Advice for men – and the women who love them!
Wondering what verbal emotional abuse looks like? Let’s start with what it feels like. Verbal emotional abuse feels like getting punched and hugged at the same time.
Verbal emotional abuse can be very difficult to recognize when you’re in the middle of it. Often a verbal abuser will appear to care for you while at the same time they’re hurting you deeply. The hurt from verbal abuse isn’t an obvious, external wound. It’s a subtle, internal wound to your self-identity.
Here are some examples of verbal emotional abuse from a few victims:
- I am in a verbally abusive relationship with my husband. I am called stupid, dumb etc..he even tells me I’m stupid for being with him. . . My self esteem is in the gutter.
- My boyfriend always said it was my fault he called me a names. I shouldn’t have been late, because he had prepared dinner. . . I BELIEVED him. . . The abuse happens after they have you believe in them. They make you actually think, it’s your fault they can’t control yourself. . . I was brainwashed into thinking I’m fat, unattractive, nobody would want me while he was going to go on living his rocking life.
- The first time he made me cry he felt so bad I thought it would get better. But it never did. I am called all sorts of names, told to shut the f*** up, that he doesn’t want to look at my stupid face. I never get an apology or if I do it’s “I’m sorry but really this is your fault.”
- I have been with my husband for 16 years now and the last 10 years have been hell. I never do anything right in his opinion. The food is never good enough, the house never clean enough. I’m not thin enough. He calls me fat and bitch in front of our children and now my little boy has started calling me fat. How am I suppose to react to that? He tells me I am worthless. He will not give me money when I need it. He tells me I don’t pay the bills so why should he give me anything? I don’t know what to do. I am so lost and alone.
- Every stressful moment in his life is taken out on me. His insults are so shocking I sit, stunned, as he tries to degrade me. In the beginning, I trusted he meant the things he said, and of course I would cry my eyes out. My face was always puffy from crying. Slowly I noticed how my mind altered due to his insults. My self esteem was a complete zero. . . Ex: “Your life is a joke.” “Every decision you made in your life was a mistake.” “You are a sh*t-head (because I won Trivial Pursuit. How trivial.)” And worse and worse. He often uses what others think against me. . . He uses my insecurities against me.
- In the beginning I met a great guy, charming, smooth talking, talked himself up to everyone. He was s dream. Once we became official, my clothes weren’t right, my hair was too messy, I was a c*nt. I embarrassed him etc. I was told to have sex twice daily or he would leave me, my self esteem dropped drastically. I went from successful to lazy and always wanting to sleep. I did everything for him in order to make him happy. His drinking became horrible, his fists hit the walls during a fight. I was never GOOD enough but he “loved me” and everything was for “my own good”. Crying everyday, depressed, feeling “crazy”. . .
Can you see yourself or someone you love in these stories of verbal emotional abuse? If you’re in a verbally abusive relationship, get the help of a licensed counselor to learn what to do. As the last quote said, verbal abuse can make you feel “crazy,” so you need a professional therapist to help you recognize the truth and restore the real “you.”
- Abuse is never justified so, you should never feel that it is your fault.
- Let the abuser know how hurtful their words are and discuss with them the fact that it is unacceptable to you. Set boundaries on what you will and will not accept from your abuser.
- Seek counseling, either together or separately.
- Surround yourself with a support system of family and friends. Discuss with them what is happening and how you are feeling.
- If the verbal abuse escalates to physical abuse, leave. Your personal safety is far more important than the relationship.
- Do not engage in conflict with your abuser. If your spouse becomes angry stay calm, walk away and don’t give him/her what they want…a reaction from you.
- Take back your power. If you react to the abuser, you are rewarding them. Letting them know they have power over your emotions. Don’t allow the abuser to have control over how you feel.
- Leave the marriage. If setting boundaries, getting therapy and refusing to respond to the abuse doesn’t work, then it is time to consider divorce. There are times when the best thing you can do for yourself is, break all ties with your abuser.
The most important thing to remember about verbal abuse is that its purpose is to control. The key to responding to verbal abuse is learning how to break free of the control and get your power back. Don’t underestimate how difficult this can be. In order successfully stop verbal abuse it’s critical to have the guidance and coaching of an experienced professional counselor. Don’t go it alone any longer.
* This is the second article of two on verbal abuse. In the first article we looked at verbal abuse signs — Verbal Abuse – What’s It Look Like? Are there Signs? Sign-up for Our Blog on the right side of this page and don’t miss other informative articles.
