Verbal Emotional and Spiritual Abuse

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Signs of Verbal, Emotional and Spiritual Abuse:

  • Do you feel like you just can’t win or do anything right no matter what you say and how you act within your relationship?
  • Do you cringe and have to reach for stamina when your mate comes home? Do you walk on eggshells in your home?
  • Has your self-esteem and self-confidence eroded—at times to the extent that you wish you wouldn’t wake up to live another day?
  • Does your partner minimize, trivialize and undermine the essence of your being?
  • Does your partner demoralize you? Are you often the brunt of your partner’s jokes to make him/her look better in their own eyes?
  • Do you feel isolated and afraid with nobody to talk to that seems to understand?

Fear not. There is support for you within a safe system on these pages and through the Free From Verbal Abuse forum.

The above bullets are some of the symptoms of verbal abuse. Whoever made up that rhyme about “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me” was just plain wrong! Words do hurt. They can break a person on the inside just as surely as a whack with a stick bruises the outside.

An Interview with Del Hungerford:

I’m talking today with Del Hungerford, a  Harvard graduate who has written a book on overcoming verbal abuse called But Words Will Never Hurt Me.  Because of an emotionally abusive marriage that she was in at one time, she came to recognize through the counseling process that she was allowing her husband to verbally abuse her.

verbal abuse

Verbal Abuse: But Words Will Never Hurt Me by Del Hungerford

Denice: I love the jacket cover of your book Del. Did someone help you with that? It’s genius. I love how the words infiltrate your face on the cover. Very symbolic because you don’t see these words on everyday faces and I know that verbal abuse crosses all lines of race and hierarchy of society—even men in a relationship can be abused. 

Del: Thanks. Yes, my friend Pam helped to put that together. I thought it was great too! Yes, there are many misconceptions about the “types” of people who get involved in domestic violence. First of all, it is across all levels of society—all races, sexes, financial status and sexual preferences.

I was “ABD” (All But Dissertation) for a doctoral degree and even all my education didn’t help. The goal was to finish the degree within a year of marriage but that didn’t happen. In actuality, finishing the dissertation ten years later was part of my healing process. I took back what was “stolen” from me through the abusive marriage.

Denice: And you actually wrote a book about your process of recognizing verbal abuse, Del? Was this a part of your healing or a higher calling to help others recognize the signs of verbal abuse so that they too could heal and overcome being the victim in these circumstances?

Del: Well, once I started my research on verbal abuse I found there were some good textbooks on the subject—and believe me I read everything I could get my hands on. As a Christian woman, I took my vows of marriage very seriously and wanted to do whatever I could to save my marriage. What I found though was not so much information in the literature involving real people, real circumstances and actually ideas on how to find words to use in case study format to work through verbal abuse.

Based on what I hear from those who write me, the same is true with most people. They, like me, were not able to figure out what the problem was without some assistance.

Denice: How long were you married then? Six years or so? And then you opted for a separation?

Del: Yes, and my time of separation from my husband was meant to get some help so we could get back together. However, after counseling and working with people who understood abuse, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. He opted for a divorce and married his secretary within  six months of ending our marriage.

Denice: Wow. I’m proud of you for getting your doctorate finally Del. Many abused people in my own practice just never get the joy of walking on the God Path I call it. I believe that we are all here, made in the image of God, here to be God’s hands, ears, eyes and heart.

If we live in fear and are abused and controlled, we never get to perform those services. You’ve truly overcome the challenges of abuse and are just doing so much good for our world. So, tell me about your training. What makes you feel comfortable enough to handle a huge project such as the one you started? 

Del: My training is experience and my own research has definitely helped but I started out as a public school teacher. Our continuing education always included the current training on handling abuse and neglect. I’ve also had training in handling crisis as a volunteer for the Alternatives to Violence on the Palouse for two years. We had 40 hours of initial training and 20 hours each year to keep current with our advocacy. I was a house mother in a sorority for 11 years so handled lots of crisis there and am currently the house administrator for an on-campus dormitory.

In addition, I’ve talked with many, many people who have been in (and are currently in) abusive relationships and hear the same story over and over again. I think that once you’ve gone through something, you become more intuitive to others in similar situations. I’ve spent the last fourteen years reading and researching on the subject of emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse. I’ve put a bunch of that research up on my website, too.

Denice: I saw that Del. Nice links page. Now, you approach this from a Christian view. Where does one start when they suspect they are not in a God-centered relationship any longer?

