What is verbal and emotional abuse?
My intention was to begin this blog post with the standard definition of emotional and verbal abuse. What I discovered is that there is no standard definition of emotional or verbal abuse. This demonstrates exactly the point I set out to make in the first place: emotional and verbal abuse in a marriage is a grey area.
A few decades ago when women began to bring more attention to the grave social problem of violence against women in relationships, clinicians, researchers and social advocates began educating us on the cycle of violence in intimate relationships, and the wheel of power and control became the visual aid of choice to explain domestic violence. The wheel has its own section for “emotional abuse” which includes: 1) putting your spouse down, 2) making your spouse feel bad about themselves, 3) calling your spouse a bad name, 3) making your spouse think he/she is crazy, 4) playing mind games, 5) doing something that humiliates your spouse, and 6) making your spouse feel guilty.
Well, lock me up and throw away the key, because I am an abuser!
Now, which one of you is going to throw the first stone?
Marital Realities No one Talks About
That’s what I thought. At one time or another, in midst of a heated argument, or just out of anger because we ourselves were so hurt, everyone who’s ever been married has probably been guilty of some of these transgressions. So, I think it’s important to distinguish between bad behavior, and “abuse”. Abuse is when someone engages in most of these behaviors on a very regular basis, in an almost systematic way (if you think you may be in a truly abusive relationship, please contact a qualified counselor to help evaluate your situation). But that is not the case in most marriages. In most marriages, two good people who really do love each other, don’t always know how to work together to create a great relationship. They get frustrated, overwhelmed, hurt, and scared. Then, they lash out a bit. That’s not abuse, it’s marriage. Marriage is hard! It’s stirs up all sorts of fears and dark places in us that we never knew existed; it challenges us to change and grow and become better human beings; and it calls us to love in an almost God-like capacity. A friend once told me “Marriage is not for sissies!”. So true. Marriage is not simply the joining of two people to share a life, it is a new and more challenging context for personal growth.
The beautiful thing though is that if you take the challenge, it will lead you to rewards you never quite imagined. It helps you to become the person you always hoped you could be, and allows you to experience love in a deeper, more meaningful way.
How can you begin to improve your marriage today?
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Dr. Chantal Gagnon
Dr. Chantal Marie Gagnon, Ph.D., LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist, relationship counselor, and life coach in Plantation, Florida. Dr. Gagnon provides individual therapy, family counseling services, and couples therapy in her Plantation, FL office. Coaching services are available nationwide.
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