Do You Know the Signs of Verbal Abuse?

Does your intimate partner ever say you are too sensitive? Or say something cruel and then say, “I was just joking”? These are two signs that you are being verbally abused. I recently came upon an article that gives a great description of verbal/emotional abuse. Here is the link.

The author Martin remarks that, like all types of abuse, abusers use verbal abuse in order to manipulate and control their partners. They do this by eroding your self-esteem, which causes you to lose your ability to realize what they are doing, and to stand up for yourself. This type of abuse is very insidious, and hard to catch. Martin calls it calculated evil. A very apt description. We want to believe our loved one is unaware of what he* is doing, but that is not usually the case. According to Lundy Bancroft in his book, Why Does He DO That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, these people know exactly what they are doing, and they do it in order to get what they want from you.

8 Signs of Verbal Abuse identified in this article:

  1. Yelling and Name Calling – An abuser will frequently yell at you when you do something he doesn’t like. Then he will justify his yelling by saying you did something stupid, selfish, etc. His yelling may silence you, which is what he hopes will happen. If this does not work, he may then resort to calling you names, or denigrating your body, mind, or actions.
  2. Blaming You and Playing the Victim – An abuser will not acknowledge any wrong doing. Anything you might bring up, he will swiftly turn around and blame you. Whatever cruel thing he does, is because you did something that deserved that. He may pretend he is the injured party, and/or begin lying, “I never said that!” Soon, you may begin doubting what you saw and heard.
  3. Shaming and Criticizing – Since your abuser does not want you to point out their faults, he will shame you for doing that, and will find things to criticize about you. Martin uses the following example. In order to get control of your finances, he will criticize your spending habits, and insult you. He will say you have your priorities wrong, and don’t know how to budget. Soon, you will begin second guessing spending any money. Maybe you are being selfish for wanting that shirt on Amazon. Now, he gets to spend money you would normally spend.
  4. Use of Abusive “Jokes” – An abuser will say something hurtful to you. When you call him on it, he will try to deflect blame by saying “I was only joking.” He might follow this up by saying you are too stiff, and “can’t take a joke.” Since “normal” people have a sense of humor, he is now indicating you are not “normal,” further degrading your self-esteem.
  5. Dismissing or Trivializing Your Feelings – An abuser does not care about your feelings, only about his. If you try to express your feeling of being hurt by something he said, he will say something like, “I was just telling you how I feel,” or “How can you be hurt by such a small comment?”
  6. Use of Threats to Intimidate You – Often an abuser will search for embarrassing details about your life, then threaten to expose these details to the public. Or, he may threaten to leave you, taking your children. If he is becoming violent, he may threaten violence. All of these threats are designed to manipulate and control you into doing what he wants you to do.
  7. Avoiding Discussion on His Treatment of You – Though he will never admit he is treating you badly, he knows he is. He just doesn’t want you to know it. He may avoid discussing his actions by focusing on the “wrong” you have committed . . . this means you “deserve” to be treated badly. He may refuse to discuss it. He may play the victim. He may use warped logic to confuse you. Whatever he does, he will deny or ignore your concerns about how he is treating you.
  8. Causing You to Doubt Your Judgement – All of the above tactics are designed to prove that your abuser is right, you are not, and you need his help to live. You cannot make good decisions on your own. He will attempt to make you believe he is doing you a favor by being in relationship with you, because “no one else could love someone as messed up as you.” He may deny ever doing something you know very well that he did. This is a form of gaslighting. This behavior can make you begin to think you are crazy.

How Will This Affect You?

  1. Psychologically – You will begin to doubt your self-worth, making it difficult to live confidently. Then, you will begin to turn toward your abuser for comfort . . . which you will never find.
  2. Emotionally – Because your abuser does not value you or your emotions, or possibly becomes angry or dismissive when you express them, you will likely stop expressing your emotions. After all, in this relationship, his emotions are the only ones that matter right? Those swallowed emotions begin to affect you physically.
  3. Physically – Your physically body will be affected by all the stress you are living under. Your health will begin to suffer, and diseases will become more common. When your health declines, you may become less attractive (think gaining weight) and experience even more negative treatment from him. Since he does not care about you or your health, he will shame you into not seeking help for your sicknesses, making them even worse.

How Can You Stay Sane?

Seek Education, Counseling and Support Tweet This

  1. Educate yourself – Understanding what your abuser is doing will be your first order of business. Seeing what is really happening will free you from many of the effects of his manipulation and control. I had a hard time understanding what was happening to me when I was being abused. I found that many books described the dynamics of abuse well but did not take into account my desire to keep my marriage intact and to honor God by my actions. Because of this, I wrote a book for others to help them do this. I invite you to check it out.
  2. Seek Counseling – The article suggests seeking counseling for the two of you. I highly disagree with that. You should never go to counseling with an abuser. This will make you even more unsafe. However, I do believe in finding a counselor for you. Many counselors do not understand the dynamics of domestic violence, and may give you bad advice. Therefore, it is important to find a counselor who specializes in domestic violence. If you cannot find one in your area, call your nearest domestic violence center and ask for a recommendation. These centers often offer free or very low-cost counseling. I often counsel domestic violence victims by Skype. If you are interested, you can contact me through my contact page.
  3. Surround Yourself with a Support System – An abuser often isolates his partner. He may tell you that your best friend is trying to “control” you, or that your mother hates him, and if you want to be with him, you will cut her out of your life. Or, he may become obsessively jealous whenever you leave the house, accusing you of cheating. He may call you every 5 minutes while you are out. Because of these tactics, you may have lost touch with friends and family you were once close to. You can try to revive these relationships. You may also want to acquire new ones . . . your local DV center may have groups you can join. Check out this link for resources.

Being verbally/emotionally abused is no joke. It is dangerous to your physical, psychological and emotional health. It tends to get worse over time, not better. It is often the precursor to physical abuse, which can kill you. You deserve better. As a human being, you are made in God’s image. You are worthy of being treated well. You are valuable to the creator of the universe. He died for you:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8.

Verbal abuse is very hard to recognize. I pray this article will help you understand how to do that. Once you are aware what is happening, you can then take steps to defend yourself. This blog has more information.

May God bless you today.



* Please note that abusers and their victims may be male or female. For ease of use in this article, I portray the abuser as “he.”


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