Verbally Abusive Relationships

Verbal abuse can be hard to detect sometimes.

For instance, where does the line get crossed between a bad joke and verbal abuse, between saying something that may offend someone and verbal abuse, or between the intent of a comment and how it gets received?

But in many other instances, verbal abuse is detrimental to its victims as well as for those committing the abuse.

“Verbal abuse is a kind of battering which does not leave evidence comparable to the bruises of physical battering,” writes author Patricia Evans. “It can be just as painful, and recovery can take much longer.”

According to Evans, verbal abuse can take many forms. It can be subtle, nuanced, or take the form of angry outbursts or manipulative coercion. Additionally, according to Evans, verbal abuse:

  • Generally, in a verbally abusive relationship the abuser denies the abuse.
  • Verbal abuse more often takes place behind closed doors.
  • Physical abuse is always preceded by verbal abuse.

Verbal abusers may also resort to name calling and attempts to humiliate the victim. As pointed out by Evans, “Verbal abuse may be overt, such as an angry outburst directed at the partner or an attack along the lines of ‘You’re too sensitive.’” The author continues: “Verbal abuse by its very nature undermines and discounts its victim’s perceptions. . . If the words or attitude disempower, disrespect, or devalue the other, then they are abusive.”

Verbally abusive relationships are by their very nature toxic, and below are some more warning signs of a verbally abusive relationship:

  • Verbal abuse is secretive. Usually only the partner of the abuser hears it.
  • Verbal abuse becomes more intense over time. The partner becomes used to and adapts to it.
  • Verbal abuse takes many forms and disguises.
  • Verbal abuse consistently discounts the partner’s perception of the abuse.

If you or someone you know is in a verbally abusive relationship, seek professional help from a licensed mental health professional.


Evans, P. (2010). The verbally abusive relationship. Adams Media. New York, NY.

Brooke Lamberti

Brooke Lamberti is a content writer based out of Scranton, Pennsylvania. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Marywood University, and has prior career experience working in social work and domestic violence advocacy. She has a passion for writing and helping others.

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