September 24, 2010
This newsletter from Patricia Evans, who wrote a book "The Verbally Abusive Relationship" pops up in my in-box regularly. I never read that book, but I did read "Controlling People", another one of her books. I thought I would share a small part of the newsletter because she makes some good observations about the verbal abuser and her book was of help in understanding past "n" relationships. She also offers some good suggestions as to how to respond to abusers. This kind of stuff has worked for me.
You can't tell by looking at someone or even being around him or her if they are, or are not, verbally abusive to their partner. Although many folks are as nice and friendly as they seem, some are not. Since verbal abuse usually happens behind closed doors, a woman in a relationship with a person who indulges in verbal abuse may have heard that she is lucky to have such a great spouse. This kind of comment furthers her self-doubt. "Maybe I'm lucky." "Maybe I shouldn't feel this bad." "Maybe there is something wrong with me, after all, everyone else gets along with him." And, since verbal abuse carries a quality of blame in it, she may believe that she has some unconscious flaw and is wrong, stupid, too sensitive, or whatever she is told.
One of the strangest things about a verbally abusive relationship is that most of the time the person indulging in verbal abuse does not see himself or herself as irrational or abusive. The verbal abuser may tell you what you are, what you think, what you feel, what you should do, what you are trying to do and so forth as if he were you.
Unfortunately, when people don't recognize verbal abuse for what it is, they may try to get the person who is putting them down, giving them orders, criticizing, them, blaming them, yelling at them or ignoring them, to understand them. They may think they can make it stop by telling the abuser how they feel. Or, they may think that they can explain why they thought, said, did something and their spouse will apologize for unjustly accusing, blaming or just plain yelling at them. Or they may try to stop the abuser by apologizing when they've done nothing. Or, they may try to stop the abuser by giving it back in kind, that is, yelling at him and calling him names. These methods don't work with real abusers. On the other hand, you don't have to carry around in your mind a list of unacceptable, i.e., verbally abusive comments In order to respond to verbal abuse. Instead, notice if you are being defined. Verbal abuse defines you.
An excellent and universal way to respond to verbal abuse directed at you is to simply say, in a calm and nonchalant way, "Ahhh, what did you say? (as if you were thinking of something else and hardly heard the abusive comment.) If he repeats it or says something similar, simply say, "Ah Ha! That's what I thought you said!" with an air of great satisfaction. Saying this with great relish, as if you had caught him in a lie, can stop many abusers in their tracks. After all, all verbal abuse is a lie told to you.
If the abuser accelerates his abuse, saying something like, "You're just trying to start a fight," or "You're trying to get the last word," Simply say, "Hey, you don't know my motives, you're not me, you are not a woman or "Please stop pretending to be me, a woman. I like you a lot better when you can be a real man and stay in your own space, not be over here within me, telling me what I'm trying to do." If the abuser is a woman, then say the opposite, "You are not me. You are not a man, etc.
When the abuser is also physically violent, he is at the extreme. When threatened, calling 911 is often the best action to take. For additional help call a local domestic violence hot line. Tell everyone what is happening to you. It is his shame, not yours.
The circumstances under which verbal abuse takes place make a real difference in how to respond to it. In the workplace, for instance, an appropriate response to a very abusive boss might be to prepare a resume or to read the want ads. On the other hand, a child can't very well escape from an abusive parent and so we, the observers and relatives of the child must be alert and ready to speak up for him or her. Keeping a record and letting others know what is going on are often good first steps.
When women attempt to leave an abusive relationship, they often face threats such as, "If you leave, I'll take the kids," or "If you leave, I'll make sure you have nothing." Telling everyone close to you what is happening to you and documenting the abuse is important. Try presenting the agreement as described in "The Verbally Abusive Man-Can He Change?" to your mate in the presence of a counselor. This may wake the abuser up to what he is doing at least enough to not want to pretend to be a woman.
For more information and resources, go to http://www.verbalabuse.com
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