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.
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, 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.
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
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.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.