Bring it to Barb

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Dear Barb,

No amount of positive thinking can calm the anxiety I feel from being around a verbal abuser. After being married to an abuser, I still struggle in relationships to choose my words carefully so I don’t anger them and end up on the receiving end of their wrath. Will I ever get past this?

Signed,

Walking on Eggshells Always

Dear Walking on Eggshells Always,

Time and trust will help fade those anxieties as long as you don’t ignore the red flags in the future. Verbal abuse is often overlooked. It may be considered “less serious” than physical abuse, but the truth is that it can be just as painful and damaging to your physical and mental health. If you miss the small red flags, you might find yourself in a highly toxic situation.

Some examples of verbal statements most people ignore:

  • Jealousy: Hope you had fun flirting with that guy again. I’m pretty sure you’re cheating on me. I saw how you looked at that girl! I wasn’t born yesterday!
  • Blaming you: This is a common component to emotional and verbal abuse. It signifies an emotionally immature and insecure person who never wants to be in the wrong. They don’t just blame you over mishaps and misunderstandings – they blame you for everything. I wouldn’t be shouting if you weren’t so stubborn and unreasonable! Look what you made me do! You’re the reason we’re always late. I didn’t misunderstand you; you just have to be clearer. You made me upset; that’s why I’m doing this! You wouldn’t think it was bad if you just had more positive thinking.
  • Embarrassing you: This even goes for reasonable comments about something you’ve done. Someone who brings it up in front of an audience to put you on the spot rather than discuss the problem behind closed doors is relying on your feelings of embarrassment to get their way. No one should attempt to air out your dirty laundry in that manipulative manner.It’s unhealthy and shows clear disrespect. They might say: Wow, you sure don’t care about looking good, huh? Of course, you’re crying. You women are so sensitive. Yeah, I knew you’d do that; you Indians always do that. Why can’t you be strong like other men? I see you decided against the salad again. Geez, no wonder you hate your size.
  • Belittling you: A verbal abuserwill always find a way to put down your intelligence, your knowledge or skill, and discount your experiences. If you have a differing opinion, no matter how positive you are when you state it, a verbal abuser will tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about and interrupt you or speak over you so they “win.” They have no interest in listening to you – only in emerging the victor of a conversation contest you never agreedto participate in. A little constructive criticism is good for you, but if you’re constantly being criticized even over the smallest, most trivial things and defending yourself, you may be a victim of verbal abuse. This is a calculated attack on your self-esteem and confidence. Why are you always so messy? This is exactly why no one likes you. Stop being so depressed; it makes me miserable around you. You keep screwing up everything! There you go again, being so sensitive. I can always rely on your forgetfulness to ruin our dates.
  • Controlling you: An abuser will try to control you by threatening you with ideas, such as: If you really loved me, you would do this for me. Fine, go through with that, but then everyone will see what a selfish person you are. You’d be nothing without me. You’re lucky I even chose to date you in the first place.
  • Threatening you: A verbal abuser might say things like: Honestly, no one would blame me for however I reacted if you did that. Better be careful with that – I might just take the kids and sell the house while you’re gone. Go on, do that to me then. I hope you won’t miss that guitar you love so much. Direct threats may also be used, such as: Don’t make me hit you. I’ll ruin your life if you do that. If you leave me, I will kill myself.

My advice is to alwaystrust your intuition and seek family or friends to confide in who love you. They may see what you may not want to see. You can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 (800) 799-7233.

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