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Recognizing Verbal Abuse


I have been married for 3 years to a man who can be really wonderful. I have learnt through the 4 years of our relationship that he has some very high expectations. on reading through some of your past articles i was able to identify that he often talks to me in what you called “aggressive communication.” when he feels i have done something wrong, or am not thinking about something the way that he wants, he gets very verbally aggressive, and puts me down and usually ends his comment by telling that there will be bad consequences. Our relationship is a bit complicated in that there are a few underlying issues. we leant money to my family, and it has not been paid back to us. my husband has no relationship with my parents, and does not talk to one of my uncles. i am very close to my family and the entire situation has put a lot of strain on me, especially because my husband choses to insult my parents to my face. i dont think i have handled that issue well at all, and feel very locked in because of it. i have been made to feel that it was my fault that we got into that situation, which was not the case. i think one of the bigger problems is that i am not satisfied in our relationship at all, sexually and otherwise. my husband doesn’t seem to care about these things at all. the few times that i have tried to voice them, i get told that my concerns are all nonsense. its like what i say can’t be true if he doesn’t believe it or think it. its not that he is extremely dominant, he isn’t. he won’t make any big purchases or anything without consulting me, and he always asks me if i think something is ok or not. he always consults me with his plans, playing golf etc, and he does want to know if it suits me etc. etc. but on what i see as the larger issues, sexual, family etc. he doesn’t seem to even want to consider my feelings. i have pointed out somethings to him on the sexual side of things but i have found that he forgets about it as quickly as he was told. as to family issues etc. we dont mention them much, but my husband also has not seen my family in quite some time. i go up and see them myself. i see his family as often as he does. (they live much further away.) i have a few friends that i have spoken to about my problems, and they all seem to think that my husband treats me very badly and aren’t sure why i am with at all. i used to be able to say i love him, but i am no longer sure of anything anymore. i wonder all the time how i can get out of the relationship, but the other part of me doesn’t want to. i should mention now that i used to be a very confident, self-assured person. i’m a lot less so at the moment. i know that i can survive very well on my own, but when i think about not being with my husband, it makes me ache inside, and i’m not really sure how to interpret that. i can say quite honestly that i know myself very well, and i know what i need, but as you can tell from this rambling question i’m not very succicinct, and i’m not able to express it very well. this drives my husband crazy. but i’ve gotten to the point where i can’t be bothered to even try to voice what i want or feel because i know i’m going to be told that i’m wrong. i’m at a loss. i have no idea where to go from here. i don’t know what i should be doing next. i’ve suggested counselling once to my husband, and he was furious. i believe that i should go myself but i know that he would get very upset with that. so i really dont know where to go from here.

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It is often very difficult to recognize when you are being abused. So let me be clear: when you report, “when he feels i have done something wrong, or am not thinking about something the way that he wants, he gets very verbally aggressive, and puts me down and usually ends his comment by telling that there will be bad consequences”, and “the few times that i have tried to voice them, i get told that my concerns are all nonsense” you are describing a situation where you are being verbally abused. It is fine for your husband to disagree with you. It is abusive for him to put you down, call you names or insinuate that there will be bad consequences if you assert yourself. It is abusive and disrespectful for him to insult your parents. This doesn’t mean that your husband is a bad man or that you two don’t love one another. It does mean that he is using a manipulative technique for getting his way at the significant expense of your confidence, self-esteem and ability to feel happy. You are being harmed, no two ways about it, and you ought to strongly consider doing something about it so that you can once again become the confident woman you say you once were. It’s normal for you to feel ambivalent about staying with this man, I think. Despite the abusive attitude he subjects you to, he is your husband after all and I’m sure you’ve had some very good, very special and irreplaceable times. He is also the one you are dependent on in a physical-emotional-social sort of way and thus the one who you would miss the most if you were to leave him. It’s also normal enough that you are reporting feeling sort of numb and unable to know your own mind. Women in your situation (and worse situations!) sometimes do this to themselves becuase it is easier to be numb than to deal with the consequences of being furious at your husband (which I’ll bet a pound of money that you also have the easy potential to feel towards him if you let your guard down; if you let yourself feel anger towards your husband for being an abusive jerk then that will strengthen your desire to leave – which will threaten your sense of emotional security and not wanting to rock this boat). But clearly – the boat needs to be rocked – unless you want to live your life out as a satelite of this man. Your choice (and the choice of millions of women and men in abusive disrespectful relationships) is essentially freedom vs security. By freedom I mean that you would choose to stop compromising yourself and assert your right to be a self-governing woman who is allowed to feel what she feels and who doesn’t accept ridicule from her partner. The price of freedom may be expensive indeed – becuase it might ultimately mean that your sense of security as a wife and partner to this particular man may be shattered. The thing is – you can’t have this sort of thing both ways – you can’t have both freedom and security – when you are being abused. If you want to assert yourself you will be challenged by your husband (who apparently can’t cope with you as your own person) and that will anger him and possibly provoke him to more damaging abusive actions (possibly even physical violence – be careful and get away if this starts to happen!). Counseling is definitively a good idea for you as an individual, and (seperatly) also for your marriage. If he refuses to go with you for counseling he is effectively telling you that his comfort and rigidity is more important than your own mental, physical and spiritual health and the health of your shared relationship. If he ultimately refuses to go for counseling even when you insist over time and he sees that you won’t back down from that request than (I’m afraid to say) he is bad news and probably not worth staying with – you’ll just dash your heart out trying to get him to change and fail. There are things you both need to learn about. You need to learn how to recognize abuse and to not accept it; to protest it effectively and to retreat (and even end relationships) when you are unable to avoid being abused. He needs to recognize that what he is doing is abusive and to learn how to express himself in a better more respectful way. I also think it would be a good idea for you to find a local women’s shelter and to go down there and see if they have any classes on recognizing and dealing effectively with abuse. Don’t be proud here – take advantage of the information available to you from people who deal with it everyday. And – good luck in learing to see clearly and make the right choices for yourself even when they are difficult to make. Especially when they are difficult to make.

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