Dear Barb – Verbal Abuse

Dear Barb;

I’m almost embarrassed to write you, let alone ask this question. I have been dating my girlfriend for about six months, our relationship has been kind of rocky, but I really care for her. Recently I’ve begun to wonder if I’m being verbally abused since she frequently calls me names and makes me feel like I can’t do anything right. I’m starting to think maybe there is something wrong with me and I really deserve to be treated this way. How can I tell if I’m being verbally abused? Are there any specific signs I can look for? Thanks.

Jay in Saskatchewan

Hi Jay. I understand how difficult it must have been to write. As a society we often see verbal and physical abuse as only happening to women. Men tend to hide it if they are being abused, as it is not supposed to happen to them. For that reason, I commend you for bringing up this most important issue.

From your comments I can state unequivocally that yes, you are being abused. Verbal abuse includes name-calling, insults, put downs, yelling, swearing and humiliating another person. These are only a few of the ways in which a person can experience verbal and emotional abuse. Behaviors that cause a person to feel inferior, inadequate or that they have no value are also abusive. That you think you may deserve to be treated this way indicates how beaten down your self worth has become.

No one ever deserves to be insulted and put down. On the other hand, it is possible that at times others may become angry and say hurtful things. However, once they realize what they have done and take responsibility for their behavior, the other person does not need to feel inadequate or diminished in any way. No one is perfect so we must accept that this may happen from time to time.

Jay, it sounds as if you want to continue in this relationship, therefore you will need to stop this abuse before it destroys everything that you and your girlfriend have together. To change this into a healthy relationship you need to seek counselling immediately. Support groups usually prove to be most successful for these types of behaviors. Yet for any kind of therapy to work it requires cooperation from both sides. Cooperation includes mutual honesty and an openness to try new ways of communicating and relating to each other.

Since your relationship is fairly young, your behavior patterns are easier to change than they would be if you sought help a couple of years from now. However, if your girlfriend is not willing to accept help, my advice to you is to leave the relationship. I know this will be difficult as you obviously have strong feelings for this girl. On the other hand, if you stay in this relationship without counselling, the abuse will continue and most likely escalate to the point where it will destroy any feelings you have for this lady.

Again Jay, I want to thank you for having the courage to come forward with this difficult, but important issue.

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.