Post # 1
I’m really sorry to go incognito, Bees. I’m just revealing some really painful, personal secrets that no one in my life knows. I value your opinions very much and need help.
My last ex-boyfriend was verbally abusive, and tore me up in a really bad way. It took me 2 years after our breakup to realize that’s what he was, and I still can’t completely shake the mindset that it was my fault he treated me so badly.
And now I’m worried it’s happening again. I found this checklist from The Verbally Abusive Relationship and so many of the points hit home (my answers are in italics). But I also worry that I’m reading too much into this, and letting my past prejudice me. Is this abuse?
Seven Signs You’re In A Verbally Abusive Relationship
- He seems irritated or angry with you several times a week. When you ask why he’s mad, he either denies it or tells you it’s in some way your fault. This. Maybe not this often, more like once a week. But it feels like he’s always mad at me, and even if I know he’s completely overreacting, he doesn’t see it. And he just gets madder and I find myself apologizing for his jealous rages when I’ve done *nothing* wrong. He usually apologizes the next day, and then gets really mad at himself for upsetting me but…none of that makes it better.
- When you feel hurt and try to talk with him, the issues never get resolved. He might refuse to discuss your upset feelings by saying “You’re just trying to start an argument!” or claiming he has no idea what you’re talking about. I always just told myself he was bad at communication. He refuses to discuss anything in “the past” and accuses me of just bringing it up to start a fight, when all I want to do is TALK about what happened. We have all these issues that we never resolved because he won’t talk about it, and yes he has told me he doesn’t remember some of the things I bring up. When I try to tell him how hurt I am, he accuses me of “exaggerating.”
- You frequently feel frustrated because you can’t get him to understand your intentions. He gets so hostile when I try to talk to him. It’s like he thinks we’re at war. No matter how calm and reasonable I try to be, he responds like I’m out to get him and constantly uses words like “ammo” etc like we’re trying to conquer hostile armies, not repair a relationship.
- You’re upset—not so much about concrete issues like how much time to spend together, but about communication: what he thinks you said and what you heard him say. Communication again. He always assumes the worst of what I say, and it feels like I’m constantly defending my words to him because he thinks everything is an attack.
- You sometimes think, “What’s wrong with me? I shouldn’t feel so bad.” The tiniest fight sends me spiraling down these days, because it brings up all these past fights and issues that we never discussed. I remember all the hurtful things he’s said to me and I don’t know why they still hurt me. He never seems bothered by past fights, while I seem to carry around scars from every cruel thing he’s said. It makes me think I’m too sensitive and this is my fault. Like maybe if I were tougher?
- He seems to take the opposite view from you on almost everything, and his opinion isn’t stated as “I think,” but as if you’re wrong and he’s right. It seems like he disagrees with me just for the pleasure of it. Sometimes I think he’s doing it on purpose just to upset me. He’s very assertive; I don’t think he’s ever prefaced anything with “I think.”
- You can’t recall saying “Cut it out!” or “Stop it!” I…might?…have asked him to stop before? Once, I asked him to stop saying mean insults during arguments, and that didn’t work. If I have said stop, he’s always bulldozed right over me.
I brought up verbal abuse with him recently, about things he said to me over the phone, and his response was, “Verbal ABUSE??!! You’ve got to be kidding me!!” and that really hurt. I was opening up about something personal and painful and for him to laugh in my face like that, I can’t even put into words how much it hurt.
When I told him I’d gotten off the phone to protect myself (he’d bottled up 4 hours worth of anger at me, called and unleashed it) he got even angrier and shouted, “PROTECT yourself? You make it sound like I was about to cut your head off!”
I try to talk to him about how his words hurt me, but he always says I’m exaggerating about my own feelings! He ended our last conversation by saying sarcastically, “Well now I’m going to protect myself and hang up now.”
Where’s the line between verbal abuse and really really bad communication/relationship conflict? Does it have to be abuse? I just want it so badly not to be an abusive relationship again….
