Verbal abuse can be committed by strangers, classmates, co-workers, friends, or family. It can be anything from screaming obscenities to silent manipulation.
Familial verbal abuse is a form of domestic violence and is often a precursor for physical abuse.
In Part 5 of her six part series, How to Stop Abuse, Kellie Holly presents exit strategies for those in verbally abusive intimate relationships:
When you’re in a verbally abusive relationship, verbal abusers want you to “be a man” or “have the guts to hear the ‘truth’”. They expect you to stand there and take the abuse because without you, the abuser cannot regain control of their Self. When an abuser looks at you, he sees a target, not a person. He sees something to throw garbage at until he feels less threatened – like a monkey throwing poop.
Your abuser sees you as a threat. Your abuser flings poop at you like a scared monkey because you threaten his version of reality. He wants you to stand there until he brings you down to size and you no longer threaten him. Tell me, if someone were actually throwing feces at you, would you stand there to catch it or would you get out of range?
In “Reach Out“, we discussed telling others about your abusive situation, your verbally abusive relationship. In “Educate Yourself” we discussed filling your mind with actual truth about the abusive relationship. In “Self-Reliance“, we discussed the need to set personal boundaries to protect yourself from abuse. If you’ve employed those three strategies, then you’re in a very good place so far as taking the next step to stop verbal abuse and get out of your verbally abusive relationship: Develop An Exit Strategy.
Your Exit Strategy for Verbally Abusive Relationships
An Exit Strategy is similar to a safety plan; both of them help you to stay safe. The difference is that an Exit Strategy comes into play at the very first sign of verbally abusive behavior and its goal is to move to an emotionally safe place now. Returning to the abuser later is an option.
When in a verbally abusive relationship, the benefit of an Exit Strategy is that you do not have to stand there and listen to one single abusive statement. When you sense the beginning of an abusive attack, you leave the presence of the abuser. He doesn’t have to say anything for you to employ your strategy. He could be slamming cupboards or looking at you in “that certain way”. You know your abuser best, so you know what behaviors predict his abusive outbreaks. Watch for those behaviors, and leave his presence before he has a chance to say one bit of nonsense.
Leaving the presence of your abuser ranges from calling a friend or listening to music on headphones to leaving the house to run an errand (the “errand” can last as long as you need it to last).
Verbally Abusive Relationships Exit Strategy: Plan B
Your strategy must take into account a “plan B” – sometimes, leaving his presence to visit another lovely room in your home isn’t enough. He may begin the verbal assault because you chose not to stand there and experience the emotional build-up with him. You may have to take off your headphones (or whatever your first plan was) and leave the house.
When you employ your strategy, it is up to you whether you tell him what you’re doing or not. Sometimes it feels good for us targets to say, “Hey! I’m going to listen to music because I feel anxious when you start pacing around like that.” But sometimes, telling your abuser that you’re “leaving him” (and this verbally abusive relationship) in his time of need (to fling poop) only fuels his desire to abuse you and guarantees a quick onslaught of abusive statements. If you do tell him and he responds with a smart-aleck comment, ignore it and go do what you said you would do (he’s trying to provoke you).
Verbally Abusive Relationships Exit Strategy: Cash
When you live with an abuser in a verbally abusive relationship, you will have to leave your house more often than you want to believe. This isn’t fair. You aren’t the one acting like an idiot, so why should you have to leave?
The answer is simple: Because you are not an idiot. You wouldn’t expect a poop-flinging monkey to suddenly realize “Hey – this isn’t very mature of me!” and you can’t expect your abuser to realize it either. You are the smart one, you are the one who needs the protection of space, so you are the one who must leave.
Because you will be leaving often, it is a great idea to have $10 or $20 bucks stashed into the lining of your purse. That way, while you’re out running your “errand”, you can actually pick up that milk or even sit at Starbucks and drink a mocha.
Safety Plans recommend large amounts of funds set aside in case you have to leave the relationship permanently. An Exit Strategy is not that kind of plan – the goal for this strategy is to get away temporarily in hope that when you return home, he has managed to redirect his frustration.
Warning Regarding Exit Strategy for Verbally Abusive Relationships
I would be wrong not to tell you that this here Exit Strategy for verbally abusive relationships could lead to the need for a Safety Plan. As time passes and you begin to realize just how often you are required to excuse yourself from your abuser’s presence, you may begin to think about exactly how much “good” there is to be had in the relationship. You may start to doubt your decision to stay with a person who pushes you away, pushes you out of your own home and your emotional safety zone so darn often.
You may find that upon returning home, your abuser has not redirected his anger/emotions, and has instead patiently waited for his target to return. If this happens, you’ll have to enact back-to-back Exit Strategies involving your children, your friends’ homes, and overnights.
For now, write down your Exit Strategy to include many different options for “escape”. But promise yourself that the first night you find yourself sleeping on a friend’s couch because you’ve had to leave home three different times that day, indulge in creating a safety plan. But first, focus on taking the bright red and white target off your chest and develop your Exit Strategy.
Note: Create a new safety plan with your children. Make sure they know what they can do if they feel afraid while at your ex’s house. You may have to be very careful about this because focusing on “what to do if you’re at mom’s house and she starts hitting you” could have negative effects. Instead, create a safety plan for your home, the babysitter’s, grandma’s, their friend’s and your ex’s. Make it a general “what to do if I am scared” plan without singling anyone out, then practice it with them.