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The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond Paperback – February 1, 2003
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Are you now, or have you ever been, in relationships with family, friends, or mates who have been verbally abusive? Is your happiness with someone you love continually threatened by interactions that continually undermine your self-esteem? Do you feel trapped in a relationship that keeps decaying in a downward spiral of overt or passive-aggressive abuse?
If so, this book could be your life raft, either carrying you toward repair of the existing relationship or the effects of past relationships or offering liberation from your current confusion. Its practical approach can help clear your head and possibly change your life. The only criticism that I and other readers have is that the author assumes verbal abuse is almost always directed by males toward females, which, in my experience and that of others I know, is not necessarily the case. Highly Recommended.
"A great, great book." -- Sonya Friedman, CNN
"This is a new day in America. The most important thing is to realize that you don't deserve to be treated that way." -- Oprah Winfrey
A ground-breaking book . . . -- Newsweek
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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Just last night, my "controlling" sister and I entered into yet another hurtful conversation. I finally had the presence of mind (and courage) to try the "what?" tack.
Well, it stopped things. However, there was really nowhere to go from there. She escalated her attack and I was left with one option...to continue to say "what?" I finally tried "nonsense". Sure, it did throw a big monkey wrench into the conversation but I'm not exactly sure why. Finally,, my ever abusive sister came up with "oh, this is a convenient way to avoid a REAL conversation". I had to just walk away. Nothing was happening. Maybe that's a good thing. Who knows.
Beware: an abuser will always up the ante. I have as yet to find a really effective way to stop this abuse. The experiment last night was interesting. I have to admit that as I was waiting for her next jab, having the "what?" as my defense was somewhat of a "shield", but I don't think it really DID anything. I shant try it again because it feels unsafe...that if I do it again, she my rage at me and that is exactly what I am trying to avoid.
The information, however, was just so irrefutable, so undeniably true, it was far too painful for me to fully realize and assimilate at the time.
Sixteen months after leaving him, I picked the book off the closet shelf and re-read it, this time noticing many more abusive characteristics of his and experiences I went through in the past. Numerous passages were boldly marked this time, and many more notes were made. Virtually every page held so many similarities to what I had been experiencing in this abusive relationship.
After decades of being unaware of this type of abuse, I finally arrived at the realization that he was indeed extremely verbally abusive during our marriage. This was a tremendous revelation to me, as I had unconsciously hidden and "forgotten" even the physical assault that occurred early in the marriage. Before we married, however, he was attentive and I thought he loved me as I loved him.
I thought that verbal abuse was mainly name calling and hurling outright insults. My to be ex husband did not often call me names and obvious insults were rather rare, although he did call me stupid and crazy a few times. Yes, he did beat me severely early in our marriage, but he was mainly a covert abuser. His methods were insidious and had me feel that I was to blame for just about everything that went wrong.
He would often criticize men and women on TV, their physical faults, mouth too large, crooked nose, too fat, too thin, etc. He was particularly critical of confident women broadcasters, and would be very insulting of them. I finally stood up to him and let him know that he was being very cruel. In hindsight I realize I felt more protective of other people than myself.
One of the most painful and damaging aspects of his abusive ways was his obvious delight in seeing my hurt responses to his insidiously cruel remarks... the smirk, the laugh, the hate-filled look. As time went on, I learned to hide my feelings and to refrain from reasoning or arguing with him. I could never "win" anyway. It hurts to realize that the one who promised to love and cherish you didn't really care for you.
He seemed to get a lot of pleasure in seeing me suffer physically as well. It was a freezing cold day and I went out to the garage to bring in an item from the car. I somehow locked myself out of the house. I was dressed only in my indoor clothing, and frantically knocked on the doors and windows for him to let me inside. I was becoming very cold, and being in my 60's, was concerned that I would quickly become hypothermic. He did not answer my cries. I went in side the car, but it wasn't any warmer, as I didn't have the keys to start it. I was too embarrassed to ask for help from a neighbour. Finally after about 30 minutes or so and repeated knocks and cries he answered the door. He said he didn't hear me earlier. He appeared very unconcerned about me and the whole incident. I just let it go as I knew better than to argue with him...he would just yell irrational insults at me. I just couldn't handle his insults any longer.
Shortly afterwards, when our son and his wife and children were visiting, he recounted his story, about my locking myself out of the house. He made me sound stupid. I was hurt, and quietly remarked that I became very cold and wondered when he would answer the door.
Before we married, I happily looked forward to being his wife. I was a loving and attentive wife to him, and was faithful to him throughout our marriage, working very hard in raising our children, cooking good nutritious meals and maintaining the home and businesses we owned. He basically ignored our children, even though I tried to speak with him, telling him that they would be harmed by his emotional distance. He did not care to listen and brushed me off.
Almost all of my efforts seemed to be wasted on him. This happens very often in abusive relationships...the abuser is never really satisfied. He would criticize and downgrade me often, and I began to feel worthless. I had no self-esteem as a result.
Like so many abusers, he was very polite and good-mannered to others. Family, business associates, friends at church... they were completely oblivious to his abusive ways. He had developed a charming persona that he could control at will, that he could switch on and off like a light bulb, and he especially liked to play up this persona in church. He had a dark and angry side that he did not display to others.
For brief periods over that long marriage I went to several counsellors for "depression" but I didn't mention my husband's abuse, so the counsellors were not able to help me. This shows how blinded I was to his abuse. I descended ever more deeply into the abyss of despair and self-blame. Several years ago, I finally mentioned his physical abuse to a new counsellor. At the time I had not yet acknowledged his verbal and emotional abuse. The counsellor suggested I close my eyes and pretend I was on a beach somewhere with my abusive husband. I didn't retain that counsellor for long, either.
The author mentions the description of the Covert Abuser as "also being angry and hostile. However, they don't express anger in the pattern of the anger addict... they may be more inclined to develop long-range plans to control and manipulate their partners." How terribly true this was in my case.
The author also describes Denial as being "one of the most insidious categories of verbal abuse because it denies the reality of the partner." Again, completely true in my experience and I could not agree more.
In the months leading to the separation, he would become angry and ask why I married him. I would reply because I loved him very much. He would sneer and make a denigrating sound. This, I felt, was his covert way of turning around the usual "Why did I marry you" remark. I didn't ask him the same question. I was afraid of his response.
Another illustration of his type of abuse: Several years ago, he and I were having lunch at a restaurant. There was no argument involved, either beforehand or at the time (as if that should matter). I started choking on food stuck in my throat. He was sitting next to me, and made absolutely no effort to help me. He simply sat there while I was desperately trying to cough up the food, feeling I would die. Finally I managed to do so with no help from him.
After arriving home, I calmly asked him why he didn't help me. He muttered something like "I dunno," and appeared completely unconcerned about this incident. I felt he hated me so much that he wished I would die.
In the months before leaving, I had tried to talk with him, asking him to offer a heartfelt apology and seek help. He would become very angry and would refuse, blaming me instead.
"The Verbally Abusive Relationship" helped me to become aware of verbal abuse and the damage that it causes in terms of destroying self-esteem, spiritual, emotional and physical health. The perpetrator of abuse ravages the soul, crushes the spirit and can ultimately murder the partner that is held in the abuser's grip. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is going through abuse and as a warning to others.
This book will provide valuable and enlightening information to anyone who wants to become more informed about the tactics of the abuser.