Traits of an abuser

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Signs of an Abusive Relationship


Intuitively feeling uncomfortable is a signal for an unhealthy or bad relationship.

Selecting a mate may be the most important decision one can make in their life. Pair bonding is an essential feature of being human, but pairing with an abusive personality is a miserable experience. The abusive personality more often engages in domestic violence (DV) or intimate partner violence (IPV). The ability to recognize the warning signs of an abusive person may be distorted by one’s emotional, social, and intimate needs that can outweigh logic and better judgment.

Both genders can be abusive and can cause far reaching or asymmetrical damage to their relationship, partner, family members, and those whom they associate. Most negatively impacted are any children related to an abusive relationship and they often experience developmental difficulties, and perpetuate the cycle of abuse through engaging in their own unhealthy relationships.

Avoiding involvement with an abusive personality is difficult because by the time the abuser’s traits are apparent, often the victim is already deeply invested in the relationship. In new relationships, most women and men “put their best foot forward”. Consequently, someone’s true colors, or abusive tendencies, may not show for months. Abusive tendencies generally appear when there is stress, conflict, or fear.

During courtship, abusive males have the ability to manipulate female victims by making them feel adored and special. After abusive episodes, abusers often revert to their charming behavior, thus creating a (traumatic) bond that makes it harder for both the victim and abuser to terminate their relationship. The emotions experienced during abusive episodes are intense for both victim and abuser, followed by passionate reconciliation.

It is common for abusers to lavish apologies, professions of love, gifts, and attention upon their victims. They frequently promise to change, but abusive people seldom alter their abusive pattern, especially if they have personality disorders such as antisocial, borderline, narcissistic, histrionic, and paranoid disorders.

Emotional investment and attachment develop quickly within an intimate relationship that are complicated when assets are commingled, financial dependency is developed, emotional dependency couples with fears of infidelity, and children are involved. As time together lengthens, ending an intimate relationship, even an abusive one, becomes difficult. When the decisions are made to end the relationship, shame over the failed relationship, fear about the risk of financial forfeiture, and fear of the future make the decision difficult. Ending a relationship can become cognitively confusing, emotionally painful, and physically difficulty that will result in significant changes in one’s lifestyle.

When ending a relationship, disagreements about child custody time and support amounts can aggravate emotional tensions that can escalate verbal and/or physical abuse. Abusive people usually become frightened about losing their partner, which increases the volatility during episodes of abuse, especially violence.

Characteristics of abusers frequently include a cluster of the traits in this list. Awareness of these traits can provide warning indicators about whether someone has a propensity toward being abusive. A problem for many victims is that many of these traits will not be evident until emotional, sexual, and physical bonding has taken place. Recognizing these traits can be difficult while dating. If you are dating or have married someone with a preponderance of the listed abusive traits, there is a high probability that he is an abuser.

Abusive Personality Warning Signs

Look for clusters of traits when reviewing the list. Most of these traits should not be considered in singularity or isolation, because many people exhibit some degree of these behaviors and do not commit intimate partner violence. The abusive traits are not listed in order of significance or importance. Before physical violence occurs, many of the batterer’s traits will be exhibited before he assaults his victim.

This list is written as the male being the perpetrator of intimate partner abuse, but abusive females will have similar characteristics. Homosexual abusers will also share clusters of the following traits that are broken down into the following categories:

  1. Low Self-Esteem
  2. Cyclical Turmoil of Feelings
  3. History of Abuse within Relationships
  4. View Women, Relationships, and Intimacy with Fear
  5. Acute Separation Anxiety
  6. Possessive Jealousy
  7. Sexual Manipulation and Subjugation
  8. Beliefs in Extremism
  9. Substance Abuse
  10. Financial Problems
  11. Conflict

No one can change the behavioral tendencies of an abusive personality. Most abusers claim that they are willing to change, but overall, biologically they cannot.

