Most people who verbally abuse their spouse are saying more about their own needs that they are about their spouse’s character. The verbal abuser has a deep need for self-worth. They are unconsciously seeking to elevate themselves by putting down the spouse.
Of course, this is not an acceptable way to build one’s self-esteem. The spouse who wants to have a positive influence will affirm the need, but reject the behavior. By saying something like: “I know that you must be terribly frustrated to speak to me in that manner. I wish I could hear you and help, but I am so pained by the words that I cannot listen. If you could write me a note telling me what you feel and how strongly you feel it, maybe I could be there for you and could be the spouse you need.” This statement acknowledges the inner struggles of the abuser, but refuses to accept the destructive behavior. This is a step in the right direction