Have you ever asked yourself if your love interest is verbally abusive, or simply experiences bouts of unfortunate humanity?

Often, we issue labels for behavior without looking at the context. I think it’s worth noting that there are differences.

To review the verbal/emotional abuse continuum below.
Does your partner
  • Embarrass you with put-downs?
  • Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
  • Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
  • Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
  • Make all of the decisions?
  • Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
  • Prevent you from working or attending school?
  • Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault, or even deny doing it?
  • Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
  • Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
  • Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
  • Force you to try and drop charges?
  • Threaten to commit suicide?
  • Threaten to kill you?

I thought about this recently when one of my adult daughters entered in to a new relationship. When I heard her new beau teased her twice for having “bad grammar” after she’d disclosed she was dyslexic to him, I was ready to mow him over.

“He’s abusive,” I told a male friend with near certainty.

When I gave him the rundown on what little I knew, my friend stopped me. “He’s still a boy. He may be 27 years-old, but he’s still just a kid. He’ll only learn how to behave better if she lets him know her limits and expectations.”

Point well-taken. We’re not born knowing how to relate appropriately. We have to learn how to relate. And it requires feedback.

There are a few ways to determine whether or not the hurtful words spoken by another are emotionally abusive, or just a gaffe.

 Domestic violence is when one person intentionally uses a pattern of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse for the purpose of controlling their partner.

Here’s what’s key.

The words have to be intentional.

The words must be a part of a pattern.  Repeated, not just one isolated incident.

Their purpose is to intimidate or control the recipient. That control could occur by wearing her down, having her second guess herself and her talents, or making her feel she isn’t capable on her own.

That’s different than just saying something mean, something we have all done at one time or another. And then there are those of us who experience compromised social skills due to a pervasive development disorder, mental health disorder, or other issue.The bottom line?To find out if your sweetheart is emotionally abusive, find the gumption early on to set a limit.

“I’m not stupid.  I don’t have bad grammar, and your saying so hurts my feelings.”

Then gauge the response. An apology is a good start, but it’s worthless if the insult is recurrent.

You deserve to be treated well. We all do. So set your boundaries, and observe how they’re respected by your partner. And if you determine you are experiencing any type of abuse, remember, information and support are available to you. Call 1-800-799-SAFE.

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