How to Walk Away From Verbal Abuse

March 10, 2011 Kellie Jo Holly

Walking away from verbal abuse temporarily helps ease the trauma of the abuse. Unfortunately, the abuser doesn't like it when you do not stand there and listen to the abusive rant, so walking away can seem like the absolutely worst option at the time of attack, yet walking away from verbal abuse is probably the best option, every time.

Before You Walk Away from Verbal Abuse, Prepare Yourself

Prerequisite to this experiment:

Make an extra house and car key. Always have them in your pocket or in a hidden space where you can subtly grab them. (As a commenter pointed out, you may not want to wear them around your neck as the chain could be used against you.)

Keep your purse by the door that is closest to where you park your car. If you do not have a car, place your purse by the door that most quickly gets you into view of your neighbors so you can walk to someone's house. If you don't have a car or neighbors, then keep your cell phone on you at all times and either "walk away" by going outside or by going into a room with a working window and locking the door. (Don't go to the bathroom or garage or any room that has usable weapons or multiple hard surfaces. Right now, the attack is verbal, but it could escalate to physical violence and you don't want to make hurting you easy for your abuser.)

Have your notebook in the place you plan to escape to. If you're going to a friend's, store it there. If you're going to your car, keep it hidden there. If you're escaping to your bedroom, ...

NOTE: You know your abuser. If you fear physical attack by trying the following tips, then you are in a very serious position. Carefully consider your own safety action plan. The Army has a good one; find a modified version of their safety plan at Verbal Abuse Journals.

The key to remembering to leave the fighting arena is pre-planning. You can somewhat figure out when an attack is going to occur if you read the signs in your abuser's behavior. Being able to do that will take a bit of observation, willing detachment, and note-taking.

Now It's Time to Walk Away from Verbal Abuse

1. Observe Your Body's Warning Signs

Pay attention to your body's anxiety signals as a forewarning. When you feel your heart beating and you're trying to pretend like everything is normal, that is your first sign that an attack is imminent. Make a mental note of the time, and remind yourself to look at the time again when your abuser begins the abuse session. (Make sure you write how long it took from "symptoms felt to abuse" in your notebook later.) Ultimately, the goal is to find something else to do in a different location when the symptoms begin, but you'll want to prove to yourself that you can predict the violence because you've probably been told that you can't trust yourself.

When your abuser begins the attack, what is their facial expression? What are they doing with their hands? Do they call to you to go to them, come to you, or just start making a fuss to which you respond in hopes of calming before it gets too bad? Write down as much information as you can about his behaviors and expressions. When you've seen enough, it is time to walk away.

You can simply walk away without saying anything, or you can state one of your boundaries that the abuser has busted through. Say it once, calmly, then begin initiating your escape plan.

Notice that no where in the observation portion do you listen to the nonsense.

2. Willing Detachment

At this point you may be calm or you may be crying. You may be feeling all sorts of things because even though you "weren't listening" you did hear. (How can we not?) Now is not the time to feel these emotions. You can feel them in a few minutes when you're at a safer place.

Note: If your escape place is your bedroom (with a working window and a lockable door), have an mp3 player or something in there to help you refocus from the abuser who may stand outside your door to continue his rant.

3. Note-Taking

When you are in your safe place, pull out your notebook and start writing down the facts. Recalling the facts will help you to further detach. Although writing them down may not make you feel better immediately, after doing it you will likely feel differently about what was said to you and how he acted. Over time, you will see that the "spontaneous" attacks seem more like "controlled terrorism" in which your abuser picks the time and place. What the abuser does is no accident, what s/he says is predictable, and the accusations s/he lays on you are nonsense.

When I was married, I was naively in denial that my husband would physically attack me (again). I would pull out my notebook and start writing in it during an attack in front of him. I don't recommend doing that. Your notebook should be sacred and private. If you've never hidden anything before, now is the time to get creative.