1. Low Self-Esteem

  1. Shows signs of low self-esteem or poor opinion of himself. Self-esteem can affect decision making. How he perceives himself can be a reflection of how he treats others. Abusive personalities often mask or conceal their low self-esteem in defensive, projecting, and assaultive behavior.
  2. Degrades and criticizes others in order to appear superior and compensate for low self-esteem.
  3. Feels worthlessness.
  4. Fearful of failure with correlating belief that he is a perpetual failure.
  5. Does not believe he’s lovable.
  6. Turns attention to himself when his partner is upset and in need of comfort or support.
  7. Seeks to make his partner feel bad so they can feel better about himself.
  8. Requires his ego be constantly confirmed and needs to be told how great he is.
  9. When his partner is upset and needs comfort, he instead turns the attention to himself requiring his ego be stroked and told how great and grandiose he is.
  10. When his partner is upset, he also seeks to make her feel bad so he can feel better about himself.
  11. Explosive reactions to stress.
  12. Suffers mood swings. Sullenness, anger, or depression is followed by pleasantness, charm, and attentiveness.
  13. Does not have close friends, but also isolates himself while seeking pity.
  14. Threatens suicide, especially if partner threatens to leave or end their relationship.
  15. Seeks control by controlling his partner.
  16. Lacks demonstrable ambition.
  17. Talks about efforts of grandeur, but does not initiate actions.
  18. Lazy and happy to lounge and freeload.
  19. Shows resentment toward those on whom he is dependent.

2. Cyclical Turmoil of Feelings

  1. Requires periodic conflict to confirm his importance; often initiates cyclical episodes of conflict.
  2. Familiar with conflict in a relationship. Feels uncomfortable when “things are going well”.
  3. Unable to accept rejection.
  4. Projects extreme emotions onto others like hate, obsession, and jealousy.
  5. Blames others for his feelings.
  6. Ignores, denies, or belittles his partner’s or other peoples’ feelings.
  7. Uses his partner’s feelings to manipulate her through accusations and blame.
  8. Easily insulted.
  9. When upset, claims his feelings are hurt.
  10. Blames his partner for things that go wrong. Does not retract his accusations.
  11. Rants and raves about life’s injustices and the bad things that have happened to him.
  12. Cannot properly channel his anger, and often directs it at others.
  13. Explosive temper and allows his anger to be “out of control”.
  14. When things don’t go his way, quickly loses his temper.
  15. Breaks or throws things when angry, and blames his partner for what he has done.

Breaking things when angry, doesn’t define somebody as abusive. People handle stress, frustration, and anger differently. Ask the question, “Where is anger directed?” and “Is physical destruction used as a method to intimidate or release ‘steam?” Stated earlier, an abuser will break or hit things and reference the “next time” the damage could be his victim.

3. History of Abuse within Relationships

  1. Has experienced prior abusive relationships.
  2. Has stalked previous partners.
  3. Discusses abuse and neglect during his childhood upbringing, especially from mother or primary care giver(s).
  4. Sexually abused by a male or female caregiver, or authority figure.
  5. Experienced shameful or humiliation events with his father or mother.
  6. Experienced or witnessed physically abusive parents.
  7. Was abused and/or neglected as a child.

A person who has experienced or witnessed their fathers or mothers being physically abusive does not mean that they, too, will be abusive. The torment of a parent’s own abuse, neglect, and chaotic conflict within family relationships are often passed onto their child. Many children have been abused (sometimes viciously) and overcome their past. Don Dutton (1996) identified that 1/3 of children raised in homes with domestic violence report repeating the cycle of intimate partner violence. This implies 2/3 of abused children do not repeat the cycle they witnessed. Dutton identified three distinct sources of the abusive personality in a male:

  1. Being shamed, especially by one’s father.
  2. Insecure attachment to one’s mother.
  3. Direct experience of abuse in the home.

4. View Women, Relationships, and Intimacy with Fear

  1. Makes degrading comments, especially through jokes, about women, related to intelligence, sexuality and bodies.
  2. Makes statements that women need to be “disciplined” or require “a good beating every so often to keep them in their place.”
  3. Women are here to serve men’s needs.
  4. Makes comments about other women’s bodies and behavior with disaffirming comparative reference to his partner.
  5. To provoke or degrade his partner, either subtly or overtly conveys sexual interest in others.
  6. Idolizes or places his partner on “a pedestal”, then purposely “knocks” her down.
  7. Believes he sexually owns his partner.
  8. Accuses his partner of trying to control him.
  9. Withholds approval, appreciation, and affection as a form of punishment.
  10. Dislikes and “hates” his mother, sisters, and/or primary care givers.
  11. Disproportionally and angrily talks about his ex-wife or ex-intimate partner.
  12. Uses the terms bitch, slut, whore, and cunt to describe women, or calls his partner by these names.
  13. Fears, but desires, intimacy.

