denial is a form of verbal abuseDenial is the same as lying, and some verbal abusers are mistaken for “pathological liars” because they use denial as a form of control so often. Lying to control others is different from lying out of habit or any other pathological reason. For example, pathological liars lie to everyone, all the time, for no reason, but an abuser’s lies focus on the people they try to control.

Pay attention to your abuser:

  • Do others think s/he is a wonderful person?
  • Or do they laugh behind his back knowing the latest tale is a downright lie?

Most abusers are seen as honest, hard-working, and above reproach in the community (but not all! yours could be an exception). Abusers use their false face in the community to discredit you. The only lies they may tell to their friends are ones about how crazy you are.

Beware! If you convince yourself that your abuser is in fact a pathological liar, you may come to view this as another reason to stay in the relationship. The Internet is full of advice on how to help a pathological liar: do not be tempted to love your abuser out of their lying nature. Chances are that “denial” is not the only type of abuse you’ve come to understand. Do not discount your abuse by boiling it down to your poor abuser’s psychological problems.

Verbal abusers flat out deny almost anything, even when it doesn’t make sense to do so! The idea is to make you doubt your perceptions because the more abuse you accept from them, the easier it is to control you. They’ll deny drinking the last bit of OJ when you saw them do it. They’ll deny that they had a flat tire even as you’re looking at the bill from roadside assistance.They’ll deny abusing you, too. Even if you show them proof that what they say is abusive, they’ll deny being abusive. Perhaps they’ll claim the author will say anything to make a buck (like my husband does), deny that those words ever came out of their mouth, tell you that you didn’t hear them correctly or that you’re way too sensitive because they were joking, not being “abusive”.

Commonly, and probably most hurtfully to your perception of reality, abusers lie about what they said and what you did or didn’t say. Verbal abusers love to make you repeat verbatim what was just said in a conversation. They then take those words out of context as they “explain” what you meant to say. Denying your motive or the true meaning of your words is brainwashing and crazy making!

“Forgetting” and Denial Are Co-Conspirators

forgetting and denial go hand in handWalking hand-in-hand, forgetting and denial work together to cause an atmosphere of abuse. Forgetting important events, promises, or anything else is denial that the abuser remembered it.

If someone forgets something, there’s not much you can do about it. Abusers “forget” things like birthdays, special nights you’ve planned for weeks, or the fact you asked them to do something simple.

How My Husband Uses Denial

In my house, it is supposed to be my responsibility to remind Will of everything from birthdays to school events. I post them on the calendar, give him a verbal reminder a day before and the morning of, and still he “forgets” the important things.

This year, despite my request that he and I go out to dinner for my birthday and the reminders leading up to the day, Will “forgot” my birthday and scheduled the tree-removal guy to spend the day at the house. Of course, there was nothing I could do about it and the tree-removal went on until past dark and past the time Will requested that I feed him something for dinner.

Will typically combines denial with diversion and blocking or brainwashing.

Recently I told Will that he was verbally abusive and listed the ways in which he abused me, he went to the computer and printed out a list of the effects of rape. He yelled, “Here. This is YOU. This is your problem.” By denying the issues I want to discuss, attempting to divert my attention, and using abusive anger, Will can pretend that nothing changes.

I don’t change, the situation doesn’t change, nothing changes unless HE changes it.There are no surprises for him, just for me. He is in control.

Will seems to love conversations that last over an hour (up to 8 hours in my experience!). During these “conversations” Will lectures me on what he said, what I said, and what we agreed to do about the topic (finances usually). If I repeat back to him what he just said, he’ll say, “Almost – but not quite…” and then subtly attempt to change the meaning of his words. By the end of these conversations I could feel so confused that I didn’t even care what I agreed to anymore.

How to React to Denial

how to react to denialTrying to explain how you know your abuser is lying is pointless.

You’ve probably been here before: the more you try to explain and gain your abuser’s understanding, the more they resist and deny your perception and belief. They even deny cold hard proof. Their denial can quickly turn to anger, and you’re left wondering how to calm them down instead of explaining how you know they’re lying.

