How to Stop Enabling Verbal Abuse

Conversations about money can be a trigger for abusive language and behaviors.
Conversations about money can be a trigger for abusive language and behaviors. (Image: Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

It can be difficult to identify and stop enabling verbal abuse because it often occurs within an emotionally abusive environment. Abuse is secretive by nature. Verbal abusers attack most often in private. This creates an environment of fear for the abused. In this type of relationship, it is common for the abuse to intensify over time. Abusers often use avoidance techniques to discount the abuse, such as avoiding talking about an issue or dismissing past abusive episodes. It is also common for an abuser to deny specific things were said. All of this can make it difficult to communicate with the abuser.

The essence of enabling thinking is the desire to supply someone with the means or opportunity to do something. However, when you enable someone who is verbally abusive to you, you put yourself in a dangerous and vulnerable position. Over time, it is possible to stop enabling verbal abuse with the right mind-set and strategies.

Monitor thoughts of fixing and rescuing. Every time you have thoughts about helping the abuser, remind yourself of all the negative effects that the verbal abuse has had in your life. Redirect thoughts of fixing or rescuing the other person to thinking about helping yourself. You can do this just through the process of being mindful of all of your thoughts, especially those connected to the abusive relationship, throughout your day.

Emotionally detach from the abuser as much as possible. You can do this by becoming responsible for your own happiness. When you find yourself thinking, "Why couldn't he do..." or " I wish he would...", you are giving power to your abuser. Take your power back by orchestrating your life so that you are in charge of creating happiness in every aspect of your daily routine. Stop depending in any way on your abuser. Find others to help you in areas where you need assistance.

Set healthy boundaries. Healthy communication boundaries are limits you set in communication that dictate the integrity of your day. Acknowledge the type of communication you want to have. Make the request in a simple statement to yourself. An example would be, "I will leave the room when any abusive language begins." Rehearse this boundary until you feel comfortable, and then communicate this boundary to the abuser during a neutral time.

Identify inconsistencies in words and actions. Make a daily affirmation: "I like to keep consistent what I think, say and do, and will change to ensure this is so." Focus on your own consistency for a period of time. This will help you to identify inconsistencies in your abuser's words and actions. When you are caught in the fearful environment caused by verbal abuse, communication is often confusing. Clearing your own thinking processes will allow you to begin to see the verbally abusive relationship with more clarity.

Tips & Warnings

  • Verbally abusive language and behaviors are often deeply ingrained in cognitive functioning, as they are learned in childhood. You can practice positive behaviors to deal with someone who is abusive, but the most direct solution would be to recommend the abuser seek assistance in moving through his own issues.
  • Be honest with yourself about the harmful effects the abuse is having on your mental and emotional state, and ability to fully interact with others in your life. It is common to pour lots of attention into an abusive relationship without recognizing how much energy that one relationship is draining from your life. When you are being mentally and emotionally abused, it can weaken your inner strength, which then affects every area of your life. Recognize that sometimes you need to end a relationship in order to regain inner strength and bring balance to other areas of your life. If the abuse is coming from a family member who depends on you, it may require bringing in another person to fill your role for a period of time.

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