This Is How You Know You Are In A Verbally Abusive Relationship, And How You Save Yourself

Abuse takes on many forms. The most recognizable is physical abuse, but abuse can manifest itself in actions, and even more discreetly, but terribly painful: words. These are the warning signs of a verbally abusive relationship and some advice to get yourself out.

Alexandra Diaconu
Alexandra Diaconu

1. This person swears at you.
This can be a difficult warning sign to identify at first, but in arguments with this person, he/she does not just get angry and swear, but directs swear words at you. This can be in the form of name calling or as simple as ‘f*ck you,’ but blowing up on you is something that this person does frequently. The difference with this relationship is that swearing at you is a repeated habit, and using swear words is this person’s natural, unhealthy defense mechanism that breaks you down.

2. There are no simple arguments—everything is a major, full-blown screaming fight.
In a verbally abusive relationship, fights are all-out brawls. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to talk to this person in a calm, mature manner. This person has the tendency to throw insults or raise his/her voice. This is one of the easiest warning signs to identify, yet many struggle to see it because they feel responsible for the direction of the fight, or feel as if they provoked the person to be upset.

3. There is no shortage of name-calling.
Because of your close relationship with this person, he/she knows exactly what to say to hurt you. These can be words that point out your flaws, attack your character, or are just demeaning. This goes beyond the joking type of name calling, or an occasional angry burst. In an abusive relationship, name-calling is something that this person does almost every time they are upset. These words have become ingrained in your head and over time can really change the way you see yourself. But there are two things you need to realize:

  • It is not acceptable, under any circumstances to use these words.
  • If a person truly loves you, he/she will not call you hurtful words and names. Ever.

4. This person has often said the words, “I hate you.”
Humans are imperfect, and occasionally, in anger, one might use the word ‘hate’. However, in an abusive relationship this is a phrase that is tossed around more than a few times and is absolutely not okay.

5. This person verbally attacks your physical qualities. 
You are in an abusive relationship is if this person makes negative comments about your physical self: your body weight, your skin, your athleticism, your stature, etc. This can be hidden by joking/small side comments, or obvious through hateful words. The difficult part of identifying this, is that the person may disguise these insults through the lens of ‘I’m trying to help,’ or ‘I’m just giving you a suggestion, or ‘I care about you.’ But a person that comments on your body in an unhealthy way, who jokes openly about your physical appearance, or who body-shames you when he/she is angry is not trying to love or help you.

6. When you try to express or explain your feelings, this person is dismissive or laughs.
Never, under any circumstances, are you in a healthy relationship if the other person laughs or ignores your feelings.

7. You somehow always find yourself in the wrong.
In a verbally abusive relationship, this person can manipulate situations and arguments to be in his/her favor. This means twisting things around to be your fault and playing the ‘victim card’ to make you feel as if you have wronged them. This is extremely difficult to see when you are in the heart of it because over time you begin to feel that you are actually the one in the wrong. You are not.

8. You are the only one apologizing.
Again, this person can manipulate you/situations to be as if you have wronged them. If you often find yourself trying to fix the relationship, beating yourself up over fights, and apologizing, these are the signs of a verbally abusive relationship. It is always important to take responsibility for your actions, but you are in a toxic relationship if this person does not own up to his/her mistakes and apologize for things that he/she has done or said (especially if it’s any of the above—swearing, hateful words, laughing in your face, etc.)

9. This person nit-picks at little (or big) parts of your personality.
This person may say things like, ‘You’re so sensitive,’ ‘You need to grow up,’ ‘You are too emotional,’ ‘You are such a child,’ etc. These may seem little, and at first you will brush them off because you feel like the person could be right and trying to help. But a person that nit-picks at who you are, tells you all the things wrong with who you are, and demands for you to change is a verbally abusive person.

