Subtle: ... not obvious ... cleverly indirect and ingenious
Cruelty: an act that deliberately causes pain and distress ...
the infliction of pain, distress or anguish, especially when it is long-term
and considered extreme enough to be grounds for divorce.
Encarta World English Dictionary
So. Interacting with your husband, as usual, you feel awful. And as usual, you're in a dither, wondering why. Before you book a suite at the nuthouse, consider this: The Crazy-Making Husband can be subtle in his cruelty. With subtlety, it's often hard to put your finger on what's happening.
Doubt and confusion about the source of your marital distress wreak havoc in your head. Is your husband deliberately hurting you, or not? As he insists, are you reading things into his words, or behavior, or feelings? Is what he said merely his [bad] attempt to make a joke?
Are you too sensitive? Too weak? Too dumb?
As he insists, are you over-reacting?
Hardly. While bruises, organ damage and broken bones tangibly evidence the heinous actions of the physically violent husband, The Crazy-Making Husband's dastardly behavior leaves little 'tangible' evidence -- yet the damage is pervasive and far-reaching. Sporting a different m.o. than the physically abusive husband, his attacks are metaphysical, aimed at your emotions and thoughts -- at your very Spirit -- to 'invisibly' destroy your inner self.
Unlike physical violence, subtle crazy-making isn't loud, or overt. Instead, it is quietly administered. It can even be wordless. Often, it is hidden: couched in a look, or the gap where his response should be, or in an obvious insincere statement. It's tucked within his reaction to your legitimate needs, by countering, forgetting, or chronic procrastination. It's cloaked in his pattern of callous withdrawal. It even lies within his neglecting to pay important bills.