And if you could throw in a virtual hug here and there I could really use one 🙁 I started crying in the car today when Perfect by Pink came on
Post # 3
Leave him. Maybe he’ll get some help or come to his senses and realize why he lost you. But you won’t ever be comfortable with him or be able to forget the horrible things he’s said to you.
Leaving is not normally my advice, but I’ve been in a relationship eerily similar and for your own good, just go. It’ll hurt because you do love him, right? It’ll be good for him, too. Maybe you can find someone for him to talk to once you’re gone. My ex’s parents just fed into it – he called my mother crying about what had he done and he couldn’t lose me…. She let him get it out and finally told him that I had to leave, it just wasn’t going to work, and he was still being selfish, he had to let me go. He managed to do/say some hurtful things after that (and his mom) but he could never hurt me like he used to once I broke it off with him.
Now I know what a good guy really is and I’m so happy with my fiance. Good guys are out there.
Post # 4
I’m not sure where the line is for immaturity/selfishness/poor communication and abuse, but it sounds like you guys need to either get some counseling or you need to step away from the relationship, because everyone has conflicts and things they can work on, but it’s not fair to you that you guys can’t even discuss issues/feelings without it being a war.
Post # 5
@downinthebeedumps: I have to agree with PP. The fact that he actually shouts and insults you is just so unacceptable. You deserve so much better. HUGE Internety hugs.
Post # 6
I’m sorry this is happening to you. I voted yes, because I agree that it’s not normal or healthy. Whether you label it “abuse” or not, in a way (to me) it doesn’t really matter. What it boils down to is that it’s making you feel like garbage, and something has to change. It sounds like you’ve tried to communicate with him, and he’s not working with you to fix the problem. Obviously relationships can be complicated, but if I were in this situation I’d have a hard time staying with someone who made me feel so miserable. (Easier said than done, I know). Virtual Hugs! I really hope things get better for you! 🙂
Post # 7
I know it may be too much to explain on here but I do need a bit more information.
You stated a few times that when you argue you keep bringing up the past. What particulary in the past hurt you, that you keep bringing up? As a person with an open mind, I can see where he would be fustrated if you keep brining up the past over and over (but once again, not sure how “serious” the past was & if it is warrented to bring up again and again.)
It sounds does sound like he is on the defense big time.
Post # 8
I agree with many of the PP’s, considering your past history of abuse, I would leave ASAP. You deserve far more. Walking on eggshells your entire life, feeling like there is something wrong with you and working with someone un willing to see a problem is basically living a doomed life.
Post # 9
Run, don’t walk, out of this relationship. This is verbal abuse, and you need to get out now.
You deserve happiness. There is nothing you can do that would justify someone speaking to you like he does. Somewhere out there is a man who will admire you and value your opinions and feelings.
Trust me. I’ve been where you are. Walking out of it is like walking into the dark. It’s scary. But you can do it.
Post # 10
It’s tough to say whether or not abuse is going on. But really, the fact that you’re asking these questions, means that this relationship isn’t right for you.
Post # 11
@almostmrsj: You really nailed how I feel. I can’t forget the things he’s said, and I really don’t want him to have the power to hurt me this much. He’s not good at talking to anybody…I’ve tried getting him to see a counselor but, predictably, he got mad at me and refused to even talk about the possibility. Thank you for your advice, I’m really happy that you have a good guy now
@Jamcnair: Believe me, I want counseling so badly. I’ve tried to get him to go for anger issues, but although he’ll take antidepressants from his general physician he refuses to go to counseling. He gets mad if I bring it up, and has suggested that I go to counseling to work on being less upset. You’re right, it’s not fair that I’m always at war. It’s exhausting. I want to be able to talk like two people that love each other.
