Although victims of verbal and emotional abuse generally feel inadequate and powerless to stop an abusive relationship, appropriate confrontation is often necessary to defuse emotional abuse. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. Wishful thinking won’t make it better. And believing that loyalty means remaining quiet is dangerously erroneous.
When hurtful words and actions are exposed as unacceptable and viewed as intolerable, the foundation is laid for change to occur. That change will come slowly and will likely be met with much resistance by the abuser. When power is the goal and control is at stake, a consistent and unrepentant abuser will repeatedly change tactics in an attempt to maneuver around each boundary you set, always looking for some way to put you in a position to be manipulated. To remain silent in such a relationship is not love but fear … and is harmful rather than helpful. “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” (Proverbs 27:5)
- Emotional abuse can be going on for years before victims realise the difficult dynamics in their relationships.
- Abusers can be calculating, and their behaviour may be deliberate and designed to keep them in control.
- Once your eyes are opened to the tactical behaviour of the abuser, much of your discouragement will begin to dissipate. (Only then will you be able to establish a more level playing field.) “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” (Proverbs 1:5)
- Communicate that you will not be treated with disrespect. “I feel greatly disrespected because of the way you are treating me. I will not stay here if you continue to disrespect me.”
- Be specific about what behaviour is unacceptable. “I won’t continue to talk with you if you continually interrupt me.”
- Refuse to accept excuses and reasons for repeated inconsiderate behaviour. Suppose the other person says, “I didn’t mean to be late – some people I needed to see came by.” You say, “That does not make what you did acceptable because you could have phoned me. From now on – unless you call – I will go on with my plans without you.” “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)