2.     Become clear about abusive behaviors. We discussed the impact of such abusive behaviors as name-calling, sarcasm, isolation from friends, control of thoughts and behavior, and rage reactions, to name a few.

3.     Talk about the impact of those abusive behaviors. Rather than live in denial, pretending her husband’s behavior wasn’t impacting her, she decided to turn on her “chaos detector,” which I talk about in my book, Dealing with the CrazyMakers in Your Life. She began admitting the full impact of the abuse on her life.

4.     Stop enabling the abuse. Katherine decided she would no longer make excuses for her husband. She would no longer rationalize away his anger, or forget about the times he turned words back on her manipulatively. She would no longer anesthetize her pain by telling herself, “ It could be worse.”

5.     Take action. Katherine took drastic action—often necessary to end abusive cycles. She insisted her husband participate in a "Marriage Intensive" at the Marriage Recovery Center. She made it clear to him that if he wanted to remain married — and she did — they would need definite intervention into their old patterns and would need strategic help learning new ones.

6.     Be accountable for change. Change never happens easily or without ongoing accountability. Not only did Katherine courageously insist on couples counseling, but insisted her husband also participate in individual counseling to address his abusive patterns of behavior. She made it clear they would need ongoing work to ensure the necessary changes became new patterns of interacting.

7.    Expect resistance to change. Katherine wisely informed her husband that change would not occur without a cost — time, effort and financial. She expected resistance — and then was not surprised when it occurred. However, when Gary was faced with only two choices — their marriage and change, or losing her -- Gary chose her.

Bolstered by Scriptures already cited, such as Proverbs 22:24 ,“Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man,” and Ephesians 4:21 which instructs, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice,” Katherine is certain about her direction. She and her husband are on a healing path.

Arriving at this place was not easy for Katherine, and probably won’t be for you. If you are married to a man or woman who has a hidden problem with emotional abuse, name it for what it is: abuse. Become informed about the symptoms of verbal abuse, and agree to end it. After being clear about the destructive element in your marriage, agree on action that will lead to change — treatment. Insist that your husband or wife receive specific treatment that ensures change. Set a clear boundary that says violence won’t be tolerated. Not one ounce. Never.

If you are the victim of verbal abuse, find someone you can trust to share your story with and take steps to put an end to the violence. Feel free to email me at TheRelationshipDoctor@Gmail.com.

Published April 13, 2009.


Dr. Hawkins is the director of The Marriage Recovery Center  where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You, Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, and Saying It So He'll Listen. His newest books are titled  The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Healing a Hurting Relationship and  The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Living Beyond Guilt.  Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.