THE STAGES OF VERBAL ABUSE
Happy 2013 (a little belated)! If that phrase congeals in your throat, know that I’ve been there. Sometimes as we stand on the precipice of a new year, all we can see ahead of us is months and months of a seemingly interminable relationship.
If your relationship seems more like a sentence than a promise, then perhaps you need to take stock of where you are. There are several stages in an abusive relationship:
First off, ask yourself was it always this way? If not, when did it change? In many verbally abusive situations, they start off quiet differently than they end up. Initially your partner is charming, engaging, and almost too good to be true. This phase is called “wooing.”
However, at some point, the future abuser becomes content that the relationship is secure and shows his or her true self. The abuse feels out of the blue to the victim and they consider it a horrible, but isolated incident. This is the “flash point.” And if it truly is isolated, and does not occur again, then it was a bad fight. But in abusive situations, it is the start of the verbal abuse. That abuse may be the screaming raging, in-your-face blow ups. But they can also be much more passive aggressive. Your partner may start offering suggestions, improvements you can undertake, critiques of your work or appearance. Most of these will be disguised as “constructive criticism.” And if you get tired of the ceaseless critiques, it will be suggested that you cannot take criticism and that you are strong willed, bull-headed, someone who must do things their own way or get their own way, a bitch, etc.
This continues and the victim will attempt many different strategies to regain the charming partner he or she once had. That may be adhering to rules, changing habits, changing your appearance, changing friends, not speaking to certain family members, and even changing jobs. But despite the changes, the abuse only shifts and does not end. This phase is called “contortion.”
At a certain point, the abuse realizes that this is not a normal, healthy relationship with arguments. It is something far different from what his or her friends and family experience. But they feel trapped. Each of these stages can be weeks, months, or in my case, years. The victim begins to be depressed, though they may not recognize it for what it is initially. They lack drive, ambition, isolate themselves, become ill more often, and are fatigued. The once energetic, vivacious person they used to be is a distant memory.
And so we come to the crossroad. The now depressed victim is aware their relationship is normal. But what choices exist. As I see it there are four: 1) stay in the relationship and continue to be eroded by this negative situation, 2) exit the relationship, 3) commit suicide, 4) harm/kill the abuser. Please do not look at these options as SUGGESTIONS. They are merely the alternatives. I am not for a second advocating suicide or homicide! But it does happen when a person becomes so desperate that they do not know what else to do. What we want to do is explore the options in 1 and 2 so that the latter alternatives never occur!
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If it sounds like your situation, take heart. There is hope. There are those who understand. And you can become healthy again. But the first step is to understand what you are in the midst of. I am a survivor and no longer a victim. You can be too.