10 Common Forms of Verbal Abuse in Relationships

Verbal abuse usually happens behind closed doors where no one can intervene and eventually becomes a usual form of communication within a relationship.

For people on the receiving end, verbal abuse is often isolating since it bites away at your self-esteem making it increasingly difficult to reach out to a friend.

Many people experiencing verbal abuse rationalize it in their minds and don’t even realize it’s an unhealthy form of communication. But that doesn’t make it any less mentally exhausting or distressing for them. Ultimately, verbal abuse is a means of maintaining control over another in the relationship. And there are many subtle forms verbal abuse can take, making it even more difficult to recognize. For example, it includes being subjected to regular name calling, constantly feeling belittled, and being subjected to the silent treatment by a partner.

If you can not make out when your partner is being “funny” or “belittling”, here are a few telling signs you are being diminished in your relationship:

1. Withholding

Sometimes a partner might walk away from an argument, choosing to let anger settle in order to engage in a more constructive conversation without burning emotions. While this is surely a sign of a healthy relationship, the silent treatment, also called withholding, is not. Withholding can include your partner refusing to take your calls when they don’t get what they want or completely ignoring you over nothing.

2. Threatening

Threatening is a highly common form of verbal abuse and can be very obvious. For example: “I will leave you if you don’t start doing what I say.” Or it can be more subtle, like “Others could find out what an unreliable person you are if you don’t follow my advice.”

3. Blaming

Blaming is a form of verbal abuse which involves constantly putting the blame for one’s actions on to their spouse instead of taking responsibility for them. This could include blaming a partner for something they had no hand in doing, to blaming them for the abuser’s emotions. For example, “We are never on time for anything, and it’s your fault!” or “Look what you made me do now.”

4. Interrupting

This tactic is normally used to make the victim feel as if what they say does not carry any importance. No matter what the victim is saying, the abuser will constantly interrupt them. They may also use this as a means to get the upper hand and control the conversation. The abuser might speak for the victim as a whole or might be finishing the victim’s sentences. The goal is to take the victim’s voice away from them.

5. Criticizing and judging

This form of verbal abuse involves a negative evaluation of the partner in most “you” statements, such as: “You’re never satisfied”; “You always find something to be grumpy about”; “They don’t like you cause you’re so negative.”

6. Discounting

In this case, the victim is made to feel like they have no right to feel the way they do. The abuser might say something along the lines of “Well, I guess you just can’t take a joke.” when the victim takes offense to something. Here, the goal is to make the victim feel shame for how they feel, no matter how real the feeling might actually be. One thing to remember about verbal abuse is that the abuser will never let the victim get validation in anything they feel.

7. Denial

This form of abusive behavior consists of denying one’s bad actions and failing to realize the consequences of this behavior. The abuser will always try to find a way to justify and rationalize his bad behavior, not wanting to admit that they have done anything wrong.

8. Threatening

This is a very overt form of abuse. Threats might include something like “Keep acting like this and I’ll just drive off without you.” It can also magnify to “You’ll be sorry when we reach home if you keep acting like this.” The abuser might also use this form of abuse if the victim tries to leave the relationship. For example, they may threaten to commit suicide if the victim were to ever leave them. They might also threaten to reveal the victim’s secrets if the relationship were to ever come to an end. All of these examples are intended to plant fear inside the heart of the victim. A frightened victim is easier to control as they will want to minimize the pain coming their way

9. Opposing

The abuser will oppose anything the victim says. It does not matter if the victim is right in what they say, the abuser will argue against it at every turn. There will be no honest reasoning or evidence to support the victim’s side. They will simply argue against whatever it is that comes up between them and the victim. Often it can be a simple “no” or “you’re wrong.” This leads to the victim becoming isolated in their own mind. They are left wondering why they are always wrong and what they can do to correct it, not understanding that, with this kind of abuse, there is absolutely nothing they could do that would make things better. Abuse is never about something the victim has control over.

10. Name-calling

This one is most likely the easiest to recognize. This includes being called names, derogatory nicknames (usually making fun of a victim’s physical or mental quality), and/or being shouted at on a regular basis. Arguments that always result in a storm of yelling and the use of aggressive phrases in a conversation are signs that communication with your partner is anything but healthy. Partners in healthy relationships try to avoid such arguments by talking through the issue. In a verbally abusive relationship, however, the abuser will shout at their partner until they get what they want.

Are you familiar with any other forms of abuse?

Please share them in the comment section below.

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