5. Acute Separation Anxiety

  1. Accelerates the progression of the relationship. Pushes commitment to a “boyfriend”; move in together, get engaged, or marry.
  2. Derives significant identity from being his partner’s “boyfriend”, “husband”, or “lover”.
  3. Expects the relationship to last forever by using phrases, such as “together for life,” “always,” “no matter what”, and “till death do us part”.
  4. Threatens to end the relationship if he does not get his way.
  5. Believes his partner’s friends and family dislike him and they are encouraging her to leave him.
  6. Threatens, “I’ll commit suicide if you break up with me.”
  7. Demands constant attention.

6. Possessive Jealousy

  1. Initially, jealousy may be flattering, but eventually creates anger and resentment, and anxiety within his partner and family members.
  2. Intensely fearful of his partner’s infidelity and intensely internalizing it as humiliation and/or betrayal demonstration.
  3. Unreasonably jealous and extremely controlling about with whom, where, and how his partner spends her time.
  4. Believes his partner is going to cheat simply when talking to another man.
  5. Sees anyone or anything that takes time away from their relationship as a threat.
  6. Very possessive of time with friends, family, and children. They are seen it as competition.
  7. Jealous of friends or relatives, and uses conflict to separate his partner from her friends and family.
  8. Argues that his partner’s friends are encouraging infidelity that will end the relationship.
  9. Paranoid that his partner is having an illicit affair(s).
  10. If partner does not arrive at home at the appointed time or does not answer the phone immediately, thinks she is cheating.
  11. Constantly attempts to dictate his partner’s behavior and demands to know her location.
  12. Restricts car and telephone usage to prevent conversation with friends and family.
  13. Compares auto mileage with mileage of intended destination.
  14. Places a tracking system on his partner’s vehicle or phone.
  15. Uses surveillance or follows his partner.
  16. Appears unannounced in order to check on his partner.

7. Sexual Manipulation and Subjugation

  1. Simultaneously resentful that he needs and desires his partner.
  2. Contradictory in his treatment; his partner is an angel one moment and a whore the next.
  3. Critical of his partner’s body and sexuality.
  4. Tells his partner no one else would want her.
  5. Coercive about having sex and shows entitlement without reciprocity of arousing his partner.
  6. Views aggressive sexuality as, “normal”.
  7. Is insistent upon having sex even if his partner declines. If necessary uses physical force to obtain sex (rape).
  8. Displays dominance through aggressive sex; disregards unwanted touching followed by coercive and/or physical force to show sexual ownership of his partner.
  9. Disregards or is indifferent to his partner’s comfort during intercourse and may purposely cause physical discomfort. May make comments like, “It’s supposed to hurt.”
  10. Becomes sexually aroused when causing his partner pain (sadism) during sex.
  11. Refuses to wear a condom or use birth control, and shows overall indifference about potential pregnancy.
  12. Intentionally or forcefully impregnates his partner, especially if fearful his partner is trying to end the relationship.
  13. Insistent on particular sex acts (for males, especially, anal sex) or other activities.
  14. Insistent on specific sex acts (especially anal sex) or other activities his partner views as degrading, and accuses their partner of “frigidity” if they decline specific sexual activities.
  15. Wakes up his partner in order to have sex, and may inflict sleep deprivation until she relents.
  16. Uses emotional blackmail, “If you won’t give it (sex) to me, I’ll get it from someone else.”
  17. Indifferent to his partner’s sexual pleasure.
  18. Has sexual affairs or threatens to have affairs.
  19. Uses infidelity as punishment. “If you were____ I wouldn’t have to _____.”
  20. Addicted to sex, and/or pornography
  21. Forces his partner to engage in non-consensual BDSM (Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Masochism).
  22. Forces his partner to have sex with other people.
  23. Photographs or videotapes sex either coercively or covertly, then uses it as blackmail.
  24. Pimps, panders, and otherwise sexually sells his partner for income.
  25. Picks fights to avoid having sex.
  26. Engages in activities listed on the acquaintance rapist behavior page.

8. Beliefs in Extremism

  1. Thinks that violent behavior is, “warranted and deserving”.
  2. Is never wrong.
  3. Identifies with power as perpetrators, and chooses to abuse others rather than be abused again.
  4. Denies that violent behavior has negative consequences on others.
  5. Refers to weapons as instruments of power, control, or revenge.
  6. Owning guns, knives, swords, and martial arts weapons is a substantial part of his persona. Makes statements or “jokes” about using weapons against his partner, her family, and her acquaintances.
  7. Identifies with or compares himself to violent people in films, news stories, fiction, and history. Rationalizes that the violence committed by these characters is justified.
  8. Blames angry outbursts and violent behavior occurs because “I love you so much that I get so mad.”
  9. Accuses his partner of trying to control him. Claims that he is the one in control.
  10. Paranoid that others are out to get him.
  11. Disrespects his partner’s opinion and beliefs.
  12. Advocates extreme dominant male roles in the family with unquestioned authority, “Men must be in charge of women.”

