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Verbal Abuse - What's It Look Like? Are there Signs?


Verbal Abuse - Verbal Abuse SignsPart 1 of 2

Verbal abuse is a common form of abuse in many relationships.  However, it can be very subtle and hard to recognize, so much so that most of the time victims don't even know its happening.

Verbal abuse is often disguised or explained away as something else, such as humor ("I was just making a joke") or love ("you know I love you").  A skilled abuser can destroy your self-esteem while at the same time making you believe that they really care for you.  Verbal abuse can also become so regular that it becomes normal communication.

A common problem for victims of verbal abuse is that the abuse makes them confused and they don't know what to believe -- their own thoughts or the abusers words.

So if verbal abuse is so hard to recognize, are there any verbal abuse signs?  Yes.

Below are 8 verbal abuse signs.  These are from the article How Can Someone Identify and Respond to Verbal Abuse? by Cathy Meyer.

  1. Being called names by your spouse. Any negative form of name calling is unacceptable. If you feel that it is a put down, then it most likely is. There are names that are obvious and, without question abusive. Then there are the covert, veiled attempts to put a spouse down that are harder to identify. Verbal abusers love to use constructive criticism to beat a spouse down. If your spouse is constantly criticizing you, “for your own good,” be careful. This is the most insidious form of verbal abuse.
  2. Using words to shame. Critical, sarcastic, mocking words meant to put you down either alone or in front of other people.
  3. Yelling, swearing and screaming. I call this the “walking on eggs shells” syndrome because you are living with someone who goes verbally ballistic for very little cause.
  4. Using threats to intimidate. No threat should be taken likely, even if your spouse tells you they are only joking, especially if it causes you to change behaviors or to feel on guard in the relationship.
  5. Blaming the victim. Your spouse blows his/her top and then blames you for their actions and behavior. If you were only perfect they wouldn’t lose control!
  6. Your feelings are dismissed. Your spouse refuses to discuss issues that upset you. They avoid discussion of any topic where they might have to take responsibility for their actions or words.
  7. You often wonder why you feel so bad. You bury your feelings, walk on egg shells and work so hard at keeping the peace that every day becomes an emotional chore. You feel depressed and have even wondered if you are crazy.
  8. Manipulating your actions. The persistent and intense use of threatening words to get you to do something or act in a way you find uncomfortable. This form of verbal abuse is common at the end of a marriage. If your spouse doesn’t want a divorce they will say whatever it takes to play on your emotions, to get you to stay in the marriage. All in an attempt to get you to comply with their desires, regardless of what is best for you as an individual.

Do you recognize any of these verbal abuse signs in your relationship?  If so, in the next post we'll take a look at some of the things you can do to stop verbal abuse.

* This is the first article of two on verbal abuse and signs of verbal abuse.  In the next article we'll identify things you can do to stop verbal abuse.  Sign-up for our blog on the right side of this page and be sure not to miss the next part of this series (you can get notified by email or RSS feed).


