Deprivation or Withholding

deprivation or withholdingWithholding affection is one type of deprivation, and that occurs when your mate purposefully withholds physical contact (including sex). Divorces of the past were granted for “alienation of affection” and withholding physical comforts underlies the complaint. However, there are multiple ways abusive people deprive their victims.

Abusers may deprive you of information that you need. For example, they may deprive you of financial information such as impending bankruptcy or bills that need to be paid; hiding money from you or denying you the money you need for groceries (or any other need) falls into this category, too.

Another type of deprivation involves your time. Abusers tend to think their time is of the utmost importance, but your time is of no value. Abusers tend to think that you should be available to them at all times. Sometimes, they’ll tell you to plan on an event “for sure” when they know the event is tentative. You end up setting aside entire days or afternoons only to find out, at the last minute, the plans changed. Sometimes, your abuser won’t even tell you the plans changed and you’ll be dressed up for a business dinner when he comes home yelling, “Why isn’t dinner on the table? Why are the kids at a babysitter?”

Speaking of time, abusers will often deprive you of a good night’s sleep. Perhaps he returns home at 1 AM and wants to “talk” but if you deny him a conversation, he turns on the nasty juice and demands your attention. Sleep deprivation also happens when you work different shifts. Instead of letting you sleep and tending to the children during that time, the abuser may demand that you stay awake to do it.

Another type of deprivation is withholding compliments that you deserve and/or replacing them with compliments that trivialize your contributions. Your abuser may compliment things that are easy to do (such as taking out the trash) while ignoring your greater accomplishments (such as getting a raise). Appreciation for taking out the trash is one thing, but praising your skill at doing it is trivial. The abuser takes note of what you consider to be important, and then makes sure to never compliment you on successes in that area or to undermine your accomplishments by making them seem less important to him than what other people, he or his friends do.

How My Husband Uses Deprivation (Withholding)

Will won’t talk to me about anything of importance for hours and sometimes days. He’ll make requests (“Pass the butter”) or ask questions (“Where are my shoes?”), but that is all.

He pushes me away when I make a sexual advance and then complains that I don’t act like I want him. He’ll come home drunk if he suspects I want to “talk”. He goes to his friend’s house instead of spending time with his family. He will work on projects that could wait for a couple of hours (or months!) when I want to do something together. I’m not talking about occasionally.

Will withholds true compliments. He tells me how great the house looks, but to me, that doesn’t matter. I want him to compliment my awesome new artwork that he can’t help but see when he walks in the door. That is important to me, but he ignores it, even when I fish for compliments.

My husband also deprives me of sleep. He’ll stay up late drinking, then come into our bedroom and slam dresser drawers or the closet door pretending to look for something. Those loud noises wake me with a start and because I know he doesn’t really need anything but is looking for a fight, my heart pounds and makes it difficult to go back to sleep. I lie there wondering, “Is it over? Is he coming back?”

By withholding and depriving, Will can say, “Nyah nyah! I’ve got something you want and you can’t have it! I’m in control! I can keep things exactly how they are, and you can’t do anything about it!

How to React to Withholding

how to react to denialThe main idea to remember if you’re forced to react to withholding or deprivation is that you have your own life, independent of your abuser. If you do not have “your own life” due to isolation or choice, then it is time to create one. Abuse causes the victim to focus mainly on the abuser, and when we do that, we lose sight of our talents and activities that bring us enjoyment. Bring those things back into your life. Give yourself something to focus on besides your abuser!

It is also important that you learn to validate and appreciate your own accomplishments. If you’ve done something well or have reason to be proud of yourself, do not rely on your abuser for approval or encouragement. Approve of and encourage yourself first, then share your joy with someone who cares.

Your Time And Sleep

If your partner abuses your time, there are a couple of ways you can handle it. If you experience a situation like being dressed for dinner only to find the event cancelled, go out to dinner anyway. Go alone if you must, but go. If you’ve taken time off of work to accompany your abuser on a trip that he cancels at the last minute, make sure you go visit your family on an overnight or leave the house during the daytime to pursue enjoyable activities alone. Don’t sit at the house pining, make use of your time in a way that makes you feel good.

