Criticism and put-downs can be a form of mental abuse and so can sarcasm and being told that you can’t take a joke. Constant volleys of such “verbal” abuse can wear a person down and definitely not help them back up. It is often used in arguments to denigrate the opinions and/or wishes of those being put down. The partner might find him or herself spending more time defending themselves than having a constructive arguement.
Nagging can result from such interactions. If a person is never allowed to win an argument by the means cited above, they may resort to nagging as a substitute for not being able to win in an argument. Nagging can be a symptom of a relationship where one person doesn’t do something that the other person wants and in an argument over this issue, the other person feels that they don’t have to a chance to win.
Such forms of interaction discussed above can result in a negative living situation with one or both persons involved feeling “less than” and unable to cope. Being constantly “put-down” does not generate a comfortable situation and it can become a constant war zone in which one person always wants to win and the other person doesn’t feel they have a chance.
Punishment is not a good way to encourage certain forms of behavior; positive reinforcement is. Also on many issues over which partners fight there is often no one “right” answer. Many such arguments are about personal preferences and not absolutes although some people like to think that they are. Mother nature and our environments are set up to encourage certain types of tastes and certain types of skills.
For example, if I have sensitive hearing, I may prefer certain types of music over other types. Does that make me right or wrong when I argue with a person with different sensitivites and experiences. For example, I do not like most “bluegrass music,” certain old time country music, and polkas (unless they are extremely “lively”). However that doesn’t mean that I don’t like music as a whole.
It often boils down to a whole issue of control. If I maintain that the things I like and like to do are the only “right” ones than I can be sure that I won’t have to do or experience anything different that I might not like. In one relationship I was in, I was not allowed to eat any onions cooked or raw at home or away from home for he could always tell if I did and he didn’t like them.
Nobody is happy if only one person is in control of the relationship. The winner might get tired of having to tell the loser everything they are supposed to do and the loser might get tired of never having “any choice”. This can be the motive for murder where one partner kills the other.