Male, Anonymous - Massachusetts
I have been married to my wife for decades and throughout our marriage verbal abuse has been a challenge. My wife verbally attacks me almost daily, and I am left feeling that I have "reached the end of my rope". It feels like I am living with a person who has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. As a result, I hold tremendous tension in my body and walk on eggshells wondering, "When will the next attack come?" I react by either getting angry, storming out, or enabling her by trying to appease her. Unfortunately, these responses never work. She just gets angrier and my self-esteem continues to plummet.
I realized how bad my situation was when our neighbor (who must have overheard my wife screaming at me) said out loud, "Don't kill him!" Fortunately, my wife didn't hear her but it made me feel shameful, frustrated, embarrassed, and hopeless. I knew this could not go on, however, I didn't know how to stop the attacks. I needed serious help, so I confided in my counselor, Stephanie. She assured me that the verbal abuse would not stop unless I asserted myself, started setting some healthy personal boundaries, and dealt with my anger. Together, we came up with boundaries and communication strategies that I began implementing. I also learned that to be successful establishing boundaries with an abuser I needed to reinforce my boundaries often and implement consequences when those boundaries are violated.
I have learned that I don't need to resort to anger, control, or enabling patterns to try and stop or "fix" the abuse. Rather, setting and reinforcing necessary boundaries for myself is the healthy way to break the abuse cycle. I find taking small breaks and establishing consequences, like not engaging conversations that become abusive, to be very effective. I feel more confident and much more relaxed knowing I don't have to tolerate verbal abuse and that I am responsible for protecting myself against such violation.
Things are different now. My wife and I are able to talk through things more calmly. Having a counselor to talk with and to think things through with has made a huge difference. The key for me now is consistency and not falling back into old habits that do not serve either of us. Every time Stephanie and I speak I feel so much better. She is able to see things clearly and it really stabilizes me. No one else is giving what Steph is giving me. I am seeing clearly how I need to become stronger in who I am. I'm so grateful that I contacted her, she is the best thing that's happened to me in decades. I trust Stephanie completely because she wants to honor the Father, so I don't worry about her advice. It's always solid, logical, and biblically-based.