What Do You Do When the Man You Love Calls You Names?

Name-calling is a tactic of verbal abuse and it is never acceptable.
... Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Name-calling is not the type of behavior that results in bruises. It is more subtle, but can be just as hurtful. For instance, being called "fat," "stupid," or a "whore" can badly damage your self-esteem. It can be very challenging to know how to respond to such a situation. You might believe these things are true, or perhaps that you are overreacting by being upset. You may even be worried that you will lose your relationship if you insist that the behavior stop. There are, however, steps you can take to protect yourself and your emotional well-being, while preserving your relationship as much as possible.

1 Build Support

Verbal assaults can be traumatic, overwhelming and exhausting. As you think about how you will address the way your boyfriend treats you, it is helpful to consider the networks of trustworthy people around you, according to Love Is Respect, and online resource dedicated to cultivating healthy relationships. Enlist the support of friends, family members and even a counselor or support group. These are the people to whom you can process your feelings, discuss your concerns, your intentions in the relationship and perhaps offer suggestions for ways to improve communication with your boyfriend.

2 Set Boundaries

Your personal boundaries determine the actions and behaviors of others with which you are and are not comfortable, according to a resource developed by Johnson State College's Counseling Center. For instance, you may be unwilling to loan money to others and, of course, subject to being called names. Using "I" statements, tell your boyfriend how his behavior makes you feel, and be specific. Instead of saying, "You're so mean!" you might say, "I feel hurt and unloved when you tell me I'm stupid." You may also want to inform him of potential consequences -- such as separation -- should the verbal abuse continue.

3 Follow Through

Mean what you say, and be prepared to follow through with the intended consequences, states therapist Darlene Lancer in her article for Psych Central titled, "What are Personal Boundaries? How Do I Get Some?" If you told him that you would no longer go out with him if he kept accusing you of cheating and calling you a "whore," commit to this promise. Otherwise, he will not be held accountable for his actions and likely will not value your thoughts and feelings.

4 End the Relationship

If your attempts to engage in respectful communication with your boyfriend are ignored, or if the verbal abuse escalates, it may be time to end the relationship. Breaking up with someone who has been abusive in any way can be quite volatile. If you have any reason to believe that your safety might be compromised, consider contacting your local battered women's agency for assistance with planning for your safety.

Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.