The Initial Signs

My ex-boyfriend and I had exchanged stories regarding our most recent break-ups when we first met. He told me that his ex girlfriend had broken up with him because he was “too negative” – BIG surprise there!  He seemed so charming and supportive; “negative” just didn’t make sense to me at the time.

However, there were lots of little signs that I didn’t pay attention to because I was infatuated. The key in identifying an abusive individual is being able to hone in on those RED FLAGS at the beginning that might predict escalated abuse in the future. I remember reading the following list months into my relationship, when the verbal abuse had peaked, and I had then put the pieces together. All of these signs were present even at the beginning, just to a lesser degree:

  • He seems irritated or angry with you several times a week. When you ask why he’s mad, he either denies it or tells you it’s in some way your fault.
  • When you feel hurt and try to talk with him, the issues never get resolved. He might refuse to discuss your upset feelings by saying, “You’re just trying to start an argument!” or claiming he has no idea what you’re talking about.
  • You frequently feel frustrated because you can’t get him to understand your intentions.
  • You’re upset—not so much about concrete issues like how much time to spend together, but about communication: what he thinks you said and what you heard him say.
  • You sometimes think, “What’s wrong with me? I shouldn’t feel so bad.”
  • He seems to take the opposite view from you on almost everything, and his opinion isn’t stated as, “I think …” but as if you’re wrong and he’s right.
  • You can’t recall saying, “Cut it out!” or “Stop it!”

Excerpt from: The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Patricia Evans. Adams Media Corp 1992, 1996, 2010

Get to know the person you’re dating VERY well. Be curious, ask questions, see how they respond, make note of their inclination to address any topic – are they genuinely forthcoming or do they simply blame their ex’s for failed relationships in the past? Are they coming on too strong?  This could be a sign that they’re trying to control and take ownership of you. Are they constantly speaking highly of you and very lowly of others? They might be idealizing you and this will lead to constant criticism down the line. Full-fledged verbal abuse takes time, but the signs are there right off the bat.

Always respect yourself, speak up when you’re being mistreated and trust your gut. DON’T settle! Once I’m ready to date and start a new relationship, I’ll be taking my time, making sure that respect and healthy communication are priorities for both.

~DIVA~

Chris xo.

Day #4: Signs of Verbal Abuse Continued

Undermining: Undermining is also verbal abuse. The abuser not only withholds emotional support, but also erodes confidence and determination. The abuser often will squelch an idea or suggestion just by a single comment.

Sarcasm: Sarcasm refers to the use of humor to mask belittling or threatening language. Thus the information is delivered in such a way so as to provide two distinct messages. The superficial message is that the intention is humor or levity while the deeper message is one that belittles, demeans or threatens. Because the deliverer uses humor to mask the message, the deliverer will try to deny the deeper message if confronted, thus leaving the receiver somewhat disarmed and unable to defend against the deeper message. Typically the person using sarcasm denies the deeper message so as to absolve him or herself from any wrong-doing and more insidiously try to infer there is something wrong with the receiver for their misinterpretation. This obfuscation of the receiver’s reality in this scenario is also a form of psychological abuse.

Forgetting: Verbal abuse may also involve forgetting. This may involve both overt and covert manipulation. Everyone forgets things from time to time, but the verbal abuser consistently does so. After the partner collects herself, subsequent to being yelled at, she may confront her mate only to find that he has “forgotten” about the incident. Some abusers consistently forget about the promises they have made which are most important to their partners.

Ordering: Ordering is another classic form of verbal abuse. It denies the equality and autonomy of the partner. When an abuser gives orders instead of asking, he treats her like a slave or subordinate.

Denial: Denial is the last category of verbal abuse. Although all forms of verbal abuse have serious consequences, denial can be very insidious because it denies the reality of the partner. In fact, a verbal abuser could read over this list of categories and insist that he is not abusive.

 

Day #3: Learn to Recognize the Signs of Verbal Abuse

 

Name-calling: Any negative form of name-calling is unacceptable. If you feel that it is a put down, then it most likely is. There are names that are obvious and, without question abusive. Then there are the covert, veiled attempts to put a spouse down that are harder to identify. Verbal abusers love to use constructive criticism to beat a spouse down. If your spouse is constantly criticizing you, “for your own good,” be careful. This is the most underhanded form of verbal abuse.

Shaming with words or jokes: Critical, sarcastic, mocking words meant to put you down either alone or in front of other people. Sometimes verbal abuse is disguised as jokes. Although his comments may masquerade as humor, they cut the partner to the quick. The verbal jabs may be delivered crassly or with great skill, but they all have the same effect of diminishing the partner and throwing her off balance. Verbal jabs may be overt (through angry outbursts and name- calling) or covert (involving very subtle comments, even something that approaches brainwashing). Overt verbal abuse is usually blaming and accusatory, and consequently confusing to the partner. Covert verbal abuse, which is hidden aggression, is even more confusing to the partner. Its aim is to control her without her knowing.

Fits of rage: Hostile tone, volume or intensity of deliver may appear as shouting, yelling or screaming or alternately, talking quietly yet intensely, so as to instill fear. Typically this form of verbal abuse causes the victim to acquiesce for fear of self-harm, particularly scaring the person that matters might escalate to include physical abuse. The victim consciously treads very carefully because they are aware that they are living with someone who goes verbally ballistic for very little cause.

Intimidation and Threats:  Threats are meant to scare or intimidate a person into submission. Threats can be of bodily harm to a person or other family, friends or pets of the person. Threats can also include divulging secrets or making outright lies about a person such to either embarrass or cause to look bad in the eyes of others. Threats can also be to property as in telling a person they will destroy something and threats can be financial, thus seeking to hold a person hostage by intimating economic hardship. Even the legal system can be used against another and thus threats include telling another person they will unjustly use the legal system to gain an unfair advantage. No threat should be taken likely, even if your spouse tells you they are only joking, especially if it causes you to change behaviors or to feel on guard in the relationship.

Blame: Accusing and blaming is another form of abuse. A verbal abuser will accuse his partner of some wrongdoing or some breach of the basic agreement of the relationship. This has the effect of diverting the conversation and putting the other partner on the defensive.

Dismissal and Trivializing: This occurs when a partner refuses to discuss issues that affect the other person and avoid discussion of any topic where they might have to take responsibility for their actions or words. Trivializing can also be a form of verbal abuse. It is an attempt to take something that is said or done and make it insignificant. When this is done in a frank and sincere manner, it can be difficult to detect. Often the partner becomes confused and believes she hasn’t effectively explained how important certain things are to her.

Manipulation: Verbal abuse can be manipulative and controlling and involves the persistent and intense use of threatening words to induce someone into do something, or act in a way, that is uncomfortable to them. Even disparaging comments may be voiced in an extremely sincere and concerned way but the goal is to control and manipulate.