Do You Have A Verbally Abusive Wife? How To Tell - And What To Do

By: Sarah Fader

Updated May 19, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Amy Brown

Verbal abuse is a pervasive problem in many intimate relationships. You may not be sure if your partner or loved one is being abusive. First, let's define what it is, and then you can assess whether your partner is a verbally abusive wife. Verbal abuse is a serious problem where one partner acts or speaks emotionally cruelly to the other. It can happen to people of any gender or sexuality. In this article, we're going to talk about how to tell if you have a verbally abusive wife, and if so, what to do about it.

Abused men, in particular, may struggle with admitting that they have a verbally abusive partner, and that's one of the reasons that they don't seek support, whereas women can more readily do so because there's less of a stigma about women being abused; it's the narrative that is typically suggested. When it comes to victims of abuse, whether they're gay, straight, bisexual, or of another sexual orientation, if they intend to leave their relationship, it can be especially difficult because abuse is not something that men are encouraged to reveal or talk about openly. There's so much stigma regarding men and emotional vulnerability, and because of that stigma, a man in our society isn't encouraged to open up about abuse. There's not much of a dialogue surrounding verbally abusive women because the focus is mostly on verbally abusive men.

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What Is Verbal Abuse?

There are many sorts of abuse, and we tend to highlight those that we can see, such as physical or sexual abuse. However, verbal and emotional abuse can be as damaging as these types of mistreatment. What is verbal abuse? Verbal abuse is when one person is attacking another individual through word usage. They might be using name-calling, they might be stonewalling a person (ignoring them purposefully or giving monosyllabic answers) or acting in a cruel, passive-aggressive manner. There are many different kinds of verbal abuse, and if you have a verbally abusive wife, they'd be employing one of these tactics. Let's talk about some of the different ways that verbal abuse can play out so that you know the signs:

Rage or yelling - Does your partner have angry outbursts? Do they scare you or say hurtful things to you during this time? If your partner yells at you, takes their anger out on you, or makes you feel unsafe, that is abusive, and it isn't okay under any circumstances.

Threatening - This is when a partner makes threats toward you; it can be anything from someone threatening to leave you if you don't do something for them, threatening to hurt you, threatening you through blackmail.

Invasion of Privacy - Does your partner demand access to your phone or personal accounts such as your email, and unshared financial account, and so on? Do they try to control the friends you see and demand that they oversee your correspondence with them? If so, that is an invasion of privacy. It is one thing to be close and to share things, but it's another for someone to need to control your every move.

Victim blaming - This is when someone blames the victim for what happens to them—for example, a verbally abusive partner using victim-blaming.

Stonewalling - When the victim tries to defend themselves, the abuser doesn't respond or gives short answers.

Gaslighting is an abuse tactic where an abuser makes the other person feel "crazy" for having feelings or making them feel that their reality isn't real.

Name-calling - Name-calling is a rather straightforward form of abuse to explain. This is when someone calls a person names, telling them that they're "too sensitive," "a wimp," or any other negative term.

Devaluing - This is when someone verbally diminishes another person's value. If your partner does this, they might tell you that you're "worthless" or "hopeless," none of which is true.

Why Men Stay In Verbally Abusive Relationships

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Our society focuses on how women are abused. We tend to gloss over how women can be abusers. Why do men keep quiet about their abuse? The answer is primarily stigma and toxic masculine culture. In addition to the stigma where men are told that they can't admit vulnerability or come forward when abuse is happening, they might stay in an abusive relationship for various reasons. It could be that they're part of a family unit and feel that it's their responsibility to fulfill their role within the family, it could be that they're financially dependent on their partner, or it could be that they're not sure how to speak up or stand up for themselves. Sometimes, people don't know how to confront abuse even though it's damaging their self-esteem and harming them. If someone is a victim of gaslighting, for example, their partner may have convinced them that they deserve the abuse and that they're the problem when in reality, that's not true. Verbal abuse is never justified. There are certain forms of abuse that are harder to spot, such as neglect or stonewalling.

Myths About Verbal And Emotional Abuse

We need to start debunking the myths around verbal and emotional abuse. These lies are detrimental to those who are victims. Certain things are spread about verbal abuse that isn't true and harm victims. Let's go over some of the myths that are perpetuated about abuse so that if you do have a verbally abusive wife, if you're being abused by someone else, or if you notice that another person in your life might be on the receiving end of abuse, you'll know the facts.