Worst case scenario is that your abuser succeeds in their attempt to make you believe you misunderstood the whole thing. When this happens, you once again deny your own truth and put the abuser’s sick version of reality ahead of your own. You give them the power over you they long for.

I think one statement Patricia Evans recommends is the very best reaction to denial. Say “I don’t believe you and I don’t want it to happen again” or simply, “I don’t believe you.” Then say nothing else. Walk away if you have to make sure you say nothing else.

Your abuser will not like this and may seek to convince you of their nonsense, but if you are not there to listen, the abuser cannot suck you back into their world of illusion and control.

Remember that these statements are to help you feel better and detach from your abuser’s antics. They do not guarantee that your abuser will stop abusing you, nor do they protect you from further abuse. You should fill out a safety plan so you know what you will do if things get out of hand.

Based on the book The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans, ISBN 1558503048, Adams Media, February 2003 and my experiences with verbal abuse.

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  1. Gee, I have been dealing with verbal abuse for over 25 years. I really did not even know it was happening to me till I had to divorce my wife due to verbal and occasional physical abuse.
    My mind kept racing during my time with her. I did not understand why I was being treated this way.

    As the divorce was proceeding and I moved out, I noticed that I was having emotional problems. I contacted my PCP and he sent me for a Psychological evaluation.
    I was told by 3 psychologists, one social worker and a counselor therapist that I had to go to trauma therapy.

    I did not get it at first but after 2 years I learned how to recognize it and how to deal with it.
    To make matters worse, I became aware of family members who also were doing it to me.
    I noticed this narcissistic, vindictive, controlling and phony lying family who I thought I could trust.

    Just like with my x wife; when I pointed it out to them and said I was not going to put up with it, they went ballistic.

    I thought I was helping them and had hoped they would see how destructive it can be, and how they had personality defects they may need to address.

    I am glad I stood up for myself, but feel bad that identifying this to them did make them feel bad.

    I have been having some financial problems lately and just got a new job. I was unemployed for three years. The family chipped in and I thanked them. Some of them started in on the verbal abuse and I complained.

    After complaining and identifying this problem to them, my sister said that I was biting the hand that feed me.

    Unfortunately I had to say that I would rather live on the streets and not have them give me money if it meant that that was an excuse to be verbally abusive to me.

    I had to divorce my wife of 22 years for it and I do not have to go to court to let these people go from my life.

    I have a feeling they really are not aware of it. If they were aware they would not do it.

  2. This is my life… Enormous wise and long speeches given by my husband. And when I respond or repeat what he said, the speech gets rewritten… “What I said was…If you were listening, then you’d know I said…But he changes the details just enough to confuse, stall, distract and deny. I hate the 5 hour lectures. I just sit back and watch the ceiling fan go round and round. No point in engaging with nonsense. I trust what I hear now and I do not engage with crazy. I used to correct and object, but not anymore.

  3. I am in the same type(s) of psychotic situations as these. I just cannot fathom why these so called men want to waste their life & time trying to control every aspect of their victims lives. I don’t know how they can live with themselves. It seems that their very own insecurities are projected onto others as a way to validate themselves & make them feel like an emperor. They are dictators & egotistical morons. I didn’t sign a certificate of any kind that cites verbal, mental or emotional abuse are part of a “marriage.” Actually, if you want to get technical, from the torturous behavior inflicted upon me on a daily basis, it’s not considered a marriage, it’s just a piece of paper. People will say, you were married in the eyes of God, but God never stated or condoned this type of behavior & never would. What if you are married to a person with every type of verbally abusive behavior that is listed on this site? People may also state that it’s our fault for accepting it, but they do not understand the powerful dynamics associated with this abuse. While growing up & envisioning marriage, no one ever dreams of being in an abusive situation. Thank you so much for this informative site, I thought I was going crazy.