Also, it is a good idea to schedule things that you want to do in advance, and keep them to yourself. For example, there may be a great exhibit opening at the museum next month and you want to be there. For an event like this, you may want to keep it private until a day or two before it occurs. If your abuser knows there’s something coming up, they may create an “important” event that trumps yours, forcing you to abandon your plans. If your abuser tries to take that time away from you by planning something else, tell them you already have plans and can’t help them that day. Break away from allowing your abuser to schedule what you do and when you do it. Make your own plans. Insist on honoring your time.

As you can imagine, reacting to sleep deprivation safely and healthfully could involve finding somewhere else to sleep! This isn’t practical, especially if you are married to or living with your abuser. But, if your abuser contacts you via phone during your sleep time, you could always turn off the phone. Or, if you live alone and your significant other comes banging on the door, you can ignore it. Do not answer the door. It will make them angry and God knows what they’ll accuse you of doing, but it is an option.

Financial Withholding

Financial withholding can devastate you emotionally as well as money-wise. Separate your finances from your abuser’s in every way possible. Remove yourself as joint user on credit cards and open your own checking and savings accounts. Your best bet is to research how to separate yourself from the abuser’s accounts starting on the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s Financial Tips for Victims and Survivors.

If your abuser controls your money, he has no legal right to do so. Change your direct deposit account to one in your name only, and remove him as joint user on any credit accounts. If he threatens to use your mental illness against you (have you committed), look into what it takes to have someone committed! When you know the rules, it is easy to work within them to ensure he would not be able to commit you. Secure legal aid if necessary, or at least know who to call if you need help.

If your abuser controls his money (he is the sole-provider), then you may have to deal with his controlling behaviors as he doles out cash when he feels like it. However, don’t let his control over the finances fool you into believing there is no way to leave the relationship. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 and ask them about financial assistance available in your area.

By the way, my abuser “allowed” to me full access to our banking accounts. I paid the bills, ensured the money went into his TSP account (like an IRA), and was able to transfer $9600 from our savings account to my own checking account on the night I left. My final financial transaction completely surprised him. He could do nothing about it. You see, he thought he controlled my financial life. One of the illusions abusers live with is the idea that “we” CANNOT do anything without their permission. He thought that he had enough control over my thinking to prohibit any individual choice.

Why did he think that? Well, he used my financial savvy against me. I handled the money really well, but he continually berated me for my performance. At one time, I thought he was right – that I was a spendthrift and wasted his income. And yet, he would never assume responsibility for our money. I think he felt a need to use our financial picture as a weapon against me. One day, he kept me on the porch for eight hours, “discussing” the proper way to handle money. Countless other times our “conversations” went on for two hours or more. He used abusive anger and denial and a host of other tactics in his attempt to control the money, but in the end, he failed. Overconfidence on his part, I suppose; an unwillingness to agree that it was “his” money alone on mine.

Deprivation or Withholding of Affection

Unless you’re willing to go outside of your relationship for physical comfort, you’re going to have to take sexual release into your own hands, literally. If you do choose to take a lover, please consider the damage that could be done to him when he falls in love with you, but you are unwilling to leave your marriage. Cheating is not fair to a potential lover, and the risk of sexually transmitted diseases with multiple lovers is not worth the risk. Find a great sex store and rev up your internal fantasies.

Women friends can be a source of comfort, too. Women hug. They will hold your hand across the table when you need comfort. This type of physical connection is not the same as a sexual one, but it does help to fill the void. Also, hug your kids! Ruffle their hair, hold their hands, or sit close on the couch while they watch cartoons. Again, this is no where near experiencing the intimate physical connection your spouse denies you, but any type of healthy touching is better than no touching at all.

When it comes to your partner specifically, you can speak up to him about how you feel and what you want sexually. However, don’t expect a positive response. He could say that it isn’t him, it’s you. He could say that he can’t stand to touch you anymore because [fill in hurtful reason here]. Most likely, he will say whatever it takes to make you feel worse for the horrible thing he is doing.

