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Video:Signs of Verbal Abuse in a Spouse

with Dr. Paul Hokemeyer

Verbal abuse takes on my forms. In this video from About.com, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, discusses the signs of verbal abuse from a spouse.See Transcript

Transcript:Signs of Verbal Abuse in a Spouse

Hi, My name is 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 the signs of verbal abuse. 

Signs of Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse is very subtle. What you need to look for are the following: You need to look for yelling in a relationship, for blaming, constantly blaming the other person, shaming the other person, the dismissing of your feelings and the use of threats to intimidate you, and not taking responsibility for their actions.

Is There Constant Yelling in the Relationship?

So the first sign we need to look for is constant yelling in a relationship. Typically the partner doesn't have the capacity to handle his or her emotions and takes out his or her anger on you.

What is the Quality of Words Being Used?

The second thing we need to look for is the quality of the words that are being used. Do the words shame, do they blame you?  Are they angry and hostile? Typically in my practice people I have people coming in and saying that their spouses are saying things to them like, “you're an idiot,” “you're stupid,” “you're fat,” “you're ugly.”

The partner is not assuming any responsibility for his or her actions. Sometimes they put the responsibility on you, they say, “If only you would lose weight,” “If only you would go back to school, “If only you would work harder…”

It's this constant chipping away at your sense of self and self-esteem.  So again we need to look at the purpose of the words, what the words are doing.  They're using to blame, they're using to shame, they're using to control and manipulate you.

Are Your Feelings Being Dismissed?

The dismissing of your feelings occurs when your partner says “Oh no, you don't feel that way,” or you tell them that you're angry and they say to you “No, you're not angry.”

So again they're trying to control the way that you feel.  The other one is using threats, direct threats, to intimidate you. And these can be very subtle and they can be more expressed.  More expressed would be that if you do x, they'll do y, and y will have a damaging effect on you.

Is Your Spouse or Partner Using Threats?

The more subtle ones are in terms of your relationships. They'll say, “Well, if you go out with your girlfriends, then don't expect me to come home Friday night.” So it's that kind of control, it's that kind of manipulation, it's that use of threats that constitute verbal abuse.

In closing, I want you to know that you can have a happy, healthy life, and you don't have to endure a relationship in which there is verbal abuse. For more information about verbal abuse, visit About.com

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