Either partner in a marriage can be verbally abusive. Insults, condemnations, negating a partner's experience, derogatory facial expressions and reacting to the reasonable conversation of a spouse as if they have 'dared to set you off' are all examples of verbal abuse or its corollaries. Stereo-typically it is the man who berates his wife (although women can also be verbally and emotionally abusive). The wife either tries to make the best of things or believes what is being said of her.
In a very interesting book, The Verbally Abusive Man, Can He Change?, Patricia Evans sheds a lot of insight into a terrible situation that too many people find themselves in. In a nutshell, she proposes that the verbally abusive man has experienced an abusive childhood where he was denied his right to be in touch with his more feminine side through expressions such as, "don't be a sissy" or "don't cry when I hit you." As a result, they create an idealized partner image which is really an extension of the parts of themselves that they have learned to deny. When such a man feels secure in the bond he has with a woman, he will transfer this idealized image into the woman he is involved with.
When that wife, fiancee or girlfriend displays her own self that threatens the man. She is not supposed to be anything other than his ideal. He needs to erase the real person. The extent of this threat is profound and he will respond along a continuum from verbal abuse to physical abuse in order to control her. This is when a man who was previously warm and respectful can suddenly transform into an abusive person.
Verbal abuse is persistent behavior using words and/or “mind games” to instill self-doubt in the victim and to build the abuser’s sense of dominance and control.
Kathy Bosch, Extension Family Life Education Specialist
When Words Are Used As Weapons: Verbal Abuse (Part 4 of a 4 part series)
The first step is for the abuser to seek help. Their behavior is unacceptable. This is not a situation where a couple are 50/50 responsible for a situation. This is the abuser's issue. In our case, the man needs to go for therapy to deal with his issues. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to find a therapist who specializes in abusive behavior.
One of the other problems that arise from abusive situations, especially where the man is otherwise charming, is that the woman may start to believe that she is at fault. Therapy for her may also be helpful. But this is not to say that the two therapies should be joined. Abuse is his issue; not a couples' issue.
Deciding whether the couple should split or try to improve their relationship may depend upon his willingness to seek help and to admit that he has a problem. If he is unwilling to even admit that his behavior is wrong, change won't happen.
A temporary separation may also be misleading. An abusive man may try to bring his wife back with promises and attempts to make her feel better. However, if he is not seeking the appropriate help, this behavior may just be part of the cycle of abuse and not a real change at all. In fact, if she returns to him, he may feel even more secure in becoming abusive in the future.
Another factor is that abuse is passed down from generation to generation so that even if a spouse would think that maybe they should wait for the children to be grown, by that time they may have absorbed enough negativity to become abusers themselves.
Here are some resources that may be beneficial:
Verbal Abuse Help Guide
Gift From Within
Verbal Abuse Journals
If you are suffering from verbal and emotional abuse, reach out and seek support. Friends can sometimes offer comfort but a trained, objective, third-party individual is best: a trusted member of the clergy, a professional coach or therapist, a family physician.
If you are the abuser, you must take responsibility for your behavior and get help. Books and articles are useful but you need professional assistance to stop the damage to your loved ones and yourself. Please seek that help. Progress is achievable with help and support and your ongoing effort.
If you are suffering from verbal abuse, or are the partner being verbally abusive, how is the behavior affecting you? What help and support do you think would benefit you most? If you grew up with verbal abuse in the home, how has it impacted your adult behavior and relationships?