If your abuser deprives you of intimate conversation, your best responses are pretty much the same as if he denies you sex. The difference is that finding someone else to talk to is a practical and healthy alternative all the way around. Even in healthy relationships, people need other people besides their spouse to talk to. Open up. Talk to someone else, even if it is a hotline volunteer or a support group member. Do not rely on your abuser to fill the void of loneliness.

Remember that these statements are to help you feel better and detach from your abuser’s antics. They do not guarantee that your abuser will stop abusing you, nor do they protect you from further abuse. You should fill out a safety plan so you know what you will do if things get out of hand.

Based on the book The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans, ISBN 1558503048, Adams Media, February 2003 and my experiences with verbal abuse.


  1. LaRubia says:

    “My” abuser, too, goes on talking jags, during which he mostly repeats himself. I learned long ago to sit with a particular look on my face AND air about myself. It USUALLY keeps me out of trouble. When it doesn’t, I get to hear all about whichever of his soapboxes he’s got at the fore AND I get reamed out yet again.

    “Am I BORING you?” he’ll snarl; or

    “Am I interRUPting something,” as he sneers at the TV. (This produces a diatribe [see paragraph above] about what I watch and the people on it and how low-class it is and blah blah blah about a third of the time); or

    “You’re not doing anything important. You can give me a minute of your time,” delivered in that deadly tone of voice.

    • Same here. He used to repeat the same issue (usually connected to some small event he had experienced during the day) over and over again, the entire night. He would ask the same question every 15 minutes, like what we were having for dinner. I would put it down to intoxication but it always made me feel like I could not engage in real interaction with this person, in any meaningful exchange of ideas, he was ”not all there”.

  2. You are so right; I have experienced all this as well. He used to praise me for simple things such as making him a sandwich, then trivialise my writing (that’s just British spelling, not an error) and any campaigns or events I tried to get involved in. Basically, anything I really held dear about my personality, anything that made me feel positive, motivated and full of life.

    Also, he used to wake me up at night, at any hour, with the excuse of being drunk and wanting some affection. If I minded (as I was tired and didn’t appreciate being forced to stay up) he would often throw fits, which made sure I wouldn’t sleep for the rest of the night. He used to get drunk, put the earphones on and start singing a few feet away from me, expecting me to get out of bed and tell him to stop if it bothered me (sometimes repeatedly), instead of simply avoiding the situation altogether. That was so frustrating. Sometimes he would do this on purpose and enjoy it. Almost demonic, really.

    Everything you wrote rings true. Every single thing. For instance, he avoided physical intimacy after I got pregnant and another half a year after I gave birth, with all sorts of excuses. Then one day (right before Christmas) he told me I had gotten fat and he was no longer attracted to me, then saying it was ”not a big deal”. He practically admitted to having lied for so long and having avoided me as skilfully as possible. Of course I could never feel totally comfortable again in that sense and throughout the years he kept telling me I was extremely unattractive, then he would suddenly ask for sex and get annoyed when I would say no. Of course he hated me for that as well and kept calling me a frigid bitch, even though he’d been the one to destroy our intimacy and trust in the first place, not to mention my confidence. I should’ve known things would never be the same after that.

  3. frustrated says:

