Ending Verbal Abuse: Five Steps to Take
So, you've spotted the signs of verbal abuse in your relationship and you want to end the verbal abuse. You know that blaming, shaming, threatening and name-calling does not equate to a happy or healthy partnership. You realize that maybe -- just maybe -- you deserve better. So how do you make it stop? Is ending verbal abuse possible?
Recognizing a pattern of abusive behavior is the first step to take, but that doesn't make it an easy one. No one understands this better than I do. Despite that the signs were blatant, it took me years to realize I was verbally abused by my ex-partner; it took me even longer to see that I wasn't to blame for his abuse. However, these realizations alone were not enough to lessen his hold over me. These realizations weren't enough to end the verbal abuse.
Verbal Abuse Is Hard to Identify and Even Harder to End
Verbal abuse is highly effective at diminishing the victim, partly because it's so difficult for the victim to identify. Emotional and psychological forms of abuse creep into a relationship gradually, leaving scars that no one else can see.
It is easy for us to believe that verbal abuse should not be taken as seriously as physical violence -- this is, after all, the picture that society paints -- yet those of us who have been on the receiving end of verbal abuse know it can have long-lasting implications for our mental health. We also know that verbal abuse can lead to physical violence, even if some of us don't learn this until it's too late.
Tips on Ending Verbal Abuse in a Relationship
Here are five things you can do toward ending verbal abuse in a relationship:
- Set boundaries. It's important to set boundaries for both yourself and your partner to end verbal abuse, but know boundary setting isn't always effective or even possible. My ex-partner refused to take responsibility for his controlling behavior and verbal attacks, shifting the blame onto me instead. His denial only exacerbated my own, making it difficult to establish any rules within the relationship.
- Seek support from others. Verbal abuse allows one person to assert and gain control over another. One way your partner might try to achieve this is by isolating you from others. However, having a reliable support system in place means you have somewhere to turn when the abuse gets too much. It also ensures that you don't get too sucked into the abuser's version of reality. Try to remain in touch with friends and family members and be honest with them when possible -- the more people who are aware of an abusive situation, the less dangerous it becomes.
- Go to therapy. If you're being abused, it's advisable to see a therapist. The decision to go to therapy alone or involve your partner is entirely up to you, though bear in mind that it will be easier for you to explore your feelings without your partner interjecting. Make sure you check out your local counseling directory for well-trained professionals who work with victims of domestic abuse to help end verbal abuse in your relationship.
- Don't engage in conflict. By refusing to participate in abusive dialogue, you take back some of the control. Let your partner know that what he's doing is unacceptable and that you're not willing to put up with it. State that you will only hear him out if he can communicate his feelings without being abusive. Again, be prepared for this to fall on deaf ears if your partner can't admit to being in the wrong.
- Leave. Like me, leaving an abusive relationship may be your only option in the end. No matter how hard we try, we are powerless to change another person's behavior. So if the abuse continues to affect your self-worth and sense of identity, it may be time to cut ties. In the throes of an intense relationship, leaving can feel impossible -- particularly if you feel afraid of your partner or there are children to consider. But with a little safety planning and the right support, you absolutely can live a life free from abuse.
If you require immediate support, please call the Domestic Violence Hotline on our Help and Resources page. If you live in the UK, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline. If you believe yourself or another person to be in imminent physical danger, call the police without hesitation.
Disclaimer: I recognize that both men and women can be victims of domestic abuse. My pronoun choices are merely reflective of my own experiences.
