Verbal Abuse and How to Recognize It

This article was pointed out by a reader and I thought it would be well worth posting here. It comes courtesy of And Then She Cried. This piece points out some elements of verbal abuse I had overlooked in my own relationship like forgetting/denial and trivializing/undermining. This is excellent.

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This is from the book by Patricia Evans, The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond

Verbal abuse is a kind of battering which doesn’t leave evidence like physical abuse does. However, it can be just as painful, and recovery can take much longer. The victim of abuse lives in a gradually more confusing realm. In public she is with one man, in private he becomes another.

Often, for the verbally abused woman (man), there is no witness to her reality and no one to understand her experiences. Friends and family continue to see her ex, the abuser, as a really good guy and, certainly, he agrees with them. The verbal abuser, while maintaining his charm with others, always takes his abuse behind closed doors. It is a means of holding power over his wife/partner.

Many women and some men leave a marriage and come back into the singles’ world with the diminished self-esteem that comes from a verbally abusive relationship. The fact that many of these women (men) have never even realized that they were being abused, makes it easy for them to enter another abusive relationship.

A verbal abuser is an insecure person and immature person who is looking for power and control over another. In order to help you recognize abuse, remember that all forms of verbal abuse are methods of manipulating you for the purpose of establishing power over you. The following are some of the forms of verbal abuse the author helps you recognize.

  1. Withholding: a purposeful, silent treatment.
  2. Countering: a countering of your ideas, feelings, and perceptions, even going so far as to refute what he misconstrues you to have said.
  3. Discounting: a putdown of you or something you hold dear.
  4. Blocking and diverting: this is a sneaky, covert way of violating your dignity.
  5. Accusation and blame: generally involves lies about the partner’s intentions, attitudes, and motives. The author states that accusation and blame is present in all verbally abusive relationships.
  6. Judging and criticizing: lies about your personal qualities and performance.
  7. Trivializing and undermining: abusive behavior which makes light of your work, your efforts, your interests, or your concerns. The abuser attempts to dilute meaning and value in your life. Undermining might occur when your partner laughs at you, for example, when you burn yourself cooking. It is also jokes at your expense. Undermining is occurring when you feel a “so-called joke” is mean rather than funny.
  8. Name calling: no one has a right to call you degrading names. Name calling is verbal abuse.
  9. Ordering: Telling you to do something, rather than asking, or making decisions for you or for the two of you without your input.
  10. Forgetting and denial: the trickiest form of denial is forgetting. Become aware that forgetting is a form of denial that shifts all responsibility from the abuser to some “weakness of mind.”
  11. Abusive anger: this seems to be closely linked to the need to “blow up,” to dominate, to control, to go one up, and to put down. Any time you are snapped at or yelled at, you are being abused.
  12. Threatening: Physical threats and sexual threats aside, verbal threats are an effort at manipulation. For example, a threat to leave, stay out all night, or take you home immediately is a manipulation for power. The threat of “pending disaster” is designed to shatter the partner’s serenity as well as her boundaries.

If you counter the abuser or attempt to explain yourself, you will probably be met with such statements as, “I don’t want to hear it, get out of my face” or “Woman you don’t have the brains“, “B” You shouldn’t have said that to me“.

If you are in a brand-new relationship and see warning signs of verbal abuse, the author suggests you might be wise to let the relationship go. It is not likely that a man (woman) who needs to dominate and control will change easily, if at all. It is also likely that when the newness of the relationship wears off, he will become more abusive. Verbal abuse can become physical in time and physical abuse is always preceded by verbal abuse, according to Evans. If you are in a long-term relationship, you can respond to the abuser as the book suggests and soon discover for yourself whether or not your mate is willing to change and stop his abusive behavior.

“If you have been verbally abused in your relationship, you may have discovered that explaining and trying to understand have not improved your relationship. Therefore, I recommend that you respond in a new way–a way that will make an emotional, psychological, and intellectual impact upon your mate.”

The abuser in your relationship may change when he finds that you do know when you are being abused, that you have set limits, that you mean what you say, and that you will not take behavior you don’t like.

If the man in your relationship remains abusive, it is not only not your fault, it is not even your responsibility

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One Response

  1. In generally in the more liberal society of Canada, US both the wife and the children tend to have much more freedom, rights, make their own decisions, over many other countries and as a result the culture shock is a very real problem for some new immigrant spouses where the husband was used to being obeyed, and being the sole head of the home thus it’s not altogether uncommon for some of the new immigrant home situations to become unacceptably violent.

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