Del: A good first place to start is figuring out what is involved in the partnership discord. If it is abuse, then what kind of abuse. Certainly one wouldn’t want to stay in a dangerous situation and there are organizations listed on my website to address those instances, but if the abuse is verbal or spiritual or emotional abuse then there are resources that can be used from the home like the forum I’ve developed. 

I’ve found that the first hurdle to get over is to realize that it doesn’t matter what religion you are, abuse is never acceptable. Then the person has to realize he/she cannot control the behavior of their partner. Lastly, and probably most importantly, the victim needs to realize that the partner’s behavior is not “Godly” and that he/she doesn’t have to put up with it.

Once an abusive spouse starts treating the partner in an abusive manner, the marriage covenant (what was agreed upon at the time of marriage) has been broken. Basically, the victim is released from that covenant unless the abuser gets help. I have a whole article on this topic on my website.

Denice: What I see is that Christian women in general just try so hard to make things work. It does take two, but they seem to think that just giving 200 percent will alleviate the need for the partner to put in some effort as well. They take more blame for things that go wrong in a relationship. The guilt of not making it work is almost unsurmountable sometimes.

It sure was for me. “I can take it” was my motto for many years, but honestly I came to the conclusion that God didn’t really want me to suffer my entire life. Often it’s devastating to even discuss marital problems within the church or with your minister because the person abused seems to have to go through being judged. My own church ostracized me and took the side of my husband’s family. And then there’s the sin issue. Did you have challenges in that way Del?

Del: Oh yes. Honestly, it took me an entire year to realize that I was in an abusive relationship and that was AFTER I was already separated. I was hung up on breaking the marriage covenant and felt that if I kindered, he would change. Well, as you can see, that didn’t happen. Abusers know how to take advantage of you.

Denice: That has been my experience as well. (Pause) You have a beautiful developing interactive forum as a result of that experience. There is always good that comes from adversity, don’t you agree Del?

Del: Yes. The forum is designed specifically for those dealing with domestic violence of all types. I started the forum to provide a safe place for people to discuss the abuse with others. It really helped me to “talk it out” with others. Everyone who has ever written me needed someone to talk with. They’ve all been grateful that I even responded. So, can you imagine how it will help for people to have a regular place to go? It’s like a 24/7 support session.

Denice: So, how does it work then? If you want to be on the forums you pay $5/month or you can purchase a 6-month membership?

Del: Yes, and we do have people who donate money for the people who want to partake but can’t afford to for whatever reason. We call those people supporters.  Supporters have the opportunity to donate on a recurrent monthly basis or can give a one-time donation or donate as often as they would like. My address is on the website. Just write the word Supporter on the memo area of the check.

The people who join our forum use alias names to protect their identity and we have ways of screening to be sure that the abusers are not able to get onto the forums. The minimal fees charged for the forum help pay for the forum software in addition to keeping it a safe place for people to discuss often very private matters.

Denice. And you educate people on how to stay safe on the site so that their abuser can’t find out they are getting help?

Del: Yes, I have several tutorials up on the forum that walk people through how to navigate on the forum as well as what to do to remain safe. People are able to access these tutorials in the private part of the website. 

Denice: I noticed that those directions are also in writing as well. You’ve really done a lot of work on finding support staff who really have hearts of gold and who are willing to put in time to help others overcome verbal abuse. Looking through the names here and by hearing you talk about these people for the last decade or so I feel like I already know them. I know you and where your heart is and I know you would be very picky about the people who you chose to help you in this project. How did you meet Seneca, the woman who specializes in flower essences? 

Del: I met Seneca through Now Interpret This! (a dream and prophetic forum). I also use the flower essences, which have really been helpful with the emotional stuff. Seneca also runs a business class to help people get on their feet by starting their own businesses. She runs that on the Now Interpret This! website.

Denice: I knew Seneca’s father. He was the nicest man. He was the mayor of Kooskia, ID before he passed over. Now, what about Esther? 

Del: I met Esther in the 1980’s, about the time her son was killed by a drunk driver. If you want to talk about a woman who has been through a lot, it’s Esther! She was one of the people who helped me see that my husband was abusive to me. At the time, I was too numb to see what was going on. Plus, it didn’t help that I was pretty ill, too. And you’re forgetting yourself Dr. Moffat. I want to thank you for donating some time to helping others overcome this life challenge.  I must say that because of you, I am now a healthy and vibrant person. You’ve assisted me through some pretty tough stuff since my marriage ended.

