Verbal Abuse: The Abuse No One Talks About

June 21, 2012 99 Comments TAGS: Marriage, Stress

By Guest Blogger Henriette Eiby Christensen 

Six years ago, I came out of a 12-year verbally abusive relationship not knowing what had happened.

First relief, then not understanding why I felt so bad, and kept feeling like the world would be a better place without me in it.

Then ANGER. No way was I going to let him continue to have that kind of power over me – I had to understand everything, not only for myself, but also for my three children. And so I started writing and observing.

My ex-husband is a very handsome and smart man. I had always been more passive, a pleaser. I was willing to move and turn every single pebble of my body and soul to accommodate his needs. Why I believe I took the abuse so freely, was because that there was an element of truth to every abusive thing he said about me or others, so I was kept in a state of constant confusion and soul searching. He never hit me. He never came home drunk. But he killed me a thousand times with his mouth. This man was my husband. We shared a bank account.

I did everything wrong– the way I kept our house wasn’t how he liked it. I had too much “stuff.” I was too “laid-back.” He used “positive” critique to belittle me.  He would cover his verbal abuse up in “I’m only being honest.”  He would call me names, and so many more horrific things I care not recall. My friends and family slowly evaporated from our life.

Here is the part which is very hard to explain… why I stayed. I understand that this is sometimes difficult to comprehend from an outsider looking in. You see, I was a stay-at-home mom in Denmark and very isolated. In Denmark, being a stay-at-home mom is frowned upon. Having a job is much more valued. So I was alone. Alone in my beliefs that my children were much more important than any job could possibly be. I felt that I didn’t have children to have other people take care of them. I wanted to be the one to raise them.

An easy target you might say. Yes. I no longer had a network. I no longer had an income. I had no self esteem or self worth. No special skills which might help me create an income. My education was outdated. And I was stuck. Emotionally and financially stuck. 

One day, he decided that we needed a second income, so he pushed me to work. I promptly got a job as a substitute teacher while my youngest was in kindergarten. A couple of years later, I went back to school to get a teaching degree (his idea). Well, guess what? I started socializing. I discovered I was smart. My classmates would call me for help with homework, and they valued my opinion. As I said – working was HIS idea, and it was he who pushed me into getting a degree so I could earn more money for our family. But every time I had an exam, he would threaten me with divorce, belittle me, and say phrases like: “You’re really going to let your studying come before the wellbeing of this family and our children?”  Well, the more of those he came up with, the harder I studied, and along the way my education became my life-raft. It represented financial freedom and social connection. And – most importantly – it represented being valued for who I am as a human being. It saved my life.

We divorced six months before I finished school.

I have written five books on bullying in relationships in Danish. A few months ago I released my first book in English: 110 Ways to Detect a Bad Relationship and it hit Amazon’s “Hot New Releases” list and has been mentioned in Forbes Women. I have never been happier, which is why I have reached a point where I can help others and share.  It has actually become my life’s purpose. I am a link between Verbal Abuse and Happiness.

How can you avoid verbal abuse? By noticing how you feel and appreciating your own self worth. Always listen to your gut feeling – although that can be very hard and very scary, but practice makes perfect.

 Here are five of the biggest telltale signs you are in a verbally abusive relationship:

  1. You are nervous around him. (Walking on eggshells.)
  2. His needs come first. (You drop everything at his call.)
  3. Your friends and family disappear. (They aren’t good enough for you – he says.)
  4. You suffer from various stress and anxiety symptoms. (Stomach and headaches, insomnia, dizziness, depression etc.)
  5. You complain to yourself or other people about him.

Most of all, I hope to reach teens and young adults before they enter into long term relationships and get stuck. So it is my wish to reach the educational systems all over the world.

Love and Blessings.


About Henriette Eiby Christensen…

Born in 1962, Danish. Lived in the USA from 1984 to 1990. Author, Artist, Teacher, Speaker, Counselor. Single mother of three.

Henriette is the author of 110 Ways to Detect a Bad Relationship – Before it’s too Late. Her new book 110 Ways to Charm your Brain – Positive Thinking is coming out soon.

Follow Henriette on her website

I hope Henriette’s story has touched you, taught you, made you think about your own self-worth, and will make you reach out for help if you are in a similar situation. It is my goal for this post to help someone who might be suffering. Please forward this to anyone you feel might be in a similar situation. I hope her message of hope, despair and resilience will stay with you. If you have any comments or questions for Henriette, I encourage you to post them right here.



