Tag Archive: communication



I read this somewhere recently, and jotted down a few notes as I found I related to what was said. Sadly, I can’t remember where exactly I got this info, but my gut tells me it is from the authors Dr. John Townsend & Dr. Henry Cloud, PhD, as I read a tremendous amount of their work… But don’t quote me on that!

Here is what I took notes on:

Areas Couples find difficult being honest about:

Feelings
Disappointments
Desires, likes & dislikes
Hurts
Anger and hatred
Sex
Sins
Failure
Needs and vulnerabilities

And the barriers to honesty were:

Fear of real closeness and being known
Fear of abandonment and loss of love if they are known
Fears of being controlled and possessed if they are known
Fears of being seen as ‘bad’ or ‘not good enough’ if some part of them is known
Fears of their own desires, needs and feelings.

There is some loaded discussion that can come from that information!

My husband and I recently had a conversation about some of the values that we are freshly committing to in our marriage, as we were reading a book on marriage together, and one of the things we discussed was the absolute need for complete honesty in a relationship, and I can personally relate to the fears that are barriers to that complete honesty. I often fear expressing some of my desires that I feel my husband does not value with me. I know part of it is perception on my end, but actions and tone of voice and expressions speak loudly as well, and sometimes I receive messages from his actions that I allow to cause myself to feel he is unsupportive, and the cognitive distortions run wild believing he does not value my desires. (Admittedly, I currently am speaking of clothes! I’m a bit of a shopping nut! I LOVE purses, and shoes, and jewelry, and clothes… And books. Lol!) My hubby has always been a lot more practical about clothes than I am. This has been a common thread that reoccurs repeatedly, where I feel he diminishes my desire to shop or at least criticizes it. I admittedly, fear that he will control our financial decisions, as my dad did as I was growing up. Jason, (my husband), knows this fear I have. I have been honest with him, but there are times when I see that one shirt I just ‘have to have’ and immediately my gut instinct is shame that he will reject and diminish or refuse to allow me this one indulgence.

On the flip side, I understand what is going on in his mind. We are spending a lot of money on business expenses over the next while, and budget issues and responsibility financially are important values to us both. I know there are other items there as well, but will not reveal his concerns in my blog out of honor and respect for him.

Why I mention this, is that it came up last night. My underlying fear of being controlled, or being seen as ‘bad’ for desiring something I place some level of value on. I know this is a very surfacey and material example, but isn’t that the way it often goes? Couples fight about things that seem to be so insignificant, only to recognize that there is a much deeper issue at the core that is really being exposed and brought to the light!

Looking back up at the list, I am afraid of anger, my own and other’s, again, there are roots to this issue, as well as my fear of disappointing people, or failing. My hubby relates to the fear of failure as well. I fear abandonment or loss of love if I mess up. I fear abandonment even if I don’t mess up! Depending upon the season of my life, I often find myself fearful of being known. Again, there are roots to each of these fears.

It is a good thing if you are able to get these issues out into the open and be able to learn how to exhibit grace to each other’s weaknesses.

I read the following somewhere too, which helps me remember grace when I am angry.

F- Focus
E- Emotion
E- Empathy
L- Leave

It suggests focusing on what the root feeling is beneath the anger and identifying with it. For instance, anger most often is a protective barrier covering over another, deeper emotion. Like hurt, pain, fear of abandonment, etc. In order to redirect yourself away from expressing anger in a harmful way, it encourages you to look at the EMOTION you are feeling underneath. Then as you identify that emotion, sometimes the anger diminishes. The next step is to try and find empathy for your partner, and understand their point of view, or where they are coming from. This also is a tool to help the anger settle into something more manageable and allows for healthy ways to deal with it without brutally attacking your partner’s self worth. Finally, if the anger is pretty massive, LEAVE. Tell your spouse that you need a cool down time to get your anger back under control and tackle it again when it settles. A good rule of thumb is to have an anger action plan. Determine together when you are not angry that you will have a 20 minute or 30 minute cool down period (or whatever you decide and agree upon together). After which, you will check in on your spouse to see if they are ready to resume the conversation. If emotions have not settled, agree to check in again at the agreed upon 20-30 minute period of time. This allows for you both to feel cared about and know that even your anger is not something to be rejected by your partner, but is given a healthy permission period to cool down to avoid abusive speech toward each other. Above all, remember that you love your spouse! This will continue to hack away at the anger and allow your empathy for the other to surface and bring about feelings of compassion and love and help diminish the anger as you continue to look for the underlying root beneath the anger. I am not saying anger is all bad! Please don’t misunderstand! But there are healthy and very unhealthy ways of dealing with it. If you read my entry from last Friday on verbal abuse, you will see ways that anger can get out of hand very quickly.

