Calling your spouse names and insulting them verbally can qualify as verbal abuse. Verbal abuse often starts out subtle. A put-down here or there or a minor insult may be the first sign. Over time, it can turn into name-calling and threats of physical harm.

When your spouse is out of control…help for an abusive marriage.

Being married will probably be one of the most challenging things you will ever do. Your spouse is going to push your buttons and has the potential both to heal you and hurt you in the deepest way. You will get triggered and you will even get angry at times.

We may get very upset with our spouse and we may be justified in our strong feelings, yet we can choose how and when we act on them. Healthy communication is essential to maintain a healthy relationship, which is why we offer communication coaching for couples experiencing relationship issues like name calling, verbal abuse, and aggression.

Is it Wrong to Let our Anger Out?

There’s nothing okay with letting our anger out on another person, much less our spouses. When you dump all your negative feelings on them and let caustic words fly out of your mouth, they create deep rifts in your relationship and harm your partner. We as people are all capable of learning an effective way to express ourselves without letting our anger consume us or acting out physically or through hurtful words. When we take out our frustrations, anger, and fearful insecurities out on our partners it creates a toxic relationship. What’s worse, insulting our partner or physically harming them to assert control over them is abuse. There’s no good excuse for calling your husband or wife mean names; it’s hurtful abuse that you will regret.

While you may have a reason for strong emotions and hurtful feelings, there is never an excuse for abuse of any kind, be it physical, verbal, or emotional.

Your feelings should be validated, yet you need to control your actions. You may feel more powerful when you lash out in anger or become physically violent, yet true power comes from self-control.

There are varying degrees of abusive relationships. No abuse is acceptable and is an impediment to building a safe and loving relationship. While it is possible for abuse to stop, it is incumbent on the victim of physical abuse to put oneself out of danger and get safe. Verbal and emotional abuse can be equally as damaging and eventually spiral into physical abuse.

At the same time, it may be easy to stop this behavior. People can learn how to control their reactivity and the other spouse can also work on being emotionally safe. Many times in cases of verbal or emotional abuse, both people are provoking each other. If one is more volatile, it may lead to them exhibiting abusive behavior. Both partners must do their utmost to provide for a physical and emotionally safe environment. When we create safety, we need not get reactive and exhibit hurtful behavior.

Physical safety is most important here. If you’re talking about mild aggressiveness however, that may be able to be easily explained in the following Maximizer/Minimizer quiz. Take the quiz here or below.

If you find yourself unable to control your anger, seek professional help. You may have had bad models growing up for appropriate behavior. You may even be a victim of abuse. Most people can heal and stop their abusive behavior if they get competent help.

Can you heal from an abusive marriage?

Even if the abuse does stop, it still will leave scars on your relationship. While you may be able to change your relationship and even heal, it will take time to rebuild the trust that is broken.

For the victim, the brain has been negatively impacted by such encounters and he/she may have begun to pull away emotionally from their spouse.

It may not feel safe anymore to get close as it is too hurtful to open up and be vulnerable, only to face the possibility of another episode of abuse.

What about verbal abuse in a marriage?

This is particularly difficult in cases of verbal abuse in a marriage. While the parameters of physical abuse are quite clear, verbal abuse may appear to be more subjective. Yelling, criticizing, and shaming are all forms of verbal abuse, yet this behavior may be commonplace in many marriages.

Practice non-violent, non-aggressive or insulting communication techniques by focusing on what you want as opposed to what your partner is doing or not doing. Learn how to speak in a way that will get your message across and promote connection and safety.

Learn more about the cycle of verbal abuse and what to do if you’re a victim including:

  1. what happens to your relationship when your spouse calls you names
  2. how to stop it-whether you’re the one doing the name-calling
  3. or you are the recipient of name-calling

Is Name Calling verbal abuse?

Name-calling is one form of verbal abuse. Unfortunately, it occurs in many marriages and sometimes gets worse over time. Victims of verbal abuse may become desensitized to it as time goes on.

Over time, name-calling can tear down a person’s feelings of self-worth and confidence. Victims of abuse often begin to believe the names they are called and they may blame themselves for the abuse. For example, a person may think…

“If only I wasn’t so dumb, then my husband wouldn’t have to explain things over and over again.”

More inspiration to help heal a toxic relationship:


The cycle of Verbal Abuse & Name Calling

Men and women alike can both be perpetrators. Their intent is to make their partner feel poorly about themselves and it is often used as a means to control the other person. Or, the perpetrator is very, very angry, and is not aware nor does he/she have the tools for how to ask for what she/he needs instead of lashing out in anger.

