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Verbal Abuse Disguised as Love

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.

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

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

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.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, 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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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