Your notebook serves two empowering purposes. One, it helps you to detach from the pain of a verbal assault soon after experiencing it. Two, it provides you a record of "what happened" no matter how long it is between attacks. There is a tendency to "think we're crazy" and deny to ourselves the hurtful instances we've experienced with our abusers. Your notebook will not allow you to fall prey to your own mind.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2011, March 10). How to Walk Away From Verbal Abuse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

March, 9 2016 at 7:26 am

Hi. Me and my husband have been together for 6 years, married 3.
He say the most foul things to me when he's mad over little things are accusing me of something like sleeping around. He says things like "i hope you catch something and die, or you disgust me looking like shit you stupid hoe, all you gonna ever be is a hoe thats all you good for" mind you i have not stepped out on my marriage, he has. i never ever talk to like crap. at first i thought this isnt half as bad as it could be until i started standing up for myself which lead us to actually fighting because he wants me to stand there and listen to him degrade me until i have nothing left of my self esteem. we have 3 little ones, 3 yr old twins and a 7 month old baby. he is the sole provider as far as income. i have no where else to go and im a stay at home. i tried to leave before which he guilt me into coming back for the kids. i want a divorce but i feel like i cant do anyting without a job. he wont let me us the car or anything bc he pays the bill but both our names are on it. i dont know what to do. i feel supper stuck and its depressing going through this. any advice would be appreciated.

April, 19 2016 at 4:15 pm

Wow after having yet another verbally abusive episode with my partner of eleven years this woke me right up....I found another post I had written on this site two years ago....nothing's changed at all in fact I feel more helpless hopeless and stuck. Best part is I've managed to put an apartment together and refuse to comity to his oh move in with me and be a family will get married

June, 6 2016 at 7:21 am

I can't live anymore with his verbal abuse. Its worse than getting raped every day. I am threatened nonstop by him. I am garbage in His eyes. I want a divorce, but he says he has no money...I am physically beautiful, but physically sick due to a surgery.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
June, 7 2016 at 4:09 am

Abusers lie. Even if he has no money, divorce is still possible. Poor people divorce as often as wealthy people.

I feel your pain
June, 25 2016 at 8:00 pm

I'm so impressed by the strength of the women writing on this blog. Both survivors and future survivors. Thanks a million for sharing your stories. Don't beat yourself up if you haven't left yet. You are strong. You are surviving each day and you will get out when the time is right. Pray for guidance. I have been in an abusive situation for 23 years. I had no idea what was wrong until 12 years ago when my sister talked to a friend of hers (a marriage therapist) about me and her friend told her "your sister is being verbally and emotionally abused." I had been physically abused too but was too shocked and ashamed to tell anyone. I had four young children at the time. I've been getting my own counseling for years now and my husband has come to counseling too but stil refuses to admit he's abusive. I can't believe the things I've been told about myself over the years by the man who is supposed to love and care for me more than anyone else. It crushes your whole soul. Counseling is happening again but still so painful to listen to him rant about me and make things up. I am trapped by the 75% of the time that he is good and fun and the fact that I know he will use my mistakes and eating disorder (I'm recovered now) against me. Also that I love him and I see his potential for good. I literally can't be mean to him. I can't say no. I can't leave or ask him to leave. Thinking about hurting him makes me sick. Yet he doesn't seem to mind when I'm hurting at all. In fact he blames me for talking to my friends about our marriage problem and says he can't trust me. That I'm not loyal to him. It's the most confusing thing ever and makes you feel crazy but I know it's him. But it makes you question everything. I used to want him dead. Now I want to die. I can't leave. I can't do this for another 23 years. He will be nice and wonderful for months but then out of the blue he will rip my heart out. I try to protect it but then feel bad for being a jerk and being aloof from him. I try to forgive him and fix my flaws but he still finds something to get mad about or tells me that I don't love him. That makes me insane. If he only knew how much I've suffered for him. My kids are older now and some want me to leave. They don't know how I lasted so long. I don't either. I won't hurt myself because I've already lost someone to suicide and will never do that to my loved ones but I do wish that god would just give me a fast acting disease so I can just be an angel in heaven and watch over my children. Sounds peaceful.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 31 2017 at 3:08 pm

This sounds a lot like my marriage of 20 years. I honestly thought that I wrote it, that’s how similar it is

August, 30 2016 at 2:01 pm

i am 66 yrs old. i have lived with a man that drinks a case of beer every day. he has physically abused me i had him arrested. now he verbally abuses me i can do nothing right in his eyes. Three yrs. ago he divorced me when he found out he was getting his moms house when she died. i pay for half of all household bills. I live on disability due to a back injury. I want to leave but cant afford to live on my own. He knows that and makes my life hell. I have to stand up when he is home knowing it hurts my back. I no longer love him I feel so damn trapped.

