Dear Annie: My husband criticizes me all the time. He also says the nastiest, most hurtful things when we argue. I have been called a slut and a troublemaker and threatened about almost everything. I don’t believe he feels bad about the way he treats me, and even when I tell him how painful it is, he continues to do it.
We all have made mistakes in our past, but he paints himself as the most innocent and pure person alive. Because of all of this, I find it hard to be intimate with him.
My husband tells me he says these things because I am provoking him. Counseling is out of the question, as he would never admit there is a problem with the way he treats me. Would someone behave like this if he doesn’t mean it? – N.N.
Dear N.N.: Your husband is a classic verbal abuser. Constant criticism and calling you names is a way to control and manipulate you. He also threatens you so you will be afraid of angering him. He refuses to discuss his behavior because he doesn’t want to take responsibility for it. You have told him his words are hurtful, but it makes no difference.
His abuse is not your fault, but it is important that you make it clear it is unacceptable. Otherwise, he will continue to belittle you, and in some cases, the behavior can escalate to physical abuse. Please lean on your family and friends for support, letting them know what is going on. We also strongly urge you to get counseling on your own in order to decide whether you can set boundaries that he will follow, or whether you must leave for your own safety and sanity.