How to Argue With Your Abusive Spouse And Win

January 22, 2012 Kellie Jo Holly

After you argue with your abusive spouse, wouldn't you love to walk away, calmly, knowing you've won? How to do it may not be how you've fantasized. Read this.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to win an argument with your abusive spouse? How would it feel to watch their face turn thoughtful as they realize your point is valid? Wouldn't it be great if your lover admitted defeat, sucked it up, and took one for the team? Yeah!

But hey - if you're in a relationship with an abusive spouse, that's probably not going to happen. And if it does happen, if you do win one time, you will pay for it either through their silence and withdrawal, their undermining, their outright rage or some other type of abuse.

There is no such thing as winning an argument with an abusive person. But it may be more important to understand that there's really no reason to win many arguments at all.

If you say a shirt is bright peach colored and your best friend says it's tangerine, is there really any reason to argue the point? I mean, the brown belt pulls the outfit together no matter what you call the color . . . In fact, I'll bet you don't argue over those tiny disagreements with most people. I'll bet that you do find yourself arguing over minute details with your abuser.

After an argument with your abusive spouse, wouldn't you love to walk away, calmly, knowing you've won? How to do it may not be how you've fantasized. Read this.For example, why do we, normally rational and understanding, argue with our abusive spouses over the origin of Spam? I mean, just five minutes ago you were both sitting there catching an episode of your favorite show, chatting about the plot line. Next thing you know, you're in tears feeling that if you had merely agreed that Spam was once a failed dog food that none of this would have happened! And "How did Spam come up in the conversation at all?"

The first thought is incorrect and the second thought is irrelevant. All that matters is the end result - your peaceful night is ruined and you can't remember how the heck it happened.

Bad Reasons to Argue With Your Abusive Spouse

Bad Reason 1: "If I had agreed that Spam was once a failed dog food that none of this would have happened!"

This thought is incorrect because what you ended up arguing about was a distraction. Think back a little further. Perhaps you disagreed with your spouse's interpretation of the television show's larger meaning to society. Your abuser thinks that if you disagreed over a TV show's obvious meaning, then you couldn't possibly be the woman of his dreams. His dream woman understands the world exactly as he does.

However, instead of recognizing this in his own mind, he seeks to overpower you with nonsense until you've been sufficiently punished for not being who he wants you to be. And gosh darn it, if it takes arguing over Spam to tip the balance in his favor, then that's what he is going to do.

It doesn't matter if your spouse remembers what upset him, it only matters that he's won. And it doesn't matter that he hasn't won on the initial point - this Spam thing will do just fine. I mean, look at you woman, you're obviously irrational and emotional over Spam for goodness sake! He must be the superior being, and his beliefs reign supreme.

Whew. Your abuser rescued his world from falling apart (at your expense).

In order for "none of this to have happened" you would have had to agree with him on his interpretation of a TV show. Ridiculous.

Bad Reason 2: Asking yourself, "How did Spam come up in the conversation at all?"

This question is not the right question. You can see why illustrated above, but after an argument with your abuser, dwelling on why questions is a waste of time.

Backtracking to the last point of contention that you remember will not help you to understand what happened. This is what happened: diversion happened. Your abusive spouse took you way off point so he or she could win. Period.

Alternative Way to Argue With Your Abusive Spouse

Next time, try this conversation instead:

Abusive Spouse: I cannot believe you think Spam has always been for human consumption! You're so closed-minded!

You: (incredulously) What!? (because this mental jump to Spam makes no sense)

Abusive Spouse: Talking to you is like talking to a can of Spam - you're both too stupid to comprehend the English language!

You: If you continue to insult me, I'll leave you in here alone.

Abusive Spouse: Oh yeah? What do I care? You're always telling me what I can and can't say! You're such a control freak!

You: (Get up, grab your ipod or a book or whatever, and leave the room without another word.)

Yes, it truly sucks that you must leave the room while watching your favorite show. Yes, it is unfair that your abuser seems to win this argument. But on the other hand, your abuser already assaulted your mind with lies (you're closed-minded, stupid, and a control freak). If you stay much longer, you could feel the need to win the point that you're none of those things, and that argument will get nasty.