I am also not saying I am perfect at this by any stretch. In fact I am not -by far! This is a new exercise I am trying myself, to deal with my anger when it comes up.

Being honest about anger is also very important in any relationship. And a person can get very angry when they feel their core values are being attacked or threatened. Any of the barriers mentioned above are often based on your core values of being known, and having a security and sense of permanence and safety, so as not to fear abandonment, it reveals core values about needing love and intimacy, respect, equality, being ‘good enough’ that you don’t need to perform or be perfect and yet, still know you are loved. I’m sure there are many more.

Honesty is much more important than we give it credit. Honesty sometimes hurts, but it the only way to pave a trustworthy, healthy relationship where integrity and love can truly grow and blossom.

Honesty is something I highly value. I believe it is one of the necessary cornerstones of a good relationship. Without it, the whole house you build your relationship on, will crumble. My encouragement to you: be ruthless to value honesty! It is a life (and relationship) saver!

If you’d like to look at another great resource, check out my one-on-one Relationship Coaching Program which will equip your relationship with the tools it needs to grow!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship Life Coach

Verbal Abuse


Today I am continuing my latest blog series on abuse in relationships. Last Friday I blogged about Emotional Abuse, this week, I hope to unpack verbal abuse a little, which is a sub heading under the broader concept of emotional abuse, because verbal abuse affects us emotionally as well.

Before I get started, I want to discuss some basic rights we should expect in any healthy relationship, all of which are violated in a verbally abusive relationship.

These basic rights include:

The right to goodwill from the other.
The right to emotional support.
The right to be heard by the other and to be responded to with courtesy.
The right to have your own view, even if your mate has a different view.
The right to have your feelings and experience acknowledged as real.
The right to receive a sincere apology for any jokes you find offensive.
The right to clear and informative answers to questions that concern what is legitimately your business.
The right to live free from accusation and blame.
The right to live free from criticism and judgment.
The right to have your work and interests spoken of with respect.
The right to encouragement.
The right to live free from emotional and physical threat.
The right to live free from angry outbursts and rage.
The right to be called by no name that devalues you.
The right to be respectfully asked rather than ordered.

(Basic rights excerpt taken from The verbally abusive relationship by Patricia Evans)

Apart from the absence of the above list of items, how else can you tell That you have been verbally abused? Because verbal abuse is under the broader category of emotional abuse, many of the same factors play a part in verbal abuse. Verbal abuse is not only just someone raising their voice and yelling at you or calling you derogatory names, but can be much more subtle as well, involving sarcasm and criticism, put downs and manipulative, controlling speech, that if it has been a ‘norm’ for you all your life, can be hard to recognize and realize the difference between healthy interaction, and that which is abusive. You may think that verbal abuse is readily identifiable, but it can be very concealed, and the manipulation of it can even cause the one being verbally abused to feel as though they are the problem. Often times people don’t realize it is verbal abuse until it escalates and becomes more intense over time, or turns into physical abuse. Often, verbal abuse remains hidden and secretive from outside observation in the early stages of the abuse, often unnoticed by people outside of the relationship. They may even think the abuser is a wonderful person, because that is what is presented in the public eye, leaving the victim of the abuse isolated from outside support, and confused.

Here are some indicators that might suggest whether you are being verbally abused or not.

1. Does he seem irritated or angry with you frequently, even when you are not trying to upset him? 2. Does he tell you in some way that the way he feels is your fault?
3. Do you often wonder what’s wrong with you or why you feel so bad, but don’t know why?
4. Do you feel out of balance, caught off guard by her reactions?
5. Do you feel lost and aimless?
6. When you feel hurt and try to discuss your feelings with her, does she minimize your feelings, ignore them or refuse to talk about it, or outright blame you for something unrelated to what you are talking about to ‘knock you off course” to avoid taking responsibility for her actions?
7. Do you feel disconnected, isolated, confused, disoriented, or believe critical and condemning voices in your head that minimize and devalue your sense of self worth? Specifically messages of put down your partner has said repeatedly in the past?
8. Does he blow up at you and then pretend as if nothing ever happened, often seeming overly cheery later on without apologizing, or owning up to his behavior, as if nothing ever happened?
9. Does he apologize only when you are on the verge of leaving the relationship vowing he will change, but once you concede, he takes no initiative or action to correct his behavior and resumes his usual controlling and belittling behavior? Does he beg you not to leave?
10. You frequently feel frustrated, confused or perplexed by her responses when she doesn’t seem to understand your intentions?
11. She takes the opposite view on almost every opinion you have?
12. Do you feel like you are given double messages a lot? Ie. you express an opinion and the abuser takes the opposite position just to start an argument, or remain in a power position, only to hear the person agree with your opinion with someone else, and when you call them on it, they refuse to acknowledge it happened and blame you for making things up?