Denice: Gosh, it has been a long time since we met. How long has it been? About 10 years? I feel honored to be a part of that support staff for you and for your project and I’m happy to donate the time and energy for it in ways that I can.

Del: (Nods) I met you right after I was divorced in 2000. I had gone to see you because I simply felt like crap and although my grandparents had paid for a complete physical, the doctors could find nothing wrong. Over time, working with you, I began to feel better and now, 14 years later, I feel better than I have in a long time. Plus, I love that you have helped my cats, too. We all love you!!!

Denice: 14 years. Wow. How time flies! Tell us more about this forum you’ve developed.

Del: So, in moving on with life. . .because of my experiences and what others have said, I decided to start a forum where those in abusive relationships can get help and support. ( Many in an abusive relationship are not be able to physically go somewhere for assistance; they tend to stay quiet and hope things will improve. The Free From Verbal Abuse Forum is available to anyone who has access to the Internet.

Denice: What is a forum?

Del: A forum is a place for people to “talk through” their struggles and get insight from other members. The best part about the Free from Verbal Abuse forum is the ability to converse in private, and you never have to let anyone know your true identity.

The Free From Verbal Abuse forum offers:

    • Public sections with information on where to go for help, abuse definitions, and guidance.
    • Private discussions, support groups, and access to individual assistance with an upgraded membership ($5 per month or $25 for six months)
    • Classes to assist “victims” as they work through the process of healing. These classes cover all types of items that those in abusive situations might need assistance with.

Denice: OK, so how do you go about getting on the forums then?

Del: On the website click the Sign Up Now button. This will take you to a PayPal form to fill out. You can pay using Pay Pal. If the user is concerned that the charge will show up on the credit card or that their abuser will somehow track the payment, they can get in touch with me directly, send me a check, or we can discuss using funds from a supporter. This erases the paper trail. Once you’re registered, then you’ll be able to interact in the forums. 

Denice: So, if the sky is the limit then . . .and I know that’s your take on life. . . what would be the optimal result of your book, workbook, website and forum? What do you want to accomplish with it? 

Del: The goal is for people to find help. When I was doing research and trying to figure out stuff on my own, I ran across lots of good books but none with full stories of victims. I wanted to see HOW they worked through their issues. So, my main goal with the forum is to help people discover what they need to do to be free from the emotional stress of the abuse.

Denice: I like it. So now, the workbook and online class to help others overcome being verbally abused, how do we learn more about that?

Del: The class will be according to semesters with 15 classes per semester. Students will do the work at their own pace and each week will cover a different chapter of the book But Words Will Never Hurt Me. 

The workbook goes along with the weekly chapter work where the participants fill out the worksheets, and then we have “activations” that they do with others. Once someone is at that point, they get on the forum and ask for a partner to do the assignment with. Either staff, Encouragers, or other class participants can help with the activations.

Denice: What is an activation and can you give us the links to look over the class information and schedule? When do the classes start and how does one sign up?

Del: An activation is an interactive exercise or call to action, like a mini-lecture to help you to see something which enables you to walk into the next step on healing. These are done with other people on the forum, often in a chat room venue with regards to the site.

I’m working on the class schedule right now, but it isn’t quite fleshed out yet.  Signing up will involve getting on the forum and starting a conversation. I’ll have opportunities to give examples of verbal abuse using the categories on my site, then an opportunity to discuss how it made you feel. We’ll allow others to respond with their own experiences and provide some insight into their situations, too. You will find that as you look at the examples in other people’s relationships that you’ll understand it in your own.

Here’s information on the classes: and also here:

I do ask that if you’re reading this and know of someone who would benefit from this forum, please encourage them to join. Again, if money is a problem (which often is the case in abusive relationships), we do have “supporters” that provide scholarships.

Denice: So what are the categories of verbal abuse? Can you give us some shortened versions of how to define and describe them? You really go into this in depth on your website, but we don’t want to overwhelm the readers today.

Del: (Laughs) Well, the categories of abuse are basically standardized. You can find them on my website at: I split up the categories a little more than the standardized categories because I feel that some should be two categories. For example, blocking and diverting are often listed as one category but…. the block comes first followed by the diverting.

Also, I added some more covert categories such as abusive body language and indifference. Those were huge in my marriage and not much was mentioned about those when I was doing my own research, so I have a total of 27 categories when most people only have 15.

Denice: OK, so what is an abuser? Don’t we all fall short of being perfect once in a while?

