Educate Yourself – How to Stop Verbal Abuse (Part 3)

Up until about 2008, I did not have the vocabulary to describe the abuse I was experiencing. I knew something was wrong in my marriage, but the word “abuse” didn’t seem to apply to me; I thought “we” were “done” with physical abuse. It didn’t seem to matter to me that often when he yelled at me,I cringed.

It mattered to him, though. He’d yell, “What are you so scared about?!” and become angrier that I’d made such a “dramatic” move as to flinch at his voice. I didn’t know that the physical violence from earlier in the marriage had lasting effects that were compounded by his constant verbal abuse. Because I didn’t know that verbal manipulations and outrageous anger were aspects of abuse, I couldn’t explain to him or anyone else why I cringed. I couldn’t explain it because I was ignorant.

Well, aren’t we all lucky that “ignorant” can be fixed! If you want to continue living in denial of your abuse, stop reading now. There are some big spoilers on the way.spoiler

Educate Yourself About Verbal Abuse: Patricia Evans

Patricia Evans wrote “The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond” and there are over half a million copies in circulation. Let me tell you, that isn’t enough. This book should be required reading at every high school in the United States. Ms. Evans explained my abusive situation so thoroughly that I couldn’t help but believe her; the categories of verbal abuse she outlines taught me the vocabulary to describe my abuse.

Ms. Evans lists 15 categories of verbal abuse including: name calling, forgetting, blocking and diverting, undermining, and verbal abuse disguised as jokes. Once I was able to put a name to “what was wrong”, I recognized it immediately in my relationship. I was able to say, “Oh, now he’s discounting me” or “What do you know? Now he is countering me!” In my mind, my husband became less of a terrorist and more like a flash card. You remember math flash cards, right? 3×4= on one side, 12 on the other. He’d spew venom on one side, I’d flip my mental switch and call the abuse by name on the other.

By the way, if you don’t want to anger your abuser further, don’t play “he’s a flash card” out loud. There’s nothing an abuser likes less than to be called out during his game.

For more help naming the abusive technique, visit Verbal Abuse Journals where I put Patricia Evans’ vocabulary with examples from my own marriage. Also, visit her website, Verbal Abuse, and sign up for her message board (if you are being verbally or otherwise abused).

Educate Yourself About Verbal Abuse: Websites

Besides Patricia Evans’ website, there are several more that will help you educate yourself on the dynamics of abuse and the cycle of violence. (Remember, verbal abuse counts as violence!)

NDVH Educate Yourself - What is Domestic Violence? The National Domestic Violence Hotline is more than a crisis line; it’s there to educate us too.

The Crazy-Making Husband Radio Show – Martha Trowbridge presents radio shows about abusive partners and what (wo)men can do to help themselves.

Battered Men – Abuse is gender neutral, but the courts don’t always see it that way. This site advises battered men and provides stories suited to the battered husband’s plight. It’s a little difficult to navigate, but patience has its rewards.

Not To People Like Us – Great house? Really comfortable income? College degree? An upscale abused woman typically buys into the myth that it doesn’t/shouldn’t happen “to people like us.” She isolates and keeps secret the abuses trying to maintain her image within her community as well as personal and professional spheres.

Educate Yourself About Verbal Abuse: Co-dependency

Chances are, if you are a victim of abuse, you are also somewhat co-dependent. Being co-dependent means that you in some ways contribute to your own abuse (not the same as being responsible for the abuse!). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Abuse cannot occur if there isn’t someone there willing to take it (you).

As you educate yourself about abuse and the abusive cycle, remember to take the focus off of the abuser. The abuser is not going to change (with a few exceptions). The only person who you can count on to change is you, and recognizing your pitfalls and hang-ups will help you to overcome them, helping you to end the cycle of violence in your own way.

The Emotional Numbing Effect

Oftentimes, victims of abuse become numb to their own innate protective emotions such as fear. In 2003, I began taking medication for anxiety. I didn’t know where the anxiety came from specifically, but I blamed it on a crazy neighbor. The thing about it was that I’d been experiencing the anxiety prior to psycho-neighbor’s harassment; something about her being “new” in the mix helped me to recognize it.