Part 1 of 2
Verbal abuse is a common form of abuse in many relationships. However, it can be very subtle and hard to recognize, so much so that most of the time victims don’t even know its happening.
Verbal abuse is often disguised or explained away as something else, such as humor (“I was just making a joke”) or love (“you know I love you”). A skilled abuser can destroy your self-esteem while at the same time making you believe that they really care for you. Verbal abuse can also become so regular that it becomes normal communication.
A common problem for victims of verbal abuse is that the abuse makes them confused and they don’t know what to believe — their own thoughts or the abusers words.
So if verbal abuse is so hard to recognize, are there any verbal abuse signs? Yes.
Below are 8 verbal abuse signs. These are from the article How Can Someone Identify and Respond to Verbal Abuse? by Cathy Meyer.
- Being called names by your spouse. Any negative form of name calling is unacceptable. If you feel that it is a put down, then it most likely is. There are names that are obvious and, without question abusive. Then there are the covert, veiled attempts to put a spouse down that are harder to identify. Verbal abusers love to use constructive criticism to beat a spouse down. If your spouse is constantly criticizing you, “for your own good,” be careful. This is the most insidious form of verbal abuse.
- Using words to shame. Critical, sarcastic, mocking words meant to put you down either alone or in front of other people.
- Yelling, swearing and screaming. I call this the “walking on eggs shells” syndrome because you are living with someone who goes verbally ballistic for very little cause.
- Using threats to intimidate. No threat should be taken likely, even if your spouse tells you they are only joking, especially if it causes you to change behaviors or to feel on guard in the relationship.
- Blaming the victim. Your spouse blows his/her top and then blames you for their actions and behavior. If you were only perfect they wouldn’t lose control!
- Your feelings are dismissed. Your spouse refuses to discuss issues that upset you. They avoid discussion of any topic where they might have to take responsibility for their actions or words.
- You often wonder why you feel so bad. You bury your feelings, walk on egg shells and work so hard at keeping the peace that every day becomes an emotional chore. You feel depressed and have even wondered if you are crazy.
- Manipulating your actions. The persistent and intense use of threatening words to get you to do something or act in a way you find uncomfortable. This form of verbal abuse is common at the end of a marriage. If your spouse doesn’t want a divorce they will say whatever it takes to play on your emotions, to get you to stay in the marriage. All in an attempt to get you to comply with their desires, regardless of what is best for you as an individual.
Do you recognize any of these verbal abuse signs in your relationship? If so, in the next post we’ll take a look at some of the things you can do to stop verbal abuse.
* This is the first article of two on verbal abuse and signs of verbal abuse. In the next article we’ll identify things you can do to stop verbal abuse. Sign-up for our blog on the right side of this page and be sure not to miss the next part of this series (you can get notified by email or RSS feed).
What’s Emotional Abuse Look Likes?
Part 2 of 2
Think you might be suffering emotional abuse? Or maybe you’re wondering if you might be a perpetrator of emotional abuse.
So what’s emotional abuse look like?
To see the signs of emotional abuse, read over these excerpts of transcripts from Mel Gibson talking to his girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva (Mel Gibson Rant).
As you read, ask yourself these questions:
- How does Mel try to control her?
- Does he threaten her? How many times? In what ways?
- Does he want her to be submissive to him? What does this look like?
- What does he blame her for? Are these things she really is responsible for?
- In what ways does he humiliate her?
Mel Gibson: Who the f— cares? We agreed nothing. You agreed. You just f—— expect s—. Go to the g–damn jacuzzi yourself, go down to the f—— jacuzzi. You have no f—— soul! My soul is screaming because you don’t have one to join mine. You have no f—— soul. I left my wife because we had no spiritual common ground. You and I have none. Zero. You won’t even f—— try. (huffing again) You don’t care. You don’t care.
Oksana Grigorieva: You just enjoy insulting me. That’s all.
MG: F— you, I so f—— do. Because you’ve hurt me so bad. You insult me with every look, every breath, every heartbeat.
OG: I did not do anything. I apologize for nothing.
MG: What? What? You apologize for nothing? Well then you’re a dishonest c—! Because you need to apologize for a reason.
OG: I wanted to have peace. You are unbalanced.
MG: Instinctively, I feel that. And I will not be patronized by you.
OG: You’re unbalanced. You need medication.
MG: If you will not f—— admit that, then get the f— out. I will make your g–damn life miserable. Alright?
OG: You need medication.
