Is He Abusing Her when He Takes Her Phone Away?

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After hiring this couple, I began receiving text messages 

My husband and I gave a recently wed couple a “try-out” to do some work for us. We had seen them individually in the community but knew little about them. They proved to be knowledgeable and hard workers, so we hired them. Soon after, I began receiving text messages from her. (I have edited these so as not to reveal their identities.)

  • Sorry I didn’t let you know we’d be late. He took my phone away!
  • We will be there soon. I told him to wash his hair. He wanted to divorce me this morning, what an awful patient!
  • %#&?!!!! He has been roped into doing a good deed, so we will be late.
  • I should never have told my husband that I was feeling a little tired. He got all concerned and took away my phone and made me take a “short” nap. I turned out to be nearly three hours! Now it’s too late to come.
  • My husband just informed me that he doesn’t want us to work today and that we will work tomorrow morning. I’m sorry.
  • I almost got my husband up at 5:30, but only almost and cranky.
  • Would have come now, but horrible fight, might leave!
  • I am worried. He did it again …
  • Just a scared boy afraid of losing me so he pushes me away to make sure I love him.

     I’ve purposely not included my responses to her texts, as I want to give you an opportunity to think about what’s happening here. Your first thought might be that we should fire them, and it very well may come to that. But, since I began this blog, I’ve been on the alert for signs of abuse. This woman seems like an educated, competent person, and I felt dismayed she would allow him to take away her phone. I remembered a session with my now-ex when our counselor told him, “You’re a twelve-year-old boy and you need to grow up!” After having read many books and articles on domestic abuse, and receiving many accounts from abused women, my Spidey-sense told me that her husband taking her phone away was a bad sign.

I wondered what other people might think about this behavior

     I wondered what other people might think about this behavior, so I googled “husband takes wife’s phone away.” The first source that popped up was with my very question: “Is it okay for your husband to take your cellphone away for a …” Here are some comments. (I’ve edited them for brevity):

  • In America, marriages are partnerships. Neither party can dictate to the other. Each is free to come and go as he/she pleases. Husbands cannot hold hostage their wives’ cell phone—not if they want to preserve their marriages.
  • No, it is not all right. But then again there are certain groups of people who still live in the dark ages and the women allow the men to boss them around. It is very sad, but the woman is the one allowing herself to be treated this way.
  • I would leave a controlling man like this. She needs to speak up for herself or get out of this relationship. Nothing is right here, and I don’t things will change. It’s very controlling.
  • Are there other things he does to control her behavior and her access to the world? Call a domestic violence shelter and ask them to advise you on controlling behaviors. If you have this knowledge you might be in a position to help this friend and others down the road. You can at least tell them what you’ve learned and send them to the shelter.


My own response

     My own response was to text her back saying his taking her phone was not good and she shouldn’t allow it. I didn’t tell her, but I wonder if he is trying to sabotage their fledgling business in which she seems to be the driving force. When she wrote that she might have to leave, I asked her if she had someplace to go. She replied that she did. That was a relief, but when I received that last text, my heart sank. “Here it begins,” I said to myself.
     I see this woman as a good Christian who wants to be loving, understanding, and forgiving. Unfortunately, I’m betting his bad behavior will be repeated over and over again if she allows it, with abject apologies following each time. So many of us women want to believe our contrite husbands. We can’t believe they really are the kind of persons they are showing themselves to be.
     I googled “he says he’s sorry but keeps doing it” and popped up again. “How do you deal with a person who says they are sorry but keeps repeating the same things?” Here are some opinions:

  • Do not accept any more apologies. Tell them that you don’t believe they are sorry, because they do not change their behavior … If they do not change their behavior quickly, cut ties as much as possible. If you are part of a group or family with this person, explain to the other people what is going on. Tell them that you are no longer accepting this kind of behavior.
  • Sorry is just a word. If they keep repeating the same actions, they are showing you by actions that they aren’t willing to change. Also, you are allowing this behavior by not calling them on it. I’m not trying to be mean, but if you are staying silent and accepting their stories over and over again, then the behavior will repeat because there is no reason for it not to change. Stand up for yourself and tell them the behavior must stop … Remember, actions speak louder than words.
  • You deal with them in one of two ways. You remove them from your life, or you remove yourself.
  • (This one from a licensed clinical worker) Abusers especially of Domestic Violence are well known for this behavior. They, use their tactics of abuse, then apologize, saying they are sorry and will never happen again. That lasts until a situation, emotion, etc., occurs and they need a target to release their anger on. They don’t change, they don’t know how to. Without help they do not get better.

What’s next?

     I agree with what these folks said. If I get the chance, I’ll tell her how concerned I am for her. When he takes her phone away, it’s not a cute or protective gesture. I’ll tell her that no matter how much she might love her husband, she is not powerful enough to fix his bad behavior (something I learned the hard way in my own failed marriage). I’ll encourage her to read “Boundaries in Marriage” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. And I’ll tell her to sure, go ahead and find some counseling, but understand there’s no shame in leaving to protect herself from much heartache down the road.


Recently married? Uh, oh, to the new wife.

It was Maya Angelou who said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I wonder if the wife ignored some red flags along the way. Though they may try counseling, I would not judge the wife for leaving as this controlling behavior will probably persist.
They are fortunate to have you, a caring friend. (I’m guessing there may be a follow-up to your story.)


8/2/2022 04:36:28 pm


Right, Marian. And I know for a fact that this is neither his first marriage or hers. I did reply that his taking her phone was very concerning, and I urged her to set some boundaries. I don’t feel I can say anything more unless/until she tells me more. Of course the hub and I are praying for them.


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