Is It Arguing or a Sign of Verbal Abuse? How to Tell the Difference

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Do you find yourself arguing with your partner often? When you argue, does it seem as if your partner is attacking you verbally, calling you names, or frequently telling you to be quiet? By themselves, these incidents may not mean anything, but combined, they are a sign of verbal abuse.

Sign of Verbal Abuse #1:  Reacting vs. Responding

When you and your partner argue, does your partner react to you instead of respond to what you have to say? Although they may sound similar, each word has a very different meaning. For instance:

  • Think of reacting in terms of the knee-jerk response you experience at the doctor’s office. When the doctor taps your knee your lower leg moves. 
  • On the contrary, responding implies more intention and thought. When you respond to something you are being deliberate, not reactionary.

Now, think of this in terms of your partner. Do they blow up when you are having a disagreement? Is their reaction to the situation over-the-top, beyond what the conversation warrants?

Sign of Verbal Abuse #2:  Being a Bully

You might remember some of the qualities of bullying behavior from school. For example:

  • Calling you names.
  • Making inappropriate or hurtful jokes at your expense.
  • Put-downs.
  • Sabotaging you when you put effort towards something.
  • Being bossy, telling you what to do all of the time.
  • Making threats towards you.

Bullying behavior isn’t something that you ought to tolerate in any situation, let alone in your own home.

Sign of Verbal Abuse #3:  The Constant Critic

Another sign of verbal abuse that can go along with being a bully is the constant critic.  No matter what you do, it’s never right. Whether it’s cooking a meal, performing a household chore, or even what you do in your professional life, it’s never enough. Having to face constant criticism is not only hard, it’s emotionally demoralizing.

Sign of Verbal Abuse #3:  Telling You to Shut-Up

Dr. Berit Brogaard, D.M. Sci., Ph.D. writes in Psychology Today, “15 Signs of Verbal Abuse,”  a sign of verbal abuse called “abusive anger.” This is when your partner screams and yells at you, or tells you to “shut-up.” Being told to shut up is not just rude behavior.  It’s a not-so-subtle way of telling you you’re your perspective and opinion isn’t appreciated. That you don’t count.  When this happens, your partner is not being respectful to you. Dr. Brogaard notes that there are better ways of handling people than yelling at them or telling them to shut-up.

Sign of Verbal Abuse #4:  Never Knowing What Might Happen

When you are at home with your partner, are you always wondering when the next blowup will occur? Consequently, do you tread lightly around your partner, not wanting to set them off? This constant state of fear means that you never really feel emotionally safe with your partner, or in your own home.

Sign of Verbal Abuse #5:  Feeling You Are Being Controlled

Ever feel this way?  That’s because verbal abuse is a form of control. A healthy relationship ought to be based on respect and love, not who has control over whom. Some of the warning signs include:

  • Being told where you can or cannot go.
  • Having to “check-in” with your partner.
  • Not being able to exercise your own decisions.

If you decide to push back, do you and your partner begin arguing? Most likely he or she winds up reacting instead of thoughtfully responding to you.
Arguing is not, in itself, a sign of verbal abuse. Just about every couple, in every city, including Rexburg, ID, has arguments. However, it can be abusive when it gets personal, when it happens often, and when it involves bullying and control. These are not the signs of a healthy relationship, and no-one deserves to be verbally abused.

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