trivializing verbal abuseHave you ever felt a great sense of accomplishment for completing a challenging project? When I finished my first web site, I felt that kind of pride. Maybe you got a promotion at work or taught your child their ABC’s or climbed Mount Everest! For a moment, think back to a time when you felt really good about what you did for yourself or someone else.

Now, remember what your partner said or did when you told them. Did she say, “Ummm…okay…what’s that good for?” Did he look at you blankly and say, “So? It’s natural for kids to learn the alphabet?” If your partner took away from your good and deserved feeling of accomplishment, then your partner “trivialized” your success.

In The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Patricia Evans defines trivializing as “abusive behavior that makes light of your work, your efforts, your interests, or your concerns. It is done very covertly, often with feigned innocence.” If you’ve ever felt a feeling of accomplishment ripped away by your partner, then you’ve experienced trivializing as verbal abuse.

How My Husband Uses Trivializing

My husband likes to pretend that my accomplishments are worthless. For some time, I believed he was right. I felt very insignificant and diminished – very small in comparison to all the “important” people around me. He had a lot of control over me at that time – I thought I was worthless and he was King.

One of the last times Will trivialized me was after returning home from a deployment. You see, when Will deployed, there was an accident and our van was totaled (See Domestic Violence With Children As Witnesses & Victims). I had to find a way for us to afford another car payment because Will wanted us to have two vehicles.

So I paid off three credit cards with the extra money he was earning during the deployment. I used the money we had put toward minimum payments toward a car payment instead.

When he got home, we could afford the new car and had no credit card debt, but we didn’t have as much money saved as he thought we should, and our spending budget was still tight. All he could talk about was how I wasted all the money he had earned.

How to React to Trivializing

how to react to abuse trivializingWhen you feel stung and decide that your partner trivialized you, it feels good to say something in response! You may feel tempted to deliver a low-blow to your partner. But think about that for a minute…

When were you ever able to come out on top by being nasty to your partner? Didn’t the conversation digress into a shouting match or argument in which you came out the “loser” anyway?

No, the proper response to trivializing is to recover from the abuse and stand tall. You can say something like:

  • “I won’t listen to you say those things to me.”
  • “That’s enough from you. I’m going to call (my mom, sister, best friend).”

After you tell your partner how you feel about it, there’s no reason to stick around to explain yourself no matter what your partner says. They know full well that their comment hurt. They meant it to hurt. Leave the area and do something else.

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. I hate trivializing, my partner does it woth finances… I take care of the household and kids and earn a little something on the side, I pay energy bills and food and he takes care of the mortgage and the car, the difference is, that he spenda all day at work, while I take care of 3 kids in the day and work at night. but he trivializes my income and always says there would be nothing without his work… and of course if I have too much work related duties and fail to tidy up before he is home it is a problem… I am confused. all these traits fit him, he does all of these things, but at the same time is very intelligent and says he only does it to help me. When I tell him it hurts me when he says things like that, he argues it is supposed to hurt because it is the truth and unless I deal with it I can not move forward and I am the one who keeps the whole family back by being unsuccesfull, unreliable (I sometimes do forget to buy coffee or mineral water etc.)… my son is bilinngual and 6 yo but my partner says I ruined his life because I failed to teach him third language… he acts like all he wants to do is help me and the kids have a better life and that nobody else will tell me the truth about myself (about how useless I am), because nobody loves me like he does, not even my mother, who wont tell me the truth because she is scared that I would leave her… I am not stupid (even though he has been trying to convince me otherwise for years) and I can see it is wrong, and if he treated me like this during the first month we were dating I would have kicked him out the window without even looking back to see if he landed, but he moved the boundaries gradually. worst thing is, that he broke me and now he reproaches me for the thing he has boken. my boundaries, my standards, my performance, they were all ok before. then he came and with his crazymaking he made me indecisive, uncertain, stuck in the rut and he now criticises these very traits that he created… 🙁 I still want to make things work, because I feel like he is just mistaken in his life belefs, that maybe one of these days he will turn around and say sorrry, you were right… and he truly is a great father. he treats the kids so much differently than he treats me, it makes me both relieved and heartbroken at the same time. I seriously do not know whether it is him or me…

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