    1. BBNo Gravatar says:

      But I don’t want to leave him. I want to fix this. We have a very young daughter and I have to protect her from him. I don’t want to have to watch her walk away from me to him if we have to share custody. I have identified the problem but leaving him is not a solution for me. Any advice for that?

      • Dear BB
        You may be able to fix it – you may not be able to fix it.

        Fixing it requires his corporation – his realizing that there is a problem.
        I recently read an article on that – let me see if I can find it for you.
        It is on how the abuser will have to assume 90% of the healing process (in normal relationships it is of course 50/50) – but that means he has to be aware of what he is doing to you and really want to change.

        You can’t fix him but you can put your foot down and teach him how you want to be treated.

        If you stay and things don’t change you will have to assume 100% of the responsibility for what you are teaching your daughter about relationships. You know how it is – they learn from what we do not from what we say.

        If you leave you will have to be stronger than you could ever imagine but there is help to be found – scroll down and check out the other comments.

        I know how hard it is. <3

        Having a daughter was an eyeopener for me. No way was I going to be a catalyst for her finding relationships like the one I had with her dad. I knew I had to do something. I took me six years to break the spell I was under but I am so happy I did. My daughter still suffers from low self-esteem but we are working on it.
        She saved my life.

        All my best and I'll get back to you if I find the article.
        Take good care of yourself and do something nice for you every day.

    2. MC says:

      May your story continue touching the lives of others in tge most profound manner to ensure that no person ever stays in an abusive relationship that can destroy their being… Congratulations in finding the best in “you.”

    3. I am glad that you have overcome the abuse you went through, it is good to see that you feel that you did not deserve it, and that you were smart, valuable, and an overall a good person. You are not worthless. I am glad to see that you are trying to help others out of abusive relationships.

    4. Hélène Blais says:

      anger saved me too from suicide.

      can’t wait to read your book.

      thank you !

      yours truly


    5. Rebecca V ThomsonNo Gravatar says:

      After 27 years, I have finally found the strength to get counseling and I know it is helping me to find the strength to leave my verbally abusive husband. You described it so perfectly. I didn’t know it was abusive because he made it seem so normal and like everything was always my fault. I haven’t left yet, but I am preparing to. I wish information like this had been available to me years ago. Maybe I would have seen myself in it and not wasted so many years. But all I can do is move forward now and once I am strong enough, maybe I can help others like you are.

      • Thank you so much.
        You are not alone in leaving after 20+ years.
        Helping others is a good way of healing because it gives purpose to all those years more or less in hell. It wasn’t in vain if you can help others.
        Yes, I hope to reach the 15 – 25 year-olds before they get stuck.
        Find me on facebook if you need to join a support group and scroll down here and find websites and phone numbers etc.
        You can do it.

    6. FayeNo Gravatar says:

      This needs to have more public awareness, and I am so glad that Henriette is turning her negative experiences into positive interactions with the world around her. Henriette, you are someone who should be proud of yourself! Well done for coming out the other side a much stronger person, proof that it can be done.

    7. Please check out the comments – they are all so great.
      Thank you so much

    8. miaNo Gravatar says:

      before i came out as gay, i dated many, MANY men like this. i think that because i am gay, i had only one impression of men; that of my father, who falls into the category of both physically and verbally abusive to both my mother and my brother before my parent’s divorce. so when i thought it was time to start dating, those were the men i fell for. the last relationship before i admitted to myself that i simply was not attracted to men was a bad one. he was verbally abusive, controlling, intimidating. everything listed above i felt around him, until finally one day when i was so alone after a fight that i felt i couldn’t talk to anyone that it finally hit me. he had me so isolated from everyone i loved that i was completely under his control. since then, thank god, things are much better. i would urge anyone in a verbally abusive relationship to step back and take a look at things and really think hard if what you have is healthy.

      • Thank you Mia.
        Waking up is hard and can take decades.
        There is so much you’ll have to face when you do especially if there are kids involved.
        I am happy you got out in time.
        PS you have no idea how many times I have thought being gay would be easier – but of course it isn’t – relationships are relationships whether you are straight or gay 🙂

    9. stephNo Gravatar says:

      I know the place you speak of only too well. I was a mouse by the time the relationship ended and I left. The verbal abuse I took because I believed I could change him, make him “better”. I hadn’t counted on the fact that he had been having an affair all the time I knew him before and during our marriage, so …..

      I left.

      Life is different and I have moved on, in many ways, except that I never ever want to see him again. Not ever.