MG: What? What?
OG: You need medication.
MG: I need a woman, not a f—— little girl with a f—– dysfunctional c—. I need a f—— woman. I don’t need medication. You need a f—— bat to the side of the head. All right? How about that? You need a f—— doctor. You need a f—— brain transplant. You need a f—— … you need a f—— soul. I need medication? I need someone who f—— treats me like a man, like a human being. With kindness, who understands what gratitude is because I f—— bend over backwards with my balls in a knot. and she gives me s— with a f—— sour look and says I’m mean. What the f— is that? This is mean! Get it! You get it now? What mean is? Get it? (huffing) You f—— don’t care about me. I’m having a hard time and you f—— yank the rug, you bitch. You f——, selfish bitch. Don’t you dare hang up on me.
OG: I can’t listen to this anymore.
MG: You hang up, I’m coming over there.
OG: I’ll call the police.
OG: I’ll call the police.
MG: You f—— c—. I’m coming to my house. You’re in my house, honey.
(Section cut out due to space constraints. For the full transcript, read Mel Gibson Rant)
OG: Because I’m saving my life and my daughter’s life. That’s what I’m doing. I don’t give a damn about my music. And I don’t give a damn about you spending another penny. I’m saving her life. You almost killed us, did you forget?
MG: The last three years have been a f—— gravy train for you.
OG: You were hitting a woman with a child in her hands. You! What kind of a man is that, hitting a woman when she’s holding a child in her hands? Breaking her teeth, twice, in the face. What kind of man is that?
MG: Oooh, you’re all angry now! You know what, you f—— deserved it.
OG: You’re gonna answer, one day, boy, you’re gonna answer.
MG: Huh? What? Are you threatening me?
OG: Nothing, nothing. I’m not the one to threaten.
MG: I’m threatening you? I’ll put you in a f—— rose garden, you c—. You understand that? Because I’m capable of it. You understand that? Get a f—— restraining order. For what? What are you gonna get a restraining order for? For me being drunk and disorderly? For hitting you? For what?
How many signs of emotional abuse do you see?
- Make submissive?
That’s what emotional abuse looks like. If you think you might be suffering emotional abuse, or perpetrating it, get some professional help. Marriage counselors or couples counselors can be a great help when you feel trapped and don’t know how to get things to change. Change can happen, but only if you do something to make it.
As someone who has broken bad patterns this way, I know the repetition of prompt acknowledgement got me to the point where I could anticipate having to apologize as I was actually doing something, until finally I was catching myself before I did it. Repetition is the best way to break patterns like this.
Clapclapclapclapclapclapclap . . .
My partner sometimes becomes a self-acknowledged complete jerk when his work gets stressful. He knows it, and apologizes, and I’ve learned to give him space during these times . . . to take the dog for a walk in the short term, or to plan a full weekend for myself when he is under a deadline.
But the way you describe this makes me wonder: Where is the line between forgiving jerk-ish behavior and forgiving abuse? Anything physical would be obvious, of course, but barring that, is it the intent (or the lack of intent) behind it? Or what?
While it’s a valid question, I think it can lead you down a path of justification/non-justification that ends at a brick wall.
The question I would suggest is “Is this what I want?” Do you want a partner who unravels under stress? When you make it about abuse, then you’re almost letting that make your decision for you: If it’s abuse, you leave, and if it’s not, you stay.
But behavior that doesn’t fit the abuse definition can still be something you just don’t want to be around, blow your weekends on, or accommodate anymore.
If on the other hand you see his moods as a small con in a world of pros, if being calm through his freak streaks is a labor of love, if you’re relieved that this flaw of his gives your flaws a little more breathing room, then so be it. You don’t owe anyone anything here except an honest assessment of what you want.
It’s important to recognize as the first two readers examples show, critical and verbally abusive behavior can be changed. It’s hard; it takes work; it takes time, patience, and persistence. But it definitely can be done — by anybody.
I believe that Carolyn’s last comments begin to drift into a murky area where we have to find the line between acceptance as a part of loving your partner and compromising ourselves that prevents the other person from changing as a way that they love you. Additionally, Carolyn is right that abuse should not be tolerated, and far too many spouses, husbands not just wives, accept verbal abuse. However, her firm statement that you leave needs to be combined with giving your partner the chance to change.
Sorting out where to draw these lines can be really difficult, especially when you’re the one in the middle of it. Get the support, guidance, and wisdom of an experienced counselor who works with abusive relationships to help you.
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