May, 3 2018 at 12:22 pm

I have endured verbal and sometimes physical abuse for 7 years now. With 2 small children it is difficult to decide what to do. Especially since I stay home with the kids. I have been able to keep my head up this entire time and heal myself but the recent episode left me feeling like the walking dead. The most horrible things were screamed at me for over two hours that left me numb with a panic attack. The next day I had to pretend everything was just fine because we had company and a couple events planned. It's hard to cover the puffy eyelids and splotchy face with makeup and pretend I'm not finally broken... Anyway, verbal abuse tends to hurt more than physical abuse. My abuser made sure to isolate me first so beware of people who do not like your friends and family. The abuse hurts more without a support group. I wish others luck in finding help in situations like this. I wish that I had left before I became more stuck. Maybe one day I will call a counselor. I don't know why my fingers freeze everytime I decide to schedule counseling. I keep telling myself that I'm not worth it and would waste everyone's time. This mindset definitely wasn't mine 7 years ago. Verbal abuse has the ability to kill your soul. Beware.

March, 18 2019 at 6:52 pm

No one would believe me that my husband is so mean to me at home. He is the perfect husband, praising me to all then at home telling me I am an idiot, dumb, complaining that the house is a mess (not really), saying he's and others we know are smarter and better than me. He said I am a disappointment, and regrets marrying me. He said others know I am not smart.
6 months after we were married, he said to me that he feels like my love for him is a convenient love, basically love him for what I can get out of him. He asked me "what are you good for?"
In the beginning I was too hurt to do much except try to explain defend myself and cry. And the name calling got worse, then the shoving.
Today he punched me in the arm but he said it was because I was moving sideways that he hit my arm and I was. Then he pushed me backward by walking forward and bumping me with his chest.
Then about a year or two ago, I called him a name (one that he used with me), and now when we argue it's insults going back and forth. I am not proud of myself and I didn't swear like that before- but he says claims that it was always there inside of me, to behave that way, and has nothing to do with his constant put downs or insults towards me.
I dont believe in divorce.... everyone loves him, think he's patient, kind smart, great, etc..... no one would believe me.
I would be so ashamed. Everyone would believe that him, that I am dumb, lazy, messy, etc..... cause he has a way of talking that easily manipulates people.
He is so careful not to let the mask slip in public.
Once he was angry at me and I was in a hallway while he was washing his hands speaking at me with an angry face, then someone walks by instantly he is smiling talking normally, then the pass on and he is again angry faced and terse with me .
I don't know what to do. He says I accomplished nothing in my life and he is right. No degrees, no savings nothing
I am stuck.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

November, 7 2020 at 5:13 pm

I could have written this x

June, 8 2019 at 5:40 pm

Boy! Every one of these women’s stories resonates with me. I have been married for 30 years and I can’t remember any good times we ever had because all the bad supersede any that might have been. There were red flags before we married. He once shoved me so hard I went flying across a gravel driveway. Another time we were in his truck and I sneezed too loud I guess and he slapped me in the face so hard I was too shocked to even cry. He said i sneeze to get attention. I have chronic sinus problems and allergies. I get called stupid, low IQ everyday. Among many other names. I can’t ever do anything right. He reminds me of a whiny spoiled petulant child at times. I’m the owner of a very successful business for which I am the sole bread winner now. He quit his job he says because he worked long enough and got tired living out of a suitcase. He says he used to be the sole provider but I have always worked outside the home full time. I know this much, that people who verbally and physically abuse others are really the ones who lack self esteem and by putting others down it somehow elevates them. I don’t know what I’m going to do but I’m not happy and I feel and have gone through what every woman here has.
I hope all of us or some of us will eventually find true happiness.

