Elizabeth Nyblade, Ph.D.
Gateway Centre
1313 E. Maple Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
P: 360.647.8295
Why Trump Won't Give Up the Verbal Abuse
Donald Trump is many things. . . businessman, entertainer and politician. But did you know that he is a verbal abuser?
The Verbal Abuse of Donald Trump

The presumptive Republican Candidate for President is a verbal abuser. Donald Trump has called his political opponents names like “hypocrite,” “weak,” “a pathetic figure,” “liar,” “choker.” And he relishes repeating nasty nicknames for his opponents: “Crooked Hillary,” “Lying Ted,” “Low-energy Jeb.”

I have seen and treated many targets of verbal abuse over my last forty years as a practicing psychologist. With Donald Trump as a candidate, we can all see the cycle of abuse playing out on the national stage.

Part III: How to Take an Adult Timeout
The abuser is in a timeout from you when you can no longer hear, see or pay attention to the abuser. Your goal is to take a timeout as rapidly and as consistently as possible when your partner says something that is verbally or emotionally abusive.
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The Two Dimensions of a Relationship:

When most people think about “measuring” or “judging” a relationship, they usually assume that there is only one “dimension” to the relationship. They put relationships on a scale that has two opposite poles, maybe “good” and “bad” and then they judge the relationship by putting it somewhere on that scale. That looks something like this:

A One-Dimensional Look at Relationships

I think it’s more helpful for folks to look at two dimensions of a relationship, namely a dimension of Positive to Negative and a dimension of Close to Distant. If I diagram those two dimensions, it looks something like a graph. Here’s what that sort of diagram would look like:

A Two-Dimensional Look at Relationships


With that framework, you can look at relationships that fall anywhere along both dimensions.  And you can summarize a relationship as falling into one of the four quadrants:

Let me give you examples of who might fall into each quadrant. 
Distant and positive relationships:
My brother-in-law in New Hampshire
My brother in San Diego
My bank teller
Close and positive relationships:
My husband
My sister
My best friend
Distant and negative relationships:
Al Qaida terrorists
The tyrant who signs my paycheck
The bureaucrat who won’t give me the refund
Close and negative relationships:
My ex-husband
Family members with whom I’m quarreling
My ex-best friend

So How Do You Change a Relationship?

If you are dissatisfied with one of your relationships, here are ways to change some aspects of it:
How do you make a relationship closer?
    • See the person more frequently
    • See the person in a larger variety of situations (work and socially, family and interest-group)
    • Try to get the other interested in participating in your hobbies and activities, and join the other in their activities
    • Invite the person to participate in other areas of your life.
    • Share information about more intimate matters -- sex, personal problems, things you are embarrassed about or ashamed of.
How do you make a relationship more distant?
    • See the person less frequently.
    • Cut down the opportunities to interact by limiting the number of situations you are both involved in
    • Leave contact with the person to chance rather than inviting the other to join you or accepting invitations to join the other
    • Speak only about neutral or superficial matters, such as the weather or sports and ignore invitations for more intimate contact.
How do you make a relationship more negative?
    • Insist on getting your own way when you disagree with the person
    • Seek out opportunities to stop the person from reaching his or her goals
    • Criticize the other, call names, put the person down to his face and speak badly of him to others
    • Look for ways to see her in a negative light and see the worst in her
    • Behave discourteously, inconsiderately, and insensitively
    • Find ways to conflict with the other, either directly or indirectly
How do I make a relationship more positive?
    • Assist the other in getting her own way, even when it may conflict with your wishes
    • Praise the other, attend to him, admire him, and speak well of him to others
    • Find ways to see her in a positive light, to see the best in her
    • Behave graciously, courteously, sensitively and with regard for his feelings
    • Avoid or solve conflicts with her by actively reducing disagreements or differences with her
How Do People Deal with Negative Events in a Relationship?