9. Substance Abuse

  1. Verbally and physically abusive, especially when drunk or on drugs.
  2. Wonderful, attentive, and charming when not high on drugs or drunk.
  3. As an excuse or explanation, blames hostile or violent conduct on alcohol and drugs.
  4. Addicted to drugs or is an alcoholic.
  5. Abuses alcohol and drugs to cope with prior and escape from current problems.
  6. Drinks or uses drugs instead of working or financially contributing to the family.
  7. Insists his partner drink more alcohol or use drugs. Then he uses her intoxication or “high” as justification, “You drink and use drugs too.”
  8. Becomes irate when money is withheld restricting his substance abuse.
  9. Shows indifference to other’s safety. Drives while under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
  10. Steals money to buy drugs.
  11. Lures or pressures his partner into taking drugs or enables her continued addiction to drugs.
  12. Coerces his partner into prostitution, often to satisfy his drug habit.
  13. Engages in robbery, burglary, theft or other criminal behavior to obtain drugs.
  14. Hides fear of being alone through alcohol and drug abuse.

10. Financial Problems

  1. Difficulty maintaining steady or reliable employment.
  2. Threatened by other’s accomplishments, ambition, or by the amount of his partner’s income compared to his.
  3. Refuses to let his partner work outside the home.
  4. Instigates problems for his partner at work, and sometimes gets her fired.
  5. Delays his partner’s departure to work; frequently causing partner to be late.
  6. Constantly calls partner’s work.
  7. Arrives uninvited at his partner’s work site and is emotionally or physically disruptive.
  8. Compels his partner turn over the money she earns to him.
  9. Problem managing money by impulsively spending, maxing our credit limits, failure to pay bills, poor credit, and chronic calls from collection agencies.
  10. Conceals financial status or denies partner access to family income.
  11. Insists on access to his partner’s bank accounts and credit cards.
  12. Requests loans promising repayment, but is consistently delinquent.

11. Conflict

  1. Resists change.
  2. Inflexible and unwilling to compromise.
  3. Has a history of police encounters for offenses, such as violent threats, battery, resisting arrest, theft, drunk driving, robbery, weapons charges, sexual assault (allegations of), domestic violence, stalking, and protection order violations.
  4. Lacks fear of negative consequences for his behavior.
  5. Becomes angry or violent if confronted about his inappropriate behavior.
  6. Pathologically or chronically lies, even about immaterial things.
  7. Implies or overtly threatens use of violence. Postures or displays rage and violence with intent to intimidate others. Claiming, “This could be you!”
  8. Predominately selfish behavior, except when wanting something from his partner.
  9. At the beginning of a relationship, charming and attentive to his partner’s needs.
  10. Blames others for abusive and unpredictable behavior.
  11. Accusing others to be at fault and blames others for problems of his own making.
  12. Difficulty asking for what he wants or communicating his needs in a positive manner.
  13. Has a dual personality. Charming in public. “Good” with acquaintances, but in private is degrading and mean to his partner and family members.
  14. Resolves conflict through aggressiveness, intimidation, bullying, and violence.
  15. Is verbally abusive.
  16. Yells and invades other’s personal space in order to intimidate.
  17. In order to argue, wakes up their partner and prevents her from sleeping.
  18. Prevents his partner from leaving the house without permission.
  19. Chooses his partner’s attire, and accuses her of dressing like a “slut” to obtain compliance.
  20. Destroys the clothing that he does like his partner to wear.
  21. Withholds food and medicine, and/or prevents his partner from obtaining medical attention, especially after physical violence.
  22. Sways his partner’s friends, children, and family into believing she is psychologically unbalanced, or “crazy”.
  23. Uses children as pawns of power, “You won’t see them again.”
  24. Manipulates the children to “spy” on his partner.
  25. “Pumps” the children for information about his partner’s activities.
  26. Attempts to pressure mutual friends or relatives to intervene with pressure to maintain the relationship or reunite.
  27. Escalate abusive behavior on a continuum as each prior act loses its effect to intimidate and achieve the results he seeks.
  28. Creates intuitive fear in his partner that she may be at risk, especially if fearful he will injure or kill her.
  29. Diagnosed with a personality disorder, such as anti-social, borderline narcissistic, histrionic, paranoid, or with conduct disorder as a teenager.
  30. Engages in stalking behavior.

