Verbal Abuse in Relationships: How to Recognize the Signs and to Figure out When it’s Time to Go

by | May 1, 2012

If you are having trouble dealing with the negative feelings associated with leaving a spouse because of a verbally abusive relationship, Orange County marriage counseling can help you sort those out and find yourself again.

Verbal abuse is one of the hardest kinds of abuse to recognize. Everyone gets loud sometimes, yells sometimes, says things they shouldn’t say to people that they love – that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s verbal abuse, and many problems that involve elevated yelling or angry comments can be resolved.

Verbal abuse really happens when one person in the relationship digs into the skin of the other with words over and over again, and much of the time, it’s manipulative, cruel, and subtle. This kind of abuse often leaves mental scars that run deep and can affect a person the rest of their lives. Sometimes, this involves elevated voices and pure anger, but much of the time is is much more quiet – and sometimes unrecognizable from the outside.

Recognizing when your significant other is being abusive with words is incredibly important, and there are some signs that it may be time to consider another option for yourself.

Recognize when it may be becoming a problem. Checking in on your spouse from time to time is not a big deal; we all want to know where our loved ones are. However, this can, over time especially, become almost an obsession. Many times, it manifests itself with the constant need to be in contact – maybe they call you a lot, text you a lot, ask you where you are a lot, and maybe it doesn’t end there – maybe they accuse you of lying to them when you tell them you’re with your sister, or they say that you need to come home because a few hours out is enough. Then it may progress to encouraging you to stay home and in extreme cases, forcing you to do so.

When you refuse to stay, it can result in not only verbal abuse, but physical abuse, too. This kind of controlling behavior is often a very strong sign of disrespect and a lack of quality in a relationship.

Rebuild your confidence and realize that your spouse’s behavior is absolutely not okay. One of the hardest steps to start off is knowing when it’s time to go. It is likely that the abuse has been going on so long that you may not even know how to defend yourself against it anymore – psychological scarring can make you feel that you are worth less than the carpet you walk on, and it can make it feel useless to fight anymore. But that’s simply not true, and recognizing that it’s not okay to treat you like you’re nothing is a leap in the right direction.

Start with figuring out how, in an ideal world, you would like to be treated. Do you like to be hugged, and kissed, and not because someone is trying to desperately apologize for something they do at least once a week? Do you enjoy kind words and thoughts, and gentleness of words that isn’t smothered in guilt and an apologetic nature? Figure out exactly what kind of person you would like to be with in a relationship, and then imagine how you would be in that relationship. Is that how you are now – are you someone you like? Mental abuse has a habit of making you feel week, but recognizing when it’s time to go can give some of that power to you and make you realize just how bad it is, and how little respect you do get. Focus on it.

Then, seek counsel and affirmation. If it’s easier, start with a friend or a family member. Explain how your spouse treats you, and how it makes you feel. See how they react and if they see the abuse in it, too. Often this can help feed the self-esteem we have been missing, and it brings support into your life, too, because often the people who love us are the people who will try to keep us safe when things start to go bad. Knowing you have somewhere to go once you do decide to leave is an important step in actually leaving, because it can make you feel like safety is near, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

If you don’t have any friends and family you feel like you can confide in, you can join a support group for people who may have similar problems to you. This doesn’t even have to be in person, either, because the Internet is becoming more popular for communications with support groups. Sometimes, it’s easier to admit that not only do you suffer from mental abuse, but you are not alone and don’t have to suffer anymore. A professional counselor may also be able to help with helping you build the confidence to step out of the relationship.

Ultimately, when a situation cannot be resolved, consider leaving. No matter how you choose to leave, it will not be easy. Often people have to leave a life they have known a very long time, and a home they have built for themselves as well. Find strength in the people you found for yourself when you sought support, and build thought upon thought of how worthy you actually are. If your ex-spouse ever calls or visits, don’t talk to the person – keep focusing on you and your importance and eventually, you will find the freedom from the feelings that mental abuse took away from you.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here:


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