- Dr. Love in the Media
Ten Ways to Deal with a Verbally Abusive Mate
July 31, 2003
Top Ten Tips
- When your mate begins to verbally abuse you, tell him or her: "If you want to tell me, calmly, what I said or did and why it upset you, I will listen, but I won't allow you to talk to me that way."
- If your mate continues to abuse you verbally, walk away. Your mate must get the idea that no attention, response or reaction will be offered when he or she is abusive.
- Remember that yelling back at an abusive mate actually rewards the abuser. Giving your attention and offering verbal comebacks are all types of rewards. Remember to tell yourself: I will no longer offer any attention for abusive behavior.
- Reward any constructive attempts on your mate's part to tell you what is bothering him or her. Always reward positive behavior and ignore negative behavior.
- Often, abused mates lack power in their relationships and feel financially or emotionally dependent. The abusive mate knows this and senses that any abusive behavior will be tolerated because the abused mate feels that he or she cannot survive alone. In order to break this power imbalance which underlies abuse, do whatever is needed to reclaim your power. Go back to school, improve your earning potential, make new friends.
- Find out how the abuse relates to your history. Are you recreating your parent's abusive marriage? Are you replaying abuse that you suffered as a child? In order to break the abuse cycle, you need to understand why your mind has chosen an abusive spouse and/or tolerates abuse. You also must figure out what childhood wound you are trying to heal through this recreation of earlier abuse.
- Ask yourself, "What do I hope to gain by putting up with abuse?" When I ask many abused spouses this question and they do a little soul searching, they are surprised to find that they secretly believe that tolerating abuse will eventually bring them rewards. Sooner or later, I will be loved or appreciated for my tolerance." Wrong. Tolerating abuse yields more abuse.
- If verbal abuse leads to physical violence or if you feel physically endangered, seek professional help at once.
- Ask your mate to join in couples therapy with you. Also, join an abused spouse support group.
- Improve your self-esteem by surrounding yourself with people who love and respect you. As you feel better about yourself, you will unconsciously begin to send the message that you will not permit yourself to be treated badly.
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