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When your spouse communicates with you, what is the goal of his/her communication? When married to a verbal abuser the of most communication is to manipulate and gain control. The objective is to put you in the role of someone who meets his/her needs.
Manipulating via verbal abuse is about the abuser getting the spouse to agree to something without realizing they've been manipulated. It is a form of psychological manipulation meant to steer a spouse away from their own sense of autonomy and faith in their own ability to make choices for themselves. Below are 4 examples of verbally manipulative conversations.
The "Too Bad" Conversation
You spend the day cleaning the house. Baseboards are scrubbed, the kitchen is spotless and you are feeling good about all you’ve accomplished. Your husband comes in from work and says, “good job, too bad you didn’t use more wax on the floor.”
What is he saying with this statement? He is complimenting you and at the same time dismissing your hard work. You have become his servant; a person whose job it is to meet what he feels is appropriate as far as cleaning the house. If your spouse makes statements that cause you to want to defend yourself…explain why you didn’t use more wax, you are being verbally manipulated.
The "If You Loved Me" Conversation
You have an important work-related social event that you want to attend. Your wife doesn’t feel she needs to make an appearance. To justify her lack of interest in accompanying you she says, “if you loved me you wouldn't make me go.”
What is her objective with this statement? To cause you to feel guilt. If you were a good husband, you would put your needs aside in favor of her needs. You love your spouse; you go out of your way to show how much you love your spouse. What better way to manipulate you than for your spouse to question your love for them? A stubble sign, but one that is a classic form of verbal manipulation.
The "I Did It for us" Conversation
Money is tight, your wife doesn’t work outside the home and you have full responsibility for paying the bills. Your wife books an expensive vacation on a cruise ship. What is her response when you become upset with her for spending money you don’t have?
“I did it for us. You’ve been so stressed over work and we haven’t spent time alone in a long time. I thought it would be nice for us to get away for a romantic vacation.” Don’t fall for it! She is nothing more than a snake-oil salesman. She is bent and determined to get what she wants at the appearance of giving you something you need. Truth be told, she isn’t the least bit concerned about you and your level of stress.
The Wear You Down Conversation
Then there is the overt verbal manipulator. He/she doesn’t know when to take “no” for an answer. This person wants something and is hell-bent on getting it. Even after you say “no” he/she will come back at you from a new angle. The objective? To wear you down until you say what he/she wants to hear.
Most of us are socially conditioned to be nice. The verbal manipulator knows this and will play on your desire to be nice…to meet their needs. Most of us also respond to comments made by others, especially if we are married to that person. To protect yourself, your best response to the verbal manipulator is no response at all. If he thinks you should have used more wax, who cares. Don’t defend your choices. If she spends money you don’t have, tell her to get a refund for those cruise tickets and refuse to discuss the matter further.
I don’t normally suggest spouses give each other the silent treatment but when dealing with the verbal manipulator, silence is a powerful tool. If you are being abused via verbal manipulation your best response is probably no verbal response at all.