One untruth is that physical and emotional abuse always go together. The truth is that verbal abuse on its own is still abuse and that it is still very serious. Verbal and emotional abuse doesn't have to coincide with physical abuse to be severe and detrimental; an abusive wife might abuse you through manipulation or similar tactics without abusing you physically.

Another misconception is that abuse only happens to women, not men. Just like any kind of abuse - sexual, physical, emotional, or mental - it can happen to any gender, race, sexual orientation, and so on. No one is immune to abuse, and it is never your fault. It's important to note that abuse doesn't always occur in romantic relationships; it can also occur within a familial relationship or friendship.

Also, a myth is that emotional abuse isn't as severe as physical abuse. In actuality, any form of abuse is detrimental, and the problem that's often seen in emotional or verbal abuse is that it's easily hidden. An abuser may hide what they're doing by acting completely differently in public vs. how they treat you in the home, which can allow it to go on for extended periods without anyone noticing. The scars of emotional and verbal abuse run deep and can be dangerous for that reason.

All Genders Suffer Abuse

All genders suffer abuse, whether it's verbal, physical, or sexual. A verbally abusive relationship can destroy a person. One form of verbal abuse that can be detrimental to a person's wellbeing is being called names. It's not acceptable to call another person names. You don't have to resort to that sort of behavior. There are many ways to deal with conflict, and name-calling makes the situation much worse. If you feel so angry that you can't control your temper, that could be a time to take space from your partner. Nobody likes to be told things like, "you're lazy" or "you're a loser." These are hurtful and abusive things to say to your partner. If your partner is calling you names, you do not have to tolerate these actions. You can try setting boundaries if your partner is cruel. It's within your right as a human being to say, "I won't tolerate being called names. There are more subtle ways that a person can be verbally abusive. For example, someone might engage in stonewalling. That's when a person gives their partner silent treatment. Stonewalling is cruel and can make the person trying to speak to their significant other feel small or unloveable. The silent treatment is abusive and intentionally manipulative. It's a way that someone allows the person to be quite the power and control over their partner. If they don't speak, they can't be liable for their actions. Power and control are an illusion. If your partner is ignoring you, you don't have to engage with them. If you find yourself being stonewalled regularly, that's a sign that your partner is comfortable with abusing you. That's not okay and needs to change. Any abuse is wrong, and if it's a pattern and happening regularly, you can seek help.

How to Help Someone Who is Being Abused

One resource you can refer people to when there's abuse is the national domestic violence hotline. There are trained, compassionate professionals on the other end waiting to help survivors. They can call the national domestic violence hotline and get support and guidance. If you're enduring verbal abuse, there is help out there. You don't have to suffer alone. There are some kinds of abuse that are difficult to detect. If your friend tells you, they find themselves apologizing to their partner but don't know why that could be a sign of abuse. If they admit that they're walking on eggshells around their significant other, that's another sign that something is off. In healthy relationships, two people are comfortable saying how they feel. Partners don't need to be walking on eggshells around each other. A person can give constructive criticism to their partner without worrying about the person's reaction. If your friend or loved one tells you they're concerned they're not in a healthy relationship, listen to them. They may be afraid to confront the issue and engage in circular arguments with you to avoid the fact that they're being abused. When, in fact, they feel isolated due to the abuse and are trying to reach out for help. Once they reveal that they're being abused, it could be a life-changing moment. Don't be shocked if they don't answer your calls after talking to them about the abuse. The person may be scared. The best thing you can do is support them. Empower them and tell them that they deserve a healthy relationship where they're treated with respect.