If you’re the one that is doing the Name Calling

Chapter Three of our book, The Five-Step Action Plan to a Healthy and Happy Marriage is called Detox your Marriage. And it’s called that for a reason. Name-calling, anger, criticism, and all of those abusive behaviors need to be removed and completely eliminated from a relationship. The relationship must undergo a detox.

If you’re the one doing the name-calling, you’ll need to begin asking yourself, “What do I want or need right now?” Underneath every frustration we experience, lies a request or an unmet need. What do you need from your spouse?

My children were fighting the other day and my wife stopped them and said, “Stop fighting and ask for what you want.” The bottom line is that you are angry and calling your spouse names because there is something from your spouse that you are not getting. Asking directly for what you need is a much more productive way to get what you need. Find the request underneath your frustration.

Nagging, blaming, shaming, or criticizing goes nowhere except to drive the other person away. Anger is extremely powerful and can be very scary.

But what about the “need” to get my anger out?

There’s no such thing as “getting your anger out”. Anger breeds more anger because those negative neural pathways in your brain get reinforced, causing us to get further stuck in the negativity.

The Good News and How you Can Stop the Cycle of Verbal Abuse

The good news is that our brains have neuroplasticity, which means they can change. New neural pathways can be formed and we can learn to experience each other in a different, more positive way. It may take time to change old habits that have been reinforced over time, yet by detoxing your relationship and practicing love infusions, you’ll be on your way to remolding your experience with your spouse to something positive.

Once you identify your needs, you will begin to take responsibility for your feelings and speak about them in a mature way. When you use “I” statements, instead of blaming or criticizing, or shaming your spouse when you’re feeling hurt (I feel sad or angry instead of You always make me angry), you’re doing the real work that must take place in your relationship AND you are decreasing the potential for reactivity from your spouse.

Responding if you’re the one Getting Called Names

Try this first. It is possible for you ALONE to shift the energy of your relationship by detoxing your marriage. Even if your spouse is not willing to work on the relationship, the effort that you make in eliminating blame, shame, negativity, and anger will have a huge impact.

As you remove the toxicity that you bring into your relationship, your spouse will begin to be more open to experiencing a new you. A toxic relationship is a vicious cycle where couples feed off each other.

Once one spouse stops the cycle on their end, there will often be no need for the other to continue spewing negativity as it is usually a reactive response in the first place.

What to Do When Your Wife or Husband Calls You Names

If the Name Calling won’t stop…
It’s important to set healthy boundaries to put an end to this. For example, a wife may tell her husband,

“I’m not going to put up with you calling me names anymore.”

If he calls you names again, you may need to walk away to show your husband that you will no longer tolerate being called names.

However, anyone who tries to stand up to verbal abuse needs to take their safety into consideration. Sometimes people who are verbally abusive are also physically abusive. It’s not always safe for someone to stand up to a perpetrator because they may increase the likelihood that they will be physically abused.

Seek Help if You’re Afraid

In the case where your spouse is using words to control and manipulate rather than out of frustration and anger, you will need professional help as you cannot help he/her identify the frustration underneath the anger as it is much more complex than that. Trust your gut. If you are afraid, your body and mind are giving you signals you should not ignore.

The best scenario would be for the two of you to talk with a couples counselor together via teletherapy to decide on your best course of action.

However, if your spouse’s behavior begins to worsen and he/she starts abusing you physically, your first priority is to get safe.

If your relationship needs a detox, we recommend that you register for our online marriage counseling via video chat, or enroll in our marriage school course. So many couples have reported real change occurring as soon as they began implementing the tools! So grateful!

It is imperative that you stop the cycle before it gets worse.

Stopping the cycle is much easier than you think, and we want to reassure you that you are not alone in this, there are many, many couples going through the same thing and learning how to stop the cycle.

If you feel that you cannot fix this issue on your own, talk with us about the 2 Day Marriage Restoration Retreat. It’s a way for you to work in 2 days to solve the ongoing crisis in your marriage while having long-term follow-up support to make sure the problems don’t continue. You can’t continue getting insulted or calling your partner names if you want a healthy, happy marriage.

To learn how to STOP NAME CALLING and communicate with no blame and no shame, take the 5 step Communication Training.

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Shlomo & Rivka Slatkin

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin is an Imago relationship therapist and certified (master level) Imago workshop presenter with over 20 years of experience hosting couples therapy retreats in-person and online. Contact or