These four examples of verbal abuse in a love relationship will help you recognize unhealthy communication patterns. You’ll also learn a few ways to respond to a verbally abusive partner. Verbal abuse isn’t always direct or obvious, and it’s not always easy to recognize when you are being treated badly by your partner.
“Thank you for this article on surviving life with an angry husband,” says Sarah on 7 Ways to Survive Life With an Angry Man – When You Can’t Leave. “I’ve been living with my man for 13 years now and am used to his anger and manipulation. It’s sad to say but I just have come to accept it. Sometimes I get confused though because it’s not like he’s really insulting me – but I’m pretty sure what he says is verbally abusive. Have you written any articles on the definition of verbal abuse in a marriage? If so I need to read them! I’m not ready to leave my husband and I don’t think I could survive life without him financially or emotionally, but it does help me to know that he is verbally abusing me and that isn’t right.”
Did you know that most women in abusive relationships don’t want to get their boyfriends or husbands in trouble? They want to stay in the relationship even if their abuser is verbally or physically hurting them. Women just want the abuse to end – but they don’t want to lose their relationship with the man they love. This is why Sarah doesn’t want to live without her husband. She loves him even though he is verbally abusive. If you feel the same way, you’re normal! But, it may still help you to learn these examples of verbal abuse in love relationships…
Have you been honest with your friends, family, or even a counselor about the way your husband or boyfriend talks to you? If not, you’re normal – again! Most women who are verbally abused and who are in counseling don’t talk completely honestly and openly about their love relationship with their therapist.
“Many abused women in individual therapy withhold important details about their relationships,” says Steven Stosny in Emotional Abuse: Why Your Individual Therapy Didn’t Help and Your Partner’s Made it Worse. “Most say they’re embarrassed to be completely honest with their therapists.”
If you’re in counseling, you won’t get healthy if you hide the worst parts of your relationship. It’s normal to feel ashamed if you’re in a bad or unhealthy relationship because you love your boyfriend or husband. You might feel ashamed because it seems wrong or even stupid to stay with a man who is verbally abusing you…yet you can’t walk away. This happens more often than you think – and you are not wrong or stupid for staying in this relationship.
What is Verbal Abuse?
Verbal abuse is when your partner belittles you, calls you names, criticizes who you are, yells at you, or makes passive aggressive comments.
There is a huge difference between valid feedback (eg, “I felt frustrated when I realized you were running late again, but you didn’t call to let me know”) and verbal abuse “What’s wrong with you – can’t you tell time? You are always late, you’re disorganized, and you never call to tell me you’re behind schedule as usual.”
If you aren’t sure if your husband is a verbal abuser, read 5 Signs of a Verbally Abusive Relationship.
1. The wall of silence (aka the silent treatment)
This is my fallback position in my marriage when I feel hurt, angry, frustrated, or scared. I withdraw. I stop talking to my husband. I didn’t even know this was a type of verbal abuse until I read The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans. Verbal abuse doesn’t have to be direct yelling and criticisms! It can be nonverbal. Nonverbal abuse is what I struggle with in my own personality and marriage.
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If your husband uses the “wall of silence”, read 5 Tips for Dealing With the Silent Treatment in a Relationship.
2. Trivialising your concerns and feelings
Here’s a lighter example of verbal abuse in relationships:
Yesterday my husband lost our dog in the forest. She is teeny tiny – only seven pounds! – and she was wearing her leash. My husband had dropped her leash for a few minutes, and she just took off after a squirrel. He had to come back home and ask me to help him look for her. For a few minutes, I panicked because I envisioned her leash getting caught on a log or shrub and trapping her there, somewhere in the forest where I couldn’t find her!
I started to panic, and told Bruce my fears. There are coyotes in this forest, and I was worried that she would be an easy meal. He trivialized my worries, saying, “Oh, don’t be silly, that won’t happen. She’ll be fine.”
That’s similar to telling me to relax and calm down – except it was worse because it was very possible that her long leash would trap her somewhere in the forest. And we see coyotes all the time – we’ve even had an owl swoop down in an attempt to take her. Thank God, we found our little dog…but I’m still thinking about how he trivialized my concerns. I don’t feel like I’m being verbally abused in our marriage, but I didn’t like the way he spoke to me — even though he was just trying to help me.
3. Direct criticisms
Calling you stupid, ugly, fat, lazy, etc are the most obvious examples of verbal abuse. In my definition above, I offered an example of direct verbal abuse. However, just because they’re obvious to me doesn’t mean they’r e obvious to you. If you grew up in a verbally abusive household, then you may be so used to it that you don’t even notice it.
If you tend to withhold the truth about your relationship – and what your boyfriend or husband says to you – then you are normal. Many abused women who are in counseling do not share the most important details about their relationships. Why Most say that they’re embarrassed to be completely honest about how their boyfriend treats them.
4. Passive aggressive comments
This can be tricky. Passive aggressive comments don’t seem like they’re verbally abusive, but they are. An example of this type of verbal abuse in a relationship is, “You’re so disorganized, you could start your own blog on how to be the most disorganized person on the planet! You’re always late and I’m the only person on the planet who could ever love you.”
Help Dealing With Verbal Abuse
In The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize it and How to Respond Patricia Evans explains why verbal abuse is more widespread than ever, and offers ways to deal with a verbally abusive love relationship. You’ll get more of the answers you need to recognize abuse when it happens, respond to abusers safely and appropriately, and lead a happier, healthier life.
I highly recommend you read this book, even if you don’t think you’re in a verbally abusive relationship. As you can see, verbal abuse isn’t just the obvious criticisms and attacks. It’s about unhealthy communication patterns, and how to make them healthy again.
If you are being verbally abused (or you’re dealing with other types of abuse), read How to Cope With Abuse in Your Relationship.
How are you? I welcome your thoughts on these examples of verbal abuse in relationships, but I can’t offer counseling or advice. If you’re dealing with an abusive relationship, reach out for help in person! I know it’s hard…but you need to start talking about what’s happening.
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If you need relationship help, get Mort Fertel's 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage - and FREE advice, no strings attached.