Victim Traits of Intimate Partner Violence

The victim’s temperament and personality also play a factor in the behavior of the abuser. In many cases, both partners are prior trauma survivors who may have debilitating and dysfunctional regulation of emotions that have evolved from prior wounds, cognitive habits, and biological factors. Prior trauma can acerbate poor communication and listening skills that often emerge from fears about emotional and physical security that are perceived as lacking in the relationship.

Below are some of the traits of those who commonly form attachments with the abusive personality that have a higher tendency to result in becoming victims of intimate partner abuse.

  1. Lonely.
  2. Low self-esteem.
  3. History of conflict and abuse within family.
  4. Survivor of incest, molestation, rape or prior abusive relationships.
  5. Sexually assaulted; including incapacitated during the sexual assault from drugs or alcohol.
  6. Excessively giving nature.
  7. Significant loss of a close relative.
  8. Previous dating violence.
  9. Financial dependency, especially government assistance programs.
  10. Alcohol or drug dependency.
  11. Manipulated or cajoled into doing things contrary to one’s moral conscience.
  12. Have trouble saying “No.”
  13. Defensively rationalizes that an abusive partner is “wonderful” (especially when he is not drunk or under the influence of drugs)
  14. Justify forced sex with an abusive partner while denying that it is rape.
  15. Believe that with more love and support, their partner will change.

Safety Summary for Abusive Personality Characteristics

Ask yourself, “Do I feel worse about myself while I am with this person?” “Do I feel trapped?” or “Do I feel scared?” If the answer is yes, seriously consider how to safely end the relationship. Staying, the abuse will likely get worse. If he/she has an abusive personality, ending your relationship will raise concerns about your personal safety.

Depending on an abuser’s personality and emotional investment, ending a relationship can be terrifying and dangerous. You will need assistance to end a relationship with an abusive partner to include family support, assistance from friends, support group, and law enforcement intervention. Secrecy of the abuse only empowers the perpetrator and his reign of terror.

Seek help and build layers of support to include emotional support, counseling, places you can go for safety while you plan how to end the relationship. There are many resources available to assist in preparing to leave an abusive situation such as domestic violence counseling and domestic violence shelters. Be receptive to the aid and support offered.

The Model Mugging Basic Self-Defense course can empower women to develop the courage to prepare to end an abusive relationship.

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A Few Characteristics of Emotionally Abusive Men

It can be extremely difficult to recognize abuse, especially when one is blinded by love and forgiveness. While being sympathetic and agreeable are great aspects to a healthy relationship, sometimes it becomes easy to get stuck in a situation where you realize you just aren’t happy anymore but may not be sure what to do.
This page attempts to describe a few characteristics of emotionally abusive men and in no particular order, they are as follows:

  • Emotionally abusive men are typically the type of men who always need to be in control.
  • They will become jealous and possessive without reason and have mood swings that seem to come out of nowhere.
  • These men will manipulate by saying things like ‘you’re crazy’ so they don’t have to take the blame for their actions.
  • Emotional abuse typically rears its head in the form of an imbalance in power; warning signs may be a feeling that your life isn’t being fulfilled or you ‘never can get a word in.’
  • Abusers of all types like to ‘put you in your place’ by making you feel as though you cannot find anyone else.
  • It is very common for abusers to check your private emails and social networking sites without asking and then become angry when they find something they think is ‘evidence’ of cheating.
  • Sometimes recognizing the difference between an abusive and a healthy relationship takes therapy, not just for the abuser but for the person being abused, as well.
  • Even if you did something ‘hurtful’, ‘mean’, or ‘wrong’, this does not make it okay for someone to abuse you. This also very common with abusive men.
  • Intentionally hurting someone else’s’ feelings or trying to embarrass them is a form of abuse, because it puts them in a position where they may be viewed as less valuable.
  • They may set out to punish you in several ways.
  • They are completely disrespectful and completely disregard your rights, feelings and opinions.
  • They have a recurring history of abuse in the relationships they’ve had
  • What may start as verbal abuse can over time become physical abuse, if the issues are not resolved.