November, 22 2020 at 7:19 am

Your story hots so close to home. I have been with my husband 20 years, in which time I have been called every name in the book, he has told me im worthless, retarded, a whore you name it he has said it. I have been told thay once I make as much as he does I will be his equal, lol.
Why do I take it,? I work two jobs and take classes online trying to get me teaching degree. I get no credit for that, I just get yelled at that I have never worked and hes tired of taking care of me, im only here because I can't make it on my own. He disappeared yesterday, yes I know where he went, but he didn't say walked out the door at 11:30 am and still hasn't been back. Yet he asked me if we are still having Thanksgiving, what? I find that I hate myself, I hate myself for staying, for listening to the bs that he was mad when he says those things and I shouldn't take it to heart, everybody says shit when they are mad. I must admit when he calls me names and belittles me it fills me with so much anger I fight back with my own hurtful words. I used to cry, I used to hide away in my room. I still cry, just not in front of him, he doesn't get to see that anymore. I feel so lost at times, lost to the person I was before. I just want to be happy, and I really don't know how to do that anymore.

May, 5 2020 at 2:59 am

Hi there,
How do I know for sure my husband is abusive?
Yes, he has called me a bitch a few times, he confronts me in front of the children, he tells me all the things he doesn't like about me or my attitude when he has been drinking and yes, sometimes, and more frequently now, I feel scared, especially when he drinks too much.
This morning he told me I make him angry. He is an angry man, and I have to be careful what I say sometimes around him. I have to watch his mood. If I mention his anger he gets angrier. He knows that I won't answer back or get into an argument in front of the children so that is when he is most confrontational. But he is not like that all the time. He has days when he is just like when we first met, kind and generous. But alcohol brings the worse out of him. It never used to be like that but as I don't drink (I decided to stop drinking even a glass of wine thinking he might follow but that didn't work) I seem to notice his anger more.
Is all that abuse or is it a normal husband and wife relationship, I don't know anymore? All I know is that my heart is racing when I feel he is going to start having a go at me for something. I have recently taken up Reiki so that I can 'protect' myself from his bad vibes when he is in a mood.
I would walk away and leave in a heartbeat if the children were much older and if I had my own revenue. I have been finding peace in the thought that when my youngest is off at university I will leave but that is another 4 years away. I know it sounds terrible but I keep thinking maybe the man I married will come back.
I am well aware that by staying it is not healthy for the children either but I try my best to make sure they don't witness his verbal abuse towards me.
Reading back all this make him sound terrible and he is not like that every day. There is also a history of alcoholism in his family and everyone in his family is in denial about it. When I asked him why he drank so much all by himself he used to tell me it was because of me now he tells me because he likes it. I'm scared of the example he is setting the children.
The thing is that everybody who knows him thinks he is charming and funny and generous so I question myself sometimes, maybe it is me after all...

July, 19 2021 at 11:46 am

What you wrote is my situation to an EXACT T!!!! I mean down to even the Reiki! I also do it to protect myself and get myself out of the funk after his verbal attacks. If you ever would like to talk, let me know. Maybe we could be sounding boards for each other. Sending long distance Reiki to you today ✨?✨❤️

Amos Lee
September, 12 2021 at 12:37 am

Oh Mel, I feel for you, and I know this pain, confusion, and love well. The best thing I would recommend to you is to attend a few local al-Anon meetings, see if they’re for you. They have different types like for religious or for just daily group share. During covid the al-anon and AA groups were forcing into virtual so there are a lot of options out there for you. Just make sure you locate a meeting through an official local chapter. Best of luck to you!! Also the author, Melody Beattie, read her books and smartphone app on codependency. Be well and take care of you!

September, 21 2021 at 7:21 pm

If stonewalling, silent treatment and withholding affection are all forms of abuse, how do you know when "walking away" from verbal abuse is healthy or not? I'm tired of being accused of stonewalling or withholding when I refuse to stand there and listen to verbal abuse. Why is no one talking about the distinction?

October, 14 2022 at 4:56 am

Yes. I have the same problem. I at first try calmly talk but get yelled over saying "oh so it's my fault now" and then come the names and cursing. I tried yelling back after having him about an inch from my face and screaming at the top of his lungs. That made it a lot worse. Now I just don't talk and I get called autistic and abusive and accused of trying to make him more mad. There's no winning.

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