    My partner has withheld almost everything from me since the birth of our daughter. In fact it started the day after she was born. I feel for any woman going through this. I am constantly depressed, literally sick for days from the stress. The only reason I stay is for my daughter. He says he is going to have all the neighbors testify against me in court, he constantly says I’m mental, but I have never been mental before him. He has no problem giving affection to his mother, female friends, etc. He takes every opportunity to put me down and criticize me. Nothing I do is good enough. We haven’t had sex in months, so long I forgot what it was like, I’m not joking. He never touches me, comforts me, doesn’t cuddle. It’s exhausting. We live 1000 miles away from family and I have no one. I’ve just been searching google for an explanation to all of this and I see now that it’s him although the damage is done, I really can’t see me staying with him but I can’t figure out how to leave. He said he will have me arrested for kidnapping. He wants me to abandon my child, I think he is addicted to hurting me and just last month he sat out there saying he was going to kill himself because all he does is hurt people, then promised change, but 2 weeks later it’s the same thing. It’s a constant, this withholding of any form of communication, affection, compliments, as well as the constant hurt I feel as if I just can’t function anymore. The doctor put me on an anti depressant for the depression but it just makes me want to knock him over the head with a bat or just completely aloof. Counseling is useless as he insists it’s all me, he sets appts with them and then we never go. He never takes initiative with anything, on mother’s day I was made to make my own dinner, I was gifted a 40 dollar present he wanted. Yet for father’s day he spent over 2 grand on himself and then turns around and says it is for the whole family. On valentines day I threw a fit because not so much as a card was given to me. I guess out of guilt he went and brought me flowers. I wish there was more support for how to cope with all of this. I have been sick with sores on my tonsils because of the extreme stress. It is now affecting my stomach, head, my joints. I feel like I’m in a 60 year old body and I’m 35. He won’t marry me and places no priority on it, he says it’s cause he can’t afford a ring. Its bs. He has had plenty of opportunity to purchase a ring, he just won’t. Had I known when I met this man I would be going through this I would have run for my life, but these passive aggressives are really good at being wolves in sheeps clothing. They use every little thing against you, tell them something personal and watch 2 years later they use it against you to make you seem unstable and crazy to other people or even yourself. They are masters at bringing you down. When we met, I would light up a room, talk to anyone, now I can hardly go anywhere, talk to anyone, I’ve gained 60 pounds, I’m completely unhappy and just want out. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find a way out.

    • Anonymous says:

      You must disengage yourself from this cycle of craziness. Why would you even care about a Valentine’s card, when there is no love in this relationship? Just control & manipulation?
      Love is not like this. Call a domestic violence hotline. Find an office in your area/by phone.
      Set up your case & stick with it.
      This relationship will slowly drain you if all you are & it is a slow death. Stress causes cancer & disease.
      Do it for you. Do it for your daughter.

    • anonymous says:

      I am In a relationship , marriage similar. He is 14 years my senior and was physically abisive in front of our children for most of their yourh I left briefly ,( separated ,) but . He started to turn my children away from me. When I came back to our home he was no longer physically abusive , but verbally and the control. ,( not wanting me to work outside the home ,) but then complaining about everything he buys for me , the majority is used for my orthopedic issues and the health insurance needs I am continually harassed for in front of my children. He is the opposite about affection & demands me to dress in sexy clothing like I used to wear whine we first met. He is constantly bringing up my transgressions although his transgressions were the reason my daughter had to leave. I am disguised by his material desires and disgusted by him because of the degredstion i havevwantercd to go back to work to help with the bills , but he is threatened that he will get revenge if I ever file for divorce. I don’t know where to turn , I have no career other than child rearing , homemaking & most of the chores . My sons and daughters are now disrespectful to me & they do not listen , are receptive to any disciplin. The only one of the family members that is openly reprimanded in a dispicable manner is me. The children are repeating the cycle of abuse because my position as a mother & homemaker has always been ,” freeloading ,” in his eyes . Now the children have the same attitude.,I don’t know where to turn and there is nothjg in my name. Doubtful my fanly will help. He continually tells me to leave when he knows very well I have nowhere to go. Can anyone recommend a hotline of faculty that will actually help, one called women in distress 2 x and they did not call back “.
      Thank you

      • Visit They have a chat line and a 24/7 phone service. This is only going to get worse. If you’ve been at home all these years, he will (most likely) be ordered to pay you some sort of alimony. College is about to start up again – file for financial aid at (NOT – they’re a “service”). Go to school, talk to an attorney, and get out of there asap.

        I won’t lie. Finances will be tight for awhile until you’re able to find work. You can work and make friends at work to help offset his nastiness. He doesn’t want you working because he’ll lose his grip on you. You will no longer be isolated to your toxic family if you step out.

