How often are you in the restroom of a public place and notice a sign on the wall about being verbally abused? You look at the sign, and maybe you have a tear in your eye. You think that the sign is wrong. It doesn't know what it's talking about. It is not referring to you. How could it be? My spouse loves me. Of course, they do.
All couples argue. You wouldn't be human if you agreed on everything. But being verbally abused is different from the argument of who forgot to take out the trash or the discussion on why "Johnny" isn't doing well in school. Verbal abuse is more intense and degrading than that. It may be hard to recognize. Everyone wants to be loved, and many disagreements can be overlooked, but the signs of verbal abuse need to be identified so that the abuse does not escalate further.
Signs of verbal abuse may include:
- Is there a lot of screaming in your relationship that turns into name-calling, and you end up in tears?
- Do you avoid going out in public as a couple because you are afraid of how the situation will end? Do you want to "save face" so you cancel plans with friends?
- Are you so careful when you speak to your partner and what you say? Do you "pray" when you send a text hoping that it will not cause a fight? Do you feel you are walking on eggshells all the time?
- Do you stay up at night playing different scenarios in your head? Do you say, "I can survive if I leave this marriage? I can get this job, and work these hours, and still have custody of the kids?"
- Do your kids say that there is a lot of yelling? Do they put their hands over your mouth or your spouse's mouth when an argument happens?
- Does your partner say, "I am just joking." After you have gotten in a heated argument?
- Do you apologize after arguments or feel like it was your fault?
If you think you are being verbally abused, you probably are. Verbal abuse can sneak up on you because, in the beginning, you probably didn't realize it was an issue. It may leave you feeling down on yourself, feeling like the argument was your fault, or even believing the things that your partner said. Try to remember that those things are not valid. Your partner, or whoever is abusing you, has issues that they are projecting on you.
Tips for if you think you are being verbally abused:
- Stand up for yourself. Don't give in to the words that your partner says. Remember how amazing you are.
- Don't apologize every time you argue—stand firm on your beliefs.
- Build up that courage and tell someone. Start with a friend or family member if you are nervous about going to the authorities.
- Keep yourself safe. If it means going on a solo vacation for the weekend to get away, do it.
- Continue practicing self-care or other spiritual rituals that you believe in. Maintaining your self-worth is essential.
Verbal abuse can lead to emotional and physical abuse as well. If you believe you are being verbally abused, reach out for help. Even if you are unsure, it is better to ask for support and guidance than allow it to go on. You may feel scared or that it will cause more trouble in the end, but not asking for help can only lead to more abuse. You may think that "verbal abuse" is a negative, strong term. It is. But that doesn't mean that it is okay to accept the abuse. You deserve better than that.