Are you wondering if your partner is verbally abusing you? Not sure where the line is between helpful comment and derogatory criticism? Do you have an uneasy feeling that you are living with someone who is verbally abusive but can’t quite decide if that is the case, or if you are being too sensitive, as he always accuses you?
Here are some common signs of verbal abuse –
1. Mean jokes
The verbal abuser will make a mean joke, and when you tell him what he said was offensive, he says “C’mon. I was only joking. You take everything so seriously.” The “mean jokes” are often targeted at a group you belong to (for instance your race or religion) or something you strongly believe in (women’s rights, gun control). When you try and defend your point of view, or ask him not to make jokes about these issues because they are important to you, the abuser will try and convince you that he was being funny and you are way too sensitive. He will never apologize for his “joke.”
The verbal abuser will freely criticize anyone whose outward appearance he finds unattractive. “Look at that woman. She could stand to lose a few pounds!” He might imitate a handicapped person, or mock someone with a speech impediment. He will not spare you from his observations, telling you that your dress is ugly or that your haircut is a disaster.
Name calling The verbal abuser will freely toss around insults. If you hurt yourself physically, he might say “Stop crying. I can’t stand when you act like such a baby!” If he is passed over for a promotion at work, his boss is “such an ignorant jerk.” If he gets cut off in traffic, the other driver “is an idiot who has no idea how to drive.”
3. Discounting another’s feelings
The verbal abuser has no empathy for others, and cannot put himself in another person’s shoes to imagine how they might feel. If you express that you are feeling sad, he will say “Grow up! It’s not that big of a deal!” Whatever you are feeling, he cannot empathize with it and will mock you for feeling that emotion, or tell you that you are wrong to feel that way. He will never validate your feelings.
4. Censoring conversation topics
The verbal abuser will let you know that certain conversation topics are off-limits. Instead of enjoying a lively exchange about politics, he will shut down the discussion right away, telling you that he will not listen to you if you dare to offer an opinion on the political scene.
5. Giving orders
The verbal abuser will “command” you: “Shut up!” or “Get out of here!” are some examples of abusive order-giving. Your partner should never talk to you in such a way.
6. Criticizing your friends and family
Because your outside support system is a threat to him, the abuser will criticize your friends and family. “What a bunch of losers” or “Your sister is a drunk” or “Your friends are just using you because you are such a pushover” are common phrases that indicate your partner is a verbal abuser.
7. Judging that there is only one “right” way of seeing or feeling
The verbal abuser knows only one way to interpret something, and that is his way. He has no interest in hearing what you have to say about a movie you just saw or a book you just read. He might say “You didn’t understand that, did you? Why don’t you go back and re-read that book? You’ll see that I’m right.”
8. Threats or warnings
If your partner issues threats or warnings in an effort to get you to do something (or not do something), he is a verbal abuser. Some threatening statements are: “If you go to your parents’ house this weekend, I will leave you.” Or, “Don’t even think about inviting your sister over for dinner. I cannot stand her. You need to choose between me or her.”
9. Belittling your work or your passions
The verbal abuser will make fun of your “little job” or “little hobby,” making it seem like what you do professionally or as a hobby is insignificant or a waste of time.
10. No sense of humour
The verbal abuser will say he was “joking” when he insults you, but in reality, he has zero sense of humour. Especially if someone teases him. He cannot abide being teased and will lash out in anger if he senses someone is making fun of him, even in a friendly way.
The verbal abuser will justify anything he does that is illegal, immoral or unethical. Cheating on taxes? “Oh, the government is always ripping us off” he will justify. Stealing from a shop? “These companies make enough money!” Returning clothing he has worn to a department store for a refund? “They’ll just sell it to someone else!” The verbal abuser never feels guilt nor remorse because he feels his behaviour is justified.
12. Never apologizing
If the verbal abuser screams at you, he will tell you that you drove him to anger. If he makes a mistake, he will say that the information you gave him was wrong. If he forgets to pick up dinner as you had asked him to, he will say that you should have texted him “at least twice”. He will never say he is sorry or take responsibility for making an error.
If you recognize any of these signs in your partner, chances are high that you are in a relationship with a verbal abuser. It would be in your interest to form an exit strategy as the likelihood of your partner changing is quite low. You deserve to be in a healthy, uplifting relationship so take steps now to leave your verbal abuser.