Verbal Abuse in Relationships – What to do.
Before we get into the elaboration, I want to speak to the title of this article somewhat. Is there such thing as verbal abuse in romance? It is my opinion that there is love and not love. There is romance and what is not romance. Imagine you are a chef and are attempting to make a dish of lasagna. What happens when you realize you have no lasagna noodle. Well, it would seem logical that we are no longer talking about lasagna. There are particular ingredients that are necessary for a romantic relationship to prosper and endure. If we eliminate an ingredient or add an ingredient, then we are no longer looking at romance, but something else, entirely.
Verbal abuse can take many forms. It could be calling names, such as:
1. You are an idiot.
2. You’re a selfish jerk.
You might also witness or experience character assassination, such as:
1. Everything you do is wrong.
2. All you do is lie.
Now that we have a bit of an idea as to what we are talking about let’s look at how to handle this behavior. As a relationship coach, I have to consider the healthiest possible way to handling these verbal altercations, for both, the perpetrator and the victim. Many counselors give advice that amounts to walking away from someone giving verbal abuse. They also tend to recommend telling this person to stop being mean. I don’t recommend these pieces of advice, for some reasons. My coaching approach is to build the person’s individual strengths, not weaken them. When we commit to this type of receptive behavior, we are committing to emotional pain. This is my agreements, associations, and commitments concept, where we agree to something, its meaning, etc., we associate positivity or negativity and finally, we commit to actions and feelings when we experience this behavior. For short, I refer to this as an AAC chain.
On its surface, the traditional approach to handling verbal abuse is logical and widely accepted. I have a problem with it, because of the negative externalities that come along with it. When an individual reacts to the pain with attempting to control their “verbally abusive” partner, they tend to start expressing that control elsewhere. Also, there is a reason that this person is giving verbal abuse, and that goes completely unaddressed, as a result of typical advice. I specifically recommend individuals to empathize with this abuser; Empathy is just an informational tool. The typical advice fosters resentment, contempt, and more arguments. Why? The abuser feels justified in their actions. Telling them they are being mean or walking away does not change their feelings, in fact, it might enhance their justification. This typical advice is just acting out of pride, refusing to be spoken to with words that WE have agreed to, and have negative associations with.
I am fully aware of how the average person feels when they read this advice and explanation from me. In fact, I used to agree with the typical advice. I had my pride, but I was consistently unhappy, as I (and others) simply have no control over the words and actions of others. The only way forward is to break the impact that these words have on us, which is a simple endeavor. When we do this, the abuser is completely disempowered.
To understand why it is so vital to follow my advice, just consider an example. I give advice to empower the individual. I am in the business of forgiveness, principally. I was participating in a forum post in which the poster was asking how to save his relationship after HE had cheated on his fiance. I indicated that he was to own his actions 100%, and to hear his fiance out. He has to allow her to be upset at him, validating her feelings. I told him not to beg and plead, for his sake but also for her sake. Long story short, I was the target of numerous insults because I had the audacity of giving advice to someone who had cheated, as they indicated it was unforgivable.
Do you see how individuals justify their verbal abuse? We see certain people as deserving of abuse, depending on our biases and views. It is common for an individual that gives an incredible amount of negativity not to tolerate any negativity directed towards them. In my example, how would the typical advice have worked? I am supposed to tell verbal abusers that they are being mean? What good does that do? They feel justified, and if you have good insight, you can imagine that it would only invite more insults.
So what do you do, then?
For your personal benefit, you have to stop accepting the emotional poison of others. It will only hurt if you have that AAC chain. It will stop hurting when you begin to choose to no longer accept emotional poison. No, the emotional reception does not change overnight, but with applied effort, you can and will weaken and finally eliminate the AAC chain.
How do you react to negativity with The Fire of Knowledge?
So your partner called you a name, such as the ones listed above. There are a few methods, but the one I think is the easiest is just to listen, nodding your head, and even ask the abuser if you heard them right. By doing this, they see that you are not reacting with pain, forcing them into an incredibly uncomfortable position. They have to escalate their attack, in order to still try to elicit a negative emotional reaction from you. The problem is that abusers and bullies are effective because you are their nail and their words are the hammer; they are tools, that is all. When you are no longer their nail, they have no target and no direct effect on you. If you don’t believe that this works, then give an insult to someone who doesn’t speak your language and relay to me what their response is. Whether you do this or not is fine, as I am sure you can imagine someone yelling insults (in English) at an individual that only speaks Japanese. You can probably imagine the recipient being dumbfounded, not upset. What would a bully do if they had this problem? They would …… learn insults that this person does have an AAC chain to, that is, the bully would find different words or phrases (in Japanese) to insult this person with.
An alternative method of dealing with receiving verbal abuse is just to ask questions. If they call you a name, just ask why they would say that, or what leads them to believe that you are that word. You can then ask why they feel that way, etc. You keep asking questions until they are completely de-energized. When this method is employed, you are forcing them to back-up their claim, putting them on the spot, which confuses them, strips them of power, and sends them scrambling to find out how to hurt your feelings. The more you ask questions, the more they realize their words have no power over you. You can also say “that’s interesting,” when they insult you. The point of all of this advice is that individuals that you use this masterful technique on will stop their abusive behavior.
You hold the same power over abusers and your emotions. Don’t run from the words. Don’t tell people what to and what not to do. Doing that is acting out of weakness and enforces your underlying AAC chains. What you need is happiness and AAC’s undermine your happiness, just to support your pride.
I’d rather be happy and emotionally durable.
Thank You for Reading,
Anthony John Bartlett – Relationship Teacher