        Also, talk to your family. They may surprise you. If they’re unsupportive, there’s no surprise. You’ll only know if you ask.

  4. I have been married for 17 years, together for 18. I just realized a month ago that I have been in a domestic abusive relationship this entire time. This last fight we had was so surreal. My abuser likes to avoid responsibility at any cost. You name it, he cowers and runs the other way. He starts screaming at me, calling be vile and sexually explicit names in front of our 16 year old son. This was happening even before we were married but my low self esteem didn’t know any better. I was verbally abused, physically abused and sexually abused by my father and my brother. My mother was carrying on in an affair for seven years, yet I didn’t know the truth about this until I was in my late forties. So, this behavior is all I have ever known. I became a “dancer” in a strip bar when I was 34. I had a false since of who I was, and needed the approval that I was “pretty” or “good enough.” I worked there for three years and had enough. I turned things around and went back to school and worked in a professional environment thinking I would meet the man of my dreams.Haha! Nope, I gravitated to the same type of abusive relationship, over and over again. Now I am much older, wiser and know the difference between a slick talker (husband) now. What happened a month ago started with the usual conversation about a home repair and that we needed to get a game plan going before the winter. Well, it was as if WWIII erupted in my living room. I literally had a “Black Out” of instant rage. I think I finally got fed up with the name calling, that I am worthless, fat (I weigh 115), stupid, bitch, whore, cu*t, crotch rot, ete, etc. I stood up so fast, after I threw my computer mouse at him and he threw a glass of water at me, I then picked up my laptop and slammed it against the wall. He wouldn’t shut up, so, I picked up his laptop and slammed it on the ground, I was so enraged I can’t even begin to say how this made me feel. I have never reacted like this before. Yet before when he bullied and name called me, I would always “apologize” first. Not anymore. I have heard this over and over again. My abuser is an alcoholic with a very addictive personality. Addictions to cocaine in the past, he lies, takes money we need to pay bills,(he now has his paycheck deposited in a different account so I don’t know what he makes.) Back in March, I lost my job, a lot of back stabbing politics. I won my case against them, and received my unemployment, and this threw me into a very deep depression. Long story short, there was no support what so ever from him. Yes, I take an anti depressive, thank God. I also have ADHD, and my abuser said that ever since I started taking medication, I have become a bitch. No, it’s the first time that I understand with clarity of what I was missing. My son is also ADHD and takes medication as well.
    I think the abuser feels intimidated because now I know the difference. He wants me to stop taking my medication, no way! The way I have figured this whole thing out and how to “not react” is just don’t react. I know now, that he has a serious problem and he doesn’t want help. I can’t fix him, I am not his savior. I moved into the spare room, made it my own. It’s clean, pretty, my grand-kids pictures are up, I can pray and read my Bible, pray my Rosary, and I feel the strength of the Lord and the Peace that surpasses all understanding.

    I can’t leave, we own a home together, and there are bills that need to be paid, and also, my son graduates from high school next year. I feel for the first time, empowered just knowing that after 18 years, I am who God created, and my abuser can’t do one thing about it. My son feels very indifferent about his dad, he knows that he is not a father or role model in anyway. His teachers in our parish are so supportive of him, and they show him what God expects a man/husband to be like. God has a plan and His timing is always perfect.

    There is hope for all of us victims from our abusers, but we have to stay tough and deal with it the best we can. By not talking or having any communication except for a few daily things, he goes to his room after work, to his social network, female friends etc, etc. He drinks, vapes and if that is his life, then so be it. He has left us alone, and I couldn’t be happier and more at peace. My son says, “mom, your so much more fun now!”

    So even if we live with the abuser, God has protected us and we feel His presence all around us. I will never be swayed by his words ever again. I am pretty sure he finally knows that I have figured him out.

  5. Withholding is definitely abusive behavior. It is a way of telling another person without actually saying it that: “You aren’t important enough to receive a response from me,” it is highly unkind and impersonal. It is hard for me to just walk away from withholding behaviors, I am working on it.

