Years of verbal abuse can leave you feeling as though you are walking on eggshells. Psychologist and marriage counselor Marie Hartwell-Walker describes verbal abuse in the "Psych Central" article, "Signs You Are Verbally Abused: Part I." Verbal abuse can take many forms, including yelling, sarcasm, stonewalling and threats of violence or abandonment. Deciding whether to stay or leave a partnership after abuse involves taking an objective look at the situation, your safety, and the possibility of change.
If your partner has been physically violent or if he threatens physical violence -- leave. Hartwell-Walker advises that you call the National Domestic Violence Hotline to find a domestic violence center near you. If you fear for your safety, these centers can offer a safe haven for up to six months, including shelter, food, and legal aid. In cases of severe verbal abuse, you may even be able to obtain a restraining order for domestic violence, which will limit your partner's access to you, your children, and even the family home, according to the California Courts article, "Domestic Violence."
In the "Oprah" article "Expert Advice on Surviving Abuse," family violence consultant Steven Stosny argues that an abuser has the potential to change if his core values are to love and protect you. If your partner does not like his abusive behavior, and feels better when he is emotionally connected to you -- then he may benefit from counseling. As noted by Hartwell-Walker, at its core, most verbal abuse is about needing to be in control, the need to feel superior and to mask failure. Your partner needs to learn how to manage feelings of anxiety and anger without lashing out -- and learn how to have compassion in a relationship.
Part of your decision to stay or leave will depend on your partner's willingness to seek help for his behavior. As Hartwell-Walker concedes, in some cases the abuser's insecurity is "bigger than his love for you." In addition, she notes that it is sometimes even "bigger than rational thought" and "bigger than the desire to have a mutual partnership." If your spouse refuses to seek help, or puts on a show during counseling but reverts to his old behavior at home, it may be time to leave. His psychological issues are not your burden to fix -- and will continue to erode your self-esteem and skew your view of what a relationship should be like.
Anger and Resentment
Verbal abuse can leave you feeling fragile and lacking self-esteem, according to Hartwell-Walker. You may be dealing with your own feelings of anger and resentment, even if your partner has attended counseling and improved his behavior. If you have lingering issues related to verbal abuse from the past -- you may wish to consider attending counseling on your own. Doing so will either give you the tools that you need moving forward in the marriage -- or the perspective and strength to move forward on your own, if that is your decision.
Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.