When you think of an abusive relationship, you probably think about physical abuse. The picture that pops into your mind is probably a battered girlfriend, someone who looks sad and worn down next to her boyfriend, a guy who seems nice but has a fierce angry streak. Physical abuse in any kind of relationship, platonic or romantic, is obviously a huge issue that needs to be addressed, but it’s important to note that it certainly is not the only kind of abuse that can happen in a relationship. As we’ve discussed before, your significant other can also be emotionally abusive – something that comes off as much more sneaky and manipulative. One big part of emotional abuse is verbal abuse, which can be especially easy to ignore or blow off – but it’s something you absolutely should not accept from a partner.
Verbal abuse refers to a partner who uses name-calling, humiliation, gaslighting, and infantilization to get their way or assert their control. Verbally abusive behavior can leave someone feeling intimidated and full of self-doubt, which can lead to them relying more on the partner doing the abusing. It’s a vicious cycle, and it happens more often than you think. Unfortunately, it’s easy to pretend it isn’t happening. When there’s no hitting or shoving involved, and your partner apologizes for their mean words later on, it’s easy to blow it off as just another relationship argument and to assume this happens all the time. It doesn’t, and it shouldn’t. You need to be aware of the signs of verbal abuse just as much as you need to be aware of the signs of physical abuse.
One example of this is a recent story about social media stars and now exes Madison Beer and Jack Gilinsky. An audio recording of Jake verbally abusing Madison was released on Twitter recently, and in it, you can hear Jack calling her a “f****** slut,” a “bitch,” and generally just putting her down and talking to her with zero respect – you can listen here if you want. The two are clearly fighting about something, and obviously neither of them are being really nice to each other, but that’s expected in a relationship argument. What isn’t expected or okay? Calling your girlfriend slurs like “slut” and “bitch” to prove your point.
Since the recording was leaked, Madison has explained her side of the story, and Jack has apologized, but it was a depressing story that was made even worse when Madison’s own mother defended Jack. For me, it reinforced the idea that girls need to be made aware of verbal abuse signs, and need to be told that it should never, under any circumstances, be something you accept or stand for in a relationship. So, how do you know if it’s happening to you? Read these signs that your boyfriend might be verbally abusing you now:
He Calls You NamesThe most obvious and well-known sign of verbal abuse is when a partner calls you names - and, weirdly, it's also one that a lot of people actively ignore. Let's be clear: name-calling in a relationship is never okay. If your boyfriend is calling you a "bitch," "slut," "whore," or "c*nt" or anything along those lines, that is absolutely not acceptable. It doesn't even have to be a curse or harsh slur like that. He shouldn't be calling you stupid, dumb, or anything along those lines either. Name calling is so prevalent in our society (even our president does it) that it can be easy to blow it off like it's just something that happens. But trust me, it is not something that happens in a happy and healthy relationship. My fiance and I have short tempers and we're very stubborn, so we get into a lot of arguments, but we NEVER call each other names. Please do not allow this to happen. If he calls you names, walk away. Source: iStock
He Manages To Blame You For EverythingMost arguments are not so mature that the person to blame immediately accepts responsibility and apologizes - a discussion becomes an argument when someone can't admit they were wrong. So, playing the blame game is par for the course sometimes when fighting with your S.O. But there's a difference when it's done in a verbally abusive way. If your BF is verbally abusing you, they will try to blame you for everything no matter what - and they will almost never back down. If they do something blatantly wrong, they'll find a way to make it seem like it was your fault, and they might even convince you of that too. For example: if you catch him texting and flirting with another girl, he'll say something like, "Well maybe I wouldn't talk to other girls if you weren't so busy all the time." Him flirting with other girls is very obviously not your fault, but he'll make it seem like it is - and that's not okay. If he refuses to back down or ever take full responsibility, he's not fit for a relationship. Source: iStock
He Downplays Everything To Make It Seem Like You Always OverreactOne common behavior in verbal abuse is for the person doing the abusing to try to make it seem like you're always making a big deal out of nothing. This is called minimisation or trivializing, and it's a way for your partner to gain control over you. They'll act like something you're upset about is actually not a big deal, turning things around to make it seem like you just don't know how to take a joke or be chill. It's similar to blaming you for everything and gaslighting, and it sucks. Source: iStock
