Most men who are verbally abusive seek to control others because of their own sense of helplessness and powerlessness, according to therapist and licensed clinical social worker Juli Orlov, in the "Psych Central" article, "In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship? 5 Steps to Take." To take back control, you need to be willing to walk away from the relationship if the abuse does not stop. This is relatively simple if you have dated a short time and live separately. If, however, you are in a long-term partnership with joint finances and shared living space, ending things will be a little more complicated -- especially if your boyfriend does not want the relationship to be over.
Call the Police
According to the California courts article, "Domestic Violence," severe verbal abuse falls under the umbrella definition of domestic violence. If you fear that you or a child may be in danger because of your boyfriend's abuse, call 911 immediately to report the situation. If warranted, law enforcement can request an emergency restraining order be put in place until the matter can be dealt with in court. For example, in California, an emergency protection order can be requested for 7 days, followed by a temporary restraining order for up to 25 days.
Obtain a Permanent Restraining Order
According to the same article from the California Courts, a permanent restraining order can be obtained through a legal proceeding. Although you do not need a lawyer for this process, it is advisable. You will need to see your boyfriend in court and provide details of the abuse -- having help from a family law facilitator and domestic violence counselor will make the process go more smoothly. The order can restrain your boyfriend from having contact with you and from living in your home. If you have children, an order can be taken out for them, as well. Permanent restraining orders can last several years.
Find a Safe Haven
In some situations, it may be more pragmatic for you to leave rather than to try to have your boyfriend leave or obtain an restraining order. If you must leave, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline to locate the nearest domestic violence center. These centers can provide you with a safe and confidential place to live, food, legal aid, and potentially even a return to your home, and the removal of your boyfriend, if feasible. These services are generally free for up to six months. As recommended in the "National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Safety Plan for Leaving an Abusive Relationship," be sure to bring important documents with you, such as your social security card, birth certificate, credit cards, and any documentation of the abuse, such as police reports.
Could He Change?
Although your goal may be to get your boyfriend out of the house, in some situations you may find yourself continuing with the destructive relationship. In the "Oprah" article "Expert Advice on Surviving Abuse," family violence consultant Steven Stosny recommends examining whether your boyfriend is ready and able to make a change in his behavior. If your boyfriend has a core value to love and protect his family, if he dislikes his behavior, and he feels better when he is emotionally connected to you, then he may be able to stop his abuse. In this instance, it is helpful to have the advice of a counselor to work through issues with regulating anger and anxiety, and showing compassion. It may take a long time before you can trust your boyfriend again; support his growth by taking back your power and control, and refuse to tolerate abuse any longer.
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.