  4. I live this every day. I was 22 when I got married and I have 2 kids. I came from Europe and when I got here I met my husband. I lived in this country illegally for 5 years just because he refused to do my paperwork for me. Every time when I argued with him because he was gambling all his salary he was threatening to send me back to my country. We have a house together and Everytime he is telling me this is his house and I have to leave. He was the good man for everyone but I live a nightmare. Today he threatened me that he is going to kill me over an argument. He was doing the reckless driving today with 70 miles/hr and almost flipped the car over. I was scared to death. I had all kind of abuse from him: financially, physically and verbal. In top of that he is sleeping with prostitutes, a gambler and a pathological liar. I think that he is a sociopath and loves to see people suffer. When is about other people, he seem to show that he cares because he wants to show that he is a good guy; when is about his family, he doesn’t give a shit. I am afraid for my life. He told his friends that he wants to kill me and burry me in the backyard.

    • Jennifer Miller says:

      Are you still alive? I’m serious. This is horrible. When a man becomes comfortable enough to tell his friends that he wants to kill you and bury you in the backyard, your life is in danger. He is auditioning the idea before his audience to see if he can get away with it.

      If he is threatening to kill you, he will one day kill you.

      If you don’t see it coming now, you won’t see it coming then.

      Don’t overthink this. You’ve been brainwashed, berated, down-played, degraded… Please review sites about how to safely get out of an abusive relationship. Please make sure that you erase the History on your computer ANY AND EVERY TIME you visit an abuse site. Please save yourself and your children.

      I know that he has stripped you of all of your power and confidence. Don’t wait until you feel confident enough to leave… HE WILL NEVER LET YOU FEEL CONFIDENT ENOUGH TO LEAVE.

      Either you leave your children with a dead mom and an abusive, manipulative father or… you leave. If you trust a priest or pastor who is IN NO WAY connected to your abuser or his family, seek out long term help and housing and protection from them. You don’t have to be religious. You just have to be in trouble. And you are.

      I hope that you are still alive. When a man starts auditioning the idea for his friends, your days and nights are numbered. Find a safe, long term solution. This is too overwhelming and intimidating to do on your own. Find sites about safe, long term, well thought out solutions to this.

      If Katie Holmes could do it with Tom Cruise and all of his money, his lawyers, his connections, and Scientology and their secrecy/institutionalized mind control behind them (not to mention, publicists and PR teams), then you can, too.

      I am hoping that you do not underestimate the power of your abuser. Your days are numbered. Take that very seriously.

      • Thank you for introducing the term “auditioning to see if he can get away with it.” I hadn’t thought of it that way and the phrase really brings out the terror in the statement.

      • Elizabeth Jimenez says:


      • Elizabeth Jimenez says:

        I feel so brain dead! I have so much to say but very little strength to get it out!

  5. carlyn warner says:

    Thanks for this info it has opened my eyes! Dealing with something similar but with physical abuse and thus have decided to divorce. No one deserves abuse its wrong.I have been dealing with abuse from my husband for seven years! Just glad I woke up from the horrible nightmare and seeking my happy ending.

  6. Sally Lederer says:

    Twice during the past week, he has put his finger directly across my face to “point out” something over there. When I told him to take his finger out of my face, he responded with the silent treatment. We were just sitting at a baseball game enjoying a beautiful day, and then he does something provocative. When he refused to talk to me, I got up and went to sit somewhere else for a while. I told him that refusing to talk wasn’t much fun to be around.

    On our last vacation trip, he yelled at me in front of the other travelers on the bus, because I didn’t respond right away to something he was saying about something – I don’t even know what – I was distracted I moved away from him, because he was obviously angry, and I didn’t know what brought it on. He responded to my moving away from him, by ignoring me until later when I told him it was not o.k. to yell at me. He said he didn’t yell at me and that when people raise their voices it’s not always yelling. And besides – you moved away from me.

    He frequently “acts out” rather than expressing himself verbally, and then acts innocent. What? I didn’t say anything. I was just sitting here.

