Why Does My Boyfriend Call Me Names?

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Reader’s Question

I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for over three years. I have been in many relationships and three past engagements. Those relationships had their issues just like all relationships. However, in my current relationship, I’m being called names. I’m not used to this and don’t appreciate it. He’s been doing this since the first day we started dating. I have had calm discussions with my boyfriend asking him to stop. I’ve told him it hurts my feelings and angers me. I have also exploded at him for it as well when he gets too carried away.

There’s no reason for it and I have not done anything to deserve it. He thinks it’s cute and funny and it’s not. I don’t know why but he called all his past girlfriends names, the same exact names including flings he had. He calls me a “bitch,” “pain in my ass” and a “wench.” I don’t get it. Why would a guy who is supposed to love a woman do this? Sometimes he just comes out, and calls me these things, out of the blue, when we aren’t even talking to each other.

Psychologist’s Reply

Your boyfriend is verbally abusive. According to the Medical Dictionary, verbal abuse is “A form of emotional abuse consisting of the use of abusive and demeaning language with a spouse, child, or elder, often by a caregiver or other person in a position of power.” The most commonly used form is name-calling but it can also include shouting, insulting, intimidating, threatening, shaming, derogatory language and other demeaning forms of communication.

Some people do not equate verbal abuse with physical abuse, yet it is considered a form of psychological violence. In fact, some people consider verbal abuse even more difficult to endure than physical abuse because the emotional pain lasts longer. Psychological violence is so damaging that, in 2010, the French parliament approved a law that makes it an offense. The bill defines mental violence as “repeated acts which could be constituted by words or other machinations, to degrade one’s quality of life and cause a change to one’s mental or physical state.” People breaking the law can be fined and face up to three years in jail.

One of the dangers involved with verbal abuse is that the people being abused may end up believing what is being said about them. As a result, they can start losing confidence in themselves, become stressed out and depressed, decrease their self-esteem and may even begin to believe that they are to blame for the verbal abuse. It is important to remember that psychological violence is never your fault. Instead, verbally abusive perpetrators may be trying to control or manipulate the relationship to their advantage. Another danger is that the verbal abuse can escalate.

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I think you need to pay attention to the fact that you have repeatedly asked him to stop and explained how it distresses you when he calls you names. Despite your pleas, he still thinks it’s funny and continues to disregard your wishes by his refusal to halt his hurtful behavior. All of us deserve a partner who cares about our feelings. Since he does not seem to be such a partner (and is someone who constantly degrades women), maybe you need to stop worrying about the reasons for his behavior and start focusing on your own. Why do you stay when he’s abusive and it’s clear he isn’t going to change?

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