When your Partner is Verbally Abusive


An abusive relationship is possibly the worst kind of situation anyone can get caught in his/her personal life. Part of the reason why it is so difficult to get out of is that abuse comes in various forms – while some like physical violence is easy to take not of, others like verbal abuse are less straightforward. If your partner keeps flinging hurtful remarks and accusations at you, he/she is likely verbally abusive and here are some things you can consider.

What is verbal abuse?

Almost every relationship has moments when either or both partners are stressed and blurt out things they are sorry for later on. While such unhappy moments are occasional in a normal relationship, when hurtful or derogatory words are constantly used by one partner to dominate or inflict pain on the other, it constitutes verbal abuse. Name-calling, putting down, attacking the victim’s family and friends and playing mind games are some of the most common forms of verbal abuse. The negative impact is both immediate and lasting – while harsh words immediately cause you pain, repeated episodes of your partner shouting at you, breaking things or even threatening violence may leave you feeling confused and unsafe in the long run. Even after he/she has apologized and is behaving normally, you may be perpetually on tenterhooks not knowing what will trigger the next outburst.

Recognize the abuse

Unlike physical or sexual abuse which leaves marks on the body and is thus immediately identifiable in a police station, hospital or court, verbal abuse is less easy to spot and confirm. After all who doesn’t get angry at times and how are you going to prove to the world that your partner hurled those exact insults at you. For these reasons, verbal abuse is often ignored by the victim him/herself. So the first thing you need to do is to identify an abusive relationship. Healthy relationships involve respect, trust, and consideration for the other person. So if your relationship is devoid of all this, it is almost certain you are in an abusive relationship, even if there is no physical violence involved. The most common signs of verbal abuse are teasing, bullying, and humiliating the victim. Apart from these threats, intimidation, putdowns and even the silent treatment can all be used to inflict pain and exert control. Yet another way that verbally and emotionally abusive partners keep victims in line is engaging in hurtful behavior one moment and apologizing the next. Thus your partner may call you names and insult you but soon after apologize and pretend nothing happened at all. This not only serves the purpose of preventing the victim to leave – since he/she has already said ‘sorry’ – but induces further confusion and misplaced hope in the mind of the suffering partner.

Stop living in denial

If you consciously realize that your partner is verbally abusive, it is easier to decide to get out of the toxic relationship. However many victims do not accept the reality of such a relationship and continue to believe that if they try harder, they might make things work and their partner would be more loving and caring. It is extremely important to stop living in denial since no matter how hard you try, you can never change an abusive partner on your own for the simple reason the abuse in the relationship is not about you. It is because your partner is emotionally and psychologically sick that he/she feels the overpowering need to control you and finds that flinging verbal abuse is the only way of doing this.

Believe in yourself

Abusive partners are extremely clever and adept at manipulating people and situations to fall in with their wishes. If your partner is one, then most likely his/her words have brainwashed you into believing that you are incapable of thinking or doing anything right on your own and that the only way to do a thing is to do it their way. You may have acceded to your partner’s wishes a few times in the past just to avoid any unpleasantness. But your partner will point this out to you as evidence of your own weakness and continue to bully you to act in accordance with their wishes. However keep in mind that the very fact that you have sensed that something is wrong in the relationship means your faculties and intelligence are fine and not matter how much your partner bullies you into thinking that you are helpless without them, it is not so.

Immediate strategies

While believing in yourself is the long term principle, you need some immediate strategies to deal with a partner when he/she starts unleashing verbal abuse. As far as possible remain calm. Keep in mind that he/she is looking to provoke you into getting angry, sad, or upset. Also avoid getting sucked into this vicious circle of blame and counter-blame. Defending yourself against his/her accusations or replying them with hurtful things he/she has said or done will ultimately serve no purpose and make things messier. Indeed, a highly emotional response is exactly what he/she wants and since it is one thing that gives him/her control over you. At first your partner may not know how to react when you don’t respond to his/her poisonous words – maybe he/she will get even angrier and more abusive because he isn’t able to gain the control. Avoid getting into any argument or defending yourself. Alternately when verbal abuse comes perilously close to physical violence, like banging doors or hurling crockery, you might try phrases like “Stop” or “Back Off” or “This is not healthy” even “I’m not going to participate in this type of behavior with you. Hopefully your partner will see that his/her behavior is completely unacceptable and allow better sense to prevail.

Don’t isolate yourself

One of the most effective ways that abusive partners control their victims is by cutting off the latter’s contact with a support network. A verbally abusive partner would probably do this by putting you down in front of your family and friends or worse insulting them in your presence till you willingly cut off contact out of shame and embarrassment. However avoid the tendency to withdraw into a shell by distancing yourself from your friends and family. You might feel like you have nowhere to turn, or you might be embarrassed about what's been going on, but this is when you need support most. People like counselors, doctors, teachers, coaches, and friends are in a position to help you, so let them.

Look for help

A relationship with an abusive partner is one of the most frightening experiences and so don’t rely on yourself alone to get out of the situation. Friends and family who love and care about you can help you break away. Always keep in mind that asking for help isn't a sign of weakness. It actually shows that you have a lot of courage – you are not only willing to stand up for yourself but also ready to get out of an abusive relationship. Then again if verbal abuse is accompanied by emotional abuse or financial control – as is usually is in long term cases - It’s also likely you will need help to break out of a cycle of abuse, especially in terms of practical resources like a place to stay, support network for your kids if you have any, a job as well as emotional resources like counseling. Go through your local phone book or the internet in order to find the contact numbers of crisis centers, teen/women’s help lines and abuse hotlines. These organizations have professionally trained staff to listen, understand, and help. In addition, religious leaders, school nurses, teachers, school counselors, doctors, and other health professionals can be sources of support and information.