Smith, E. (2017, September 12). Ending Verbal Abuse: Five Steps to Take, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, February 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2017/09/5-ways-to-end-verbal-abuse
Author: Emma-Marie Smith
Because my husband is a perfectionist, he has difficulty taking initiative in any major plans or decison-making. The unknowns and potential obstacles he will think of as he analyzes everything to death, paralyze him to the point where he is unable to even begin. He actually finally admits to that after knowing him for 30 years. A project will become overwhelming and daunting to the point of avoidance. Our 18 year old home is falling apart, but I can't wait around for him to finally make a decision. When I try to take initiative, I am accused of being controlling. Until this point, he was completely hands off because he says that I never like his ideas. I told him that not agreeing with another person is not an outright rejection ; it's natural for two different human beings to think differently; you just need to compromise which I am willing to do. This has been the theme of our 25 year marriage. We cannot accomplish anything together. Nothing. Latest example: due to water restrictions, our lawn eventually died and was overtaken by weeds, so I call for estimates. After our meeting, he says the purpose of the meeting was to get him get the landscaper to agree with me even after I intentionally ask him to be there so he can voice his own ideas. I merely shared a few of my own, but from this, I get accused of manipulating the situation. A few years go by and the it's getting worse and I know from past experience that bringing up the topic will only get him angrier, but I have no choice since this is not just a home, but our largest investment. Then last year I learned about a free 4 week workshop offered by the city to teach you how to completely overhaul your yard by changing it into a water-wise landscape. He agrees to attend. By autumn, we finally put together a plan and I'm am anxious to start. Estimates were coming in at $10k-$20k, so I decide that I will try to tackle what I can myself. I start pulling weeds, old grass , hauling dirt and leveling the ground. About 2 months later, I ask him to help me when it's time to purchase some heavy flagstone. He agrees. Each stone weights about 25-50 lbs and we need to lay out a path. I watch YouTube, read blogs, capture ideas and try to learn as much as I can for a DIY project. I share ideas with him. He later says that with all of the things I learned, I could've done a better job. This is the first time I have ever done this and I am sick and tired of the criticism and blaming. For the first 2 months I work alone, chipping away at it each weekend. By the 4th month, I am at point where I need help hauling and laying out decomposed granite on a path that I carved out. It's a 5" deep, 25' long trench I DUG MYSELF. I am 5'4" and 50 years old, btw. He agrees to help fill the path with wheelbarrows of heavy crushed stone. Ok, nice. Then a tree needs to be installed. He agrees to pick it up from the nursery and install it for me. We are getting along. Then we find out there's a broken pipe and I tell him we need to repair that. He says he'll do it. I wait. A month goes by. I suggest we hire someone to do it. He says I have no clue how to hire the right person and that he will take care of it. I don't care as long as we get it fixed or our plants will die. He said to just hand water it until he takes care of it. Another 2 months go by. Ok. I'm fed up and I say, PLEASE just make a decision--either hire someone or do it asap before the plants die. He accuses me of nagging him. I am STUCK as usual. I am damned if I do; damned if I don't. Do I take initiative and hire someone and get chewed out, or do I wait until he feels like getting around to it? This example is just one of a thousand in the last 25 years with this person. He says that I just do things on a whim without much thought and that is my problem in life; that he would've done the project differently with more precision and planning. I said that would be a godsend if he could do that, but waiting around for it to ever happen doesn't leave much choice. He finally admits he has a problem with procrastination, but yet when I try to step in and take ownership of a problem, I get nothing but criticism. I am sick and tired of constant nitpicking of everything I do that's wrong. The landscaping may not be perfect, but we are 75% done at this point and I probably saved at least $10,000. My neighbors have complimented the transformation and have told me that they are now inspired to do the same. Yet the only thing I hear from my husband is that I am a poor planner. His two major gripes: that I should've known how to prevent weeds and level the path better so mulch could be contained better. Weeds are not preventable, so not sure how I could've addressed that better. Digging an inch or two deeper, maybe I could've done that. I continue to chip away to get to the finish line regardless of what his next gripe will be. I've actually enjoyed the process and seeing the results. It feels good to do hard work and feel like you've accomplished something I never thought possible in me. But all my husband can do is point out my flaws. I have put my heart and soul and poured out blood, sweat and tears into this project to beautify our home and to retain its value. I will admit, it's been a confidence booster for me to accomplish what to me is a difficult feat. Yet, all he can say is that there are weeds and some mulch that flew onto the gravel path; and that I am awful at planning wisely. It's hurtful. I know I shouldn't care since this has been the way things have always been with him, but it still stings regardless.
LT, why have you stayed so long with this man? He sounds horrible and lazy.
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I appreciate your posts on this topic and I have felt needed validation. I am not sure if my unique situation exists in Posts, and wanted to ask if you could either write or include topic posts re: Adult daughter (adult child) raised by NPD mother, N-mothers who successfully deceive/convice their daughters or sons, once reaching the independence of adulthood (working, able to move/live independently), the N-mother/parent has "changed", "wants a close relationship", etc; adult child becomes very close to parent, no longer believing the concerns of childhood. And tying in the Stages of manipulation & abuse (love-bombing, i.e. N-mother acts like the mother you never had in childhood), allowing total trust and vulnerability during close relationship years, which are consistent (In my case 2 decades); adult daughter develops chronic illness, N-parent encourages adult daughter with vulnerable health to "move in with N-parent [& co-d step parent] "temporarily for "family support with health follow up"; Adult daughter trusts N-parent and Co-d, implicitly, accepts invitation to move temporarily for family support and upon move in the relationship has turned, Prior behaviors of NPD manifest, Stages of "Devaluation" and "Discard" follow, while in vulnerable health as an adult, stuck under roof, abused by both N-parent and co-dependent step parent, the personality disorder has gotten worse with age, adult daughter is in a living nightmare. Including discovery of NPD running in family, loss of family relationships, being isolated, ETC. So overall, adults dealing with Emotional, Psychological (And Physical) abuse in family (And Cluster-B PD context). Thanks for listening and hope to read any articles relevant on HP. Thanks so much- Dolly