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Intimate Partner Abuse Screen




In an Abusive Relationship - The Problem with Promises after the Emotional Verbal Abuse

domestic violence consulting expert


By Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.


We’ve all heard it happens and if you’ve ever been in an abusive relationship you know those promises like the back of your hand.


They seem so sweet in the first handful of rounds living in an abusive relationship. And all that happens in the relationship immediately after feels just the same...real sweet. HONEYmoon sweet.


You know there is a “but” coming here. I know you can feel it.


...But, when one yields to the promises, here’s what happens.


A) For the Abuser

Abuser conditioning - Taking the person back after an assault (whether physical, emotional or verbal abuse), essentially sends a message that the abuser can “get away” with that level of abuse. This is part of how the stage is built for permission for the next altercation to magnify, to be more severe than the one before. Well, if I can get away with that one, then...


B) For the Abused

Breeds false hope for victim/survivor. Why? Because the promise in and of itself is not what changes battering behavior. The promise fails to take into account the etiology of the assault (again, whether verbal abuse, emotional abuse or an outright physical assault). More often it only, yet dearly says: I won’t do that anymore. Things will be different.


C) For the Couple Entangled in an Abusive Relationship

It rekindles the status quo, while diverting attention from the real issues. So, in addition to complicating both parties individual understanding of the altercation, it keeps the couple “elephant under the carpet”…exquisitely covered so no one can see. Not those looking from the inside out, much less those looking from the outside in.


If you find yourself face-to-face with one of these promises, be mindful of all of the implications that go hand and hand with it. The more you know earlier on, the less likely you will be a consequence (a victim) of an abusive relationship spiraling out of control.

For a deeper understanding of what keeps emotional verbal abuse going and what stops it, visit Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. is founding director of nonprofit Partners in Prevention, dedicated to helping domestic abuse survivors and their advocates.


This series of eInsights is presented to you by Partners in Prevention, a nonprofit organization. If you find this eInsight article useful, we invite you to contribute to the maintenance and growth of the Survivor Success Tips & eInsights. To make a tax-deductible donation, please visit


©Copyright 2008 Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.