyone else he appears the most caring considerate individual. My first husband was like that. It took me so long to figure out exactly what was wrong because he was so smooth, so perfectly good at playing the part of concerned husband. He had quite a bevy of therapists on his side.

One might argue that was actually emotional abuse. I think shaming and blaming are emotionally abusive as well. My first husband thought shame was an excellent tool for keeping people in line because he felt no shame himself. He could promise to pay you Tuesday, and blithely walk off with your money with no intention, EVER, of paying you back. If you called him on it, he would make eye contact, and tell you clearly, he didn't have the money. As if you should have known, as if you were the fool for loaning it to him. He was quite a different character when people did not have the money to pay him back. He thought calling them several times a day and reminding them that they had "given their word" would get them to pony up. Even after it was clear people just didn't have it, he continued to badger them for the sheer pleasure of being one up on them.

One of his favorite things to do if he felt he had been wronged was to gather friends or family members and "run it by them." He would cheerfully recount giving so-and-so some money, and then ask wide eyed an innocently, "don't you think he should pay it back?" Hoping all the while that the conversation would somehow get back to so-and-so. I didn't have kids with this man. Frankly I think if children are exposed to this kind of unethical shenanigan, it DOES represent a volume of emotional abuse. How are kids to learn right from wrong if all they hear is shaming and blaming?

I think the more ethical thing to do is to teach your children how to make a reasonable decision regarding whether to loan someone money or not. Then, if the friend cannot pay back the money, to decide if the debt can be forgiven, or paid of incrementally. Perhaps the friendship is over, however the money still ought to be paid back. I saw people on court TV shows over and over again, who decided since the relationship was over, they no longer owed money. In fact when the lessor, would call for debt repayment, quite often the lessee would complain on national TV, how they were being "harassed."

Funny how words are redefined to suit needs. Some of the more sharp tongued television judges, like Judge Judy, would say, "you were NOT being harassed. You were being asked to repay the money!" In real life though, people can always count on one or two friends seeing their point of view. Birds of a feather flock together. My ex could always count on people to bolster his side. I left him anyway, and I did NOT ask the opinion of any AM talk radio host.