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Verbal Abuse Disguised as Love

Verbal abuse is confusing. I sometimes blame myself for not hearing our conversations for what they were.

Conversations is not the right word. A conversation is a flow of words and thoughts, back and forth, between two people – a dialogue. But my ex-husband and I didn’t have dialogues, we filled our communications with monologues in which we looked at one another, directed our sometimes screaming voices at one another, but definitely did not converse

Verbal Abuse Is Confusing

Verbal abuse is not only name-calling and overt put-downs. It's an entire collection of labels meant to define the victim and bring him or her under control.

Of course, none of these monologues solved any of the issues we wanted to solve, so we both left the monologue feeling . . . what did he feel? I don’t know what he felt, but I felt defeated.
He told me what I was doing, what I was thinking, who I was being. He defined me.

I felt attacked. I defensively argued my position that I wasn’t being, thinking or doing any of what he said I was. All I could think was: no, I wasn’t being selfish; no, I wasn’t remembering wrong; no, I wasn’t doing that to intentionally make him angry. I felt he misunderstood me 95% of the time. I felt he didn’t know me at all.

Verbal Abuse Results In “If Only I…” Thinking

I felt that his low opinion of me, that his analysis of who I was, was off mark. I made it my mission to make him understand that I was his greatest supporter, his best friend, the one person in this world who would do anything for him.

I thought that after he knew I loved him, then maybe, just maybe, he would see that I wasn’t a drama-queen, a liar, a man-hater, a naive little woman who didn’t ever quite comprehend the reality of the big bad world. If I could only make him see ME . . . then maybe he could love me. Maybe we could stop the fights and get to the love. Maybe we could be a team.

But that was not to be. The only time he seemed to feel close to me was when I completely agreed with him in thought, emotion, and action. If I appeared to be agreeing with him, then I was relatively safe from his anger and rage.

So, over time, I learned that I had to be him in order to please him. The problem with being him is that I could not ever be someone I am not. Try as I might, my own personality and beliefs seeped into our monologues at the worst possible moments. It was horrific to watch his face change to disgust at something I said or did. I had forgotten to be him. I let myself slip out.

Verbal Abuse Isn’t Just About Name-Calling

If this feeling seems familiar to you, then I hope you begin researching verbal abuse. You’ll notice that not once in my description of my marriage did he call me a particular name. He didn’t usually throw around words like fat cow, stupid, lazy, or any of their obscene synonyms that are somehow more than a monosyllabic slap.

I don’t mean to imply that his style is more or less hurtful than a name-caller’s style of abuse. I mean that verbal abuse is composed of a symphony of put-downs and assumptions and even “I care about you so I’m telling you this” statements that flow so smoothly from the abuser that the victim cannot always tell they are abusive.

Especially when the abuser is your lover, your friend, your mother, your child . . . the idea that your loved one could be abusing you is so far-fetched from your perception of reality that the horribleness is disguised by your own mind as love.

See Also:

You can also find Kellie Jo Holly on her website, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not mistake my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.

63 thoughts on “Verbal Abuse Disguised as Love”

  1. Very good post Kellie
    I also have a soon-to-be ex. We have been separated for 1 1/2 years & my life got so much calmer. I did all of what you described above. Even after 6 months of living on my own, if I went to set the mail or something down on the counter, a fear that he would get mad at me for setting it there. I would have to tell myself that it is okay, I can put it anywhere I want. My kids and I walked on eggshells all the time, because no one knew what would set him off since the rules seemed to change daily. Nothing I did was ever enough to make him happy. Everything was my fault when it failed & his when it was a success. It is a horrible way to live.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  2. I can sure relate to all of that . Where is a mans sense of compassion, his dignity or conscience . I have never been put down as much in my life as I have been this last 5 years and when ever he leaves due to cheating ,3-4 weeks later he starts looking for me telling me his head is so screwed up he doesn’t know why he did the things he did and I forgive him again until his mood starts up again in 4-8 weeks or sometimes less.

    1. I’m so sorry you’re going through that with your abuser. It is heartbreaking, for sure; his poor me behavior causes your heart to leap out of your chest to comfort him! He has a connection to you for sure – he craves control over you, and it seems like he achieves it, because he’s able to return to you after he fails at controlling a different (“other”) woman. Patricia Evans wrote about control connections in the book “Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You.”

  3. I’m not surprised to see that I thought the same things you describe. In fact I find it comforting to know that my reaction to HIS abuse was entirely normal.

  4. My son has been mentally, emotionally and physically abusive
    to my grandson. The last time he abused him physically, I phoned
    the police. Since then, my son’s ex-wife and I have looked up
    “narcissistic personality disorder.” We were amazed to see so
    many symptoms that explained my son’s abusive behavior.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story…..I’m still having a hard time staying away from my abuser, because he is really sorry & the cheating will stop,
    Name calling will stop (although he doesnt really see it), Ignoring me will stop ect……we dont live together so it’s easier. I have a pattern of abusive relationships, my ex husband is a Narcissist. I have to deal with him on a regular basis because we have children. What a rollercoaster ride. Any way, thankyou Healthy Place for your website.

  6. These comments are all very helpful. I have been away from my abuser for almost a year now, but because he violated an order of protection many times, threatening to kill me and never leave me alone, stalked me to anther state while I was away on vacation, etc., I am still having a hard time getting over this and moving on. Just this week I had two awful nightmares about him, and although I have been able to “keep my head up” for the sake of my son, I am starting to feel depressed. It is comforting to know that I’m not the only one out there experiencing this.

  7. Kelly,

    Thanks for your story, I feel like you were talking about me. I have been in a relationship for the past five years, we were supposed to be married last June; thank God I didn’t go through with it. He has accused me of almost every man that comes anywhere near me, even down to his own family memebers and friends. He is paraplegic and diabetic, at first I thought it was because of his health problems. I even got him to go see a psychiatrist but he did not continue his therapy and it’s back to the delusions of me cheating. I have tried everything, I even asked his family to help me with an intervention but most of them say they have tried to talk to him and it is impossible. So here I am and I feel powerless, I really love him and hoped that it would get better but I don’t know what else to do.

    1. There was a time when I was convinced that loving him more, understanding him more, and hoping for more were solutions. I’ve come to understand that none of those things can help him to change or “get better.” My ex flat out told me, “I will never change. I like who I am!” Finally, I had no choice but to believe him.

      Once I believed him, it was easier to separate from him and treat myself better instead of waiting for him to treat me better. I detached mentally, emotionally, psychically, physically…more accurately, I am detaching still.

      I didn’t know what else to do, either. But hoping isn’t a solution.

  8. Thanks Kellie,

    I know that I have to detach, because just as you said he is not going to change. He is who he is an abuser. Every time there is a glimmer of hope it slips away, he looks for reasons to verbally abuse me and even though he is the one with the problem, he tries to make it seem like I am the one with the problem. I am seeking help because I know that I have to detach before I completely lose it.

  9. Kellie,

    I too suffer like you and all the other women who responded to this. I am glad I am not alone but wish I was….None of us deserve to go thru this….I just finished another weekend from hell, and they get worse weekly…I have damaged my throat from yelling along with the mental damage that my “not soon enough” to be ex-husband has caused….My biggest question is WHY?????? What did we do to have this happen to all of us……I grew up thinking life would be a happy marriage with the white picket fence and now I have barbed wire….

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