Signs of a Verbally Abusive Wife or Girlfriend

Signs of a Verbally Abusive Wife or Girlfriend

“What she did was take all the pain she’s ever felt in her whole life and aim it at me.”

--One man's description of his ex's verbal abuse 

If you have a verbally abusive girlfriend or wife, you aren't alone. Verbal abuse of men by women is probably as common as verbal abuse of women by men.

Verbal abuse ranges from rageful yelling to passive-aggressive silence. It can be in-your-face bullying or performed in a more backdoor subversive way.

Partner abuse has three motivations driving the behavior: demean, control, or punish. 

Verbally abusive women can achieve their goal to demean, control, or punish loudly or quietly.


What's in This Post

Verbally Abusive Tone and Body Language
The Partner Abuse Continuum
13 Signs of a Verbally Abusive Wife or Girlfriend
 Examples of Women Verbally Abusing Men


 Abuse OF Men BY Women book, women abusing men, women who abuse men, a controlling and abusive wife, verbally and emotionally abusive wife or girlfriend



Verbally Abusive Tone and Body Language

Verbal abuse might more properly be called communication abuse. It isn’t just words that are the mechanism for abuse. Tone and body language can also be abusive tools.

Abusive tone and body language can range from coy to aggressive.

A particular woman may use many different forms of tone and body language to demean, control, or punish, or she may have methods of choice that she has honed the art of performing.

Abusive body language has a variety of forms:

  • pouting
  • seducing 
  • looking or turning away
  • walking away
  • aggressively moving towards
  • finger-pointing
  • withdrawing
  • showing a fist
  • smirking
  • temper tantrums
  • crying
  • glaring
  • menacing
  • towering or physically looming over
  • eye-rolling
  • a demeaning, controlling, or punishing glance

An abusive glance can send a message that the target of the glance has been trained to understand through previous experience. The message may be “You’re stupid” or “You better not do that” or “I’m mad at you.”

Abusive tone may be any of the following:

  • seductive
  • fragile
  • helpless
  • intimidating
  • condescending
  • loud
  • aggressive
  • threatening
  • silent
  • whiny
  • coy
  • teasing
  • charming
  • cajoling*

*Cajoling is a great word. The twisting, manipulative intent seems to even come through in the sound of the word.’s definition of cajoling: “To elicit or obtain by flattery, gentle pleading, or insincere language.”


A quick look at Partner Abuse: A Concise Overview of Domestic Violence, Emotional Abuse, and the 5 Other Forms of Partner Abuse in Straight and LGBTQ Relationships



The Partner Abuse Continuum

Not all incidents of use of these forms of tone and body language are necessarily “abusive.”

A confusing aspect of spousal abuse is deciphering when behavior is “abusive” and when it is “normal.”

Each potentially abusive behavior can be placed on a continuum that spans from non-abusive (totally healthy) to very abusive. 

Spousal Abuse Continuum

abusive behavior continuum, signs of a verbally abusive woman, wife, or girlfriend

The difference between abusive and healthy behaviors is often found in motivation. Abusive behaviors have the motivation to demean, control, or punish.

A woman may cry, pout, or turn away simply because she is sad. She may also cry to control, pout to manipulate, or turn away to punish.

Repetition is also an element that moves behavior from less abusive to more abusive on the continuum. 

Everyone gets irritable occasionally. Being abrupt and raising your voice once in a while doesn’t meet the criteria for being called abusive. That behavior lands toward the non-abusive end of the continuum. On the other hand, repeatedly being abrupt and yelling demeaning threatening words in an effort to extract control is abusive--unless it is in response to true danger. (This example shows how tricky it is to decipher where something belongs on the continuum. There are multiple aspects of the situation to consider.)


13 Signs of a Verbally Abusive Wife or Girlfriend

Spousal verbal abuse instruments cover a broad range:

  1. threatening
  2. controlling
  3. demanding
  4. histrionics
  5. fault-finding
  6. berating
  7. humiliating
  8. mocking
  9. biting sarcasm
  10. name-calling
  11. pushing her agenda until he gives in
  12. circular arguing
  13. the silent treatment


     13 Signs of Verbal Abuse, verbally and emotionally abusive wife, girlfriend, husband, or boyfriend, women abusing men, women who abuse men, a controlling and abusive wife


    Examples of Women Verbally Abusing Men

     #4 from the list: Histrionics

    Histrionics are behaviors that are overly emotional and melodramatic. Women who are histrionic keep their partners busy trying to put out fires or preempt them in order to avoid the overreactions.

    Super-crying is an example of histrionics. Its over-the-top crying that serves to get a woman what she wants. It’s often used to end a conversation about a subject she wants to avoid or to divert attention. It can be used to punish her partner for having even tried to have a conversation about something important to him.

    Several men have recounted stories of being met with super-crying when they tried to talk to their wives about finances. In each case, the women controlled the money, and in each case it was eventually exposed that bills weren’t paid or money was missing. The crying achieved the goal of shutting down the husband’s ability to discover the financial manipulations.


    #7 from the list: Humiliating 

    A man described his abusive wife’s propensity to publicly humiliate him in this way:

    “No event seemed safe when attending as a couple. With time, I despised showing up at social functions, parties, and family gatherings. Being a very bright lady, the Ex would artfully manage to introduce her distorted stories about me into conversations with friends, acquaintances, or even complete strangers.

    If a woman was caught bragging about her husband's good deeds, often with misty eyes and deep sighs, the Ex would complement the spouse and then tell her how lucky a woman she was in comparison to her. In front of friends and relatives, I was a constant target and openly accused of never doing or saying anything right. If cold looks and mistrust could kill, I would have died a long time ago.”


    For further explanation of each of the ways women verbally abuse their male partners check out my book:


    Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time to Get Real About It

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    • Ann Silvers
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