Think about who you are arguing with. You're arguing with someone who said those things to provoke you into behaving in a way that proves his authority to himself (Control Your Emotions So Your Abusive Partner Can't). He's fishing for proof that he's right and you're wrong over an idea that could have multiple interpretations.

You could both be right - but abusers aren't after the win-win. They're after the power over. They seek to dominate and silence the real you so their ideal partner, the one who believes exactly as your abuser believes, remains intact in his imagination.

You don't have to argue with nonsense. In order to save your sanity, don't let yourself get sucked into an abuser-fabricated argument. Instead, choose to halt the cycle of abuse. Your best argument is a firm statement of boundaries backed up by doing what you said you would do. Period.

See Also:


You can find Kellie Jo Holly at Verbal Abuse Journals, or social media on Google+, Facebook,Twitter and Amazon Authors.

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

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2012, January 22). How to Argue With Your Abusive Spouse And Win, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

March, 16 2019 at 9:53 am

I loved this, describes my partner to a T!

November, 20 2018 at 11:40 am

Oh and he also told me that he,my parents,co workers have a hard time dealing with me so I am the problem. He also tells me I'm crazy and changes up his version of how things happened...when I correct him he diverts the topic with an outburst,usually verbal..I've read more stuff here and he really seems to be doing classic abuser really helps to know their tricks...
Oh and I just recently found out he's been watching came as a shock cos we're Christian,and he said those stuff are evil and messes up with our minds..Still planning how to confront him about this....

November, 20 2018 at 11:27 am

Hello,this article is VERY helpful-especially that part where you just have to get up and leave the room before you get provoked into trying to prove to him you're not who he says you are..
2 days ago my husband stayed out for 6 hrs no text or anything cos he was angry at me for being upset that HE ruined family plans over his sudden plan..I chose to keep quiet.While I was quietly browsing my phone tonight he complained about it when he has been using his just as much as I did (if not more).I calmly explained and stayed calm as he blamed and lectured me about what I SHOULD have done 2 days ago,said i should have respected him and stuff to keep our fanily happy.I calmly explained that it was my right to be upset and calmly asked him to inform me of his plans next time.He mocked me saying "oh now you're little miss right?you think you're a peacemaker now?" And when i tried to explain how his actions hurt me and it seems we're not ready to talk and we should stop and sleep so as not to wake up our 9 month old who's sleeping betwen us. He said "oh here comes the teacher" and turned his back on me.I got angry and shouted and hit the bed in frustration..and he threw at pillow at me and showed his fist as if he were planning to hit me.I asked him to get out of my parent's house and he got angry and I said I will call my parents (they're just in the next room!). He shouted at me to get out!I did call my parents but they didn't confront him.So i left our room.
Few minutes later he called me and said our son woke up cos of what i did and now that he helped him go back to sleep I can go in. (like I'm bad and he was the good guy) and thought it was over till he tried blaming and provoking me again..but I had just read this article and didn't let him provoke me anymore...he said f*@# you to me before he slept.
We've been married for 5 years....sadly the instance I decribed is one of many...with this article,I finally understood why he's doing the things he does....your advice would surely help me endure till I have the strength to leave..I read another article on this site about abusers and holidays/special days..and my birthday is next I understand why he's acting up...Thank you so much.

August, 18 2018 at 10:31 am

Two weeks ago I left my emotionally abusive husband. It has been SO exhausting. I have three kids from a previous marriage and we all had to pack up from a home we just purchased and move in with my parents. I don’t know what I’m going to do next and this part is really difficult for the kids as they want stability that I can’t offer them right now.
He is a very intelligent, funny, charming man. Everyone I told my story to is shocked. He has a great family who I respect and admire, they will not believe he has treated me this way. All of which compounds the stress of making this decision.
For years he’s been telling me I’m sneaky, cheating, lying, etc. He would monitor my phone and whereabouts. We had a camera in my kitchen that he installed for his own “peace of mind”. I could not move around my own home without worrying how any specific action would be perceived. Eggshells every moment. My hair started falling out. He would rant on and on about how hard he works to support me and my kids and expect me to just be grateful and why couldn’t I just see the good things. Meanwhile I also work full time and was 100% responsible for managing our household. I could go on and on. I relate to every single story shared above. And I want to say, even though I am sad and scared and exhausted, I know leaving was the best decision. It took me 6 months to secretly stash some money and mentally prepare myself.
We are all strong beautiful women who deserve to be valued and seen for our unique selves. Continue to be brave ladies!

