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Recovery From a Verbally Abusive Relationship

author image Robin Elizabeth Margolis
Robin Elizabeth Margolis is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C., area. She has been writing about health care, science, nutrition, fitness and law since 1988, and served as the editor of a health law newsletter. Margolis holds a bachelor of arts degree in biology, a master's degree in counseling and a paralegal certificate.
Recovery From a Verbally Abusive Relationship
Recovery from a verbally abusive relationship takes time. Photo Credit George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

You have left a relationship in which you were verbally abused, but you still feel depressed. The barrage of hostile, critical comments that your ex-spouse or former lover slung at you still linger in your mind. You would like to find ways to recover from your past verbally abusive relationship and get on with a happier life.


Verbally abusive relationships are documented throughout history. One poignant record is "The Autobiography of Madame Guyon," the memoirs of a 17th century French noblewoman, who was also a Catholic mystic. Madam Guyon was verbally abused by her husband throughout their marriage, leaving psychological wounds that did not begin to heal until after her husband died. Verbal abuse by both men and women within marriage was recognized in British legal cases, as documented by scholar Elizabeth Foyster in her 2005 book, "Marital Violence: An English Family History, 1660--1857."


Verbal abuse by spouses and lovers was a staple of Victorian literature. In George Eliot's 1876 novel, "Daniel Deronda," Henleigh Grandcourt, a wealthy British nobleman, slowly destroys both his young wife and his older former mistress with continuous cruel remarks designed to harm their self-esteem and keep them obedient to him. He derives emotional satisfaction from reducing two intelligent, proud, fiery women into shadows of their formerly assertive selves.


One way to recover from verbal abuse is to find a therapist. Many of the barbed remarks from your ex-spouse or former lover have probably lodged deep within your mind, diminishing your self-esteem and triggering depression and anxiety. A good therapist can help you identify and heal from these lingering wounds. A therapist can also work with you on how to identify potential abusers, so that you can avoid dating them in the future. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy can help you find a therapist who has experience with abuse issues.

Books and Groups

Another way to recover from verbal abuse is to learn as much as you can about the subject through books and support groups. One useful book is Patricia Evans' "The Verbally Abusive Relationship," reissued in 2010, which outlines the process of verbal abuse, the abuser's thought patterns, and how you can resist being influenced by the verbal abuse you received. You can locate support groups of your peers through networks such as PsychCentral's webpage, Abuse: Support Groups.

Regaining Positive Outlook

Other tools that you can use for your recovery are secular and spiritual teachings on ways to regain a positive outlook. For example, the new field of positive psychology offers practical techniques for replacing your negative thought patterns with positive ideas, as described in Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky's 2007 book, "The How of Happiness." If you are seeking spiritual strengthening, many religious traditions offer emotionally consoling meditation and prayer techniques. After her husband's death, Madame Guyon sought healing in the meditation techniques that had sustained her throughout her abusive marriage, and became a famous spiritual teacher, with a gift for helping depressed women. You may also discover new personal strengths during your recovery.

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