Part 2 of 2
So you're in a relationship with verbal abuse and struggling. Whether you have suffered for a long time or are just realizing that the person you’re with is not the person you thought they were, verbal abuse is painful. The important thing now is that you can begin to make changes. So what can you do about it?
Verbal abuse can be hard to identify. Unlike physical abuse there are no bruises or broken bones that give it away. However, there are always signs. Yet it can be harder to see those signs if you are the one experiencing the abuse. You may have become so accustomed to the treatment, or have been told so often that this is what love is, that you don’t even realize something’s wrong.
If you're not sure if that's you, or that what you are experiencing is really abuse, then read about what verbal abuse signs look like: Verbal Abuse - What's It Look Like? Are there Signs?
Below are 8 things you can do to stop verbal abuse from the article How Can Someone Identify and Respond to Verbal Abuse? by Cathy Meyer. I've included my take (in italics) on how they compare to my experience.
- Abuse is never justified so, you should never feel that it is your fault.
Guilt is a tool that abusers will use to keep control over you. If you are being abused there is nothing you have done to justify it. The behavior of the abuser is the problem, not you, so taking a stand and protecting yourself is the right thing to do.
- Let the abuser know how hurtful their words are and discuss with them the fact that it is unacceptable to you. Set boundaries on what you will and will not accept from your abuser.
This is easier said than done, but it is necessary. Abusers don’t see the problem with their actions. You may need support of loved ones to help ensure the boundaries you are setting are respected.
- Seek counseling, either together or separately.
Generally speaking, abusers can’t change their behavior overnight. Whatever has caused them to become abusive is likely a much deeper problem. And the emotional damage done to you can be difficult to undo as well. It's almost certain that you will each need the help of a counselor to get back to a healthy place.
- Surround yourself with a support system of family and friends. Discuss with them what is happening and how you are feeling.
This is crucial as secrecy and silence can enable abuse. Their support will help keep you strong and safe. They can also help prevent you from falling back into accepting the abusive behavior as normal by giving you the perspective you need.
- If the verbal abuse escalates to physical abuse, leave. Your personal safety is far more important than the relationship.
It doesn’t take professional experience to tell you this is the right thing to do. Even though it is necessary, it's not easy.
- Do not engage in conflict with your abuser. If your spouse becomes angry stay calm, walk away and don’t give him/her what they want…a reaction from you.
Be prepared to leave if necessary. Sometimes distance is the only way to diffuse things.
- Take back your power. If you react to the abuser, you are rewarding them. Letting them know they have power over your emotions. Don’t allow the abuser to have control over how you feel.
In my professional experience this can be very difficult. When you love someone you’ve already allowed them to influence your feelings. Remind yourself that abusive behavior is NOT a part of love and you deserve better. Do you best to control your emotions until you have a private and safe place to deal with how you feel.
- Leave the marriage. If setting boundaries, getting therapy and refusing to respond to the abuse doesn’t work, then maybe your marriage is over. There are times when the best thing you can do for yourself is, break all ties with your abuser.
This is a last, but sometimes necessary, resort.
The most important thing to remember about verbal abuse is that its purpose is to control. The key to responding to verbal abuse is learning how to break free of the control and get your power back. Don't underestimate how difficult this can be. In order successfully stop verbal abuse it's critical to have the guidance and coaching of an experienced professional counselor. Don't go it alone any longer.
This is the second article of two on verbal abuse. In the first article we looked at verbal abuse signs. Sign-up for Our Blog at the bottom of this page and don't miss other informative articles.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on September 4, 2010 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Looking for More? Check Out These Articles
- What Are The Warning Signs Of Verbal Abuse? (Part 1)
- How To Say No More To Abusive Relationships
- Signs To Look For If You Think You Have Issues With Anger
- Get More Help with an Abusive Relationship