Are You In A Verbally Abusive Relationship? I ask the question because women who come to see me complaining about their husbands “acting out” behavior often say they are not. Abusers, although predominately male, may in some cases be female. They define the victim’s inner world as if they know the victim’s motive and thoughts, and believe on some level that they are the victim. This process culminates in an assault on and loss of “self, mind, consciousness, and perception,” rendering the victims convinced that they are to blame for the problems in their relationships. They feel intrinsically flawed and unworthy negatively affecting their self-worth, self-esteem and confidence. This is what Batter Women’s Syndrome is all about.
Co-dependency also plays a big part in losing one’s own sense of self. It’s important for women to maintain their sense of self so she doesn’t fall victim to abusers. Healthy relationships consist of independence in an interdependent union where both parties are equal. I work with intelligent women with higher degrees who have fallen victim to the cycle of verbal and/or physical abuse. I had a women attorney with a Ph.D. and MBA who was physically abused two weeks before her wedding. She went through with the wedding because she felt ashamed and protective of her fiance. If you start your newly married life like that, what do you think is going to happen in the long run? Needless to say, she divorced after a few years and one child later. Having to co-parent with an abuser is signing up for life long heartache.
You see the signs early on in the relationship. Those “red flags” should not be ignored. Denial will only get you further into a difficult situation to leave. Treatment for an abuser has poor prognosis, especially if there are psychological challenges which is code for “personality disorders.” Here is what you should look for…..then run:
Example: “You idiot, now you have made me angry!”
Example: “No wonder you are always moaning about your weight, look how clean your plate is!”
Example: “If you really loved me you wouldn’t say or do that.”
Example: “Why are you so disorganized? I can always count on you to ruin our nights out!”
Examples: “I’m not surprised, you are Asian, you all do that” or “You women, always crying stupid tears for nothing.”
Examples:”I will hurt myself if you leave me tonight” or “If you don’t do that you might find that your cat spends the night outdoors!”
Examples: “You are the reason why we are never on time for anything!” or “Look what you made me do now!”
Examples: “I bet you are cheating on me!” or “I saw you had fun flirting with your boss again, while I was stuck chatting to your boring coworkers.”
Example: You are discussing restaurant options and don’t want to go with your partner’s preference. They leave the room and refuse to talk to you until you apologize for being “mean.”
Gaslighting includes discounting a partner’s emotions and making them wonder if their feelings are meaningless and/or wrong. This is a very common form of emotional abuse, and often goes undetected, as it can be discreet and severely manipulative. Gaslighting can make one feel isolated and unable to express their feelings. People being gaslighted often find themselves apologizing for behavior that they never committed.
Examples: “Why are you always so sensitive to everything?”
Arguments that keeping happening over and over
If your partner constantly disagrees with you, and starts an argument whenever they see an opportunity, or if conversations and arguments seem to go round in circles, leaving you tired and drained, then these are all signs of an unhealthy relationship. People on the receiving end of these types of disagreements tend to feel like they’re walking on eggshells in order to avoid going back to the same argument again and again. We do not need to always agree on everything in a relationship, but there should be a mutual acceptance of this, rather than an atmosphere of one-upping the other or engaging in arguments you can never win.
For a verbally abusive husband to change he needs to be in “recovery.” Recovery does not include statements like, “I promise to be better,” I’ll do what it takes to be better,” etc. Treatment for moving forward includes behavioral changes. Walk the talk which includes:
A medication evaluation to manage symptoms
- Anger Management
- Consistency with the Behavior Change requested –
- Give your partner the opportunity to make the necessary adjustments/changes.
- Give them time to demonstrate either their ability or incapability to make those adjustments (3 – 6 months)
- If change isn’t happening determine whether there is a “can’t” or “won’t” factor
4. Most importantly the only method for an abuser to change is if he can, and desires to
If you feel like you are constantly on edge and walking on eggshells around your partner, or if some of these patterns feel familiar to you, you may be in an unhealthy relationship. Also, if your trusted friends and/or family are telling you that something is wrong, listen to them! They may be seeing, or hearing, something that you cannot. By setting boundaries and being honest about how something makes you feel, you can learn to empower yourself in a relationship.
If you would like more information on how to leave an unhealthy relationship, please check out the US Department of Health’s Office on Women’s Health, or call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 to get advice.
If you would like to speak to me and get some clarity about your personal situation please call be at (858) 735-1139.