Relationship Problems > Abusive Relationships > How to Get Out of a Verbally Abusive Relationship

How to Get Out of a Verbally Abusive Relationship

Leaving a verbally abusive relationship when you have nowhere to go, nobody to talk to, and nothing to lean on will take grit, courage and strength. You may not feel ready to actually leave, but you can start reflecting on the steps toward freedom. Each of these five examples or signs of verbal abuse are paired with an idea for getting out of the relationship.

Some types of verbal abuse are easy to recognize. For example, name calling, insults and cruel criticism are verbally abusive behaviors in a relationship. But what about the less obvious signs of verbal abuse? How do you know if you’re being verbally abused by someone who says he loves you?

Even more importantly, how do you get out of a relationship when all you hear is how stupid, incompetent, fat, ugly and unlovable you are? I wish I could tell you that it’s easy to leave a relationship that is verbally abusive, but it’s not. Men who are controlling and manipulative are masters at tamping women down, making them feel terrible about themselves, and destroying their self-esteem and self-confidence.

The most important thing to know – after you recognize the signs of a verbally abusive relationship – is that it takes time to create a plan to leave. There are often stages to leaving an abusive relationship.

Don’t be hard on yourself if you’ve been suffering in the same unhealthy relationship for years, or even decades! It often takes a long time for women to leave. Some women feel trapped and unable to support themselves. Other women have no way to pay the bills, feed the kids, or even take care of their own health issues without their partners. Emotional and verbal abuse isn’t “just” psychologically damaging…it destroys you physically, socially, professionally and spiritually.

But it doesn’t always have to be this way.

5 Tips for Getting Out of a Verbally Abusive Relationship

Learning to recognize the signs of a verbally abusive relationship is really important. Some verbal abuse is so subtle and manipulative that you think you deserve to be talked to that way, or that somehow it’s your fault. That’s why I’m describing five different examples of verbal abuse and pairing each with an idea for leaving the relationship.

Be gentle with yourself! It can take months or even years to leave an unhealthy relationship. Why do women stay in verbally abusive relationships? Sometimes they hope the man will change or the relationship will improve. Sometimes they feel trapped for financial and family reasons. Often, women in verbally abusive relationships also lose their self-identity, energy, and confidence. This makes getting out of an unhealthy relationship really hard.

1. Look at your relationship with a fresh pair of eyes

Getting Out of a Verbally Abusive Relationship
How to Get Out of a Verbally Abusive Relationship

You may be so used to the things your boyfriend or husband says that you don’t even notice how bad things have become. Silence, trivializing, direct criticisms, and passive aggressive comments are four typical examples of verbal abuse in relationships. Do you feel uncomfortable, afraid, insecure, or silenced? Your feelings and instincts are one of the best signs of a verbally abusive relationship. Trust yourself. Your intuition does not lie.

You can start leaving a verbally abusive relationship by looking at him through a more objective lens. If you believe your relationship is verbally abusive, read Should I Stay or Should I Go?: A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can–and Should–be Saved by Lundy Bancroft and JAC Patrissi. You’ll learn how to tell the difference between a healthy-yet-difficult relationship versus one that is verbally abusive. You’ll also recognize the signs that your boyfriend or husband has a serious anger or rage problem.

2. Recognize how you respond to verbal assaults

Think back to the first time your husband or boyfriend said something mean, critical, or rude. How did you respond then? How did you feel, what did you think? Compare it to the things he says to you now. Notice if you’ve changed, or if you respond differently. Do you feel like you deserve to be in a verbally abusive relationship because you’re not good enough to be loved? Some women have a hard time leaving unhealthy relationships because they feel like they deserve to be called names, ignored, or belittled.

How do you get out of a verbally abusive relationship when you feel bad about yourself…or even hate yourself? Start by recognizing what his words and actions are doing to your self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-identity. Just notice how you feel and respond when your husband or boyfriend calls you names or puts you down. This is developing self-awareness – and it will help you leave a man who is verbally abusing you.

3. Imagine telling your friends or family how he talks to you

In Are You Hiding the Truth About Your Marriage? we discovered that one of the most powerful weapons emotionally abusive men have is a woman’s SILENCE. When you don’t share how your boyfriend or husband talks to you, you are protecting him and your relationship. When you protect him, you keep yourself trapped, weak, and helpless. Your silence and secrecy keeps you trapped in despair and helplessness.

Imagine telling your friends or family that you want to leave your relationship because your husband or boyfriend is verbally abusive. What does it feel like to talk about it? How might you bring up the fact that you’ve been suffering in silence for so long? Who can you tell, and how might they respond? Just imagine what it’d be like to say “I’m in a verbally abusive relationship” to someone.

4. Borrow someone else’s strength

One of the biggest, most telling signs of a verbally abusive relationship is low self-esteem. Men who abuse are masters at making women feel like they have no power or control, no choice or freedom. Verbally abusive men are manipulators, bullies, and liars. You feel weak, insecure and powerless because his words have been tearing you apart for so long.

When you feel too weak or scared to leave a verbally abusive relationship, lean on someone else’s strength. You don’t necessarily need close friends or family members to lean on (though they are extremely helpful, of course!). You can borrow strength from a crisis support worker at a safe house or shelter, or a neighbor. You can lean on someone who is part of your church, synagogue, or faith tradition. And you can lean on the most powerful source of strength in the universe: God.

5. Reimagine your self-image and identity

Men who are verbally abusive men are very good at controlling what women think about themselves. If you’ve been in a verbally abusive relationship or marriage for years, then you may have lost your self-image and self-identity long ago. This means it’s time to reimagine, recreate, and reinvent yourself! Start by remembering who you were before. Picture yourself healthy, happy, whole. Who did God create you to be?

When you’re planning to get out of a verbally abusive relationship, remember that a healthy, strong self-identity doesn’t come from men, possessions, or your appearance. It comes from God. If you root yourself in your identity as a beloved child of God, you will have more strength and power than you ever thought possible! And that power will help you not only recognize the signs of a verbally abusive relationship, but also find the energy and strength you need to leave.

These five tips on how to get out of a verbally abusive relationship are a lot to think about…and that’s all I’m encouraging you to do. Just think about the signs of verbal abuse in your relationship, and what life would be like if you were free.

If you’re thinking about ending your relationship, read How to Leave the Man You Love – But Can’t Live With.


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29 thoughts on “How to Get Out of a Verbally Abusive Relationship”

  1. Hello
    I’m in an a verbal abusive relationship trying to find the strength to get out of it. I’m now seeing some from woman’s aid to talk to for support for me to realize that I’m not going mentally insane from all the blame and causes of his behaviour towards me. Even when the abuse is there it’s so hard to understand why I take it and don’t leave. Afterwards I’m told he loves me and he if I did annoy him he wouldn’t be the way he is. My struggle will end soon and that light at the end of the tunnel will come.

  2. Please, please appreciate that not all abusers are male.
    Especially my wife.
    The article would resonate with any verbally abused person if it didn’t insist that abusers are all male.
    I couldn’t stay with it for that reason.
    I’ll look elsewhere for help.

  3. Any “MAN” should own up to his mistakes / losses and stand up and provide housing for his spouse and especially his only daughter. I will never go down because I have a heart unlike most women who are afraid to speak. I am just the opposite- I cannot keep my mouth shut when someone you thought you knew for 19 years belittles, blames , lies , steals, neglects, try’s to control, brainwashes kids , coward , , I will lay down and die before he takes my kids and over my dead body will he ever leave this country without owning up to whatever happened last year. I just wish I knew what happened to the man I married so long ago who was loving, worshiped the ground I walk on , generous , never gossiping. Always walked my dogs. I guess I’ll never know but physically it’s killing me and I just have to throw the towel in w/o the signed papers I wanted. It’s pretty hard to get help when your husband displays your “mental impairment “ across the city of phila. This better be removed by Monday morning

  4. Reading all of these comments both hurts, and helps so much! I have been in an emotionally abusive relationship for almost 13 years. 4 years ago, I married him. We moved from my hometown and are now living about 200 miles away from my family and friends. He has done awful, what should be unforgiveable things to me, but I stay. I am abhorred by the stories I read of other’s experiences, but fail to be abhorred my own. I get so angry and hurt by the things he does, then he’ll give me the silent treatment for days, sometimes weeks. The first few days of silent treatment are actually a blessing, but after several days, I start to break down mentally, and want him to contact me – or apologize. He has never apologized, by the way, only started talking again or made a joke, and I was so relieved to have my “normalcy” back, I let it go. And I just kept letting it go…and go. Now, I physically feel the effects of these years of abuse. I have anxiety, phobias – suddenly have a fear of driving over 40 mph, I self medicate with alcohol so that I can just be numb, I have lost sight of who I was and what I liked and loved.

    I have a framed poem my father wrote for me 25 years ago. I keep it with me at work. I showed it to my work friend the other day, and she said – “If I had something that beautiful from my dad, I would hang it on the wall next to my bed!” Little did she know, it’s so special to me, I keep it far away from the person who, if he knew how special it was to me, would smash the frame and throw away the poem.

    Two days ago, we were in the car together and he started driving like a maniac, like he always does. He rides up on people’s bumpers, inches away from hitting them, blowing the horn, running red lights, it’s terrifying. And if I say anything, it’s hell to pay. I was gripping the seat and asked him – please stop driving like this! That was it. he started pounding on the dashboard, screaming at me, calling me horrible things and telling me it was all over – he wanted a divorce. I went to that place in my head, where it’s quiet and I still have some memory of the girl I was, and decided divorce sounded pretty good to me right then. So I said it out loud that I wanted the same thing. Now, two days later I’m terrified again. Reading this article, and reading all your posts gives me some strength, and reminds me I’m not alone. Hopefully this time I’ll follow through.

  5. My wife is emotionally and physically abusive. She blames it on her hormones but it never stops. She’s nice and loving one day, evil and horrible the next. I’ve stayed because I’m conditioned to stay. This is my second emotionally and physically abusive marriage. I am weaker than I ever thought I was and it makes me so sad…

  6. First its not as easy to alot of us who is high risk pregnant right now and have an infant baby with Special Needs who needs his doctors every week. Every day I am threatened and reminded if I ever leave and take the babies I wiall regret it. I have to tell him every day what the doctors said and did and when some of my sons doctors do a home visit the father starts talking to them like he was at my sons doctors visits and will not let me get a word in or let them talk to me. The father does this to me everytime to act like he really cares for my son and does all the things that I have to do to my son every day of his life as the father sleeps all day, plays games on his phone all day and say that is more important than anything else. I am made to look like I don’t care for my son at all and that he does everything for my son when he doesn’t. The father has made himself look like he is the victim everytime and has thrown me in jail for 20 days before I was ever pregnant and claimed I did things that I never did and used his mild restarted 15 year old daughter lie as well. See I can’t win in any way from him. I have family that will help me but live too far and the father has family here where we live but don’t care about him or his daughter and have told him that they will never help him with his daughter ever again. That is a whole different story but still refers to me as I was put in the middle of everything….I would love to leave but can’t….