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Verbal Abuse

QUESTION: What is verbal abuse?


Verbal abuse may take place in a number of different ways. Putdowns, name calling, minimizing the feelings of another person, screaming, and verbal threats are all forms of verbal abuse. Some forms of verbal abuse are very subtle and may even go unrecognized or dismissed as "normal" because of the frequency of their occurrence.

Women and men alike, can be guilty of verbally abusing each other in a relationship. While women are often more adept at verbal criticism and fault-finding, men are more skilled at subtle put-downs that minimize self-worth. She may be guilty of incessant nagging; “If I told you once, I told you a thousand times to pick up your socks.” Or, “Why can’t you be like so-and-so?” He, on the other hand will more likely engage in verbal abusiveness through a statement like, “Get over it! You made the decision to take it on, so just buck up." His anger will lead more quickly to a defensive action, like slamming the door and walking out of the house.

When one spouse repeatedly speaks disrespectfully to the other, it is only a matter of time before retaliation occurs and verbal abuse escalates into yelling, screaming, and name calling. When honest communication does not take place in a relationship, daily irritations can turn into hurtful, cutting words. Verbal abuse is frequently a form of control and manipulation intended to malign and show disrespect toward another person. When it is allowed to continue, it can lead to domestic violence and physical forms of abusiveness.

The Bible provides a helpful model for communication that is characterized by honesty and respect: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves”(Romans 12:10, NIV). In Galatians 5:15, we are warned of the consequence of long-term verbal abuse: “But if instead of showing love among yourselves you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.”

Learn More About Spouse Abuse.

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