Fighting Back With Actions

When a person is verbally abused, they may feel powerless. It seems like there's no hope, and they can't escape their circumstances. The thing about abuse is that it can be insidious. You may not notice that someone is mistreating you until it goes on for a while. It could take years to recognize that you're being abused. If that's the case, and it takes a while to determine that you're being mistreated, don't blame yourself. It's not your fault that your partner is deliberately hurting you. You didn't do anything to bring this mistreatment on yourself. Some people will victim-blame you. These individuals could say that there's something you're doing to attract an abusive person. This isn't true. Many people find themselves in abusive relationships, and they had no idea that their partner was capable of these acts. Abusers are sneaky, and they don't necessarily reveal their behavior right away. Another thing about abuse is that it isn't always constant. Abusers could be kind one day to make you stay and then cruel another. The cycle of abuse is vicious and difficult to escape. You mustn't take the blame for your trauma. Bad things happen to good people. Life isn't fair sometimes. Some young people get into relationships, and over time they realize that they're not good for them. The signs of abuse creep in. These individuals discover they're not in a healthy relationship, but one that is full of abuse. There is gaslighting." which means that when their partner tries to tell the abuser they're hurting them, the person claims that they are crazy. The abuser digs their heels in and tells their victim that they imagine the mistreatment. If this is happening to you, you can get the help you need. One place to start is with a licensed therapist. Mental health professionals have seen many people deal with abusive relationships. Whether it's online or in private practice, a therapist can empower you to take action and eventually leave your relationship. If you feel that there is hope and that your partner can stop engaging in verbal abuse, couple's counseling may be an option. You deserve to be in a healthy relationship where your partner treats you with love and respect. When you talk about verbal abuse in therapy, you can clarify how to take action and defend yourself. A healthy relationship means that partners care about each other and listen to one another's needs. If you are suffering from verbal abuse, speak up, and get support in therapy.

Staying Safe

You Don't Deserve To Be Abused, And It's Not Your Fault
Get Support From A Licensed Counselor and Move Forward

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If you have a verbally abusive wife, it can be an unsafe situation. Remember that your safety and wellbeing matter. You don't have to stay silent, and there is help for your situation. As much as it's scary for a man in an abusive relationship with a woman to seek help, it's important to do so. Many different organizations reach out to domestic violence organizations, such as the safe horizon and the crisis text line. It's integral that you reach out for help to an anonymous crisis line or domestic violence organization because they will believe you, and they're trained to help you.

One of the reasons men struggle to reach out is that they're fearful that they won't be believed due to stereotypes. It's vital to have a safety plan because emotional abuse can get dangerous and can have long-term psychological side effects. It's important to note as well that emotional abuse can be the gateway to physical abuse.

Effects Of Verbal Abuse

Potential effects of abuse are:

  • Self-esteem issues
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Nightmares
  • Body aches
  • Depression
  • Chronic pain
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Social isolation or withdrawing from others

The effects of verbal abuse can be extremely detrimental over the long term. Undergoing verbal or emotional abuse can lead to eating disorders, substance abuse disorders, chronic mental health issues, and PTSD. Trauma can cause harmful effects to your brain, and verbal abuse can be traumatic. One of the things that stop men from detaching from verbally abusive partners is a sense of loyalty to that person. They feel as if they cannot leave the situation. However, staying in a harmful relationship causes long-term damage to your mind and potentially your body if the abuse escalates. That's why seeking help is crucial, no matter how hard it may seem.

Verbal Abuse Can Result In PTSD

Many people don't consider that verbal abuse, like any other form of abuse, can lead to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). There are many misconceptions about who gets PTSD or why it develops, but the truth is that men who are verbally abused can develop PTSD symptoms as a result of the abuse. Some symptoms of PTSD include irritability, insomnia or hypersomnia, pervasive, intrusive thoughts, outbursts of anger, flashbacks, and nightmares. If you experience verbal abuse, you might develop C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) due to repeated abuse episodes. You can recover from trauma, but it's something that you need to work on in therapy. The right therapist can support you as you work through your trauma and rebuild your life after trauma.

Getting Help

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Your mental health matters above all else. Intimate relationships are fulfilling and important. It's crucial to make sure you are treated with respect and loved. You might be afraid to confront the idea that you are verbally abused, but the sooner you seek help, the better. The faster you confront these issues, the quicker you can start the healing process. Not all verbal abuse is hopeless. You and your partner may be able to talk through these issues and stop the cycle of abuse. Above all, the healing begins with you. Find a mental health professional to help you work through your verbal abuse.

If you're in a relationship where you feel that there's discord, couples counseling can help mitigate some of these issues. If you want to work out your relationship and feel that it's important and safe to do that, or if you want to separate peacefully, couples counseling can help. Search the network of counselors at ReGain and find the counselor that works for you and your partner.


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