    10. Becca says:

      Thank you for taking the time to share your story. I have recently left my husband/abuser and I thought the fear would be over and I would be less confused, but it is taking a long time to heal. I am determined to be stronger for my daughters, so that they will be able to look for the signs of an abusive relationship and be able to avoid them.

      • Thank you.
        Yes it takes a long time to heal. <3

        Teach your daughters five things:
        1. "No relationship is worth being miserable over" Vern Reo
        2. If a relationship isn't good – why be in it?
        3. ALWAYS listen to your gut feeling. Teach them how to do that.
        4. Give any relationship only three chances.
        5. If someone physically abuses you – get out NOW. No chances.

        They'll be fine 🙂

    11. HarrietNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you so much for this article. I’ve been in several relationships very much like the one you describe and it was only after seeking therapy that I’ve finally broken the cycle. The key line for me is ‘kept me in a state of constant confusion’ – my exes were all very bright and knew exactly how to tangle me in my own arguments until I didn’t know which way was up and felt stupid and helpless, making me justify why I wore makeup or certain clothes or held certain beliefs, critiquing my every move. It wasn’t until I was out of the relationships that I could see exactly how much control they had exerted over my life. I wish I’d read something like this ten years ago and maybe I wouldn’t have wasted so much time and love on men who deserved it the least. Thank you.

      • Exactly Harriet <3
        You put it so well.
        Anyone can fall for a person with a toxic personality. The problem is how much strength it take to leave it again…And that you'll have to stay awake and aware for the rest of your life – just as if you were quitting an addiction.
        Thank you too.

    12. HeleneNo Gravatar says:

      A modern-day Nora Helmer.

      • Even women who are strong, smart and independent can be slowly and surely belittled into nothingness.
        Getting out of a bad relationship is just as difficult and takes just as much stamina and willpower as quitting drugs.

