Tracey asked 12 years ago

I believe I am living in an emotionally and verbally abusive situation. When I raised this issue with my husband he told me I was the abuser not him and that he never says anything horrible to me. I would like to get help to work out, am I abused or the abuser?

1 Answers
Insight Psychological Staff answered 2 years ago

Hello, thank you for reaching out.

In a troubled relationship, sometimes each partner can have the perspective that they are being abused and, in some cases, both partners can be verbally or emotionally abusive to each other.

First, let’s talk about abuse.

Abuse can be manifested in many forms, not all of which are physical. When an individual constantly uses words to demean, frighten, or control someone else, it’s considered verbal abuse[1]. Therefore, when you’re involved in a verbally abusive relationship, it can wear you down and seem normal to the both of you.1

The popular term “gaslighting” in psychology, refers to a specific type of manipulation where the “manipulator” is trying to get the other person to question their reality, memory or perceptions.[2] Gaslighting may start with what seem to be small offenses but the problem is that even suggestively insignificant instances of questioning our own judgment or reality can snowball1 and you can end up in a cycle of not being able to live your life with a clear mind, to focus, make sound decisions, and have a sense of well-being. Gaslighting usually happens within a power dynamic but it may not always be intentional or malicious1.

Look for these warning signs to determine whether this type of abuse/manipulation might be happening:

  • Constantly second guessing yourself or struggling to make decisions
  • Ruminating (continuously thinking about) about a perceived personality/character flaw
  • Feeling confused about the relationship
  • In a confrontation with the individual that might be gaslighting you, feeling:
    • like suddenly you’re in an argument you didn’t intend to have
    • there is no progress or
    • finding that you’re repeating yourself over and over again and not being heard
  • Feeling fuzzy or unclear about your thoughts, feelings, or beliefs
  • Constant apologizing
  • Frequently making excuses for a partner’s behavior
  • Confused about why you’re not happy in your own life
  • Knowing something is wrong, but you cannot grasp what1

It’s difficult to say without knowing more details what role you and your partner play in your relationship but if you’re being verbally abused, know that it’s not your fault. I would suggest seeking therapy, as a couple or even as an individual, to unpack any confusion about your relationship and to find a healthier way to be together, or if it’s in your best interest to evaluate your relationship. Insight has many therapists who are compassionate, nonjudgmental, and experienced in working with couples who would be happy to support you.

I wish you the best of luck on your journey.


[1] DiGiulio, S. (2018, July 13). What is gaslighting? And how do you know if it’s happening to you? NBCNews. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-gaslighting-how-do-you-know-if-it-s-happening-ncna890866

[2] Pietrangelo, A. (2019, March 29). What Is Verbal Abuse? How to Recognize Abusive Behavior and What to Do Next. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/what-is-verbal-abuse#manipulation