“Out of the blue, he pushed me. He was never like that before the last few months.” As this 41 year old married woman’s story unfolded in one of my groups, she sadly added months and years to her abuse history. She was unaware of the slow and insidious control he mounted over her life. It was only when he pushed her, that she became alarmed, told a friend and eventually sought help. Although, she could have greatly benefitted from help with her controlling husband much earlier.
Psychological abuse, also known as mental and verbal abuse, is very difficult to see, but if you know what to look for, it’s easily identifiable. Verbal abuse involves yelling, shouting you down, screaming, name calling, put downs, harassing statements to annoy you, etc. These same behaviors, are also abusive, psychologically and mentally. Psychological abuse in relationships makes the victim feel intimidated and fearful. You silence yourself to avoid escalating your partner’s abuse. You can feel intensely pressured and go along with your partner’s decisions even though you don’t agree. He blames you constantly, making false accusations, which you are at risk of internalizing, lowering your self-esteem. Being free to be yourself around your partner, is replaced with a constant vigilance of him. You try to anticipate what to do and say that will keep the peace, if just a little longer. Before you even know, you’re no longer the person you once were.
Drawing from the experiences of hundreds of women who have experienced psychological abuse in relationships and who have been in my groups, mental and verbal abuse is always there before the first push, grab, or punch. The problem is that psychological abuse in relationships is hard to see, yet it is extremely effective in achieving power and control over a partner in intimate relationships. The legal system is set up to deal with physical abuse and the threat of physical abuse only. In the end, each and everyone of us needs to empower ourselves with knowing what psychological abuse in relationships (mental and verbal abuse) looks like in order to take steps to be safe.
For more information, visit my website “Raising Awareness: Psychological Abuse and Healing” at www.carollambert.com.