    We used to dance together, but he spent so much time complaining about the dance environment and the people in it that it was not much fun. Eventually, he started to hurt me on the dance floor, by leading a little too roughly. When I told him he was hurting me, he said the music made him do it. If the music is fast, he has to jerk me around more. And besides, didn’t it ever occur to me that maybe I was just getting a little older and that I just get hurt easier. So I ended the dancing. Now, he talks about how much he “loves” dancing, but I won’t dance with him. I still go out dancing by myself without a partner, and he accuses me of going out and having fun while he sits at home with nothing to do.

    I’ve had many, many talks with him over the years about his behavior and how he can choose how to behave, but it always feels like it goes nowhere. He changes the topic frequently and doesn’t seem to “get it”. When I first met him I suggested he go to anger management classes, because he seemed to have a lot of irrational anger. He went, but said he could not do that stuff. There were so many abusive incidents mixed in with some really sweet behavior over the years. Later, I made it conditional that he get psychological help if he wanted to continue to dance with me. And I wanted to see the receipts so I’d know he was trying. He did it for a while and then started to accuse me of not trusting him when I wanted to see the receipts. I knew then that he was not going anymore.

    I know this is not a healthy relationship, but at this point he doesn’t seem dangerous – just very annoying. It seems like all the sweet times are getting farther apart. I’ve been calling him out more about his behavior and it seems to be making him colder and more distant. I’m trying to decide if I can keep a relationship going with him by calling him out when he does these 10-15 behaviors that are listed on this site, and taking the good times as they come. I suspect that eventually we will just gradually stop seeing each other, because I’m deliberately limiting my time with him because the episodes are so frequent, and I’m weary of trying to teach him how to behave respectfully.

    In the meantime, I am doing things without him. I know he has done the same but he never tells me about it. He drives by my house all the time to see if I’m home and wants to know where I was, but he is secretive about how he spends his time when away from me.

  7. Chelsea says:

    After accidentall catching my husband in a four year affair, I was devestated. Although the evidence was clear to me, my husband denied everything and lied to cover his tracks. I eventually created a faux email address that was almost identical to hers. I wrote to my husband (he had since changed jobs where they were once co-workers) pretending to be her, hoping he would tell her it was over. Instead, he wanted to keep it all going on, but more discreetly.I printed our conversations and put it before him and he still denied it. I love my husband, and felt that after 30 years and 5 children, our marriage was worth saving. Even in marriage counseling, he denied the affair, lied to the therapist and though convinced me to stay with him, I’ve almost gone mad. I’ve heard him lie to friends and family that he’s always been faithful to me. Amongst other lies, which I always call him on after we’re behind closed doors. It’s never ending. Important to mention that every time I catch him in a lie, he becomes irate. I end up somehow apologizing to calm him down. I never saw this as abuse, I saw this as the man that I love has issues. I’m a home-maker who raised our children and was a good wife to him. I am torn because I have never gotten closure, he still denies an affair and I’m having problems because every word out of his mouth I can never trust. I never thought I would be that kind of woman, weak? I read this article today and yes, the author wrote as if she knew my husband and I.

