Psychologically Abusive Relationships: Are You in One?
Psychologically abusive relationships can be seen in any configuration: between spouses, caregiver and child, within a friendship or in the workplace. While anyone can be abusive from time-to-time, psychologically abusive relationships are built on frequent and constant situations of abuse. And instead of a meaningful apology after an abusive act, the perpetrator half-heartedly apologizes often with a justification such as, "it's so hard to be nice to you."1
Psychological abuse, sometimes called verbal abuse or chronic verbal aggression, does not discriminate. Psychological abuse can happen to heterosexual or homosexual couples of any race or socioeconomic status. Both men and women can be victims of psychologically abusive relationships. Psychologically abusive relationships are those that make you feel like less of a person.
Psychological Abuse in Marriage
Psychologically abusive relationships, such as those in a marriage, are common because both parties are typically dedicated to keeping the relationship together. The abuser may wish to continue the relationship in order to exercise control over their partner, while the abused may stay in the relationship due to vows taken and esteem that has been worn away due to the abuse.
Psychological abuse does not revolve around one topic. Psychological abuse in relationships may be about:
- Emotion – "Stop being so emotional all the time."
- Sex – "You should know how to please me by now."
- Finances – "You are going to nickel and dime us to death!"
- Social issues – "Let me talk to them, our friends don't like you."
- Threats – "If you leave here, I'm going to drag you back by your hair."
- Spirituality – "God will find a way to get back at you for that."
Each of these types of psychological abuse wear down a person's self-esteem and self-worth making it less likely that they will stand up for themselves in the face of future abuse. Moreover, this decrease in worth makes it more likely that a person will stay with their abuser as they begin to believe the abusive things their partner says and believe they deserve nothing more.
Examples of Verbal Psychological Abuse
As Kelly Holly, author of the Verbal Abuse in Relationships Blog, points out, verbal psychological abuse can take many forms. Psychological abuse may be prominent during arguments but can also occur in day-to-day situations.
Some examples of verbal psychological abuse heard in relationships include:2
- I can't believe I married such a stupid man.
- Aw, come on, can't you take a joke?
- This isn't angry! You will know when I'm angry!
- I am thinking about taking a better lover.
- If you weren't so lazy, we'd have more money.
- What would the neighbors think about you if I told them our daughter's hair wasn't combed because her mother couldn't make her sit still? My mother combed my sister's hair every single day!
- I can feel myself being pulled into hell just listening to your nonsense!
Last Updated: 26 May 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD