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5 Signs of a Verbally Abusive Relationship

How do you know if you’re being verbally abused by your boyfriend, husband, or partner? These signs of a verbally abusive relationship are inspired by The Parable of the Prison Cell. Our imprisoned heroine’s name is Hanna – a princess warrior who took the easy way out.

signs of verbally abusive relationshipsIf 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, and one that is really not working because it’s verbally abusive. You’ll also recognize the signs that your boyfriend or husband has a serious problem.

The most important thing to know – after you recognize the signs of a verbally abusive relationship – is that it takes time to figure out what to do about it. There are stages to leaving an abusive relationship. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it won’t be easy. Emotional abuse is suffocating and oppressive, and you become numb to it after awhile.

Read the Parable of the Prison Cell, and ask yourself what direction you want to go in. Perhaps this is a sign it’s time to end your verbally abusive relationship.

The Parable of the Prison Cell

Once upon a time, there was a princess warrior called Hanna who lost her last battle – because even warriors lose sometimes! She was locked in a prison cell with a dirt floor, crude stone walls, and one small window that looked out towards the ocean.

Signs of a Verbally Abusive Relationship

Hanna – Before She Was Imprisoned

Hanna had been locked in her cell for more than five years. At first, she stayed emotionally and physically strong by doing yoga, running in place, and visualizing her eventual escape. But time began to wear her down. She grew weary. The prison food wasn’t nutritious, and the guards didn’t allow her to sleep at night. Her only communication was with the guards, who were masters of verbally abusive relationships.

One night, Hanna heard a scratching noise. She looked down at the ground and saw the ground moving. She thought she had finally lost her mind – or an earthquake was coming to free her from the prison cell. Soon the ground broke, and up pops a head with long hair and a dirty face. It’s a fellow princess warrior called Ayla, who was captured several years earlier.

“Ssshhh!” said Ayla. “Listen carefully to me. A group of us have been tunneling for about six years, and we finally reached your cell! Do you want to escape with us?”

“Yes,” said Hanna. “I want to be free. What do I need to do?”

“Start digging from under the window in your cell – because from here is the last few feet to freedom,” said Ayla. “Dig downwards about six feet, and then dig about 75 feet in that direction, towards the ocean. Don’t leave yet, though. Wait for us to come back, so we can escape with you. Can you do that?”

“Yes!” said Hanna.

“We’ll come back in two weeks, and we will all leave together.”

Two weeks later, Ayla pops her head back in Hanna’s cell. “What happened – did you tunnel your way to the outside?”

“Yes,” said Hanna. “Let’s go!”

They crawling through the tunnel to the end, and popped their heads out of the dirt. Expecting to see the ocean, Ayla was heartbroken to see the prison yard. “Hanna, O Hanna, we are now more imprisoned than ever,” she said. “Why did you dig towards the prison yard instead of the ocean?”

“Well, because I am weak and digging is hard,” Hanna said. “It was too hard to dig towards the ocean, so I took the easier route.”

5 Signs of a Verbally Abusive Relationship

Are you digging your way towards freedom from abuse, or are you tunneling deeper into this relationship? It’s easier to stay in a bad relationship, but it’s healthier in the long run to deal with it proactively. Maybe this means leaving the relationship, or maybe it means learning to how to stand up for yourself. If you need tips on being more assertive in your relationship, please let me know below.

You need to not only learn to recognize the signs of verbally abusive relationships, but also the signs that you are losing your self-identity, energy, and confidence. It’s crucial to be aware of what the abuse is doing to your self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-identity.

You don’t feel right about the things your boyfriend or husband says

Silence, trivializing, direct criticisms, and passive aggressive comments are four surprising examples of verbal abuse in relationships. No matter what the psychological terms are, though, the bottom line is how you feel when your husband or boyfriend talks to you. 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 gut is telling you something, else you wouldn’t be here, searching for help for abuse.

You feel like you’re digging in deeper

Do you feel like you’re sinking deeper and deeper every time your husband or boyfriend says something rude, offensive, or upsetting? If you feel like Hanna in the Parable of the Prison Cell – you’re trying to dig your way out but deep down you know you’re taking the easy route – then you’re succumbing to the numbness time brings. The longer we stay in abusive relationships, the harder it is to leave. We get used to being verbally abused. We expect it, and sometimes even feel like we deserve it. That may be another sign of a verbally abusive relationship: feeling like we deserve to be called names, ignored, or belittled.

You don’t tell your friends or family how he talks to you

In 10 Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship, I say that one of the most powerful weapons emotionally abusive boyfriends have is your SILENCE. When you don’t share how your boyfriend or husband talks to you, then you are protecting him and your relationship. When you protect him, you keep yourself trapped, weak, and helpless. Your cone of silence is keeping you trapped in the prison cell – just like Hanna the princess warrior in the parable.

You feel too weak, insecure, and powerless to leave

5 Signs of a Verbally Abusive Relationship

5 Signs of a Verbally Abusive Relationship

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. Men who abuse are manipulators, bullies, and liars. Your feelings of weakness, insecurity, and powerlessness aren’t an indication of who you are as a person! Your feelings are a huge sign that your husband or boyfriend is abusing you verbally and emotionally.

You get your identity from your abuser

Verbally abusive men are very good at controlling what you think about yourself. Why? Because what you think about yourself – your identity – is what helps you make decisions. Women with a strong self-identity know what they like, and they overcome their fears and insecurities to get what they want out of life. Women with a weak identity are much more likely to allow other people to tell them who they are, what they want, where they are going, and what to think.

A healthy, strong self-identity doesn’t come from people or possessions. 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 gain freedom from emotional imprisonment.

What do you think of these signs of a verbally abusive relationship? I welcome your comments below. I can’t offer counseling or advice, but it may help you to write about what you’re going through. Writing brings insight and clarity, and can help other women find the strength they need to leave verbally abusive relationships.

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

You can suffer the pain of change, or suffer the pain of staying where you are.

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28 thoughts on “5 Signs of a Verbally Abusive Relationship”

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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…

  5. 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….

  6. Thank you for writing about your experience, it takes courage to share what you’re going through! Many times we hide what we’re dealing with – especially when we’re in a verbally abusive relationship. I really admire your strength, and I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

    Yes, strong women leave abusive relationships. Strong women find ways to rebuild their lives, to press onwards despite their fears and the uncertainties.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this. I wish I had good advice to give you about how to leave an abusive relationship – or that I had a magic wand that could turn back time and make everything good again!

    You can do this. You can stop being a shadow, you can stop allowing him to crush your spirit, and you can take back your life. You can find your personality again, your spark, your joy!!

    You have access to an eternal, powerful source of resilience, strength and healing — and it’s that still, small voice inside of you. You need to get quiet and listen to it, for that voice will tell you what you need to know. That voice will tell you what the next step is.

    It doesn’t matter if you think of that still, small voice as your intuition or God or the Universe or your Higher Power (or a combination of it all!)……you must learn how to listen to it. You must learn how to connect with that flow of life, light, and power that is available to all of us. You must learn how to take a deep breath and put one foot forward.

    Do you already know what you need to do? I suspect you do, but you’re finding it difficult to take the next step. Of course you are! But the first step is recognizing the signs of a verbally abusive relationship. The next step is reading these articles…

    What You Need to Know When You Call a Shelter or Safe House

    How to Make a Decision That Will Change Your Life

    I will keep you in my prayers, for strength and healing and comfort. May you reach out and find support and love in your friends and family.

    You might be encouraged by my free weekly newsletter, called SheBlossoms. I help women look upwards to grow healthy and strong, emotionally and spiritually. You may find it helpful, and you can sign up above.

    Take care of yourself. Listen for that still small voice.


  7. I think I am also stuck in an abusive relationship. I have been with my husband for over 10 years now and don’t think I can continue. He’s never hurt me physically but on an emotional level I am a mess. People tell me I am so strong for not leaving but I keep thinking how wrong that is. They think I’m patient for putting up with him. I think strong women leave. I think strong women don’t need to be patient when someone is throwing a tantrum. He’s very controlling and blames me for everything. At times he will say I’m the abusive one. I’m scared off him. I’m scared of the constant threat. I’m a nervous wreck and don’t feel like myself anymore. My 2 children are starting to be affected and are acting out.
    He’s very sick and that is often his excuse. I don’t want to leave him because he’s sick. What kind of person leaves someone who is slowly dying? But I can’t take it anymore. I can’t do anything right. Everything is my fault. I’m incapable of making toast in his eyes. But then he switches and loves me again. And says all the right things.
    I almost left him but then found out I was pregnant again. The day I told him I was pregnant he pushed me off him and blamed me for doing this to him. I wish I was strong but I felt so alone. I should have left him that day.
    I’m finally at a point where I want to try to be on my own. I’m scared but I can’t have him around my children any longer. I don’t want him to start hurting us. He’s already crushing their spirits and has turned me into a shadow.

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