You can curb verbal and emotional abuse by developing a plan to prevent yourself from being controlled. You cannot change someone else, but you can change yourself so that the abusive tactics previously used on you are no longer effective. Determine appropriate boundaries and realise that these boundaries are designed to protect your heart. The Bible says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Set the Boundaries:
1. State clearly, in a conversation or a letter, what you are willing to accept and not accept from the abuser.
2. Announce the consequence you will enforce if the abuser violates your requests.
3. Enforce the consequence every single time the abuse occurs.
4. Absolutely do not negotiate.
- Since verbal abusers do not use words fairly, negotiation will not work.
- Instead of “talking out” the problem, your abuser will seek to wear you out.
- Simply state that when the behaviour stops, you look forward to a renewed relationship …“I am not willing to discuss this topic any longer.” “I have stated clearly what I will not accept.” “When you are ready to respect my requests, let me know. I look forward to enjoying being together at that time!”
- Keep your words brief and to the point.
“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19)
5. Never “react” when your boundary is violated – only respond.
- Expect your boundary to be violated … but don’t react.
- Expect your boundary to be violated again … and again! But don’t react.
- If you react, you will find yourself back under the control of the abuser.
- Respond by detaching yourself from the abuser and enforcing your repercussions.
Do not cry because of feeling hurt. Do not beg because of feeling fearful. Do not explode because of feeling frustrated.
“The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8–9)
6. Solicit the support of one or two wise, objective people to help you through this process.
- Include supporters as you analyse and identify the problem.
- Include supporters as you determine how to articulate your plan.
- Include supporters as you enforce the repercussions.
- Include supporters – friend, mentor, and counsellor – to help you through this critical period.
Discuss the situation with your supporters. Discuss the tactics used on you. Discuss the plan of action.
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” (Proverbs 19:20)
The time it takes to disassemble and disable an abusive relationship is actually limited. But during that limited time, expect manipulative maneuvers and emotional ups and downs. Assume that your actions will make the abuser angry. Allow your abuser to react without in turn reacting yourself. Do not seek to please this person – it won’t work. Think of this time period as comparable to having surgery. It is a painful experience, but it provides the only hope for healing and having a new, healthy relationship.
“The tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)