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Video:How to Respond to a Spouse's Verbal Abuse

with Dr. Paul Hokemeyer

There is a way out of verbal abuse. In this video from About.com, Licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, provides tips on how to respond to verbal abuse from a spouse.See Transcript

Transcript:How to Respond to a Spouse's Verbal Abuse

Hi, I'm Dr. Paul Hokemeyer. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist located in New York City. I'm here for About.com to talk about what you can do if you experience verbal abuse in your relationship with your spouse.

Important Things to Keep in Mind if You're Dealing with Verbal Abuse

In dealing with verbal abuse in a relationship with your spouse, it's important that you keep in mind the following: first of all, don't feel like it's your fault. That's the purpose of verbal abuse - it's to make you feel less than and to feel like you're at fault. Secondly, make sure that you have clear boundaries and communicate them to your partner. Third, make sure you have an escape plan, make sure that you have a way to get out of the relationship if the verbal abuse gets dangerous or if you feel unsafe. 

It's also important for you to have a network of friends and professionals around you that you can refer to. Finally, don't buy in to the verbal abuse.  You don't need to engage with the abusing spouse and escalate the situation. The most important thing I want to communicate to you is not to feel that it's your fault. It's the purpose of the verbal abuse to make you feel like you're less than and that you're somehow a damaged or inferior person.

Set up Boundaries with Your Spouse

To do this it's important that you set up boundaries. Make sure that you're very clear what's acceptable and what's not acceptable. If your partner calls you certain words that are unacceptable make sure that you communicate that to him or her.

You're going to need support here. You're going to need people around you who can support you in making the changes that you are going to need change to address the verbal abuse.

Do Not Engage in the Verbal Abuse

The fourth and fifth thing is not to engage in the verbal abuse.  You may think that you'll feel better in the moment if you engage in the screaming or the name-calling or you give it back to your partner.  That just escalates the situation and makes it worse.

Have An Outlet or an "Escape Plan"

Also, it's important for you to have an outlet that if things get out of hand, you need to have a safe plan that you can leave the relationship.  That you can escape, that you can leave the situation.  Even if it's as simple as walking out of the room and going into another room, it's critically important that you have that in place.

There is a Solution and a Way Out of Verbal Abuse

The most important thing I want to convey to you about dealing with verbal abuse in your relationship, is that there is a solution, that there is a way out, and that solution begins with you, and it's critically important that you take control of your life, and set up boundaries that you can enforce that will protect you from the verbal abuse.

For more information about what to do if you experience verbal abuse in your marriage,  visit About.com

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