How to Handle a Verbally Abusive Spouse
A certain amount of verbal conflict is inevitable in a marriage relationship, and it would be unrealistic to expect otherwise. However, certain boundaries must be kept in mind when evaluating your marital conflict. There is a distinct difference between ordinary marital disagreements and cruel verbal abuse, but a surprising amount of emotional abuse victims are either in denial of their oppression, or see their submission as a marital duty.
First, you must admit the issue at hand. As much as your spouse tries to invalidate your feelings and opinions, you know that your relationship has become severely emotionally abusive. You have probably felt that something was wrong for a long time, but out of fear and love, have repressed and ignored those telltale signs. In denying your own intuition and beliefs, you are doing yourself a great disservice. Understand that you and your spouse have a problem that you need to work through together so you can reconcile with each other, with God, and with yourselves.
Secondly, take a look inward and carefully examine why and how you allowed your spouse’s verbal abuse to control you. While you certainly needn’t take responsibility for your spouse’s repressive and malicious behavior, it’s helpful to consider the reasons behind your submission to such unjustifiable treatment. Maybe your previous relationships have been untrusting and antagonistic, and your behavior is a pattern.
Maybe you cling to your spouse for fear of abandonment. Whatever the reason, you must initiate your own healing process. Open yourself to your failures, shortcomings, and fears – and confront them.
The next step is to face your spouse. Describe the abuse exactly to him or her. If your spouse becomes defensive and angry, gently tell him or her that this is the type of behavior that’s hurting you. Refuse to yield to his or her accusations and manipulations.
Tell your spouse that you will no longer accept his or her degradation. Set and stick to specific consequences if your husband or wife verbally attacks you even after you’ve spoken to him or her about it. These consequences should be cause-appropriate. In other words, make sure the punishment is not too severe or too lenient. Don’t expect your spouse’s abusive behavior to simply end, but allow time for your spouse to accept what has happened and forgive him or herself.