We all grew up believing that physical abuse was the thing that hurt the most but if you have ever experienced a verbally abusive relationship, you know that words can feel as though they are literally killing your soul. They will also stay active in your minds for years if left unattended.
Physical abuse can leave visible marks, the kind you can see and show someone else so they understand what’s happening to you. People can see damage being done to you. Abusive words don’t leave visible marks of any sort. Verbal abuse can be so cunning and insidious the damage is done before you even realize what is being done to you. There are no scars, no visible signs of hurt to show someone to ask for help.
Verbal abusers pick their victims. Most of the time they keep the abuse behind closed doors with no witnesses. The abuser’s public image is so totally different than the one they show to their victim. If anyone is going to look foolish or petty, it will be the victim who seeks help from family or friends. They only see the “good” side of the abuser.
Verbal abuse isn’t just shouting profanities; it is finding a sensitive spot and working on it. Joking about a tender subject when the abused person reacts (as the abuser expected) telling them that they “are too sensitive”, some other negative put-down remark to further demean.
A person who has been verbally abused may believe they are worthless, not capable of the simplest tasks, not worthy of living on this earth. When it comes from a parent, it is particularly devastating. Many times an abused child grows up and becomes the abuser, although they don’t necessarily recognize their actions as being abusive.
All relationships are going to have times of arguing some harsh words. That is a normal part of a normal relationship as it evolves. In a healthy relationship it leads clearing the air of issues that needed to be dealt with; it leads to healthy conversations and a resolve. Both partners say they’re sorry, they both admit to their mistakes. They may even apologize.
Abusers may apologize, although most don’t, but even with apologies they won’t stop the abuse. Even if they say they’re sorry, they aren’t sorry enough to stop the abuse.
Think about this, if your spouse or boyfriend, or family member were being abusive to you, would you accept it knowing that your son or daughter will probably be abused, and ultimately will learn from you that abusive behavior is acceptable?
You need to learn what you can do to break the legacy of abuse within your family. Get counseling for yourself and your children even if your spouse denies there is a problem.
Life is too short to spend it being verbally or otherwise abused. If you saw it happening to your child would you allow it?
Many verbal abusers are delightful, charming people in public. They treat their spouse or partner with such respect that people often think they “are the perfect couple”. They save their abuse and cruelty for a private audience. Know this: verbal abuse escalates. Verbal abuse can and sometimes does, turn physical.
Many people are obviously verbally cruel and abusive. Others are subtler.
Physical abuse may leave injury for a time, but more often than not, the injury heals. Verbal abuse it is often more seriously damaging to your self-image. Verbal abuse is cruel and scars your soul.
Many people never discuss verbal abuse. Indeed, some do not even recognize that they are being verbally abused. Quite often the person being abused makes excuses for the abuser.
“…..really doesn’t mean to hurt me.”
“I don’t want to break up. I have children.”
“…..will stop because he/she loves me.”
Verbal abusers are usually quite sensitive to outsiders finding out about the abuse. No one outside the home may ever see the side the abused person knows only too well
Why do intelligent, warm men and women permit verbal abuse?
During the courtship period, everyone is on his or her best behavior. The verbal abuse is slight and probably few and far between. Since everyone wants to believe the best of their lovers, they overlook obvious verbal abuse. Chemistry adds to the capability women have to overlook the first subtle signs of abuse.
Then they marry or move in together. And the abuse starts…
One of the most devastating effects of living with a verbal abuser is the change in self-esteem. As the abused person begins to internalize the criticism and believe it’s valid, self-image sinks lower and lower. They start feeling worthless, incompetent, and unlovable. After all, when someone who knows them so well thinks they are so worthless and unlovable, then “it must be true.”
If the woman does challenge the abuser, he might turn on the charm and even make her doubt her instincts. This lowers her self-confidence even further.
Abusers have stock answers when challenged.
“What’s wrong with you, making such a big deal out of nothing.
“Come on, honey, I was drunk…..
“Honey, I love you but sometimes you…”
“I had a bad day at work…” or “I had a bad day with the kids”
“You know I didn’t mean anything I said. I’m the one who loves you more than anyone else in the world loves you–remember.”
If you are in a verbally abusive relationship, start by acknowledging the abuse. This is not an easy thing to do. Outside help may be necessary because family, friends, and relatives are often under the spell of your mate and don’t offer belief or support.
Make plans to create a better environment for you. Don’t stay too long, though, because every time your self-esteem sinks further, you lessen your chances of actually leaving
Do you wonder if your relationship may be abusive? Ask yourself the questions below. If you answer ‘yes’ to more than a few, you may want to take a closer look. These things are universal traits of an abuser.
Does your partner:
Ignore your feelings
Ridicule or insult you then tell you it’s a joke, or that you have no sense of humor?
Ridicule your beliefs, religion, race, heritage or class?
Withhold approval, appreciation or affection?
Give you the silent treatment?
Walk away without answering you?
Criticize you, call you names, and yell at you?
Humiliate you privately or in public?
Roll his or her eyes when you talk?
Give you a hard time about socializing with your friends or family?
Make you socialize (and keep up appearances) even when you don’t feel well?
Seem to make sure that what you really want is exactly what you won’t get?
Tell you are too sensitive?
Hurt you especially when you are down?
Seem energized by fighting, while fighting exhausts you?
Have unpredictable mood swings, alternating from good to bad for no apparent reason?
Present a wonderful face to the world and is well liked by outsiders?
“Twist” your words, somehow turning what you said against you?
Try to control decisions, money, even the way you style your hair or wear your clothes?
Complain about how badly you treat him or her?
Threaten to leave, or threaten to throw you out?
Say things that make you feel good, but do things that make you feel bad?
Ever left you stranded?
Ever threaten to hurt you or your family?
Ever hit or pushed you, even “accidentally”?
Seem to stir up trouble just when you seem to be getting closer to each other?
Abuse something you love: a pet, a child, and an object?
Compliment you enough to keep you happy, yet criticize you enough to keep you insecure?
Promise to never do something hurtful again?
Harass you about imagined affairs?
Manipulate you with lies and contradictions?
Destroy furniture, punch holes in walls, and break appliances?
Drive like a road-rage junkie?
Act immature and selfish; yet accuse you of those behaviors?
Question your every move and motive, somehow questioning your competence?
Interrupt you; hear but not really listen?
Make you feel like you can’t win? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t?
Use drugs and/or alcohol involved? Are things worse then?
Incite you to rage, which is “proof” that you are to blame?
Try to convince you he or she is “right,” while you are “wrong?”
Frequently say things that are later denied or accuse you of misunderstanding?
Treat you like a sex object, or as though sex should be provided on demand regardless of how you feel?
Your situation is critical if the following applies to you:
You express your opinions less and less freely.
You find yourself walking on eggshells, careful of when and how to say something.
You long for that softer, more vulnerable part of your partner to emerge.
You find yourself making excuses for your partner’s behavior.
You feel emotionally unsafe.
You feel it’s somehow not OK to talk with others about your relationship.
You hope things will change…especially through your love and understanding.
You find yourself doubting your memory or sense of reality.
You doubt your own judgment.
You doubt your abilities.
You feel vulnerable and insecure.
You are becoming increasingly depressed.
You feel increasingly trapped and powerless.
You have been or are afraid of your partner.
Your partner has physically hurt you, even once
If you feel your relationship may be verbally and emotionally abusive, talk to people you trust. Talk to clergy, call your local battered women’s shelter, educate yourself, and seek professional help. Do not allow verbal and emotional abuse to escalate to battery!