To truly overcome emotional and verbal abuse, both parties must actively work toward achieving healthy communication and equally shared power and control within their relationship. Keep in mind that emotional verbal abuse can be more insidious than physical abuse because it's usually more subtle and isn't tangibly identified by a bruise. The abuser might also try to make the victim believe that no abuse is taking place and that she is imagining it. While it typically take takes much time and perseverance to get past this kind of abuse, if a couple decides that they are willing to put in that time and effort, it is possible to save the marriage.
Dynamics and Impact of Abuse
Similar to physical and sexual abuse, emotional and verbal abuse generally occurs in a pattern implemented by one person to maintain power and control over another. Emotional abuse can involve stalking, extreme jealousy, withholding affection and isolating you from friends and family, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence website. The verbal abuse can include putdowns or criticisms, name calling, placing blame and accusations. People who experience emotional and verbal abuse report experiencing a decrease in self-esteem, anxiety, depression, problems sleeping and even physical ailments, reports Esther Giller, president of the Sidran Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides traumatic stress education and advocacy.
Requirements for Change
For a couple to overcome physical and emotional abuse, the offender must take full responsibility for his behavior, notes the National Domestic Violence Hotline website. To do this, the abuser must acknowledge the specific tactics and behaviors he is using that are abusive, as well as the full extent of their effects on his partner and family. He should issue a genuine apology, an explanation of the ways in which he plans to change and how he intends to do so. An intensive batterer's intervention program can help him accomplish these goals.
If the abusive spouse accepts accountability for his actions, and if the abused party would like to continue her relationship with her spouse, she may consider forgiving him. Forgiveness does not require her to forget any of the emotional damage she incurred as a result of the abuse, nor does it demand that she minimize it or justify it in any way. Instead, she can simply process any feelings of anger, resentment and pain she may have to more freely move forward. Seeking the help of a counselor or therapist can help accomplish this feat.
Safety and Self-Care
Even if there was no physical abuse, or if the offending spouse exhibits such progress that those around him are confident that he will not revert to his former harmful behavior, the victim should be cautious and implement a safety plan anyway. This should include having a cell phone at all times, having extra clothing and copies of important paperwork in a safe place, having a list of people to contact in an emergency and identifying a code word to use with family or friends to let them know if she needs their help, notes the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website. If the victim needs help devising and implementing a plan, or would like someone to review her plan to ensure that it's viable, she can contact a local battered women's agency for help. It is also beneficial for a victim to build a trustworthy support network outside the marriage. This group might include friends, family members and even peers from a battered women's support group.
Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.