Language of Love Omitted From Abusive Relationships

February 24, 2011 Kellie Jo Holly

In abusive relationships, the language of love becomes merely a useful tool for your abuser to manipulate. You can't trust it, & you may forget it. Here's why.

The language of love may have been present at the beginning of my abusive marriage. Honestly, I don't remember. The language of abuse pulled me into negative thinking about my ex-husband, myself, our family, and all dreams I once held dear to my heart.

Over time, the words we used as a couple became harsh and either black or white - there was no in between and definitely no love (Verbal Abuse Turns Love Into a Tool of Abuse). Every situation became a problem to solve (his way) and every dream disappeared (because I believed him when he said I didn't live in reality). The language of love ceased to exist.

Language of Love Morphed Into Vocabulary of Abuse

It's only now, a year out of that relationship, that I realize how many words were omitted from our communications."That's a great idea!" became "I don't think that will work."

"You are beautiful!" became "You've always had a pretty face."

"Why don't you try that - I'll support you," became "Nah - I don't think you have time to do all that."

"School isn't for me, but I know it's important to you," became "All those people want to do is take our money so you can get a worthless piece of paper."

Problems Learning The Language of Love After 18 Years of Verbal Abuse

But now that I'm in a relationship with another man, we'll call him Max, I'm learning that there were SO MANY words that disappeared or never were a part of my marriage that I have a difficult time communicating how I feel about Max. I've not found myself at a loss for words describing the abuse I underwent, but describing a healthy relationship leaves me tongue-tied.

I don't seem to possess the words I need to describe happiness.

Max says, "Looking at you makes my heart smile!" and I quietly reply, "You have beautiful eyes."

Max says, "You are on the way to finding success - I just know this new opportunity is going to be great for you!" and I reply, "I hope so."

Max says, "You are so talented, Kellie!" and I reply, "So are you."

WHAT?! It makes me want to cry that I can't seem to get out of me the feelings I feel for Max. I feel inadequate and cheated of the experience it takes to let someone else know how much I appreciate them, how much I love them, how much they mean to me.

My children fare better than Max when it comes to hearing how I love them, but even there I am discovering that I fall short. "I love you" means a lot, but I'm learning that it helps, a lot, to be able to describe why I love someone.

I used to tell my ex that I loved him, but for what? The phrase loses its meaning when those are the only love-words repeated.

The Language of Love Makes Our Words Mean Something

I love my oldest son, in part, because he speaks his mind and seeks advice but doesn't always take it. He is strong.

I love my youngest son, in part, because his eyes show his soul even when his words won't come. He is brilliant.

I love Max, in part, because he is helping me to bring a piece of me out of hibernation - a part of me that I didn't realize I had lost. He is magical.

Time spent in a verbally abusive relationship robbed me not of my ability to feel love, but of my ability to express love. If I cannot express love words then how will I ever be able to realize true love in my life?

WORDS are powerful. They help us to define our perceptions and make them real. When the only words bandied about in your reality are hurtful, then every perception, every thought, is painful.

See Also:

You can find Kellie Jo Holly on her website, Facebook and Twitter.

*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2011, February 24). Language of Love Omitted From Abusive Relationships, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

June, 10 2012 at 6:40 am

@Todd - yes u r right and well done to you for accepting and being willing to change.
My experience is similar to Kelly and most abusers never accept their behaviour, live in denial/their warped realities and hence never desire/think to change. When you request/tell them they have faults and need to "improve" for the sake of the relationship/marriage/your sanity then you get hostile responses while still living together or separated. If only they could SEE/FEEL the HURT THEY CAUSE OTHERS.

Kellie Holly
February, 26 2011 at 9:42 am

I sympathize with you, Todd, and I do hope you find the support you need during your struggles to un-learn the behaviors that cost you your marriage. I believe that my family could have been saved if my own STBX husband could have grasped the possibility that his actions were causing distress to our family.
But he didn't.
Two months after our separation, I offered him a modified version of the contract Patricia Evans wrote in her book "The Verbally Abusive Man" and gave it to him. He told me, "I will never go to counseling," completely ignoring the other aspects of the contract and my inclusion of my own misbehaviors. And that was that. Two months into our separation I was still willing if he would only SEE. He refused.
You, my friend, may be in the minority of abusers. You are an EX abuser, fully cognizant of the behaviors and completely willing to let loose control. Not every person is so able to do that.

February, 25 2011 at 3:45 am

Therapy cannot help any disfunction unless the individual is truly motivated. What provides that motivation, in my case of an abuser, may have and was for me rather extreme. Knocking the abuser flat on his back with the realization that his actions have cost him everything he holds dear can have a profound impact on his resolve to change. To be removed from his home, or to lose his wife and children to seperation or divorce can do more than merely bring him to his knees which was my experience. When this abuser gets over feeling sorry for himself and fully realises the pain he caused his loved ones and then feels their pain he is driven to change indeed. No wonder so many find a girlfriend and move on. For the abuser/me who truly loves his family and seeks reconcilliation and not diversion a hard road lies ahead took time for me to put things in perspective by therapy,reading, and experience the pain from other women who are victims. The abuser who admits his fault and goes to work on the problem is then faced with the stigma of all the negative attitudes displayed as to his chances for success. To admit his problems and attempt to save his marriage seems to be a concept easily scoffed at by his wife or long time partner. I agree that the victim deserves the lions share of support and protection. Where is the support for the abuser who is truly willing to change? Could some families be saved? Could renewed and healthy relationships then be extended to happy families with children that grow up to be non-abusive? Would the concept that curing abuse in our society be achieved through healing abusers be so unacceptable? I intend to become non-abusive. I hope my STBX wife someday will get the courage lift her label and past hurt that I caused by my efforts being under direst with my special situation that haunts me everyday!
Abuser.. Recovery, To be a Man for a Man!

Kellie Holly
February, 24 2011 at 7:08 am

Yes - BLOG today :) It seems to be the only way I can keep up with you! You bring up an interesting thought - "...and learning to not be afraid to share when I find those words." It is scary to say more than "I love you". I keep waiting for the criticism. You know, one of my and Will's worst arguments occurred after I expressed my belief and confidence in his abilities?! Really - a compliment out of love caused an argument. I can't wait for the fear to go away, but I have to do things that cause me to feel fear in order to diminish it.

February, 24 2011 at 1:27 am

wow! Kellie, we really do live parallel lives. First, I am so happy for you & this new stage in your life. And I'm sure you already know this, but the words (& the ability to express them) will come back, little by little. I am learning this too...and learning to not be afraid to share when I find those words. Have you read the "Four Agreements" yet? Wow! Amazing book, so much wisdom & truth...and very relevant to your experience and mine. *Note to self: Blog dammit & write a review of the book.

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