    • Don’t you know it! Meeting silence with silence is SO difficult. You could take the opportunity to tell your abuser exactly how you feel about their withholding behaviors. Challenge yourself to do so in the most healthful way possible. You know your partner does not have to listen or respond, but it feels better to be “the better person” and SANELY tell them exactly what you think. You know your abuser best, so don’t do this if you feel it will result in a dangerous situation.

  6. You know, I’m beginning to wonder if “Long, pointless rants during which you basically just sit there and nod” should be added to the ever growing warning signs of an abusive personality for me. OOoh the ranting I endured. Out of curiosity once, I actually got up and walked away for an entire thirty minutes during a rant (we were just chatting long distance at that point and he wasn’t mad, just ranting about something or the other) and came back to find he LITERALLY didn’t realize I was gone. He was still going. I was basically just a prop. It was almost like watching a peacock strut (metaphorically) around flashing his tail feathers at me repeatedly in some sort of weird, ritualized mating dance only the subject at hand was nothing to do with mating.

    I got away from him pretty early on, thankfully. I started exerting my right to say “No” to things and telling him I didn’t appreciate constant accusations. This, of course, resulted in a lengthy “Maybe we’re just not right for each other, but we’re both really good people and perhaps we’re trying to force something that isn’t there with this whatever our relationship is. But maybe…) etc etc. So I got to write him a little note that said “You know, your last message seemed really unclear. I don’t know if you were threatening to leave the relationship or trying to tell me we didn’t have one or simply trying to derail the conversation thinking I”ll react in fear because you *might* leave. Whatever the case, this feels like a really manipulative situation so I”m going to clarify things for you. Goodbye. We’re done. Leave me alone. Go away, don’t come back, don’t call and don’t expect me to call you. I’ll be completely fine without you. Bye.” Then canceled my accounts, changed my phone number and blocked all contact options and told my friends never to answer a question he asked.

    My advice to people who see these things early on while it’s still possible is…just leave. Walk away. It’s not about you. It never was, it never will be. It’s about them and their issues and their internal constructs that cause them to feel abuse is an acceptable alternative to a healthy relationship. Just because they believe it doesn’t mean you have to. (Having been the victim in many relationships I completely understand and am not minimizing the pain. Consider my actions above to be a HUGE leap forward from who I used to be.)

  7. Bubbles says:

    Financially I am stable and I don’t understand why I put up with what I do. I think it’s the fear that no one else would want me. My husband shows me no affection at all. I have to ask for a kiss, sex is just out of the question. He never pays me any compliments. He shows no interest in my job. All he talks about is himself. I am not even allowed to have a cup of coffee without his permission. I am not allowed into the family from to watch TV. I often feel like a prisoner in my own home. I am a,lowed no opinion when it comes to our children.. If I tell him how I feel he tells me it is In my mind and that I am mentally ill. Yet I am allowed to visit my family – sometimes for the whole weekend. I don’t understand his attitude towards me. I once suggested outlets counselling to him but he said I was the one with the problem and that I should go alone so that they could “fix me”.

  8. This doesn’t really say much about when they withhold sex though. They’re basically not participating in the marriage at that point, and it’s safe to say you probably have grounds for divorce.

  9. Amanalone says:

    His His He Cos it’s only men who abuse. Just for your info, 8MONTHS I’ve slept on sofa, 8 MONTHS since I felt even somewhat wanted, cannot remember a genuine compliment so you ladies tell me is it only men capable of abuse and if not why do you use gender specific descriptions. For your info I feel for every single one of you who are being taken for granted treated like you don’t matter downright ignored but please think wen you write your articles you are speaking for everyone and sometimes it’s a she that is ‘withholding’

    • I’m sorry your wife abuses you. Domestic violence and abuse is never a good situation. I hope you find happiness through your reactions to the abuse.

      I must reply to the tone of your message. Please see this page:

      If you choose not to look at it, then please know that we are well aware that men are abused. Instead of taking the pronoun usage as an offense, simply substitute the words he and him as needed. Women have done this for years as the words he and him were the ONLY pronouns used generically at the beginning of my generation (1970’s).

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