Wellness Matters NewsletterAn Experience in Creative Journaling

Courtesy of Life Esteem, Published by Simmonds Publications

Understanding Verbally Abusive Relationships

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones But Words...Well, They Can Really Hurt Too.

      A home should be a happy place, or at least a safe place. Dealing with the outside world everyday, with its tensions, pressures and surprises, can be difficult. The home is a place to come back to, a place to feel free, relaxed and comfortable. The home should be the place where we feel loved and accepted just for being ourselves. This is, of course, an ideal description of what a home can be.

     In truth, home is also the place where our personal conflicts are worked out, sometimes in ways which are destructive. These internal conflicts may involve issues of anger, power and control - all of which can lead to verbal abuse. The verbally abusive household is usually not a happy place, and, in extreme conditions, it might not be a safe place. It is important to recognize verbal abuse when it occurs - and then do something about it. Fortunately, there are effective ways of dealing with such situations and making the home a safe haven.

     Verbal abuse leaves no physical scars, but the emotional wounds can be just as deep and recovery can be prolonged. On the surface, everyone may see both the verbal abuser and the victim of the abuse as a happy couple, the nicest of people. But behind the scenes there exists a subtle pattern of manipulation and intimidation, unreasonable demands, sarcasm and angry outbursts.

    At the onset of these relationships, everything may seem wonderful. The person who later becomes verbally abusive may shower the eventual victim with gifts and compliments and make that person feel like the most important person in the world. Gradually, however, the relationship deteriorates. The abuser's anger and need for control are projected onto the victim. The victim is blamed for not being "good enough," and the relationship gradually turns into an emotional roller coaster. When things seem to be going well, a fight emerges unexpectedly.

     The victim may adjust to this situation over time, so that he or she is unaware of the extent of the abuse. Victims may come to see themselves as not "good enough." They may feel that they are truly at fault, and if only they could change their behavior, the abuser's anger would stop. The abuser usually fails to take responsibility for creating the problem and it is the partner who takes the blame. These relationships, then, are characterized by denial, poor interpersonal boundaries, control and power issues, trust issues and unresolved anger.

Codependence and Verbal Abuse

     Both partners in a verbally abusive situation are usually involved in a codependent relationship, and neither partner may realize that verbal abuse exists. But they do know that something is wrong. Codependence exists when the partners in a relationship have grown up in dysfunctional families. In these families, the needs of the parents are usually put before those of the children.



This newsletter is intended to offer general information only and recognizes that individual issues may differ from these broad guidelines. Personal issues should be addressed within a therapeutic context with a professional familiar with the details of the problems.

La Jolla, CA 92037

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