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What Does Verbal Abuse Look Like?

June 10, 2020 Megan Lane

What does verbal abuse look like? That's a good question because when verbal abuse happens in a relationship, the abuse can be subtle, overt, or somewhere in between. Verbal abuse is often subtle in the beginning stages of a partnership, and then it evolves, becoming much more recognizable. I've asked myself this question many times: "How do I know if his actions and words constitute verbal abuse?"

I lost so much confidence throughout my life and throughout bad relationships that it's now challenging for me to identify what verbal abuse looks like. I've conducted research online, spoken with my therapist, and I remain mindful in the midst of heated conversations — but what exactly is verbal abuse? 

I can remember past boyfriends forbidding me from wearing certain skirts and dresses. They said my clothing was too revealing — it enraged them to the point that they'd call me disgusting names. The act of controlling what someone wears and bullying her for her choices is verbal abuse.

There are many excuses for this kind of behavior. "I only control you because I'm so in love with you and I'm afraid of losing you," is an invalid excuse I have heard far too many times. When you're claiming that you love someone unconditionally, there aren't supposed to be any conditions.

You can't control what people wear, which friends and family members they choose to visit, or how their spare time is spent. That isn't a sign of love, it's a clear indicator of both emotional abuse and what verbal abuse looks like.

What Verbal Abuse Looks Like -- Common Patterns

When my previous partners verbally abused me, I questioned my instincts, wondered if I was the one overreacting, and, at times, even blamed myself. I felt so isolated — I was hesitant about telling my family and close friends. In fact, I frequently rushed to my abuser's defense.

If you're in a relationship with someone who calls you names and claims it's just a joke, please don't convince yourself that you're overreacting. You aren't. Name-calling is common in verbally-abusive relationships. 

Another telltale sign of verbal abuse is criticism. When you are in a healthy relationship, your partner should support and uplift you, not criticize you and your choices. There's nothing wrong with respectful disagreements, they're entirely natural. But if you think you are being verbally abused, keep an eye out for criticism — it should be constructive, not harmful.

A lot of my ex-boyfriends struggled with containing their jealousy. Their jealousy issues resulted in constant accusations. They would scream at me and accuse me of cheating when in reality I'd been faithful all along. Extreme jealousy, constant accusations, and talking down to your significant other are common patterns that show what verbal abuse looks like.

Choosing to Empower Yourself

You're the only person who can decide whether or not the abuse is forgivable. There are rare circumstances where a person does forgive her partner. I know that I forgave my current boyfriend for verbally abusing me one time, but he knows it can never happen again.

When you're constantly walking on eggshells — in fear of triggering your partner's less pleasant side — you aren't going to be overly inclined to talk about your feelings.

Should you decide to stay in the relationship and forgive him, you'll want to empower yourself; you can do this by setting boundaries and being honest about how you feel. You will notice your relationship beginning to repair itself when the eggshells disappear, and when you're no longer afraid of speaking up.  

Have you been in a verbally abusive relationship? In the comment section, let's talk about what verbal abuse looked like for you. What were the signs of verbal abuse? How did the relationship turn out? Remember, we can stay strong by being there for each other. 

APA Reference
Lane, M. (2020, June 10). What Does Verbal Abuse Look Like?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2020/6/what-does-verbal-abuse-look-like



Author: Megan Lane

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Lizanne Corbit
June, 10 2020 at 11:42 am

Recognizing signs or examples of verbal abuse as exactly that, verbal abuse, can be so difficult. This is the first step to really opening our eyes and seeing a situation for what it is. It can be so easy for us to write things off like criticism as something lesser, but would we do this to another that we love? Empowering ourselves, reminding ourselves of what we are truly worth, and checking in with how something truly makes us feel - loved or controlled, can be powerful. Be gentle with yourself in this process.

June, 11 2020 at 7:24 pm

It really can be so difficult. My boyfriend and I had an argument yesterday and I’m not sure if he crossed over that line. I know myself — I can be very sensitive, so that makes it even harder to identify, especially when it’s more subtle.
I like how you compared it to a loved one. I have a nine-year-old daughter. How would I feel if she was older and being treated in a certain way by her boyfriend? When I look at it that way, it helps me see things clearer.
Thank you so much for your comment, and yes, every day we need to remind ourselves of our value ♥️

June, 11 2020 at 7:24 pm

It really can be so difficult. My boyfriend and I had an argument yesterday and I’m not sure if he crossed over that line. I know myself — I can be very sensitive, so that makes it even harder to identify, especially when it’s more subtle.
I like how you compared it to a loved one. I have a nine-year-old daughter. How would I feel if she was older and being treated in a certain way by her boyfriend? When I look at it that way, it helps me see things clearer.
Thank you so much for your comment, and yes, every day we need to remind ourselves of our value ♥️

June, 11 2020 at 7:24 pm

It really can be so difficult. My boyfriend and I had an argument yesterday and I’m not sure if he crossed over that line. I know myself — I can be very sensitive, so that makes it even harder to identify, especially when it’s more subtle.
I like how you compared it to a loved one. I have a nine-year-old daughter. How would I feel if she was older and being treated in a certain way by her boyfriend? When I look at it that way, it helps me see things clearer.
Thank you so much for your comment, and yes, every day we need to remind ourselves of our value ♥️

June, 11 2020 at 7:24 pm

It really can be so difficult. My boyfriend and I had an argument yesterday and I’m not sure if he crossed over that line. I know myself — I can be very sensitive, so that makes it even harder to identify, especially when it’s more subtle.
I like how you compared it to a loved one. I have a nine-year-old daughter. How would I feel if she was older and being treated in a certain way by her boyfriend? When I look at it that way, it helps me see things clearer.
Thank you so much for your comment, and yes, every day we need to remind ourselves of our value ♥️

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