10. Your past is brought up continually—actions, events, mistakes—and often this person becomes angry over them again and again.
This is so very difficult, especially if this person brings up something that you legitimately did wrong in the past. However, the past is the past. Especially if you have apologized and done what you could to fix the problem. In a verbally abusive relationship, this person continually brings up these events and becomes angry about them. This is not only unhealthy, but leaves you feeling powerless to move forward. You need to know this: this is not fair and you are not wrong.

11. This person makes comments about your worth.
They might says things like, ‘I wish I never met you,’ or ‘I don’t care about you,’ or ‘You mean nothing to me,’ or ‘You’re worthless.’ These words can leave you feeling weak and broken. These words can destroy your confidence, self-worth, and happiness. Do not take this to heart.

12. This person verbally attacks your family/friends/significant other/important people in your life.
You are in an abusive relationship if the person you are with finds things wrong or talks bad about the people in your life. This goes beyond the basic, ‘I don’t like your dad’ or ‘She’s a bad friend’ type of comments. It is normal for people to not always get along, but you are in an unhealthy relationship if the person continually breaks down the people close to you, isolates you from them, makes you feel guilty for spending time with them, or makes fun of them.

13. You are continually told you are not trusted or that you are a shady person.
Sadly, this person is trying to make you feel guilty, and again, manipulating you so that you feel like you are the one in the wrong. Oftentimes this is because that person is insecure or has done something shady himself/herself but trying to project the guilt on you. If you are in a relationship with someone who continually says he/she doesn’t trust you or that you aren’t a trustworthy person, that is their inner issue and not yours. Get out.

14. This person holds grudges and you are hardly ever (or never) forgiven.
Relationships are difficult, but you are in an abusive one if the person holds grudges towards you, hangs things over your head, and withholds forgiveness. You will make mistakes (everyone will make mistakes) but if you are continually told you are not forgiven or that your mistake is unforgivable, you need to get out of the relationship.

This is what you need to know:

First of all, this is not your fault. Whatever pain you may or may not have caused in the past does not warrant verbal abuse. People make mistakes and if the person you are in a relationship with cannot forgive you for those mistakes, you need to be apart.

Second of all, this person might love you, but you cannot subject yourself to pain in the name of love. The hard thing about verbally abusive relationships is that the relationships do not always have the physical violence that marks them as obviously abusive. The pain is under the surface, but equally harmful. Yes, this person might truly love you, and might have good intentions, but that doesn’t mean you need to stay in a relationship if you are hurting. You don’t deserve that. You need to know that you are worth more.

This is how you save yourself:

  • Be honest with yourself about what is happening. Write in a journal, or spend some time alone reflecting. Realize that you are justified in your feeling broken, but that you don’t deserve it. Don’t try to rationalize the other person’s behavior. Just acknowledge it and know that it is not okay.
  • Don’t try to put on a good face. Being in this type of relationship is terribly difficult. You don’t need to pretend like everything’s okay.
  • Talk to someone you trust about what is happening. You might not have the strength to get through this on your own, and that’s okay. Confiding in someone will lift the burden from you and give you options when you confront the situation and get out.
  • Allow yourself time to heal. Cry. It’s okay to cry.
  • Do something for yourself. Be selfish. Splurge. Find something that makes you happy and pursue it. This will keep you from focusing on the pain and help you find yourself again.
  • Remind yourself of your worth. You are not the words this person says. Remind yourself of that daily, until you believe it.
  • Get out. Leaving/ending a relationship is hard, especially if this person is someone very close to you—significant other, family member, close friend—but you have to trust that this is the best decision for your well-being, even if it feels more painful to pull away than to stay. Things will get better. Keep fighting.
  • Forgive. Perhaps this person is really struggling with something, mentally unstable, or oblivious to what he/she is doing. Regardless, let them go and forgive. That isn’t an excuse for what they did, and it doesn’t mean you need to accept them back into your life. But it means you rid yourself of the pain and look forward to the future. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Marisa Donnelly

Marisa is a writer, poet, & editor. She is the author of Somewhere On A Highway, a poetry collection on self-discovery, growth, love, loss and the challenges of becoming.

More From Thought Catalog