Keep in mind, there is a big difference between emotional abuse and arguments; disagreements happen in any healthy relationship, its how each party reacts to them that makes the difference.

Domestic violence is not acceptable and should not be tolerated whether the victim is male or female. Every person has the right to live a life free from violence.

If you are in an abusive relationship and requires an urgent response or needs in-depth support please contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

Domestic Violence UK

14 Traits of Emotional Abusers

It’s not hard to recognize emotional abusers because you will definitely find yourself feeling drained when you are around them.

Emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse. It leaves the victim with no self-worth, low self-esteem, they can feel totally dependent on their abuser. It can be incredibly destructive to their mental health, but how can you avoid getting into a relationship with an emotional abuser?

Are there tell-tale signs that raise red flags to warn us that they could be emotionally abusive? We think so.

Here are just some of the ways you can spot an emotionally abusive person:

1. Verbal Put-downs

An emotional abuser will delight in putting his or her partner down in public and want to cause the most embarrassment for them.

2. Emotional abusers can be cruel

They typically have no empathy for people, their partner or animals. Their only concern is for themselves. If it doesn’t hurt them they really couldn’t be bothered.

3. Isolation from Family and Friends

Getting a partner isolated from their nearest and dearest is one of their very first tasks. This could be by physically moving away or by making it difficult to see other people.

4. Wants you to think they are perfect

Emotional abusers do not accept flaws from other people and as such, they want you to think they are perfect, but they are far from it. They might work hard at projecting an image of perfection but look more closely and you’ll see the cracks. From their image to the work they do, it is all smoke and mirrors.

5. Controlling the finances

Having absolute control over the money that comes into the home is a sure way of keeping someone exactly where you want them. Preventing them from working and holding onto money keeps their victim subjected.

6. Constant mood swings

Never knowing what mood your partner is going to be in is not only extremely draining but can produce high levels of anxiety. It can also make you want to please your partner more so that they are always in a good mood.

7. Initially charming and helpful

Many people that end up with emotional abusers say that they were attracted to their partners because they were so charming and confident. It made them naturally gravitate to them.

8. Emotional abusers can be childish

Initially, emotional abusers may appear charming but if they do not get what they want their childishness soon comes out. They will make unreasonable demands and leave you wondering what you did wrong.

9. They have issues but don’t acknowledge them

It is clear that people who emotionally abuse others often do so because of something that happened to them in their past. When people confront these issues they become healthier human beings, but refusing to accept that anything happened is extremely damaging, not only to that person but those around them.

10. They blame you for their unhappiness or problems

If only you hadn’t gone out that night, if only you hadn’t looked at that guy in the supermarket, if only you hadn’t had so many previous lovers, etc. etc. etc. The abuser will blame all their problems on anyone but their own actions.

11. They can be very jealous

Jealousy is a sign of insecurity. The abuser’s subconscious will be asking ‘Why is this person with me?’ Their conscious self, however, will be warning them that their partner is disrespecting by flirting with others, even if this is only happening in the abuser’s mind.

12. Emotional abusers are judgemental about others

An emotional abuser will be quick to judge another person. Anything can set them off, they could have gone to the wrong school, wear the wrong kind of clothes, hang out with the wrong type of people. If an abuser sees them as any kind of threat they are out.

13. They want to project the perfect image

Image can mean many different things to an abuser, and not even concern them directly. For instance, projecting a good image could mean that they have sent their children to the best school, or their kids got the best grades. So long as something to do with them turned out well they are happy.

15. They sulk or withdraw for days when upset

This goes back to childish behaviour and follows a pattern where the victim will realise it is easier to placate the abuser and not upset them in the first place by modifying their own behaviour, rather than put up with days of not speaking.

21 Signs You’re In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Healthy relationships don’t make you feel this way.

Domestic violence seems to be at the forefront of the media more and more frequently these days. This is in part due to abusive incidents involving sports figures or celebrities coming to light, as well as YouTubers and public figures speaking and sharing their own personal experiences in emotionally abusive relationships as a precautionary lesson for others.

Abusive behavior isn’t always as obvious as physical abuse like being hit or shoved, or verbal abuse such as being called degrading names or cussed out.

In fact, abuse can often be underhanded and subtle.

You may find yourself feeling confused about your relationship, off balance or like you are “walking on eggshells” all the time. This is the kind of abuse that often sneaks up on you and occurs more often as you become more entrenched within the relationship.

I’m talking here about psychological abuse, also known as mental or emotional abuse.