All of these things and more are indicators of verbal abuse.

Sometimes it is hard to believe that you are ‘not’ the things your partner accuses you of being because they are said so repetitively that over time you begin to believe the self-defeating messages. It may be hard to tell yourself:

I know that I am not critical.
I know that I am not competitive.
I know that I am not a bitch.
I know that I am not selfish.
I know that I am not ugly.
I know that I am not stupid.
I know that I am not always trying to start a fight, etc. because verbal abuse tends to diminish your self worth over time. So much so that you begin to believe it yourself and no longer need someone to tell you how worthless you are, because you believe it and tell that to yourself over and over. This is not beneficial nor helpful to anyone. You have innate value and worth and no one has the right to tell you otherwise or diminish your value. If someone has said these above messages to you, they are verbally abusing you.

If you believe you are being verbally abused, seek help immediately! It is likely to get worse not better. You need to get equipped with the right tools to help you not only build your self confidence and sense of self worth, but know how to address the behavior and require change to occur, and set limits on behavior that is abusive. If you feel fear about setting limits on abusive behavior, ask yourself why that is. What would happen if you set limits on the abusive behavior? Would you be physically assaulted? Would the abuse get worse? What is the reality of that fear? If you believe that you would not be ‘safe’, it may be time to break that relationship and get out, and seek counseling on how to break the addictive relationship cycle.

Stay tuned.. In a few weeks, I will have some answers on how to respond to the abusive cycle.
Next Friday I will blog about Physical Abuse. Stay tuned, as I will address how to break the abusive cycle in my blog on Friday May 25th. If you believe yourself to be in real and urgent danger, do not wait for my tips on breaking the cycle at the end of May, seek help immediately!

In the meantime, I hope and pray that you are not being verbally abused, and I pray for your safety and protection if you are, and for the strength to break the cycle and to build healthy patterns of relating to others, that you may enjoy real intimacy and respect within your relationships. Do not be deceived by the times the abuser is charming, and ‘intimate’. Real intimacy does not abuse. Real intimacy respects and cherishes the other always. Real intimacy involves the ‘basic rights in a relationship’ as mentioned at the beginning of this blog. If you are manipulated, if there are power plays, or control, aggressive and hostile speech and name calling, this is inappropriate in a relationship and harmful to the health of the relationship. The reality is, no relationship is perfect, and we all ‘lose it’ at times, or manipulate or control, but the question is whether it is habitual, the entirety of the relationship or is it as a result of a traumatic life experience that has brought harm to one or both members of the relationship, that is a mere season of the relationship, and when the trauma settles down, the relationship returns to a harmonious respectful flow, or is this anger and hostility a regular part of the relationship? I will eventually do a series on trauma as well, where I will unpack how trauma plays a role in changing our usual behavior, but for now, I am mentioning it only in reference to knowing how to identify between what is abuse, what is normal anger and what is happening due to a trauma induced life circumstance? A perfect example of how trauma can change one’s usual interactions I am taking from the newly released movie, “The Lucky One” with Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling. There is a scene in the movie when Logan (Zac Efron) comes back from the war, and is staying with his sister’s family, and his nephews come in the room to jump on him and startle him while he is asleep. But what happens is more than what they expected, and by the shocked reaction on his nephews face, you can tell that his reaction of jumping up and pinning hid nephew down on the bed in a choke hold is NOT Logan’s normal interaction with his nephews. This is an example of post traumatic stress disorder and how it affects someone’s usual interactions, and is not to be considered abusive. Being able to distinguish between normal and healthy anger in a relationship and abusive patterns, you may need some help to decipher that if you are unsure. I do not have enough time to get into that in today’s blog.

Remember, seek help if you feel you are in immediate danger!

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

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