When conflicts, misunderstandings, hard feelings, and fights occur in a relationship, people usually deal with it in different ways depending on the kind of relationship they’re in. Here are some examples of how people might solve problems like these in each kind of relationship:

Close and Positive: 
Negative feelings and behaviors are treated as temporary problems to be solved, and they are not ignored, or allowed to fester. Individuals in these relationships get closer by talking about and dealing with the problems, in order to solve the difficulty and stay more positive in the future. They deal directly with the negative as a problem to be solved.

Close and Negative: 
Negative feelings and behaviors are permitted to fester, and are treated as character flaws of the other or intentional hurts from the other. Problems are regarded as permanent and insoluble except by self-protective and aggressive measures. Individuals in these relationships continue to stay close by being involved with the other and they increase the conflict level and level of aggression to feel safe or to feel righteous. They deal directly with the negative event by attack or defense, so the negative feelings and behaviors continue. 

Distant and Positive: 
Feelings are often kept positive by ignoring or avoiding any conflicts or concerns in the relationship. As a result, there are often barriers to closeness, since each individual is often unaware of the ways they offend the other, and is unwilling or unable to solve continuing conflicts. In a superficial relationship, it is not important to solve small conflicts. The relationship remains positive by allowing a higher level of disagreement than would be tolerated in closer relationships. Individuals are often more giving and considerate in these relationships, because of the lack of closeness.

Distant and Negative: 
Feelings are often kept negative by ignoring or avoiding any problem-solving, so the overall tone of the relationship is negative. Or individuals may engage in protective and punishing behaviors aimed at distancing the other rather than aimed at problem-solving. As a result, there are often barriers to increasing the positiveness of the relationship because negative behaviors and feelings continue, and the relationship becomes a hit-and-run or grin-and-bear-it relationship, in which the major virtue is that the relationship is only a small part of the lives of each of the individuals.

Thus, attempts to solve conflicts in a relationship are a positive for the relationship only insofar as they are successful. 

Inadequate conflict resolution leads to Close-and-Negative relationships, which are the most intense and distressing of these four categories of relationships. When conflict resolution is not successful, it is best to stop trying to remain close. It is best to become more distant in order to reduce the overall negative tone of the relationship and of the life of each individual. 

It is better for a Close and Negative relationship to become Distant and Negative, because it then stands a chance of becoming Distant and Positive, since the amount of negative behavior has been substantially reduced.

In the process of maintaining an adult intimate relationship like a marriage, some partners insist on maintaining the closeness of the relationship at the expense of the positive tone. That is one of the important ways that verbal (and emotional) abuse occurs. The abuser uses words and manipulation to try to get his way and to try to control the other, directing the negative behavior at the other partner, who becomes a target of that abuse. The abuser fights more, criticizes more, says ‘no’ more yet he expects that the closeness to the other will continue.

Since the relationship becomes increasingly unpleasant for the target, it is not surprising that the target thinks about separating and ending the relationship. But the target’s desire to end the relationship may be a surprise for the verbal abuser because he or she may have seen parents stay together for years while engaging in these kinds of behaviors. The abuser may believe that relationships are built on negative behaviors. The abuser may feel justified and righteous about his behavior because he has seen others behave in this way and he may feel that it is the only way to behave when you have a complaint or a problem.

The abuser seeks closeness at whatever cost to positive feelings. He seeks time, attention and intimate contact while believing that he can punish the other into loving him more. Most batterers fall into this category. Batterers usually only verbally abuse their partner in the early stages of a relationship and many partners never go further than verbal abuse in punishing their partner. The stance of this type of verbal abuser is, “You need to love me no matter how I treat you. You need to stay with me no matter what your feelings are. This would be a good relationship for me if you would only give me what I want.”

The verbal abuser has no regard for the feelings or needs of the target in the relationship because the abuser looks at the other as a tool or an object. For the abuser, the relationship is only about his needs and wishes and he is willing to give up the positive dimension in the relationship in order to get more of what he or she wants for himself that maintains the closeness.

So how do you deal with an abuser who wants to maintain closeness? The short answer is to deny the abuser the closeness he wants unless you get the positive tone that you want. You’ll find the longer and more detailed explanation of what to do in the section titled “How to Take An Adult Time-Out”.
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