@Lt.Columbo: Thank you for the hugs. He never sees it as insults, just how he “feels” at the time. But some of the stuff he says has no purpose other than to hurt me 🙁 Like that makes him feel better
@MalbecMe: That’s a really good point that labels don’t matter, it’s all how it makes me feel. And it really really is making me miserable. He isn’t working on the communication problem at all, and I’ve been working so hard on it. No matter what I do it isn’t getting better, I just keep hoping that one day he’ll put in the effort too and things will magically get better
Post # 12
He usually apologizes the next day, and then gets really mad at himself for upsetting me but…none of that makes it better. – Classic abusive behaviour (even verbal)
Accuses me of just bringing it up to start a fight – Invalidating your feelings.
“Verbal ABUSE??!! You’ve got to be kidding me!!” – Invalidating your feelings.
“PROTECT yourself? You make it sound like I was about to cut your head off!” – Invalidating your feelings.
“Well now I’m going to protect myself and hang up now.” -Spiteful and disrespectful.
Many of the things you are saying are his words and actions minimizing your feelings. He’s doing a lot of “stepping on you” to get you to shut up. It sounds like he has trouble dealing with issues and his stress response is to shut it down by throwing it back in your face. This is NOT healthy at all.
IMO, this is not only verbal abuse, but definitely emotional abuse. =(
Like PPs have said, you need to leave now (or at LEAST get some space and distance away from him). He is pushing past the boudaries of abuse and it is up to you to set them firmly and to let him know he’s crossed the line.
This time, instead of simply accepting the day-after apology, give him time to tread in it.
Post # 13
@AnnieAAA: I should have been clearer, when I say “the past” I mean literally anything that has ever happened before, even if it was just yesterday. If it’s already happened, he won’t talk about it, he prefers to pretend nothing happened and move on. It’s not one issue I keep bringing up, it’s more like he won’t talk about something if he considers it in “the past.” I don’t consider something’s “past” unless it’s already been discussed, resolved, and shelved. If we never once talked about it, that’s not the past, right??
@Eva Peron: Thank you for your input. It’s different enough from my past history that I keep feeling like…it’s not as bad as before, maybe it can be improved? But you’re right, it would be nice to just feel safer
@ProfessorGirl: It is scary. I can’t help wishing that this man could be all that for me
@msfahrenheit: That’s a good point
Post # 14
This just sounds toxic. There is never a need or excuse for insults and personal attacks. That is abuse. Add on terrible communication, emotional immaturity, emotional manipulation, ange issues, complete disrespect and so on…you just have pure dysfunction.
Relationships do not need to be this hard. In healthy relationships, life will still throw crap your way and you may sometimes disagree, but you love, support, respect and cherish each other and work together through things as a team. There is no way I, nor should you, settle for less. Just because he is not as bad as the last guy does not mean he is good! Do not settle for less than fantastic!
End this relationship, and go to individual counseling to help repair your self esteem and do not date until you are in a healhier place. Until you are, your chances of repeating this pattern are high. Like attracts like, and partners like your ex and your current guy will see in you this capacity to control, manipulate and so forth as right now you are not confident in being the awesome woman you are :). Healthy, confident people on the other hand…attract the same.
Post # 15
@downinthebeedumps: Adding on, you should never feel unsafe at all with your partner! Ever!
Post # 16
@mrsbruff2b: Wow. You hit the nail on the head. I’ve used that exact phrase (invalidating my feelings) when talking to him. I’ve asked him to stop accusing me of exaggerating, and to stop repeating things I say in a tone of outrage, because it’s how I feel and no one can tell me what I’m feeling. His only response it to try and twist it around and insist that that’s how he feels, and he’s entitled to his feelings too. So he’s essentially saying, “Well I FEEL that your feelings are invalid!” But he refuses to see how that kind of behavior is damaging.
I hadn’t thought of it as a stress reponse before, but that makes sense, he doesn’t deal with stress well. I’m giving him some space and distance right now, but I’m having a REALLY hard time getting him to respect my boundaries. I want to set them firmly and let him know he’s crossed the lines, but he always tuns it back around and makes it my fault somehow.
Do you have any advice for how to word that in a way that will get through to him? Or is it just hopeless if he keeps shutting down on me