  8. My husband runs the show- and that show can be re-written at a seconds notice. He resents me and if I ask him why he is being hateful to me , I get a 30 minute screaming match that ends up with him twisting what I say and a list of everything he hates about me, what I do for others, my chronic illness, etc etc, The end product is always the same– I am “playing the victim” and it’s my problem. I do the very best I can to please him but it is NEVER ENOUGH. When he wants to work together , I never refuse , I comply and try to accomplish whatever he asks of me. When I make a request (such as marriage counseling) he went one time, got mad at the therapist and stormed out and never went back, probably because when the marriage counselor asks him if it was okay if his wife was afraid of him and he said . “That’s her problem”. The therapist went on to say that when you are married it is both of your problems.he didn’t want to hear that. That’s how he discounts me. Other people think I am funny, sweet, attractive, caring and kind. He resents them even saying that about me- because he wants me to think I am stupid, fat, unamusing and selfish. He says if people think I am such a good person, they should support me because he is sick of it. (I started my own business but we were only breaking even after 2 years, so he made me close it- Just another one of my many failures). BTW, my parents provided the funding for the business. We haven’t had sex in 2 years and when I ask him about it, he says it’s because he doesn’t like that, he tells me,, once again, it’s my problem. My illnesses are made worse by stress, and he knows this, So he is aware that these screaming cussing fits upset me and cause flare ups. Once again, not his problem. I cannot tell you how many family crises I have supported him through, the injuries , the operations, his mother and brother’s drug addition,custody battle and estrangement from his other brother. When he married me he told me that it was because he was tired of being happy being miserable. Now he has gone so far in a circle he is right back at the same time, I am a very gregarious person who , even when I am in pain, loves to laugh. I love people- their quirks, their opinions , their lives and how they got there. He really doesn’t have any close friends because he always has some reason he doesn’t really like them. I feel bad because we meet so many nice couples that I like and he never does. It makes it awkward for me when I tell them that only one of us can make it. I am never solid on my feet around him- one wrong move or word and he will be pissed and ready to go. Now I just go by myself and make excuses. He is addicted to Football and will spend his weekends recording and watching every college game that is recorded. I get home from an event that he didn’t go to because it ran too late and he was tired, only to find him up watching FB for an hour. In the first few years of our marriage I complained because he never watched it while dating me.He finally told me if I ever made him pick between football, he would choose it , not me. I decided it was a wasn’t worth it and gave up. I am havinh terrible extended family issues that have ruined our splintered our whole family. I can’t handle of this all and his constant resentment too. He is so negative. mean spirited and narcissistic. Worst of all I really think he hates me and thinks of me as nothing but an unwanted burden to him.I feel so confused and sick all the time. Everything I do could be wrong-and I never know who is going to walk through the door in the evening-Jekyll or Hyde. Our marriage is always better when I am doing something for him or his family. He can grade me up a letter B. But tomorrow I could go back to a D or an F without even knowing why. I am almost 60 years old and I don’t know if I can live under his rule for the rest of my life. I want to be happy, have faith in God, be thankful in all things and be at peace with him. What in the world was I thinking when I married a 48 year old confirmed bachelor? Maybe because I never thought he would turn in a hatefull bitter partner who really doesn’t care- and really he should not have married me. I have been living this way after our one year anniversary. He did not go in blinders on. I held back nothing, he knew I worked a menial job, and he knew I was a people person who loves having a fair size of friends. Sometimes when he is critical and rejects affection, it makes me doubt myself. Why can’t he love m as much? Why does tearing me down and bawling my eyes seem to make him happy ? I really cannot do anything about it- no job, no money, very nominal savings.He has excellent life insurance, but he is so ornery he will probably outlive me!

  9. Sally Lederer says:

    Dani, you are going through hell. This is not a marriage. I don’t know if you’re ready to hear it, but you will not be able to fix this. I spent 48 years married to a man who was passive aggressive, alcoholic, and negligent. He also was smart, funny, generous and kind to little animals. I waited all those 48 years for him to improve over his problems. I learned to do things alone while waiting and I lived in a loveless marriage. He passed away a year ago and now I am on my own. I have to redesign my identity.

    So my question to you is, what would you do if he passed away or if you left him? Think about it – and then do that. Then give yourself some time to reinvent yourself the way you want to be. This man has problems you can’t solve and when you leave, he will step over your body and move on to his next victim.

    Death is final so I can’t go back if I change my mind. Divorce is harder because you will have that pull for a while, but keep your sights on the future. You deserve to be appreciated for all your good qualities and supported in your endeavors. That’s what love is like. Don’t settle.

    It’s better to live in an efficiency apartment and be happy than to live in a big house and be miserable. If your finances are tight, find a way to make it all yours.

    It’s also better to be alone than to live with someone who doesn’t understand the basics of love, honor and respect.

    By the way, I’m 74.

What do you think? Tell us!