He Makes Fun Of YouLight teasing is normal in any romantic relationship. You probably tease your S.O. about certain things, and they probably do it back. You guys might even have that kind of playful relationship in front of other people, where it comes across as cute and flirty. Cool! But there's a big difference between light teasing and being made fun of. In a verbally abusive relationship, a boyfriend will make fun of you so much that you'll end up genuinely feeling silly for saying something or doing something. It will eventually wear down your confidence and make you feel like kind of a loser. They'll put down certain things you do, and then when you get really upset, they might be like, "Oh, calm down, I was just kidding." Uh, no, dude. If the "kidding" is making you genuinely upset, it's gone way too far. Source: iStock
He Ignores You When You Want To TalkOne of the strangest signs of verbal abuse is actually not verbal at all - it's the silent treatment. Often referred to as blocking or withholding, using the silent treatment is another way to abuse or control someone. Does your partner suddenly shut down and ignore you when you want to talk about something serious? Do they refuse to argue or have a serious conversation unless they're ready? Do they shut down when you start talking and do something else or just completely ignore you? These could all be signs of verbal abuse. Source: iStock
He Gets Very Condescending By Acting Like You Can't Understand AnythingAnyone can be condescending, and it certainly doesn't always mean they are verbally abusing you. But it's also a common sign of verbal abuse. Pay attention to the way your boyfriend talks to you when you're arguing, or even if you aren't arguing. If they speak down to you or make it seem like you can't understand anything, that could be their way of making you feel inferior so they can gain control over you. It could also be accompanied by them rolling their eyes, laughing at a comment you make as if it's really dumb, or saying things like, "Wow, you can't understand anything, can you?" Source: iStock
He Makes Subtle ThreatsThreats in a relationship are never, ever a good thing - they almost always point to some kind of abuse. In a verbally abusive situation, you might find that your boyfriend threatens you by saying things like, "I'll break up with you if we have this fight one more time," or "Do you want to be the only single one out of all of your friends? No? Then stop talking." They might threaten you by saying things like, "If you try to break up with me I'll have to kill myself." They might be more vague, saying things like, "If you leave, I'll make your life hell." Anything that makes you feel scared has no place in a happy relationship. Source: iStock
He Always Brings Up Your InsecuritiesIf you and your significant other are close, then chances are good that they know what your insecurities are. Now, a good partner would avoid bringing up those insecurities and would try to make you feel better about them. A verbally abusive partner will use them against you in an argument or when they are trying to get control. If they know you're insecure about your weight, they might come home in a bad mood, looking for some control, and say something like, "Wow, are you really going to eat all of those snacks?" If they know you're insecure about him flirting with other girls, they might throw that in your face during a fight. It could be subtle or obvious, but either way, it's not something that should be done in a healthy relationship. Source: iStock
He Criticizes Little Things You DoDo you feel like your partner criticizes your every move? Maybe they make you feel stupid for making small mistakes, or they tear you apart for doing one thing wrong. Maybe they do it more subtly, by criticizing things your family or religion or heritage does. Maybe they try to make it seem like a joke, but it hits a little too close to home. However it happens, constant criticism has no place in a good relationship, and could definitely be a sign of verbal abuse. Source: iStock
He Only Focuses On The Bad Things You've DoneWhen you argue with your partner, does he constantly bring up the bad things you've done? He might do this by focusing on the one wrong thing you said or did in a particular argument, holding onto it even if you're arguing about something he did. He might do this by constantly bringing up a past mistake you made and using it against you. He might just bring something up over and over and over again, using it to put you down, make you feel bad, and make you feel like you owe him something. Any way it happens, it's not acceptable. Source: iStock
If you think you are being verbally abused by your partner, you can find help by visiting the National Domestic Violence Hotline website or calling 1-800-799-7233.