It can be difficult for some people to recognize the difference between acceptable and unacceptable treatment in a relationship. This is often because the relationship modeled for them, typically their parents’ relationship, was unhealthy. It may also be connected to feelings of low self-worth or to psychological damage inflicted by the abusive partner. Healthy communication is a crucial aspect of a solid, lasting relationship.
What Is a Healthy Relationship?
In a healthy relationship, both partners feel respected and valued. No relationship is perfect all the time, but they should be free from any type of abuse or ill treatment. According to the University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center, “disagreements in a relationship are not only normal but, if constructively resolved, actually strengthen the relationship.”
Trust is also a key part of any successful relationship. You should trust your partner to communicate with you honestly and in a fair and rational manner, even in anger. Both partners feel safe in a healthy relationship. (See Reference 1)
What Is Verbal Abuse?
Verbal abuse includes yelling, threats, name-calling, humiliation and belittling by your partner. Verbal abuse is often a step on the path to physical abuse. As the non-profit website Help Guide states, “abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down.” The abuser uses language to damage your self-esteem and sense of self-worth so he can more easily control you. (See Reference 2)
Signs of Abuse
If you find yourself censoring conversations with your partner because you fear his reaction, you may be in a verbally abusive relationship. Verbal abusers are often jealous or possessive with a short temper. They may curse and belittle you in front of your friends and family, causing shame. Over time, the abuser may mentally wear you down until you feel that you deserve the abuse.
Other signs that you are with an abuser include manipulation, coercing you into sex acts, alienating you from your support network and withholding financial resources.
Healthy communication is one of the most important parts of any relationship. Both partners should feel free to be honest without fear of the other’s reaction. Name-calling and screaming are not healthy forms of communication. In an ideal conversation, both partners calmly discuss issues and feelings without interrupting one another.
Good communication takes practice and work. If you have a hard time communicating with your partner in a healthy manner, consider using an outside resource. There are many self-help books and websites offering relationship communication advice. Or, like many couples, you may benefit from third-party mediation or couples counseling.