Verbal abuse is warfare. It employs the use of words as bombs and grenades designed to punish the other person, to place blame, or to justify one’s own actions or decisions.
Abusive language is filled with poisonous put-downs which seek to make the other person feel badly, appear wrong, or look inadequate.
Most people who use verbal abuse on their spouse are saying more about their own needs than they are about their spouse’s character. The verbal abuser has a deep need for self-worth. They are unconsciously seeking to elevate themselves by putting down the spouse. Of course, this is not an acceptable way to build one’s self-esteem.
Ways to Eliminate Verbal Abuse
Believing in a Spouse’s Value
Behind verbal abuse is a person of value. I know that’s hard to believe when you are hurt by exploding words, but it is true. Your spouse is an extremely valuable person, a person deeply loved by Christ. Of course, their verbal abuse saddens the heart of God as it does your own. But their abusive behavior does not distract from their worth.
If you can focus on their worth rather than their verbal abuse, perhaps you can be God’s instrument for bringing help. The wife could say, “I’ve been thinking about us. I’ve been thinking about our dating days. I’ve been remembering the tender touch, the kind words, the smiling face, the fun we had in those days. I guess that’s why I believe in you so strongly. I know the good qualities that are there. Sometimes I lose that vision when I am hurt by your verbal attacks, but I know the kind of man you are and I believe in that man.”
She is giving him what all of us need: someone who believes in us. This has powerful potential for motivating positive changes in his behavior.
Positive Action to Counteract Verbal Abuse
We do not help a verbally abusive spouse when we act as though the harsh words do not hurt us. Share your own feelings. The person who does this is on the road to help, and perhaps their spouse will join them.
If you are living with a verbal abuse spouse, you need an evacuation plan and you need to share the plan with your spouse. They may get mad, or start crying. But you simply follow the plan the next time he explodes. You are clearly communicating that things are not going to continue the way they are. You are taking positive action against the verbal abuse.
From Sarah: This article comes from Desperate Marriages by Dr. Gary Chapman. Follow the link, to find out more about Dr. Chapman’s resources and learn ways to improve your marriage and end verbal abuse.