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.

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66 Responses to Verbal Abuse Disguised as Love

  1. Cheryl says:

    I’ve been in what seems to be the SAME relationship. He acts out abominably and just about the time I’m ready to be done, he’s back to the sweet man I fell in love with. I am now realizing that this is the “honeymoon” phase in the cycle of abuse. I really don’t understand why this is so hard. I want to be beyond this, but it is SO painful. I want to leave the relationship but I somehow keep going. Praying for us all!

  2. dave says:

    i only see an end to all relationships in all this depressing advise is there any hope to help these people or should we ban relationships completely ,i just see leave them leave them leave them god help you all.

  3. Erin says:

    I am going through a breakup with the girl I loved. We dated for 4 years. We broke up for 6 months last year. When I started a new relationship, she said I was cheating on her and that she could never trust me again (even though she was sleeping with someone she had been emotionally cheating on me with). She eventually asked to give it another go, and I agreed. Big mistake. She never really tried and only brought up mistakes I made in the past. She did the name calling, saying she hated me, that nobody likes me, that I am lower than dirt, a whore, trashy etc. All I did was beg her not to talk to me like that. I did all of this work around her house for her — my language of love is acts of service — so that was my way of showing her I love her (I still said I love you several times a day). She said she could hire someone to do those things, so it did not mean anything. She told me she hoped her plane went down and she died and that I had to live with that. That I could fall into traffic. Then she started hitting too. It is so hard to let it go. I still love her (she ended up leaving me again)…I don’t know how to stop feeling that someone this is all my fault and that she was right in that I do not deserve love. She said I ruined her life, and now I feel responsible. I don’t know what to do and how to not feel so depressed. :(

  4. deb says:

    This sound just like me. I have been married 33 years. I am now at the point where I don’t want him around. I tried loving him. I walked on egg shells all of the time. There were good times but I just cant do this anymore. He can be nice one moment and mean the next. He will come in and say do you want to get something to eat and then the next I am a stupid “f” “b”. the next minute he will want to have sex. He calls me dumb, crazy etc. and then will want to go to go somewhere together. When we go we fight in the car. I want and need to leave but don’t know how or where to start, 33 years is a long time. He says he will not go get help and it is me that needs the help. I am the dumb one, he says. He tells me he is 53 and is not going to change.

  5. jane says:

    Thanks for all your comments I to was in a abusive marriage I thought it was me .well that is what he kept telling me anyway now I know different it is a hard road I am on now getting a divorce but he is even fighting that.

  6. L says:

    I really need some help. From what I read above: “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 would seep 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 was just trying to be me. I wanted him to love me.” I feel like this ALL the time. Except he says things like, “why did you do it that way?” or “why did you say that way?” Tonight was a good example. He listened to me while I left a simple message on someone’s voicemail. As soon as I hung up I got the “why did you say it like that” And he was not saying this in a friendly manner-I could see the hate in his face. And the voicemail was simple…just trying to see if this friend could give our son a ride home from a swim party. I didn’t know how react (never have) to questions like this from him. I just asked him what was wrong with it? All he could say was “why did you talk so fast at the end?” I just said I didn’t realized I had. So I get defensive and walk away to avoid any more questions like this. Which he follows me to continue the verbage, which turns into him saying “f*@# you”. So, now I’m all upset, mad, crying and confused. What did I do? No really, what did I do? Now he’s trying to apologize only because he needs an invoice printed, so I know he really doesn’t mean it. What have I done so wrong? I absolutely hate me sometimes. I don’t know how to defend myself against someone who truly hates me worse than I do.

  7. dee says:

    My boyfriend is very much a verbal abuser..he also always accuse me of trying to get with other people when that is truly not the case..I love him more than he will ever know. .we have been through sooo much went from being phisically abused and verbally now being verbally abusive most of the time..and still almost getting phisical occasionally..I cannot live a normal life..he want to run every aspect of my life as if I don’t have a brain of my own..and he become totally outraged when I want to use my own brain..but im like im just being me..sometimes he can truly be a sweetheart and other times im every bit** , h*e..and trashy piece of shit in the book..when we argue for wwatever reason he scream soooo loud..I kno the neighbors hear..and its not just about hom screaming its about the most lowest direspectful degrading tjings..he say to me that really hurts..I often wonder how my neighbors look at me because of these incidents that I am sure they hear..coming from my house hold..and the biggest thing that hurt the most is because a lot of times I get treated this way for no apparent reason..other than the way he thinks or the wayhe feel..I have never cheated on him..I have never even tthought about being eith another man..but I can honestly say I sometimes think a lot about leaving at my breaking point we have been together for almost six years..and planning to wed this coming summer..I have learned to deal with him but some things I just dont kno how to deal with..he is slowly breaking me down mentally physically and emotionally..he make me feel like dirt below his shoe when he scream disrespectful things to me..then he always come back a few minutes later and want to work things out and have sex like nothing has ever happen..he do not want to get help..and he thinks I am the one that need help..I just feel like he is draining the life out of me..and I dont kno wat to do should I marry him or get rid of him for good??.please help!!!!

