Verbal abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse in relationships. As noted in Reflections, unlike sexual or physical abuse, verbal abuse leaves no mark and cannot be defined by a single moment. Rather, verbal abuse is a vicious collection of hundreds of moments that eventually define the very existence of the victim. According to The Verbal Abuse Site, this type of abuse has been ignored for so long and can in many ways be so subtle and insidious that it's often difficult to recognize--even by the person who is being abused. Verbal abuse is not just yelling and name-calling. It can also be couched in words of help and concern.
If your significant other calls you names, insults you or criticizes everything you do or say, this is verbal abuse. Overt forms of this type of abuse are obvious; the abuser may call you "stupid" or "ugly." According to Probe Ministries, he may take that which you are most sensitive about and use it against you. There's also the more covert form, in which the abuser constantly criticizes you "for your own good." This type of abuse is dangerously subtle. The abuser uses insults and "helpful" criticism to control his victim, to make her feel so bad about herself that she will bend to his will and accept his rules as a way of life.
The abuser often flies into a rage at the slightest provocation. If he perceives that you have slighted him in any way, if you have said something "disrespectful" or perhaps worn a dress that he deems inappropriate, he launches into a loud tirade, filled with cursing, humiliation and insults.
In "Psychology Today," Steven Stosny, Ph.D. asserts that the verbal abuser will always blame you if something goes wrong. If he forgets to pay a bill on time or if he loses his car keys, he blames it on you. And because the things that "you" have done make him angry and abusive, the anger and abuse become your fault, too. Because the abuser sees himself as a victim, he has no difficulty justifying any reaction or action he takes to avenge himself.
The verbal abuser uses any means to get you to conform to her will. She'll use threats, humiliation and insults, or she may go to the other end of the spectrum and charm you with compliments and promises. Either way, her words are meant to achieve her own goals and to get you to do what she wants you to do, even if it's something that makes you uncomfortable.
Typically, the verbal abuser has no real relationships other than his wife or girlfriend, and he wants her to live the same way. He will attempt to separate you from your family and friends and keep you all to himself. He may try to turn you against others by pointing out how "badly" they treat you or him, or by making them seem like bad people. Or, he may belittle you in an attempt to make you feel so bad about yourself that you want to isolate and not see anyone but him.
A verbal abuser may be dismissive of your feelings. If you attempt to discuss a problem--especially a problem that she has caused--she immediately shuts you down. She always avoids any discussion in which she may have to take responsibility for a problem. She may dismiss any other problem you have, too, in an attempt to make you feel small and unimportant.
How Do You Feel?
If you are being verbally abused, your self-esteem will begin to plummet. You will begin to believe the insults and criticisms. You may wonder why you feel so sad and nervous. You will find that you're afraid to voice your opinion or express an idea. You will work so hard at keeping peace between you and your mate that you will become emotionally and physically exhausted.
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Yvette Sajem has been a professional writer since 1995. Her work includes greeting cards and two children's books. A lifelong animal advocate, she is active in animal rescue and transport, and is particularly partial to senior and special needs animals.