Del: An abuser is someone who engages in abusive behaviors as part of their normal every-day life. You’re right, we all have times when we become abusive, but abusers want to be in control of the relationship ALL of the time, so let’s just talk over the categories using an example of each:

Abusive Anger:

Using condemning, disapproving, defaming words; pushing shame and disgrace onto the partner.

Denice: You mean like calling your partner and airhead or f-ing stupid for a living?

Del: Exactly.

Abusive Body Language:

This is meant as a form of control and is used by the abuser without ever saying a word. Examples are: demeaning looks, making the partner walk ‘one step over and behind,’ smirks and rolling the eyes among other body and facial expressions.


The abuser will often find fault with everything the victim does or doesn’t do. Nothing is right and even when it’s obvious the blame belongs to the abuser, he/she won’t own up to it. This occurs often by saying something like, “Had you not done ____, I wouldn’t have reacted that way!” In essence, the abuser is holding the victim responsible for the abuser’s actions.

Denice: This one is used often when physically abusing the partner. Kind of justifies the abuse in the abusers mind.


Making the partner feel guilty for things not of their doing. This is a key type of abuse. An example of this from my own marriage was where I was always blamed for our financial problems because the “espresso business is sinking us.” In reality, it was Todd who couldn’t manage the funds. His budgeting skills were interesting…


The abuser will keep the partner from accomplishing his/her goals.  He/she will obstruct or do things to interfere with the partner’s normal plans. Blocking often occurs in partner counseling. Unless a counselor is well-versed in domestic violence, it may take some time for a counselor to recognize that blocking is taking place.


Aggressive behavior (generally among school aged children) that involves making threats, accessing and then advertising embarrassing personal information, attacking physically or verbally, exclusion from a group, and any other form of showing “power over” another student. Children who bully often turn into adult abusers if the behavior isn’t dealt with in childhood.


Dominating, dictating, oppressing, commanding, demanding submission. The abuser feels out of control over his/her life, therefore, tries to control the partner. The abuser must have the last word, is always right, and will do anything to make sure he/she is one step ahead of the victim.

Denice: I must say that I see this type of verbal abuse in diabetic men. Not so much with women diabetics. It seems like the man is so discouraged that he cannot control his own body that he just spews controlling behavior over the areas of his life that he thinks he CAN control.


The abuser is constantly countering and correcting everything the partner says and does. The partner’s view is different than the abusers, and he/she doesn’t like it, even though he/she may never voice it. Discussions are often cut off in mid-sentence so the partner’s thoughts cannot be finished. The partner is not allowed to have their own ideas or thoughts.

Arguments can also take the form of countering. The victim may offer a perfectly logical idea but it’s always countered with the abuser’s own thoughts and ideas (which are more important).

Denice: So mostly the abused partner just doesn’t converse then their partner is in the vicinity? Kind of like little silent mice. 

Crazy Making:

The abuser will make you feel like you’re going crazy because the terms keep changing.

Denice: Oh, I know this one. I call it “moving the carrot”. You can never seem to get the things that you want because there are always more things to accomplish to please the abuser so that you can move forward. Isn’t this kind of like blocking and diverting?


Denial is all about not taking responsibility for one’s actions. “I never said/did that!” is a perfect example of denial even when it’s obvious the abuser is wrong. He/She can never see his/her part of any wrongdoing, hurtful actions, or hurtful words.


An example of discounting would be the abuser saying something like “Quit making such a big deal out of that!” Another example would be “You’ve got it all wrong… here’s the right answer….”

Denice: So basically the abuser is not validating the concerns their partner has? What about discounting time spent? One of my partners never acknowledged that I also had an important job and worked almost twice the amount of hours by shoving his kids off on me to babysit while he went out of town to work–even though he only had his kids for 6 weeks out of the summer.

It was totally exasperating to me and totally unfair to the children. If we had discussed it prior to his leaving that would have been one thing, but he gave me only minutes’ notice making me look like some kind of stepmother ogre. It was a rotten deal all around. The kids didn’t appreciate spending 10 hour days at my office and it made my clients uncomfortable as well.


The verbal abuser refuses to communicate, establishes what can be discussed, or withholds information. The abuser controls discussion, withholds information, or diverts his or her partner’s attention to something else. Blocking comes first, followed by the diversion. A classic example of diverting would be changing the subject if the abuser doesn’t agree with or doesn’t want to hear what the partner has to say.


Verbal abusers may “forget” incidents that were upsetting to his/ her partner, arguments, and discussions. He/she may also selectively “forget” important commitments, dates, and promises he/she made to his/her partner.

Denice: So, does this include forgetting special days like Valentines Day, birthdays and Christmas?

