Symptoms of a Verbally and Emotionally Abusive Relationship

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No relationship is perfect. At one time or another, your partner will probably say something that you find insulting or something that hurts your feelings. An occasional inappropriate comment does not mean that your partner is emotionally abusive. Rather, verbal abuse is a pattern of hurtful remarks, controlling demands, and intimidation.

One of the chief signs that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship is your partner constantly putting you down or making jokes at your expense. This is especially true if your partner attacks you in areas where he knows you are vulnerable. If you are sensitive about your weight, for instance, your partner may enjoy needling you with "fat jokes." He may use these comments to embarrass you publicly, or he may wait until you are alone before he starts in. If he only puts you down in private, your friends and family may perceive him as warm and caring; only you see the ugliness beneath the surface.

Ultimately, all types of abuse including verbal abuse are about power and control. An emotionally abusive partner usually forces you to live according to a strict set of rules. For instance, your partner may dictate what you wear, which books you are allowed to read and which shows you are allowed to watch on television and with whom you are allowed to associate. Abusive partners typically try to cut you off from supportive friends and family members. Your partner may also order you to engage in certain activities and forbid you to engage in others. If you violate any of these rules, your emotionally abusive partner may punish you with yelling or insults or she may withdraw or even threaten to end the relationship.

Emotional abuse often goes beyond words. It may also involve your partner destroying things that you love. Your partner may force you to get rid of a beloved threat or he may insist that you do away with something that has great sentimental value to you, like a childhood photograph album or a memento of a deceased loved one.

An emotionally abusive relationship is about far more than "just words." Verbal abuse is a deliberate pattern of behavior designed to humiliate, control, isolate and intimidate. Such a relationship can cause every bit as much pain and damage as a physically abusive relationship. If you think you are a victim of emotional or verbal abuse, remember that you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. Gather your courage and your support system and make plans to get away. Life is too short to spend with someone who hurts you in any way.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "Symptoms of a Verbally and Emotionally Abusive Relationship," in, January 10, 2016, (accessed August 7, 2022).