    13. ReinwalNo Gravatar says:

      Hai Kawan! Saya akan mengajukan pertanyaan yang paling penting di dalam kehidupan ini. Kebahagiaan dan kesusahan Anda dari sekarang sampai selama-lamanya akan bergantung pada jawaban Anda. Pertanyaannya adalah: Apakah Anda sudah diselamatkan? Ini bukan pertanyaan tentang perbuatan baik Anda, bukan juga apakah Anda anggota gereja, tetapi apakah Anda sudah diselamatkan? Apakah Anda yakin akan masuk surga setelah meninggal dunia. Allah mengatakan bahwa untuk dapat masuk ke surga, Anda harus dilahirkan kembali. Dalam Yohanes 3:7, Yesus berkata kepada Nikodemus, “Kamu harus dilahirkan kembali.” Dalam Alkitab, Allah memberikan rencana bagaimana caranya untuk dapat dilahirkan kembali yang berarti diselamatkan. Rencana-Nya sangat sederhana! Anda dapat diselamatkan hari ini juga. Bagaimana caranya? Pertama-tama kawanku, Anda harus sadar bahwa Anda adalah orang berdosa. “Karena semua orang telah berbuat dosa dan telah kehilangan kemuliaan Allah” (Roma 3:23). Karena Anda adalah orang berdosa, Anda dipastikan akan mengalami maut. “Sebab upah dosa ialah maut” (Roma 6:23).
      Ini artinya pemisahan kekal dari Allah di dalam neraka. “… manusia ditetapkan untuk mati hanya satu kali saja, dan sesudah itu dihakimi” (Ibrani 9 : 27). Tetapi Allah sangat mengasihi Anda, Dia telah memberikan Anak-Nya yang tunggal, Yesus, untuk menanggung dosa Anda dan mati untuk Anda. “. . . Dia (Yesus) yang tidak mengenal dosa telah dibuat-Nya menjadi dosa karena kita, supaya dalam Dia kita dibenarkan oleh Allah” (2 Korintus 5 : 21). Yesus harus meneteskan darah-Nya dan mati. “Karena nyawa makhluk ada di dalam darahnya….. ” (Imamat 17 : 11). “…tanpa penumpahan darah tidak ada pengampunan” (Ibrani 9 : 22). “Akan tetapi Allah menunjukkan kasih-Nya kepada kita, oleh karena Kristus telah mati untuk kita, ketika kita masih berdosa” (Roma 5:8).
      Meskipun kita tidak dapat mengerti bagaimana caranya, Allah berkata bahwa dosa-dosa saya dan Anda telah dibebankan pada Yesus dan Ia mati untuk kita. Dia dijadikan pengganti kita. Ini adalah kebenaran. Allah tidak dapat berbohong, Kawanku, “…sekarang Allah memberitakan kepada manusia, bahwa di mana-mana semua mereka harus bertobat” (Kis 17:30).
      Pertobatan ini adalah perubahan cara berpikir di mana seseorang mengaku dan setuju bahwa ia orang berdosa di hadapan Allah dan mengaku serta menerima apa yang telah dilakukan Yesus di atas kayu salib untuk kita semua. Dalam Kisah Para Rasul 16 : 30-31, penjaga penjara Filipi bertanya kepada Paulus dan Silas :….. Tuan-tuan, apakah yang harus aku perbuat supaya aku selamat?” Jawab mereka : Percayalah kepada Tuhan Yesus Knstus dan engkau akan selamat….. ”
      Percayalah pada-Nya sebagai seseorang yang telah menanggung dosa-dosa Anda, dan mati menggantikan Anda, dikuburkan, dan dibangkitkan kembali oleh Allah. Kebangkitan-Nya memastikan bahwa orang percaya dapat yakin akan kehidupan kekal saat menerima Yesus sebagai Juruselamat. “Tetapi semua orang yang menerima-Nya diberi-Nya kuasa supaya menjadi anak-anak Allah, yaitu mereka yang percaya dalam nama-Nya ” (Yohanes 1:12).
      “Sebab barangsiapa yang berseru kepada nama Tuhan, akan diselamatkan” (Roma 10:13). Barangsiapa dalam kutipan di atas termasuk Anda. Akan diselamatkan bukan berarti mungkin, atau dapat, tetapi pasti diselamatkan.
      Tentu Anda sadar bahwa Anda seorang berdosa. Saat ini juga, di manapun Anda berada, bertobatlah, angkatlah hatimu pada Allah dalam doa. Dalam Lukas 18 :13, seorang yang berdosa berdoa : … Ya Allah, kasihanilah aku orang berdosa ini. ” Berdoalah :
      “Ya Allah,
      aku tahu bahwa aku adalah orang berdosa.
      Aku percaya bahwa Yesus telah menggantikan
      aku waktu Dia mati di kayu salib.
      Aku percaya bahwa penumpahan darah-Nya,
      penguburan-Nya dan kebangkitan-Nya adalah untuk aku.
      Sekarang aku menerima-Nya sebagai Juruselamat-ku.
      Terima kasih atas pengampunan dosa-dosaku,
      pemberian keselamatan dan kehidupan yang kekal,
      karena rahmat dan anugerah-Mu.
      Terimalah Firman Allah dan dapatkanlah keselamatan daripada-Nya dengan iman. Percayalah, maka Anda akan diselamatkan. Bukan gereja, perkumpulan atau pun perbuatan-perbuatan baik yang menyelamatkan Anda. Ingatlah, hanya Allah yang dapat melakukan karya keselamatan, secara menyeluruh! Rencana keselamatan Allah yang sederhana adalah: Anda orang berdosa.
      Apabila Anda tidak percaya dalam Yesus yang telah mati menggantikan Anda, pasti Anda akan tinggal untuk selama-lamanya di dalam neraka. Jika Anda percaya kepada-Nya sebagai Juruselamat yang telah disalibkan, dikuburkan serta dibangkitkan, Anda menerima pengampunan atas segala dosa dan karunia keselamatan kekal karena iman. Anda berkata, “Tidak mungkin semudah itu !” Ya, memang semudah itu ! Ini sesuai Alkitab. Ini adalah rencana Allah.
      Hai kawan, percayalah pada Yesus dan terimalah Dia sebagai Juruselamat-mu hari ini juga. Kalau rencana-Nya masih belum jelas bagi Anda, bacalah tulisan ini berulang-ulang tanpa berhenti sampai Anda mengerti. Jiwa Anda lebih berharga daripada seluruh dunia. “Apa gunanya seorang memperoleh seluruh dunia, tetapi ia kehilangan nyawanya?” (Markus 8 : 36). Anda harus benar-benar pasti akan keselamatan pribadi ini. Apabila Anda kehilangan jiwa, Anda akan kehilangan surga dan kehilangan segala-galanya. Saya mohon dengan sangat, biarkanlah Allah selamatkan Anda saat ini juga! Kuasa Allah akan menyelamatkan Anda, tetapkan keselamatan Anda dan mungkinkan Anda untuk hidup sebagai orang Kristen yang selalu menang atas pencobaan.
      “Pencobaan-pencobaan yang kamu alami ialah pencobaan-pencobaan biasa, yang tidak melebihi kekuatan manusia. Sebab Allah setia dan karena itu Ia tidak akan membiarkan kamu dicobai melampaui kekuatanmu. Pada waktu kamu dicobai Ia akan memberikan kepadamu jalan keluar, sehingga kamu dapat menanggungnya.” (1 Korintus 10:13).
      Jangan tergantung pada perasaan Anda. Perasaan itu selalu berubah. Berdirilah pada janji-janji Allah. Janji-janji Allah tidak pernah berubah. Setelah Anda selamat, ada tiga hal yang perlu dilakukan setiap hari untuk pertumbuhan iman:
      Berdoa-Berbicara kepada Allah. Bacalah Alkitab-Biarkan Allah berbicara. Bersaksi-Anda berbicara bagi Allah.
      Anda perlu dibaptis sesuai kepatuhan Anda pada Tuhan Yesus Kristus sebagai kesaksian pada khalayak ramai atas keselamatan Anda, dan kemudian bergabung secepatnya dengan gereja yang menjunjung tinggi Alkitab sebagai Firman Allah. “Jadi janganlah malu bersaksi tentang Tuhan kita. ……. ” (2 Timotius 1 : 8).
      “Setiap orang yang mengakui Aku di depan manusia, Aku juga akan mengakuinya di depan Bapa-Ku yang di sorga” (Matius 10:32).

