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.