Is verbal abuse part of your marriage?
“You’ve got it all wrong as usual, don’t you listen? How many times have I told you?”
I’ll tell you how you feel.
Is that right, have you got it wrong or is your partner defining your experience for you? Should your partner undermine your right to freely express how you feel? If you allow someone else to take over your right to experience your feelings and emotions, you’ve given away your power and your responsibility. You are no longer responsible for how you feel.
If you’re in an abusive or controlling relationship, it’s not one built on co-creation and mutuality. It’s very one sided. In Patricia Evans book, verbal abuse, she talks about ‘Power over’ and Personal Power’. Power over is about control, inequality, competitiveness, manipulation and sometimes hostility. Personal power leads to co-creation and mutuality.
Self-respect and your right to choose.
Recognising and honouring your own feelings is how you recognise, honour and respect yourself. Without that, who are you? Without self-respect you are open to continued abuse and neglect.
If verbal abuse has been present for some time in your marriage, have you now developed a new level of tolerance? The level of abuse you’re experiencing now, was once considered totally unacceptable, maybe in the early days, but now it’s become standard relational behaviour?
The Power Over model relies on dominance, dominance over another, and you to be subservient.
Verbal abuse is insidious
When you’ve reached the point where you start to question yourself, and you start to think “is it really me, am I really that bad, are those little jibes, put downs and condescending remarks justified”? Verbal abuse is insidious, it undermines and discounts your version of reality, a form of passive aggression.
In my experience working with individuals who have suffered verbal abuse over an extended period of time, start to question their own sanity, am I losing my mind? By it’s nature, most abuse happens behind closed doors. As a result, it would appear you have a perfectly normal relationship, two partners caring for one another. The abuse never happens in public, although sometimes it may.
One example -Pauline, contacted me in desperation. After years of being verbally abused by her husband, Mark, she needed some strategies to try and turn things around. Clearly distraught, Pauline gave me a typical scenario: Mark arrives home from work, Pauline was first in and prepared the evening meal.
Pauline: “how was your day honey”?
Mark: “why? how do you think it was, I’ve been at work”
Pauline: “I’ve made your favourite dinner tonight. I thought we could eat together and have a glass of wine, watch a movie”?
Mark: “no, I haven’t got time for that, I have to answer my emails and prepare for work tomorrow, alright for some”
Pauline: “I thought it’d be nice to spend some time together”
Mark: “why would I want to spend anytime with you, sitting there talking about nonsense”
Pauline at this stage is in tears and ends up spending the night on her own.
Do you make excuses for your partners behaviour?
This was how their interactions took place. Her attempts at connecting, clearly missed there mark. She would play the scenarios out time and time again, and try and think about what she’d said or did wrong. Unfortunately, she was now on medication for stress and anxiety.
How did it get to this, because in the early stages of the relationship, Pauline convinced herself that Mark was going through a bad patch. She believed everything would sort itself out, the abuse went unchallenged. As a result, Pauline, convinced herself that Mark was a good person and made excuses for Marks abusive behaviour. These patterns never changed and only grew worse.
In part 2 of this article I’ll explain the strategies we used to tackle Marks abusive behaviour, and how things have slowly turned around.