The verbally abusive relationship (how to recognize it and how to respond), expanded 3rd edition
by Patricia Evans, 1992, 1996, 2010, 2012 (ebook)
Dr. Carl Putz,
If you could only tell people how to recognize verbal abuse, that would be something!
The term “verbally abusive relationship” was introduced to the world in 1992. Many TV and radio hosts such as Oprah has helped spread the word.
They’ve wanted clarity. Thousands have told me,
I knew something was wrong; I just didn’t know what. Now I have a name for what I’ve suffered.
I hear from men, too. …. I haven’t seen a verbally abusive woman change — that is, one who constantly criticizes, accuses, or rages at him.
I noticed that men are slower than women to reveal the details of what they hear and experience. One reason is that women are typically the victims. Another reason is they have been taught to be protective of their partner or to take it.
Many couples counselors have been trained to see any problem in a relationship as belonging equally to both persons. However, the correct way is, when they hear one partner say something like, “she blows things out of proportion,” they immediately separate the couple to begin one-on-one counseling.
If they want to change from a verbal abuser and controller, they need to stop their irrational behavior, such as making statements that attempt to define their partners’ inner world for them. That is, characterizing their partner’s motives, needs, feelings, and even very natures in their own terms. For example:
- Motive: you’re trying to start a fight
- Want: you just want to be right
- Feeling: you don’t feel that way
- Nature: you’re too sensitive
The verbally abusive guy is one person in public, but may become another in private. Common occurrences:
- subtle diminishing
- Angry outbursts
- cool indifference
- witty sarcasm
- silent withholding
- manipulative coercion
- unreasonable demands
They are cloaked in a “ what’s wrong with you, making a big thing out of nothing” attitude.
For the verbally abused one, there is no other witness to her reality, and on one who can understand her experience. Friends and family may see the abuser as a really nice guy and, certainly, he sees himself as one.
If you have been verbally abused, you have been told in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that your perception of reality is wrong and that your feelings are wrong.
My intention is to reveal the nuances and reality of verbal abuse. This book is based upon my interviews with 40 verbally abused women, ranging from age 21 to 66. Most of them had left a verbally abusive relationship.Many had tried different approaches to improve their relationship: explaining, overlooking, asking, begging, individual and joint counseling, living their lives as independently as possible, meeting their own needs. not asking too much, settling for less and less, being undemanding, being understanding. Nothing seemed to work. The dynamics of the relationship were often still a mystery.
The underlying premise of this book is that verbal abuse is an issue of control, a means of holding power over another.
- Generally, in a verbally abusive relationship, the abuser denies the abuse
- verbal abuse most often takes place behind closed doors
- physical abuse is always preceded by verbal abuse.
1. Evaluating your own experience
If you have been called an idiot, dummy, bitch, or any other showing lack of respect, you have been verbally abused. Name calling is the most obvious form. Other forms are less evident because:
- Mostly, verbal abuse is secretive. Usually, only the partner of the abuser hears it.
- Verbal abuse becomes more intense over time. The partner becomes used to and adapted to it.
- verbal abuses takes many forms and disguises.
- verbal abuse consistently discounts the partner’s perception of the abuse.
Verbal abuse is built into our culture.
How to identify a verbal abuser:
- You hadn’t meant to update him, but he seems angry with you several times a week and implies it’s your fault.
- When you feel hurt and try to discuss your upset feelings with him, you don’t feel as if the issue has bee fully resolved, or he refuses to discuss the situation
- You often feel frustrated by his responses because you can’t get him to understand your intentions.
- You are upset not so much about concrete issues ( how much time together, where for vacation), as about the communication in the relationship( what he thinks you said and what you heard him say)
- You sometimes wonder “what’s wrong with me? I shouldn’t feel so bad”
- He rarely seems to want to share his thoughts or plans with you.
- He seems to take the opposite view from you on almost everything you mention
- you sometimes wonder if he perceives you as a separate person
- You can’t recall saying to him “ Stop it!”
- He is angry or has “no idea of what you’re talking about” when you try to discuss an issue with him.
if you agree with two or more statements, this book is for you.
Verbal abuse may be:
- Overt: “You are too sensitive”
- Covert: “I don’t what you’re talking about”, when in fact the abuser does know.
The abuser may consciously or even unconsciously deny what he is doing, in any case, he is not likely to wake up one day and say, “ oh, my god! look what I ‘ve been doing, I’m really sorry. I won’t do it any more”.
Generally, the responsibility for recognizing verbal abuse rests with the partner of the abuser, because the abuser is not motivated to change. However, the partner may have difficulty recognizing the abuse for what it is because she is led to doubt her feelings.
If the partner shares her feelings with the perpetrator of the aggression, you can be absolutely certain, he will invalidate them. For example, he may make a sarcastic comment and then, when she protests, tell their it was a joke. The partner may then doubt the truth of her own perceptions.