March, 21 2018 at 3:18 pm

I tried this, but leaving the room would infuriate my abuser and he would fly into a rage if I left the room, especially if he was not finished with his point. More control. Then to make matters worse, he would follow me to the room that I was in, berating me, and telling me I'm always starting stuff between us. Then the whole thing becomes my fault.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 20 2022 at 3:44 pm

Yeah. The author’s suggestion to “just leave the room!” is naive and potentially dangerous. It will just as likely cause escalation.
There is a book called “stop walking on eggshells” that has actual better ways of dealing with abusers.

Johanne Yaquinto
November, 6 2017 at 2:58 pm

I do end up trying to back track a conversation that turns in to a confrontation. I also get told, even after 13 years of marriage that I wouldn't have what I have even though I contribute both financially and intelligently. I can see he would like nothing better than to be sure I walk away with nothing.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

November, 6 2017 at 8:36 pm

Johanne, I'm sorry your husband says those things to you. That is exactly the type of comment that would really fester for me, the kind of comment anyone would keep replaying in their mind, growing angrier and more resentful. It's so unfortunate that a comment like that, which more often than not is based entirely on the issue's of the abuser, rather than carrying any kind of legitimacy, can cause such damage and frustration. We hear a comment like that, we know that is is completely untrue, yet it drives us crazy... I'm sorry you are not valued the way you deserve to be. You are worthy of respect and admiration. If and when you do walk away, don't look at it like you'd be potentially walking away with nothing because you'd be walking away with self-respect, resilience, and courage. You'd be walking away with a new hope for a happier tomorrow, a tomorrow where you are free from inane comments and cruelty. A tomorrow with endless possibilities for a new start, with new standards, for a new you. If you ask me, that's walking away with a lot more than he seems to have. Those things are priceless and they are yours and yours alone. Thanks for reaching out Johanne, I hope things begin to look up for you, I'm rooting for you. -Emily
P.S. Here's couple articles that may help...
Coping with verbal abuse when you can't just leave
Ending Verbal Abuse, 5 steps to take

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 11 2018 at 1:46 am

Your story is my story! You are not alone. Trying to find strength to change my circumstances. Good luck to you too!

sonia mascarenhas
June, 19 2017 at 3:48 am

PTSD syndrome how can i get rid of this once and for all?

March, 25 2017 at 1:02 pm

"Think about who you are arguing with. You’re arguing with someone who said those things to provoke you into behaving in a way that proves his authority to himself."
The man LITERALLY argues with me about whether heat rises and cold falls: "I never heard that!" (with emphasis on the "I," like how could a thing POSSIBLY be true if HE didn't hear it?)
I need to remember that there really IS nothing to say to that.

