How to evaluate your verbal and emotional abuse experience

We live in a culture where both verbal and emotional abuse are deemed to be acceptable. Criticising, judging, putting down, hard selling and manipulation is acceptable as part of how society functions. We see it on television, in films, when we watch politicians, in our interaction with our family, friends, teachers and employers.

As Patricia Evans states in her book The Verbally Abusive Relationship, “the old quote ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ is not at all true. Just as physical abuse wounds the body so does verbal and emotional abuse hurt the soul”.

You might not realise that you are an abuser or are being abused if that is the type of home you grew up in. It might feel natural to repeat the patterns learnt in the family. The abuser always has the desire to have power over the other person’s emotions, feelings, actions and reaction to situations. They are of aware of what might trigger their victim and it is all a game of control and manipulation.

When these power games are played out in a relationship and denied by the abuser, it creates confusion for the victim.

The following evaluation is designed to assist you in determining if you are experiencing verbal or emotional abuse. Are any of the following statements true for you:

  1. You are constantly ‘dancing on eggshells’ as your partner is cross, irritated or upset with you for no apparent reason. You are very careful to not upset him / her in any way. Every time it happens you are surprised.
  2. Your partner has these upset episodes up to a few times a week.
  3. You are told that it is always your fault.
  4. When your partner puts you down in public and you question it, he / she tells you that you can’t take a joke.
  5. Your partner tells you are full of character flaws and it is their job is to point them out to you.
  6. When you try to discuss your feelings or your hurt your partner dismisses it. Or they accuses you of trying to start an argument.
  7. You constantly feel upset as they are dismissive of your feelings.
  8. Your partner often says “you are too sensitive” or “too emotional”.
  9. Your partner’s reaction to you trying to discuss something with him / her is either anger, denial or dismissal.
  10. When you have an opinion on something they will take the opposite view.
  11. He / she calls you names such as bitch or stupid.
  12. Their memory appears selective – only remembering what they want to.
  13. They rarely tell you about their plans.
  14. In any discussion your partner always has the last word and is always right.

If you answered yes to two or more of the above there is a likelihood that you are in a verbally abusive relationship.

It is important to understand that no one has the right to abuse you.

And you do not cause the abuser to be abusive. There is no justification for this type of behaviour. Be aware of how you react to what you say as than can feed the abuse. The abuser wants to win at any cost.

In time the verbal and emotional abuse escalates and the abused partner gets used to hearing the words and adapts to it.  The abuse constantly changes and it can be very subtle or very overbearing.

It becomes very hard to distinguish between your reality and what the other person is telling you. It is extremely difficult to leave an abusive relationship. Learning to disengage from any abuse is the first step. It does not mean that you can heal the relationship. It only means you can start healing yourself.