What is emotional or psychological abuse?

Psychological abuse occurs when a person in the relationship tries to control information available to another person with intent to manipulate that person’s sense of reality or their view of what is acceptable and not acceptable. It often contains strong emotionally manipulative content and threats designed to force the victim to comply with the abuser’s wishes.

All abuse takes a severe toll on self-esteem. The abused person starts feeling helpless and possibly even hopeless.

In addition, most mental abusers are adept at convincing the victim that the abuse is his/her fault. Somehow, the victim is responsible for what happened.

One of the more sophisticated forms of psychological abuse is often referred to as “gaslighting.”

This happens when false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity. Examples may range simply from the abuser denying that previous abusive incidents ever occurred to staging bizarre events with the intention of confusing the victim.

I once listened to a client tell me her husband denied an affair after his she found a racy email to another woman on his computer and confronted him. The husband vehemently denied any responsibility for his actions, going so far as sending an email to his tech guy asking how his account could have been hacked and demanding that he the problem!

Another common form of emotional abuse is saying, “I love you, but … “

That may sound nice at first, yet it is both a disguised criticism and a threat. It indicates, “I love you now, but if you don’t stop this or that, my love will be taken away.”

These constant jabs slowly strips away your self-esteem. Abusers get a lot of reinforcement out of using the word “love” as it seems to become a magic word to control you.

Abusers at times do what I call “throw you a bone.”

I have heard countless times from clients that their partner was “nice,” “complimentary,” “gave me a gift,” etc. as if it should erase all of the bad treatment. You need to understand that this is part of the dynamic and cycle of abuse.

In fact, it is rare for abusive relationships to not have these (often intense) moments of feeling good, complete with overly sincere apologies and attempts to make up for the bad behavior.

The victim clings to hope during these moments, and the abuser knows this.

Here are 21 signs of emotional abuse to watch for if you think you or a friend may be in psychologically abusive relationship:

1. Humiliating or embarrassing you

2. Constantly putting you down

3. Subjecting you to hypercriticism

4. Refusing to communicate or giving you the silent treatment

5. Ignoring or excluding you

6. Having extramarital affairs

7. Displaying provocative behavior with someone of the opposite sex

8. Use of sarcasm and an unpleasant tone of voice at your expense

9. Unreasonable jealousy

10. Extreme moodiness

11. Making mean-spirited jokes or constantly making fun of you

12. Saying, “I love you, but …”

13. Saying things like, “If you don’t _____, I will_____”

14. Attempts at domination and control

15. Withholding sex or affection

16. Subjecting you to guilt trips

17. Making everything your fault

18. Isolating you from friends and family

19. Using money to control you

20. Constant calling or texting you when you aren’t together

21. Threatening to commit suicide if you leave

It’s important to remember is that abuse of any kind, whether psychological or physical, is never your fault.

Abusers are expert manipulators with a knack for getting you to believe that the way you are being treated is your fault. These people know that everyone has insecurities, and they use those insecurities against you.

Abusers can convince you that you do not deserve better treatment or that they are treating you this way to “help” you.

Some abusers even act quite charming and nice in public so that others have a good impression of them. In private is a different story, which is also quite baffling.

If you see yourself in these words, know that there is little hope for your relationship to improve. It would take a monumental amount of insight and motivation for the abuser to change and unfortunately, this is rarely the case.

If you are in an abusive relationship, I urge you to get out — with professional help if needed.

Often the first step in leaving the abuser is obtaining counseling just to rebuild your esteem so that you can leave.

I particularly want you to know that you may love this person, but that they do not love or respect you.

I assure you that in time you will get over this person if you break it off. You will be making the right decision … no looking back.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, there are resources available in your state, as well as the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233).

Dr. Marni Feuerman is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in South Florida, as well as the author of Ghosted and Breadcrumbed: Stop Falling for Unavailable Men and Get Smart about Healthy Relationships. Learn more on her website.

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7 Complex Signs Of Emotional Abuse You May Not Know

We’re becoming more aware of emotional abuse as a culture, but the concepts of it in popular media tend to be pretty extreme: gas lighting, denial of access to funds or children, aggressive verbal abuse, and other overt examples of subjugation and manipulation. As a survivor of a severely emotionally abusive relationship, I can tell you that these are rarely universal, and in that in many damaging situations they may not even be present. An emotionally abusive relationship is one in which a partner “undercuts a person’s foundational self-confidence and love of self and replaces them with confusion about self-worth, value, justice, mercy, and love,” according to an excellent definition by Psychology Today. The arsenal through which a romantic partner can do this is, unfortunately, a vast one, from outright insults to infantilization, passive aggression, withholding, and subtle isolation. It can be, from the outside, completely invisible, which is one of its most powerful traits.