I believe that I was living in a constant state of fear. My body was trying to tell me so, but I wouldn’t listen. Like he said, “What are you so scared about?!” I had effectively told myself I had nothing to fear; in so doing, I also numbed down happiness, sadness, and a multitude of other emotions that make life worth living (aka depression).

As the last offering for today, I recommend “The Gift of Fear (and other survival signals that protect us from violence)” by Gavin DeBecker. The author says, “At core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.” Ahem. Read this book.

How Do I Stop the Verbal Abuse? (Part 1)
Reach Out – How to Stop Verbal Abuse (Part 2)
Educate Yourself – How to Stop Verbal Abuse (Part 3)
Self Reliance – How to Stop Verbal Abuse (Part 4)
Develop an Exit Strategy – How to Stop Verbal Abuse (Part 5)
How To Stop Verbal Abuse – Wrap-Up (Part 6)

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2 Responses to Educate Yourself – How to Stop Verbal Abuse (Part 3)

  1. Al says:

    I’m divorcing my verbally abusive wife. She’s a churchgoer but even this she uses against me as I on’t go to church out of principle (she knew this when we were courting but all of a sudden it became a problem during our marriage). At time it gets so bad that it becomes physical (poking m face, slapping me on my shoulder/neck that happens to have a spasm problem). All this in front of m four year old daughter. Sure it does not happen often but despite her acknowledging afterwards that she was wrong, it just keeps happening sometimes worst than before. For a few months now I’ve basically disengaged from her emotionally, waiting for the next outburst (although I was trying to pretend otherwise, hoping somehow to stay in the marriage for the kids). Must have been a zombie in love not to have taken the signs seriously early on, all in the name of love and commitment. Always excusing her: hormones from pregnancy, women are emotional and get angry like this and I must be a man about this and understand, she lost her father at a young age, deep own inside she is a good an caring person and because of our love I could rescue her.

    However as our marriage of five years went on I started to recognise the patterns of control and the use of abuse to exert that control. I can honestly say that I’m still feeling so angry it borders on hate. After all the years I stood by her and loved her to the best of my abilities, she returned that love with constant criticism, killing even my need to love her. At this stage, I put up a front, but I can’t even stand to be in the same room as her. For the sake of my children, I had Christmas lunch with her and her family at our house. My reward for this was to hear her mumbling sarcastically to herself in response to a movie on TV on how she hoped our divorce would do wonders for me. My list of sins are so long that it is easy to believe her when she says that I’m not the man she married. On the other hand, I’m convinced that she married the wrong person as that is how much she seems to despise me (either she is in love with someone else or she loved the idea of shy controllable me). Unfortunately she found out now that I’m not as controllable as she thought and has grown increasingly unhappy during the marriage: she must have confused my willingness to compromise with weakness.

    My one big concern is how to protect my young children, knowing that society and the courts do not seem to realise the problem of abusive women: it seems all the man must do is stand by his wife, despite how nasty she gets, give her everything she wants and we’ll all live happily ever after. So if your wife is angr and abusive, surely there is something you have done wrong. During an impulsive , moment she said I can keep the children. However later she came to her “senses” and now wants joint custody (she does not want to deprive her children of a father). I’m reall worried that my children will now become the main target of her abuse when I’m not around. Worst still, I fear she may hook up with a man who physically abuses her in response to her abuse. Many time I was tempted to defend myself in this way but I guess I’m just too decent. I grew up in a family where I had to witness verbal/physical abuse of my mother by my stepfather and her verbally abusing him. I definitely don’t want my children to endure the same emotional damage.

  2. lotusflower says:

    Can someone please tell me why the verbal abuse journals are not working? It comes up account suspended? Yet I was only reading them last night and they were full of really helpful information. I would like to access them again but they are not there? Please help! Thanks!

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