Del: Yes, it often does. But, the abuser will remember enough of them to make you think he/she just forgot. It’s all about the control.


Indifference is when the abuser takes no interest in his/her partner. It’s as if the partner is a stranger.  There’s no effort on the part of the abuser to engage in activity or conversation with the partner. This can take place in private or public and is often demonstrated by the abuser ignoring the victim in some manner.


The abuser makes it difficult for the partner to see family or friends. During isolation, the partner rarely associates with anyone but the abuser. Isolation also involves the abuser keeping tabs on the partner when he/she goes anywhere. Time frames are usually set up where everything the partner does is under the scrutiny of the abuser. This is meant to keep the partner in some form of isolation.

Joke or Tease:

Although the abuser’s comments may masquerade as humor, they cut the partner to the quick. The verbal jabs may be delivered crassly or with great skill, but they all have the same effect of diminishing the partner and throwing him/her off balance.  Joking can also be used as a form of correction. If the abuser doesn’t like something the victim is doing, joking is often used to “let the victim know” that his/her behavior isn’t acceptable.

Judge and Criticize:

The verbal abuser may judge the partner and then express judgment in a critical way in private or in public. If the partner objects, the abuser may tell him/her that he/she is just pointing something out to be helpful.


The lying of an abuser is different than “normal” lying (if there is such a thing) because it’s used as a form of control. Lying becomes a form of blocking and/or diverting to keep the partner “at bay.” When an abuser uses lies in a controlling manner, it becomes abusive.


The abuser may understand how important something is to the partner, but will play down that importance. An example of minimizing might be something such as “Why are you making such a big deal out of that? Anyone could have done it! What makes you so special?”

Denice: Or what about minimizing the importance of religion or a special activity their partner really loves by calling it silly or a waste of time? And always finding ways so that the partner cannot enjoy those activities because the activities of the abusers life are so much more important for the partner to go to? So, what’s the difference between minimizing and discounting?

Del: In a way, these two types of abuses are very similar. The biggest difference is that in minimizing, it’s more like “that’s not important” where with discounting, it would be “nope, that’s not right… this is correct.”


The abuser may continually call the partner “stupid, klutz, dummy, etc.” for whatever reasons he/she feels warranted in doing so. Name-calling can also be more covert, or not as obvious.

Sometimes, the “lack of” calling the partner by the appropriate name, can also be considered name-calling. Various “pet names” that we have for our partners can be considered name-calling, especially if the partner doesn’t appreciate it.

A perfect example of covert name-calling would be “Hey, you!” instead of using the partner’s name. If this is done on a consistent basis without the abuser ever calling the partner by his/her name, it can be considered name-calling. I say this because the goal is to devalue the partner for who he/she really is. It’s name-calling in reverse because there is no name being called.


When an abuser gives orders instead of asking, he/she treats the partner like a slave or a subordinate.

Denice: Ahh, the “snap to and pay attention or I’ll make it 10 times harder on you” routine. So demeaning.


The abuser deliberately damages property or disrupts the partner’s life, job, or business dealings. This is very closely related to undermining, but with sabotage, the abuser will go beyond the act of undermining. It’s the next step to destroying something the partner cares about.

Denice: Yes, and doesn’t it just tick you off when they gloat about your failure because of their sabotage after the fact and say “See? I knew you would fail.” This is really building bad karma for them don’t you think? 

Spiritual Abuse in Relationships:

Spiritual abuse in a relationship is when one partner uses religious values to “rule over” the other partner.  There are some faiths that believe a husband has authority over his wife and will use religion to keep her in line.  He rules the house and the wife should always come into line under his authority.

Some religions require that the wife submit to the husband in everything; never giving her access to her own beliefs or opinions. It’s forcing the wife to submit at all costs based on the beliefs and/or teachings of their (or his) religion.

Denice: Hmm, the old I Corinthians 7 bible verse. I guess what I don’t understand about this form of bible abuser is why they don’t read the entire verse. I guess I don’t understand why this verse is so often misquoted or misinterpreted. Even though I’ve had husbands in the past who said I was “too religious,” I admit to not understanding the bible most of the time, but doesn’t this verse make a marriage a give-and-take kind of thing? The man is not supposed to dominate over the woman. They are a team. They honor each other and work together. Am I right about this?

Del: Yes, you are very right about this. The Bible also says that the husband is to love his wife like Christ loves the church. “Honoring” one another doesn’t mean “lording over” them. When the Bible tells the wife to submit, it’s a voluntary submission and to a man who is loving and honoring his wife.