I was looking for answers, attempting to understand the reasons behind the actions. 
My husband has been very physicaly abusive to the point of attempting to have my home burned with me and the kids in it, I know becouse the hit man called and worned me, I also received a call from the Womens Underground and Adult protective services. 
I deceided to fight back, I thought to myself "this is my country, my house that I bought, and he is a forgener, if it's me or him it for sure isn't going to be me, it will be him" but I couldn't go through with it, I prayed and cryed alot then he was injured at work now he has perment brain dammage, I feel like it was a blessing from God but I feel responcible becouse I asked for the help. 
He has become very verbally abuseive with constant put downs about me and my children, he hates me mostly becouse I am an American, he is an Arib, this one thing has been at the core of the hate he has had for me from the begginning. 
He puts me down and tells me I'm stupid, that the only reason any employer keeps me is becouse they feel sorry for me, that I will never make it in this life and that I will live on the streets, he expects me to do everything he demands for him but if I need help, he refuses telling me to call my mother or what about my children. I'm sure he has had many affairs, I have found that my will has been effected I have been unable to get out of bed with a struggle, I keep falling asleep with out notice and my hair is starting to thin, it's like being beeten with words, I often feel sick to my stomach and dizzy. 
He says these things like his ex-girl friend's shoes are better than me he spits on me ect and then he does little things to please me. He says he's leaveing to the middle east forever in a month, that living with me is horrible and he cannot stand it any more..... 
I have mixed feelings, in a way I hope he doesn't come back but at the same time I've been with him for the last 20 years am I realy that bad ?  
I just don't know how to feel, but I do know when he's gone life seems better and I am diffrent than when he's here but I don't know that it's becouse of him becouse no one can make you feel any thing or do any thing so that does make it my fault.
Posted @ Wednesday, May 25, 2011 1:47 AM by Kay
I have just left a 30 yr abusive relationship after several attempts. My husband said if I left the kids would never talk to me again and that I would lose them .he denies that he's manipulating them by blaming me for the marriage break up but I know he is and the chn are adults - 25,23 &19. They havent spoken to me since I left 3 weeks ago. Has anyone else experienced this ?
Posted @ Saturday, September 10, 2011 6:25 AM by Kathleen
I am petitioned by my fiance'e we were married when I arrived here in the U.S. at first he was humble, good and matured but when we arrived here he tells me words that you have to do this or do what I want even if you feel you dont like it because remember what I did for you I petitioned you and your kids so that you can come here. He doesn't give me money. I feel that I'm a useless individual I dont't have job and money. There are rules that we must follow. Im scared that he will send us back to our country. I'm afraid because I have resigned from my job and the school year is about to start this sept.  
Does my husband has the right to threaten me if I will not do exactly what he wants me he will go to USCIS and complain and I will not be given a temporary green card and with less than 3 months of stay here in the U.S I will be deported back to my country?
Posted @ Monday, August 06, 2012 10:31 PM by lois
I dont know wher to start. I need help. 
My brother is in a verbally abusive marriage. His wife manipulates things and i watch his self esteem go lower and lower everyday!  
Were a close loving family and she convinces him were bad and she controls him into fighting with us. She doesnt let him talk to my parents unless shes also on the phone. He never admits this but i picked up on it based on his comments. 
One time my mother called him And said s/t like that he never comes over with his children, he hung up saying something mean to my mother. He called back an hr later saying, please dont interefere with my life its tiving me marital problems.  
But other then this he never says a bad word about her! He talks about her like shes god.  
But i see how he gets more and more depressed everyday. To the point that im nervous for his health!!! Anyone has any advice?
Posted @ Tuesday, September 18, 2012 11:38 PM by Amy
I was married to a verbal abuser for 17 years, when I began the divorce process. My ex is also an alcoholic and drug abuser. The verbal abuse thru our 4 year divorce process is worse than during our marriage. My ex uses almost all 8 of the above signs of verbal abuse towards myself, and my three daughters. I recently found a book called THE VERBALLY ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP by Patricia Evans. this book has giving me the ability to tell my ex, TO STOP. I am so glad I came across this book, if I had not, I would still be allowing him to zap my self_esteem.
Posted @ Thursday, September 27, 2012 10:45 PM by Gi Jane 9
Amy, He's got to decide when he's going to wake up and see what's going on and make changes. No one else can do it. It's very painful to watch. All you can do is tell him in different ways what you see going on. -Kurt
Posted @ Wednesday, October 03, 2012 7:32 AM by Kurt Smith, MFT, AFC
I just to the quiz for my husband he scored 51 when he took it after saying. he don't have time he made a 68 I really want it to work I'll say something to him about something that hurt me he gets angry and I find myself apologizing to him for accusation n for making him stressed out n it goes over n over again, he mainly just listen make a few comments then appear to be stressed out, he really is a easy going hard worker. Pays all the bills loves to fish and hunt but Is too tired if I mention us going to the movies or something but if I mention fishing he all for it in which I do a lot just to spend time with him but I want what I want sometimes...please help his email is ratler45@Yahoo.com
Posted @ Sunday, April 13, 2014 9:37 PM by jalissa
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