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Is Name Calling Verbal Abuse?


Is Name Calling Verbal Abuse?
Question: Is Name Calling Verbal Abuse?

My wife resorts to name calling when she is upset with me. When I tell her that calling me stupid or an idiot is abusive she laughs and says I can’t take a joke. If it is all a joke, she jokes a lot. We were in the bank the other day opening an investment account. The bank employee was explaining things and I was asking questions. My wife looked at the bank employee and said, “you will have to excuse him, he is so slow sometimes I think he is mentally retarded.”

Am I wrong to think this is abuse and what can I do to stop it? I’m beginning to believe that I’m stupid.



No, you are not wrong. Your wife is verbally abusing you. Words that hurt, belittle or put another person down are abusive and your wife is definitely putting you down and hurting you by her words.

I find it interesting that you say, you are beginning to believe her words. That isn’t unusual. Verbal abuse and name calling is a form of brainwashing. It causes the victim to doubt his or her own judgment. It is no wonder you’ve begun to doubt your own reality…that you are an intelligent man who can identify abuse from loving behavior.

I’ve never talked with anyone who suffered a form of domestic abuse who did not internalize their abuse. They take the blame for their spouse’s behavior and tell themselves, “if only I were smarter, prettier or less trouble he/she would not abuse me.”

When you wife attacks you with words she attacks your self-esteem and self-image. She wants you to feel bad about yourself so she can feel better about herself. Her good self-esteem comes at the cost of your self-esteem.

What do you do about the problem? Below are a few suggests that will help.

  • Set boundaries on what you will and will not accept from your wife. Communicate to her what is and isn’t accept when speak to you or about you.

  • If she crosses your boundaries and calls you degrading names, create space between the two of you. Get up and walk away and tell her that every time she says something hurtful or mean spirited that you will be walking away from her. Be it in the bank or at home. Remove yourself from her presence.

  • Do not act hurt or play the victim. Show her, by your actions that you are an adult and will only accept respect from her. You do this by not responding to her ugly words with anger or victimization.

  • Not only do you need to set boundaries with your wife, you need to set boundaries with yourself. Doing this means not fearing confrontation with your wife. Many men fear confrontation or fear hurting their wife. By doing this they are allowing their wife to cross their self-imposed boundaries of what is and is not OK in their life.

We should all know our worth and value. We should not fear standing up to someone who attempts to make us believe we are not worthy of respectful treatment. Doing what I suggested above is your first and hopefully only step in dealing with your wife’s abusive behavior.

If she doesn’t respond in a positive way, then seek marital counseling.

Good Luck!


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