Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: Thank you for taking my question last week (about disagreements with my boyfriend). I was surprised when you included the domestic violence link ( because he had never been violent.

He still hasn't been, but that weekend he yelled at me pretty bad, and systematically insulted my character. When we talked normally he said he was purposely trying to hurt my feelings.

He admitted he should have communicated better, but never apologized for yelling, though I apologized for "setting him off" multiple times. I broke up with him.

Answer: Every person who becomes violent was, preceding that point, not violent.

Domestic violence education is applicable to situations of verbal/emotional abuse, because they're just different points on the same continuum. When someone thinks it's OK to cause you deliberate harm in one way, how much of a leap is it to another kind of harm?

As for why I made abuse connections when you hadn't even mentioned yelling, it was this: "He feels that if we go somewhere together we should spend every second together." That's classic control, which is a predictor of relationship violence. It's in the warning-signs section of the pamphlet.

Even though you broke up (phew!), I think you still would benefit from reading more on the topic. The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker is eye-opening, and a quick and absorbing read. Take care.

Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at