When you ask the layperson to imagine a domestic abuse victim, they’ll likely picture someone whose face is covered in bruises. The most common misconception regarding abuse is that it’s all physical in nature, even though over forty-one percent of women experience excessive aggression and control related to emotional and verbal abuse.
Verbal and emotional abuse may not leave the kind of physical scars that people associate with abuse. However, the wounds it inflicts prove deeper and longer-lasting than any physical damage could ever hope to be. Worse, its scars are often invisible to the untrained eye.
Do you suspect that you may be experiencing verbal abuse? Here are the warning signs that you need to watch for.
You No Longer Trust Your Own Memory of Events
One of the most common types of verbal abuse that people experience is gaslighting. This type of verbal abuse takes its name from the popular 1944 film Gaslight, in which a criminal out for the lead’s inheritance messes with the gas lights in the house to make her doubt her memory and believe that she’s going insane.
If someone’s gaslighting you, they’re denying your experience and emotions by brushing them over as if they’re nothing. Say, for instance, you notice your partner talking with their attractive coworker for periods that seem to linger too long. If you ask about it and they brush it off, asking why you always overreact or that it’s not a big deal, they’re gaslighting you.
Another common example is denying your memory of events of physical or emotional abuse when you call them out on their behavior. They say over and over that it didn’t happen how you remember it, and that what actually happened was not that big of a deal. They tell you how you felt, even if you know you felt differently.
You Fear Disappointing or Angering Your Partner
No one wants to disappoint or anger the person they’re with. However, there’s a difference between not wanting to disappoint your partner and fearing the consequences of disappointing your partner. Once it crosses the line where you’re afraid of what they’ll say to you if you disappoint them, you should consider it verbal abuse.
Your Partner Won’t Respond to You
Another common form of verbal abuse, ironically, doesn’t involve words at all. If your partner shuts down and gives you the silent treatment until you give in to their demands, that’s one of the clearest signs of abuse. Withholding words and refusing to respond, even to reasonable arguments or apologies, is a sign of attempted manipulation.
Your Partner Insults and Teases You Around Others
Verbal abuse often hides in the form of light-hearted teasing around others. This can make recognizing abuse borderline impossible if you don’t know what to look for, as many abusers will hide their cruelty behind the “I was just joking” justification.
How can you tell whether it’s an actual joke or verbal abuse? Generally, it’s in how your partner responds when called out if they make you feel bad. A good, loving partner who intended it as a joke will apologize for hurting your feelings and seek to make up for it. An abusive one will minimize your hurts and become defensive over their joking comment.
Your Partner Has a Short Fuse
Another clear sign of verbal or emotional abuse in the home is that your partner has a short fuse. Everyone experiences a certain amount of stress in their day-to-day lives. However, no one has the right to take that stress out on their partner.
Verbally abused partners will become excessively cruel at the slightest provocation. If your partner always seems to fly off the handle and start screaming curses and insults over things that don’t justify them (and nothing ever does), then you should consider that as verbal abuse.
Your Partner Corrects You on Unimportant Matters
This often goes hand in hand with insulting you in front of others. If your partner feels the need to correct you and speak over you at all times, even on minor things where the correction doesn’t matter, that can be a form of verbal abuse. At a certain point, it’s no longer about correcting misinformation, but making you feel small and unintelligent.
Your Partner Threatens You
This is a more blatant form of verbal and emotional abuse when phrased as threats to your person, livelihood, or children. However, not all threats get phrased in such blatant terms.
Sometimes, a partner can manipulate you by bursting into tears and threatening to end their lives if you leave them or continue insulting them. Other times, they can take great pains to remind you that you would not be able to financially support yourself without them.
What to Do If You Suspect Your Partner of Verbal Abuse
If you suspect your partner of verbal abuse, you may be tempted to employ these 10 tips to get their behavior to change. However, in many cases, the only solutions are counseling or removing yourself from the relationship entirely. Many verbal abusers don’t wish to acknowledge their actions as abuse, and won’t be willing to accept that they need to get help.
If it’s not your partner, but a friend’s, then do what you can to offer them support and a soft place to land. They may become defensive if you try to call out their loved one’s actions. However, you should still try to point out how their situation has become an abusive one.
Help Is Available: You Don’t Have to Go Through This Alone
When you deal with emotional or verbal abuse, you can feel isolated, as if you have no resources and no one to ask for help. However, you don’t have to suffer through the effects of abuse alone. Once you’ve recognized that you’re in an abusive relationship, you can check out other entries on our blog for helpful guides on how to get yourself out of that situation. Your research can save your life, so don’t hesitate to read on and learn more.