  8. halle says:

    I’ve been through it too – and now I feel like I’m worthless because he treated me worthless no matter how much love I gave him!! It was never enough!! I didn’t deserve any of the abuse he gave me!

  9. Catherine says:

    This blog was as if it were my biography.
    He never swore, drank or called me rude names. I now know he was too controlled. The abuse was insidious, “it’s for your own good”"It’s because I love you” it’s taken me years to realise that he wanted me to be him! When I didn’t agree and allowed a little of myself out, he would find me disgusting! His favourite phrase was- “if only you were a nice person” I realise today after reading your blog that I have learnt to hate & loathe myself. Possibly I am disgusted with myself?
    I bumped into my ex-husband the other day in a local shop. I was about to say hello, I would like to be civil for the sake of our sons. He walked around me and ignored me. He makes me feel like something he trod in.

  10. Wiser Too Late says:

    Like so many other commenters, I could have written this article – the part about only being relatively safe from anger/rage/insult/fighting by basically agreeing with everything he said/did/suggested/wanted rang so true. In my case, there is also plenty of swearing, name-calling and insults. Gaslighting is a common strategy (doesn’t work with me, but incredibly frustrating). It’s not just “his way or the highway”. It’s his reality or none – and if I make the mistake of providing irrefutable proof that he was incorrect (and worse, that I was right), his reaction is NOT pretty. I would leave tomorrow if there was a real way to do that. I’m just sorry to know that I’m not alone in having to live this life.

  11. The person targeted by verbal abuse over time may succumb to any stress related illness.

  12. Dianne says:

    With verbal abuse as with physical abuse, you see it, you feel it, but with emotional abuse its usually done quietly , systematically, covert, hidden , with words of love, until you get to the point where you dont know what is real or not. The people who do this are experts at it and target someone who can benefit them in some way, financially, socially etc. The person you love is not real, they are a fantasy, they are what you want them to be, but its all deception on their part, to them you are nothing more than a source of supply and all the words of love are just that, empty words. Then when they leave you , moving on to their next source of supply you are left wondering , what the hell happened??. Emotionally, financially and in some cases physically destroyed. What society does not realise is that this sort of emotional abuse is just if not more deadly than physical abuse. Because the victim is left with in most cases PTSD and one in two actually take their own lives to stop the pain and then THEY are the one that is labled unstable and the perpertrator becomes the victim and gets all the sympathy and support with the world feeling sorry for them and telling them how brave and supportive THEY were putting up with such an obviously unstable person.

  13. stephen says:

    Thank you Dianne! You so eloquently described people in my life.. I am exactly in that same spot

  14. Tigercat says:

    I hav been trying to understand why he treats me this way i never knew dis was abusive every thing I read here is my life ..

  15. Debbie says:

    Mine never called me names either (except when he was really mad. Which was my fault, of course.) He never called me stupid, but he sure let me know I was stupid. He never called me a whore, but made sure I felt like one. He never called me crazy, but he treated me like I was. Every fight was my fault, every mistake he made (his non-relationship with his daughter and extended family, his failed business, his many, non-specified illnesses, the fact that he “couldn’t” work, the fact that he was essentially homeless) was my fault. And I believed every word. I apologized, not only for my numerous faults, but eventually for my very being. I hated myself; I savaged myself. I used to try make myself disappear and literally believe only his words. It was 15 years of hell. And then, somehow, after uncountable tries, I got the strength to leave and stay gone. If you are on this board, you have that strength, too. It might be buried somewhere deep inside, but you have it, and you can leave. If I can do it, anyone can. I promise.

  16. Stupid Twice says:

    The first one didn’t give a damn about me but pretended he did. The second one is irrationally jealous of me. Both are verbal, emotional and physical abusers. Why me? I know that’s what we are all asking ourselves. Now, the first one has the kids, I’m alone many states away renting a room, and having a hard time letting go of the second one (not living with him is a plus I guess).

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