2. Two kinds of power
- Power Over: kills the spirit. shows up as control and dominance.
- Personal Power: nourishes the spirit. Shows up as mutuality and co-creation.
Mutuality is a way of being with another person which promotes the growth and well-being of one’s self and the other person by means of clear communication and empathetic understanding.
Verbal abuse is personal, cultural and global problems which originate with the misuse of power. Power Over is one model of how the world is believed to work. This model may deny the value and quality of life. It has permeated the individual consciousness of thousands of years and took us to the brink of global chaos.
I believe the new order can arise only out of individual consciousness.
In a verbally abusive relationship, the partner learns to tolerate abuse without realizing it and to lose self-esteem without realizing it. She is blamed by the abuser and becomes the scapegoat.
The abusive relationship is toxic.
Individual as well as nations may be motivated to control and dominate others.
The verbal abuser and the partner seemed to be living in 2 different realities. The abuser’s orientation was toward control and dominance. The partner’s orientation was toward mutuality and co-creation.
The abuser doesn’t care to understand. He is more interested in “I win! You lose!” because, after all, in Reality I that is how one feels the power.
3, Personal Power: a look at reality II
Love is the child of freedom, never that of domination.
In a reality II relationship, each person realizes that:
- To bring one’s thoughts and to hear the other’s
- To express one’s enthusiasm and to delight in other’s
- to reveal one’s self and to reflect the other
- to value one’s self and to esteem the other
- to enjoy one’s creation and to reassure the other
- to pursue one’s growth and to nurture the other’s
- to cherish one’s solitude and to honor the other’s
- to follow one’s interests and to encourage the other
- to act at one’s pace and to accept the other’s
- to indulge one’s self and to give to the other
- to protect one’s self and to comfort the other
- to be one’s self and to let the other be
- is to love one’s self and to love the other.
She has the right to:
- shared sentiments
- kind words
- Accurate information
- open communication
4, Power Over: Reality I
The abuser rejects his partner’s warmth and openess, because these are the very qualities which he fears in himself. These means vulnerability., means death.
If you’ve never been in a verbally abusive relationship, you would have an extremely difficult time knowing what is’s like. If you’re in such relationship, you may have never recognized it.
Every person is different and every abuser is different.
5, the consequences of verbal abuse
One of our greatest needs is to understand and to be understood.
Primary consequences of verbal abuse:
- a distrust of her spontaneity
- a loss of enthusiasm
- a prepared, on-guard state.
- an uncertainty about how she is coming across
- a concern that something is wrong with her
- an inclination to soul-searching and reviewing incidents with the hope of determining what went wrong
- a loss of self-confidence
- a growing self-doubt
- An internalized “critical voice”
- a concern that she isn’t happier and ought to be.
- an anxiety or fear of being crazy
- a sense that time is passing and she’s missing something
- a desire not to be the way she is, e.g. too sensitive
- a hesitancy to accept her perceptions
- a reluctance to come to conclusions
- a desire to escape or run away
- a belief that what she does best may be what she does worst
- a tendency to live in the future. e.g. everything will great when/after…
- a distrust of future relationship
Verbal abuse is damaging to the spirit. It takes the joy and vitality out of life. It distorts reality because the abuser’s response doesn’t correlate with the partner’s communication. The partner usually believes the abuser is being honest and straightforward with her and has some reason for what he says.
Since the partner doesn’t understand her mate’s motives, she “lives on hope”. She clings to those times when everything seems normal and belives that, in time, there won’t be so many upsets. She becomes even more hopeful if her mate says he loves her or occasionally bought them gifts, shared some personal concern, or compliment them on their appearance or a well-prepared meal.
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but cruel words can do worse: they can break your spirit, cripple your confidence.
He isn’t abusive while he’s courting you, but once he gets you, he switches, and you have no idea why.
The abuse only happens when you’re alone with him. Verbal abuse escalates gradually; you adapt. He uses tricks to keep you hoping the relationship will improve.
stop trying to explain and defend yourself. Instead, start setting limits: cut that out! or I don’t want to hear that.
conclusion: where do we go from here?
if you’re encountering verbal abuse:
- Don’t call the person who indulges in verbal abuse a “verbal abuser”. Name-calling can be turned against you.
- Don’t defend or explain yourself. stay away from him
- Don’t get angry wit yourself for defending yourself. Stay away from him.
- Don’t tell the abuser to read this book.
- Don’t believe if you are nice enough and give enough, the abuser will be nice to you.
- Don’t believe you must protect the abuser by keeping everything a secrete form family and friend you trust.
- Don’t believe a therapist who hasn’t read this book will understand your situation.
- Never, never, never put yourself in danger.
- keep faith and trust in yourself and your own intuition.