    14. LinNo Gravatar says:

      For more information, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233) or visit their website:

      For the most up-to-date resources, you can also visit the National Network to End Domestic Violence at

    15. JessNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you for sharing. I am in a relationship of these kind. All the best to you. And I hope one day I’ll be able to write my own books.

      • You will if you want to 🙂
        Writing is great. Just one small word of caution.
        When I started writing my story as fiction I had to stop because it was making me feel bad again.
        Unfortunately there is a fine line between the therapeutic effect and re-traumatizing yourself…
        So do it if it makes you feel good.
        Now that I write to prevent the same thing from happening to others I feel great about it.

        All the best to you

    16. Ted RubinNo Gravatar says:

      Henriette… thank you so much for sharing, and thanks to Erica too. This is such an important topic and not just about men doing so to women. I loved through a relationship of verbal and emotional abuse and it took me way too long to recognize. Unfortunately my children have had to endure their entire lives and sometimes I think I should have stayed, which I did for a very long time, to be there for them. I now do everything I can, mostly through my actions instead of words (because they are very protective of their mother, in a very Stockholm syndrome manner) , to show them a better way. I do worry that they will adopt what they have lived through. I am told by those I trust, that there is a good chance they will seek help when they are more independent in college and hopefully break free of this albatross.

      • Dear Ted
        I hope they will seek help.
        The thing is – what they perceive as normal is what they have lived though.
        Have you tried goggling “parental alienation”.
        In the long run I think it is better that you have left. It may seem you let them down but in truth you have shown them that what went on wasn’t ok.
        Be there for them when they come to you.
        But do remember that there is a very fine line between supporting their emotions and NOT blaming anyone.

        All the best!

    17. Erica DiamondNo Gravatar says:

      Henriette, I must thank you again for sharing your story with our supportive community. I cannot tell you the number of people on Twitter who have stepped forward, and who have either been or currently are in this type of situation. Can you please provide a hotline number or further resources where women (or men) can reach out to if they are in an abusive relationship?

      Thank you.

      • You should contact your local women’s shelter or crisis center. They know where you can get help where you are.
        Locate a support group for “Women Who Love Too Much” (a book by Robin Norwood)

        To learn more and find help Google or facebook search:
        psychopath, narcissist, borderline, sociopath, bipolar, toxic personalities, personality disorders, character disturbance, stress or anxiety symptoms. Domestic/Verbal/Emotional/Psychological Abuse…

        Center Against Domestic Violence

        Help for Abused & Battered Women: Domestic Violence Shelters

        Abuse Victim Hotline

        Alcoholics Anonymous

        Drug Addicts Anonymous

        Suicide Hotlines

        Your school counselor
        Your church
        Facebook groups

    18. CathyNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story! My kids are presently in the process of learning about good and bad friendship. We talk about how we should feel in a relationship and how it is more important to have quality than quantity. Hopefully they will remember our talk when it will come to long term relationship.

      I wish you all the best, you deserve it!

    19. PattyNo Gravatar says:

      Henriette you are so brave for leaving and then for sharing your story and helping others. I know this will help many who are stuck in a abusive relationship. You are an inspiration and role model.

    20. julieNo Gravatar says:

      so, only men can be verbally abusive?

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