Denice: Well that makes more sense to me.


The abuser manipulates the partner by bringing up his/her biggest fears. The abuser may threaten to expose something personal, or bully him/her into doing something his/her way. The abuser may threaten to leave or get a divorce. In some cases, the threat may be to escalate the abuse. It’s usually an “either/or” scenario.

Denice: The button pushers. Find every weak point in your partner, then use it against them like some kind of war strategy. Despicable. 


An attempt to take something that is said or done and make it insignificant. When this is done in a frank and sincere manner, it can be difficult to detect. Trivializing is where an abusive partner makes light of his/her partner’s accomplishments, achievements, or event. The partner of an abuser may not feel the matter or incident is significant due to the abuser’s trivialization of it.

Denice: OK, I don’t understand the difference between discounting, minimizing and trivializing then. This is hard!

Del: It will get easier when you see some examples on the forum. 


The abuser not only withholds emotional support, but also erodes confidence and determination. The abuser often will squelch an idea or suggestion just by a single comment.  To undermine a partner is to undercut or weaken anything he/she is doing or will try to do.

Denice: Wouldn’t an example of this be when one partner is trying to discipline a child and the other partner goes behind their back and tells them that what they’ve done is OK if “mom” doesn’t catch you doing it? This just isn’t healthy for the partnership or the child. They learn how to be manipulative in their own relationships.

Del: That’s a perfect example.


If a partner withholds information and feelings, then their bond weakens. The abuser who refuses to listen to his/her partner, denies his/her experience and leaves him/her isolated. Withholding occurs when one partner withholds affection, information, thoughts, and feelings from his/his partner. When one person in a relationship withholds, intimacy cannot be created.

Denice: Gosh, this is a bit overwhelming Del. How do you prevent these abusers from entering your life when you may have grown up in an abusive environment? I can definitely see myself as having been verbally and spiritually abused many times in my life, but I think I’d need to have a youtube video of each of these categories with a real-life scenario of the subject. And wouldn’t boundaries work along with building self-esteem be important in sorting out these characters ahead of time?

Del: Interesting idea. I’ve completed other how to use the website videos and am working on learning programs to upload other videos. I’ll keep this in mind. To answer your other question, we live in a world full of sick people. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to encounter people who are abusive.

Esther once told me that even the victim plays a part in the process, which at first I didn’t want to listen to. When you learn to recognize something as abusive behavior, and know what it is, at that point, it’s easier to combat the effects it has on you. Many people experience abuse from their bosses, classmates, friends, etc. It’s a matter of learning how to respond in a manner where you’re not giving up “your” control to the abusive person.

Denice: Maybe we could have the website participants write up some stories on being abused and you could show the re-enacted clip, then talk about it afterwards? Is there anything more you want to tell the audience that I haven’t asked, Del?

Del: Many of you who are reading this interview will find yourself in the same situation as me, or know of someone who is in an abusive relationship. You’re trying to figure out what happened and what YOU did to cause it to happen. First of all, you did nothing. You don’t have control over your partner’s behavior. He/she gets to own his/her own behavior. Once you realize that, you can move on with the process.

Denice: How does the reader contact you Del?

Del: I can be reached through my website, or through email at

Other Helpful pages for verbal, emotional and spiritual abuse:

More helpful links/references for when things get out of control:


Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: How do you decide when someone has crossed the line from being badly behaved — unkind, angry, etc. — to being abusive? I guess another way of asking is, when is it time to stop seeking therapy and seek a restraining order instead? — Anonymous

Anonymous: Bad behavior — “unkind, angry, etc.” — from an intimate partner is abuse — unless you’re talking about extremely rare occasions with a clear explanation, like depression or other mental illness, and/or significant external stressors, and followed by an immediate acceptance of responsibility for crossing that line.

And finally, if you’re asking about a restraining order, then it’s time to go — but with extreme caution and with the guidance and, if needed, protection of experts. Start here if you don’t have something lined up yet: the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-SAFE, and; or the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN, 800-656-HOPE, and That’s because perpetrators of “unkind, angry” behavior often escalate when they realize they’re losing control of their relationship.

MOSAIC threat assessment,, from Gavin de Becker’s organization, author of “The Gift of Fear,” can help you gauge your risk.

Take good care of yourself, please. Make those calls.

And in general, hold this in mind, especially if it’s something you weren’t taught to believe: The people who deserve your (personal) time are the ones who, consistently, behave as if they’re grateful to have it.