By D’Andra Simmons

Saturday I was strolling through the greeting card aisle at my local CVS…

And I heard a man on his cell phone talking obnoxiously loud! He was obviously talking to a woman from what was being said. I frowned at him because of how loudly he was speaking in a public place.

This guy paid no attention to me or any other store patron, but only continued in his booming voice berating the woman on the other end of the line, and belittling her to no avail. I wanted to yank the phone out of his hand and tell the woman to run while she still had the time if she was his girlfriend, immediately leave skid marks getting to the divorce lawyer if she was his wife, and put in her resignation notice if she was his employee (although it seemed like a much more intimate relationship than an employer/employee one) and most importantly NEVER EVER speak to this man again. That got me thinking, how many of us have been in a verbally abusive relationship either with a partner or friend, and how many are currently in one? What IS verbally acceptable and what is not verbally acceptable in a relationship?

Allowing someone to speak with you in a demeaning way is never okay. Now, I admit, we all get angry from time to time and spout off things we don’t mean to say. I am a hothead myself, so I am guilty as charged! And I have to ask for my share of forgiveness when I am wrong. However, I am not the type of person to berate or demean someone. My hotheadedness lasts for less than 24 hours in general. I simmer up and then simmer down quickly. What I am talking about in this blog is an entire different type of verbal thrashing.

Words are so cutting, and once they come out of your mouth they can’t be taken back. It is just as I have been preaching about what we share on our social media sites. Once you hit “ENTER” it cannot be recalled from eternal Internet abyss. Words leave scars that can never be removed. My mom told me that one!

When beginning a relationship with someone we should all hope the other person is on his or her best behavior. If a person starts in the beginning of the relationship criticizing you or talking down to you, then it is time to quickly evaluate whether or not you want to continue down this path. Verbal abusers love to dish out “constructive criticism”. This is never constructive. Most likely, this person is suffering from a lot more than the need to belittle you, and has an underlying problem of self-esteem and self-worth issues, control issues and a history of being verbally abused themselves. They may have been brought up in homes where they witnessed this type of behavior with parental figures and have not sought out the necessary counseling or tools to deal with their own internal angst and self-deprecating thoughts and patterns.

In my experience, and I have had a lot in this area, once this happens it WILL happen again. It will not only happen again, but this quite possibly is the precursor to much more than just verbal abuse. The person who displays such behavior will almost, guaranteed, beg for your forgiveness and say they will never do it again, but the next time it will be fiercer and more biting than the first time.

With me after my experiences you get one chance, a second chance, and then I’m out of there- no matter if it is a friend or a lover. In my case, I am also keenly aware of these issues, so I have set myself up to be dependent on me and me alone. I never have to compromise my feelings or values because I don’t depend on anyone else for an income or my happiness…that is key! Unfortunately, not all women are in the same boat, and it may be more difficult to leave a bad or verbally abusive relationship if you have more than just unpleasant behavior to consider. Please know there are a lot of resources out there to help you if you find yourself in this type of situation.
If you allow someone to continue treating you with disrespect and verbal aggression then the next time may not only be his or her last, but your last time also, and NOT because you said, “Adios”. If someone has anger management issues let them go to take them out on someone else. You need to develop a backbone!

Verbal abuse and criticism can also be cunning. It can be dressed up to sound innocuous and innocent. Let me give you two examples of just plain meanness from someone I was involved with in my past. One year I won the People Magazine “Real Beauty at Every Age Contest.” Naturally I was surprised and excited that out of all the women in my age group, I was chosen to represent that particular age and what the magazine thought was beautiful. I had to submit photos and go through an interview to win my age category. My partner at the time made one comment and this was it, “It’s too bad you weren’t in Vogue instead. That would have been a really big deal.” What?? Did I just hear you correctly?? Any other man would have said, “Way to go, I am so proud of you” and then posted all over social media, “Hey guys go and purchase this week’s People Magazine and check out my hot girlfriend who was just named most beautiful for her age.” Instead I got this cryptic but not so cryptic response that was meant to hurt my feelings, which it did. I later on realized that this person was so jealous of any attention I received (because he wanted to be the center of attention) that he had to find a way to demean or belittle me in every situation to make the acknowledgement somewhat less important and less of a big deal than I perceived it to be. This intervened with my own self-esteem and pride in my accomplishments, even if in this case it was just a beauty contest!

For me, the reality was that this person was constantly putting me down at home, slyly and not so slyly. I read somewhere that “A master at verbal abuse can damage your self-esteem while at the same time appear to care deeply for you. The use of words to punish is a very covert attempt to control. “In my case my partner questioned my intelligence, although I was the clear breadwinner of the two of us, and he constantly criticized my weight, which is a huge issue for me having struggled with this issue my entire life. His answer to my weight loss issues was for me to take up smoking instead of eating. Now that is an intelligent choice if I have ever heard one! Of course, I ignored such ill-advised direction since smoking makes you stink, and I am the only woman in my family who has not had cancer, which he knew!! Of course, we were also constantly fighting with each other, which did not make for a positive relationship. I should have noticed the red flags a long time before I did, but he had my self-esteem so low from the constant picking at my character that I didn’t know if I could meet anyone else…yes, I had come to that!

I finally extricated myself from the relationship and met a wonderful man who treats me with respect and love. He would never talk to me in a demeaning manner and he is sensitive to those things that he knows I am touchy about. If you are in a verbally abusive relationship or just one that is not uplifting but constantly brings you down, the sooner you realize that it is not about you, in fact it has nothing to do with you, the better off you will be. You are just the person in the room, the verbal punching bag, so to speak!

If you are struggling with this kind of relationship now then you have some options. You can ask your partner to go to counseling and try to work out your issues if you feel the relationship is worth saving and you truly believe the person will give it their ALL to try to reconcile with you, or you can call it quits and move on with your life. If you decide to do this, it is best to get some counseling on your own so that the next time you choose a mate, you choose someone worth choosing and someone who cherishes you and deserves you. I’m starting to sound like a Facebook post, which makes me cringe, so I think it is time to close this one out. I hope the woman who was on the other end of the phone Saturday with the obnoxiously rude man is reading this and knows what she needs to do!

 

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D’Andra Simmons is a businesswoman and philanthropist.  She is the founder of Hard Night Good Morning Skincare and an active volunteer for the Dallas community serving on the Advisory Board of Booker T. Washington School for the Performing Arts, volunteering with the Junior League of Dallas, AIDS Services of Dallas or Cattle Baron’s Ball for the American Cancer Society.