April, 24 2015 at 12:52 pm

I have no idea what I can do. My husband of 38 years, around 3 years ago got a promotion that I thought was wonderful, but i didn't realize how stressful of a job he had, until he started coming in first with wine, and beeer, and now has promoted up to the hard lquior. He drinks anytime at night when he does not have to work, and to top it off, he has starting smoking pot. He is almost 63, and he acts like he is 23. I have tried to talk to him, and it just seems to make him more mad at me. It started out as verbal abuse. He is not an around the clock hour drinker, only when he is off from the shiftwork he does. I have not in over a year, been able at night to sit down and enjoy a TV show with him. His excuse, he is tired or burnt out on them, and we use to love to watch them. This hurt me so bad. I just come bad to the back bedroom, and watch the TV in here,. I tired not to say anything that may set him off. Years ago he use to slap me, but it has been over 30 years, and I had even filed for a divorced. Stupid me, my mother passed away, and I let him come back into my life. Now, I am all by myself, no true friends I can talk too. I do see a therapist, and I told a little of what is going on in the personal life. I am on a anti -anxiety medication that I am suppose to take 5, 1mg of it a day. I have high blood pressure, and gastric ulcers, so I am on medications for this problems. If, I say the wrong thing when he is getting what he calls a buzz, he screams, and now he is treating to do me bodily harn. The other night we grap one of my ears lobes, and twisted it until I had to begged him to let go. This is the first time in many years he has hurt me. He was playing music on the TV with our surround sound so loud, I could not think. All I did was go and ask him to turn it down so you could understand what they were singing. My husband is deaf from his job of 23 years. What did he do, was turn it up louder.I came back to the back bedroom, and slammed the door. He hates door slamming. I was sitting in this office chair, and the next thing I know, he came in and grap my ear lobe, and twisted it around,I could not say a word except to please stop. My warming was if I said anything else, the next time people would be able to see probasbly a black eye. He tells me I am too demanding. Luckily, we are not close to any neighbors, and I don't darned say anything to none of them. I have always seen to it, he has a meal on the table to eat, to take to work, and clean clothes, and a house to live in. I am trying to get my SS Disabitily. I am suppose to have a court hearing sometime before the end of the year. That's my problem, I am dependent on my husband. I have not worked in 4 years because of back problems, fibromaylia, frozen shoulder, general anxiety with panic attacks, high pressure, gastric ulcers that have bleed . I am at my the end of my rope. After, I was told I am suppose to be like a slave, even through he doesn't realize I feel like I am one all ready. We have no children. just two dogs, that I love as children. He thinks one is his, and tells me if I leave, I can take my chihuahua. And I better not come back once I leave. He doesn't know that everything is 50/50 in the state we live in. Believe me, I have felt like packing my bags, and just taking the dogs, and never looking back, but I know he would find me. Running is not the answer, I know. I have to where i could go. All, my family is gone, and his family have alot of problems themselves. The only person i have said anything to go too, is his baby sister. Their grewup with an alcoholic father, and his baby sister got the most of it, because my husband's brother , and him left home in their teens. when he is in his right mind, he tells me how much he loves me, too which all i think about is how i am being tormented. he doesn;t really believe me. I feel the only reason I am still here, is our two dogs need to be taken care of.

April, 21 2015 at 5:38 am

I am always defending or explaining myself. I suffer through the blow ups and all the accusations...I'm ALWAYS cheating with someone. Guy at the campground, co-worker neighbor, etc. My husband has even said on more than one occassion "who would want to look at those?"...I had a bilateral radical mastectomy due to breast cancer. My kids (16 and 14) are sick of it and want me to leave. He attacks them at times too. My biggest problem is I do not kow how to get this done. We are all afraid we will lose our home and the kids will have to start school somewhere else. That all sounds trivial compared to what we live with day to day but daunting none-the-less. Not being able to argue/prove that he is abusive is so frustrating. He will say all these horrible things, name call and then want to be intimate and has no clue as to why I no longer feel the need. It has gone on so long I don't even remember half of it any more. He has gone so far as to say that if I call the police he will make marks on himself and we will both go to jail.

April, 15 2015 at 1:04 pm

I agree, good article. Good advice. Wish I had the strength to stop while I'm still ahead like in the example, instead of saying "hey you can't insult me like that" and then getting into it...

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
April, 19 2015 at 3:31 am

Sounds like your abuser is great at putting you on the defensive when there is no reason for you to defend yourself. When you go on the defensive, you're putting yourself in the mindset that you MUST defend yourself against NONSENSE. Whatever insult your abuser uses, he/she knows it will cause you to twist yourself in knots trying to convince the abuser (or yourself!) that you aren't that thing.
Spend some time analyzing which insults really get you going. Then write out situations in which you are NOT as the abuser says. 9 times out of 10, the only time you ARE acting like the insult implies is when you're with you abuser. Abuse makes us act inappropriately and in ways that further hurt us.
In this case, affirmations that remind you how strong you are (if abuser says you're weak) or how bright you are (if abuser says you're stupid), etc. can really help. If those affirmations are in your mind, you're more likely to be able to call on them when you're insulted, say "I am not that way and I'm done listening to your nonsense" without getting into it.
Think about the statement you're currently using - "Hey! You can't insult me like that!" Guess what, yes your abuser can insult you like that. There is no way to make them stop insulting you. You cannot control what they do or say. But you can control yourself.
Check at the bottom of this page to download a safety plan (free) that will help you plan what to do when your abuser tries to get a rise out of you:

February, 10 2015 at 6:29 am

I hope I can put this to good use. My main problem in my relationship is, when I am getting insulted or put down, and especially when my boyfriend starts saying things that are untrue, I get upset, and I get loud. Then I'm the crazy one, I'm "out of control" and the kicker, I get called abusive. After the fact I am left thinking so many things that destroy my self esteem like: "Why am I so stupid to fall for his baiting EVERY TIME". I'm on abuse websites searching if my behavior is abusive but it always shines a light on my boyfriends behavior.
I am absolutely guilty of giving ultimatums and he will use this as the primer for why I am abusive, but we have been together 5 years and I do truly believe that if he thinks that I am abusive, or doesn't value my 5 year plan than we should not be together. This is really a fact not an ultimatum to get my way. I have searched deep with in my self, I know I am a good person and not abusive, but I wish I could stop rising to the bait.

October, 19 2014 at 6:58 am

I've had my fair share of abusive relationships. The past four months I've been dating someone new. He has gone through a lot including losing his father and brother. He has a sweet side to him where he says he wants to marry me one day and love me but if I get offended by something or 'start' and arguement he flips out. He acts like he doesn't care at all. He pretends he will go out to the bar with his friends or says I have anger problems. Saying I have anger problems just exacerbates the fight because I get more offended. He says he hates arguing and that's why he gets mad and says those things- to keep me there. I feel trapped in my relationship. I love him so much and would do anything. But he gets so mad and says things that I can't let go. Which he also says is a problem of mine- holding into things. He'll often say he isn't mad or doesn't even want to argue but will also say I always get mad or always say he is at fault. Or I complain. When we fight it's bad

March, 15 2014 at 11:04 am

How insane I catch myself ready to argue with my husband (who I am Trying to leave) and think I am talking to someone who is Sober but has the mind of someone drunk No reasoning! He actually thinks since he hasn't beat me up that Smashing his truck into my car is not abuse.
I am scared he will kill me he has Indeed already tried whats insane is to think He will ever change. He uses Jesus against me that God hates divorce. I was a strong woman they'll break you first Escape is the only solution.

October, 20 2013 at 3:31 am

Michelle, please for your sake and your children's leave your husband. I was in an abusive marriage and had an infant at the time, I left my abuser, even though I had no support from my family. I made my plans, put away some money on the sly, went to social services and one day when he was out working...I left. I was terrified, for myself, my baby, our financial situation, and for the future...but I put one foot in front of the other, and I made it. I went back to University and got my teaching degree. 7 years after my get-away, I met an amazing man, we married, he adopted my son and we had two more wonderful sons together. We have been together 19 years now! There are wonderful men out there, there is hope...but you have to take that first step. You have one life to live, don't live it in that kind of despair, find your inner strength, take your children and leave. Make your "rock", your mother proud. Plan your leaving, their are soooo many good people out there wanting to help you, reach out...your mother is watching over you and will give your strength. You are in my prayers, good luck.

August, 19 2013 at 2:20 pm

I cannot believe how many of these topics ring true for me in my marriage. I have long known that my husband is an abuser but often struggle with the need to defend myself and that only leads to further abuse. He has absolutely no boundary that he will not cross to put me down, or hurt me. He will verbally hurt our children JUST to hurt me. He throws my deceased mother (passed less than a month ago) up in every argument trying to use her as a way to control me, or put me down ex "at least I have a mom!" I am literally at my wits end. He's a liar, deceiver, cheater, abusive narcissist with no cares for anyone but himself. We have three kids. I'm a stay at home mom. I just lost my "rock" of a support system and feel so trapped. I don't know how to get out of this.

September, 4 2012 at 4:00 am

This is so true as I've been in an abusive relationships for years, now as a senior. This is the best website that I've seen devoted to domestic abuse and violence as the author lived through it herself. I started reading and couldn't stop as one topic after another brought tears to my eyes. Only those who've been through it or are going through it can understand.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Holly
September, 5 2012 at 6:50 am

Thank you, Sandy. Unfortunately, there are too many of us who experienced domestic violence and abuse. I try to bring the experience to the public in hope those who are or were abused know they're not alone and those lucky enough to have avoided the experience come to understand.

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