Verbal abuse is something either gender can do. Although there is a whole network of help for abused women, many wives also rage at their husbands for hours, call them cruel and belittling names, and withhold affection to get things done “their way.” So in honor of both the abused wives and abused husbands, throughout our pages we make sure to keep references gender neutral or make sure to say “he or she.”
Do you wonder if your relationship may be abusive? Ask yourself the questions below. If you answer ‘yes’ to more than a few, you may want to take a closer look.
Does your partner:
Updated January 2007ignore your feelings?disrespect you?ridicule or insult you then tell you its a joke, or that you have no sense of humor?ridicule your beliefs, religion, race, heritage or class?withhold approval, appreciation or affection?give you the silent treatment?walk away without answering you?criticize you, call you names, yell at you?humiliate you privately or in public?roll his or her eyes when you talk?give you a hard time about socializing with your friends or family?make you socialize (and keep up appearances) even when you don’t feel well?seem to make sure that what you really want is exactly what you won’tget?tell you you are too sensitive?hurt you especially when you are down?seem energized by fighting, while fighting exhausts you?have unpredictable mood swings, alternating from good to bad for no apparent reason?present a wonderful face to the world and is well liked by outsiders?“twist” your words, somehow turning what you said against you?try to control decisions, money, even the way you style your hair or wear your clothes?complain about how badly you treat him or her?threaten to leave, or threaten to throw you out?say things that make you feel good, but do things that make you feel bad?ever left you stranded?ever threaten to hurt you or your family?ever hit or pushed you, even “accidentally”?seem to stir up trouble just when you seem to be getting closer to each other?abuse something you love: a pet, a child, an object?compliment you enough to keep you happy, yet criticize you enough to keep you insecure?promise to never do something hurtful again?harass you about imagined affairs?manipulate you with lies and contradictions?destroy furniture, punch holes in walls, break appliances?drive like a road-rage junkie?act immature and selfish, yet accuse you of those behaviors?question your every move and motive, somehow questioning your competence?interrupt you; hear but not really listen?make you feel like you can’t win? damned if you do, damned if you don’t?use drugs and/or alcohol involved? are things worse then?incite you to rage, which is “proof” that you are to blame?try to convince you he or she is “right,” while you are “wrong?”frequently say things that are later denied or accuse you of misunderstanding?treat you like a sex object, or as though sex should be provided on demand regardless of how you feel?
Your situation is critical if the following applies to you:
You express your opinions less and less freely.You find yourself walking on eggshells, careful of when and how to say something.You long for that softer, more vulnerable part of your partner to emerge.You find yourself making excuses for your partner’s behavior?You feel emotionally unsafe.You feel its somehow not OK to talk with others about your relationship.You hope things will change…especially through your love and understanding.You find yourself doubting your memory or sense of reality. You doubt your own judgment. You doubt your abilities. You feel vulnerable and insecure. You are becoming increasingly depressed. You feel increasingly trapped and powerless. You have been or are afraid of your partner.Your partner has physically hurt you, even once.
If you feel your relationship may be verbally and emotionally abusive, talk to people you trust. Talk to clergy, call your local battered women’s shelter, educate yourself, seek professional help. Do not allow verbal and emotional abuse to escalate to battery!
(reprint of Dr. Irene’s: “Signs of Verbal and Emotional Abuse“)