In order to make their partner feel inadequate or weak, the controlling person will use verbally abusive tactics as shame, belittling, name-calling and sarcasm. In this way they grab the more powerful position, relegating the other person to a gradually weakened identity because they own sense of value is chipped away.
How do you recognize verbal abuse? There are so many open and covert ways of abusing another person, that here we will mention only a few.
The easier to pinpoint are cruel “pet names” and obscene name-callings, those same behaviors that make a very comic movie story based on the humiliation of another person.
We all have innate ways of perceiving abuse delivered to us… Besides the emotional reaction in your gut, or the constriction in your chest, or shortening of your breath, or having the constant headache…? Yes, those also can be indicators that you have been hit by some self esteem demolishing projectile.
Where is this habit of using verbal abuse coming from? From our families of origin, of course!
Toxic families use verbal abuse as part of their communicational style. We all can remember those opportunities in which our humiliation provided fodder for our relatives’ endless fun. At the moment, few of them were realizing the lasting impression of those humiliation feelings in us, probably still with us after all those years.
Sarcasm can be harmless, part of healthy bantering while interacting with peers and it only gets to be damaging when it is the only way others refer to you…then your reputation will be permanently damaged. It is acceptable when it is mixed with positive comments, appreciation and recognition of your skills or good qualities.
Destructive sarcasm is delivered using a special voice tone, a particular body position, and probably causes damage because you are open to others’ input. If you are expecting a positive feedback, or even needing it to build your self-esteem, then you are vulnerable to other person’s sardonic comments. This person can use the opportunity to control you using only denigrating sarcastic comments.
Criticism is a special way of abuse: it has to be consistently negative, (never mentioning positive aspects) and leaving no door opening for future improvement ("you are always so obtuse!") to cause real harm.
Surprisingly, there are lots of spouses nowadays who believe they are doing a good job providing only negative criticism to their loved ones. This is only cause for pain and resentment ("How can’t he see what I’m doing well?")
Put-downs are a subtle way of control (“If I can describe you as less than me, therefore you are an inferior person”) in which you refer to the other person’s characteristics or actions in a demeaning way, either in front of them or talking about them with others.
Name-calling is a cruel game, where anybody can portray some harmless personal characteristics now described as stupid, ugly, not worthy, etc. It can be especially damaging if the name calling is done using body parts of the other as the target, like: stature, weight, sexual characteristics, etc.
If it easy to detect when people are controlling and domineering us by doing abusive behaviors.
It is truly frightening to consider a double whammy in the behavior: the toxic, controlling partner will use charm and seduction to maintain their grip, only when convenient to cheat the weaker party in believing that there is love together with criticism.
They will dish out just enough good words to make their weaker partner feel that there is something worth holding on to. This gives the victim the false hope that the relationship just might be worth saving, and so he/she postpones the moment of reckoning where they see that all respect is lost and leave.
Most of the victims of toxic relationships are stuck in them by the vague hope that recognition and respect can be produced any day soon. Needless to say, what remains is, sadly, only more verbal abuse and control.