Recognizing the signs of emotional abuse isn’t necessarily the first clear step towards exiting an emotionally abusive situation. Even though I was pretty clear, through secret research, that my partner was a narcissist who was treating me appallingly, his control and the damage to my self-esteem were so extensive that the discovery was not sufficient to help me leave. (It was luck, in the end, that extricated me.)

So don’t email this list to a friend whose relationship strikes you as alarming and expect them to immediately storm out the door. It can help, but more support is necessary to help a friend leave an emotionally abusive situation than just providing the information. And if you detect these signals in your own relationship, reach out for help immediately, from understanding friends, family, a therapist, or a counseling network.

1. They React To Your Dreams With Contempt

A little bit of disagreement between partners about future life plans is acceptable; if you want to throw in your well-paying job and run off to become a freelance comic book artist, it’s reasonable that a partner might have some concerns. But the distinguishing factor of an emotionally abusive partner is the form in which a lack of support manifests itself.

Psychotherapist Abby Rodman, writing for the Huffington Post, explains that “snorts and snide remarks” in response to your ideas about your career or future should be an immediate warning sign. If they react to your dreams with contempt rather than kind consideration, it’s abuse. Opposition because the idea would place you outside their realm of control (i.e. traveling a lot, not contactable) is also a notable red flag. It also may not be constant; some emotionally abusive partners will actively celebrate some of your decisions, for reasons to do with ego and the “pedestal” (which I’ll discuss shortly).

2. They Withhold Affection Or Attention

While many of us associate emotional abuse with overt treatment, the lack of a response can be indicative of abuse too. Enforced silence — what the therapy organziation Talkspace calls “withholding” — can be a seriously emotionally abusive tactic designed to punish you for transgressions. If partners refuse to respond, won’t talk to you for days, and won’t give you affection or attention, even if you respond by frantic attempts to regain their love, they’re prime candidates for abuse. This treatment may not even be in response to some kind of crime on your part; it may simply happen for no apparent reason, pushing you into overdrive to find out “what’s wrong” and turn your life upside down searching for how to make them happy.

3. They Are Perpetual Victims

Dr. Steven Stosny, at Psychology Today, gives an interesting insight into the psychology of the emotional abuser, one that provides a more subtle sign of abuse. Abusers, he points out, are often deeply anxious individuals with deep feelings of inadequacy who view others as likely to confirm their fears, and so they’re prone to making themselves the victims in situations. This will manifest in a relationship in patterns of blame: whatever goes wrong, it’ll likely be your fault, even if it wasn’t.

4. They Openly Minimize Your Wants & Needs

The Counseling Directory explains that one of the more subtle techniques of emotional abuse is the practice of “minimization.” They don’t just mean being made to feel small, though that’s definitely part of it. Minimization, in psychological terms, is the downplaying of something, rendering it insignificant, and in an emotionally abusive relationship the minimized material will always be yours: your emotions, feelings, problems and views. The emotional abuser makes their partner feel as if they’re exaggerating their concerns, looking for attention, incapable of solving obvious problems, or just making stuff up. Even if the minimization looks benevolent (“don’t worry your little head about such a small thing!”, “you’re fussing over nothing, I’ll do it all for you!”), it isn’t.

5. They Hold You To Standards You Can’t Possibly Achieve

We associate emotional abuse with tearing down, but there can be aspects that relate to building you up. Certain kinds of emotional abuse center on expectation: the abusive partner puts his/her other half on a pedestal, full of unrealistically high expectations, and then shows continual disappointment and punishment when they inevitably disappoint him/her. Out Of The Fog connects this particular trait to perfectionism, calling it “the maladaptive practice of holding oneself or others to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard of organization, order, or accomplishment in one particular area of living,” and it can stretch to anything: they want constant high standards in your career, how clean you keep the house, how you look, or something else. And when you inevitably slip up, they lash out.

6. They Humilate You In Front Of Others — And Tell You You’re Oversensitive If You Get Upset

Partners are allowed to be funny, but making cruel jokes or playing ridiculous games in the presence of your friends or family takes things a step further. Even if they’re meant to be charming or harmless ribbing, it’s worth taking note of signals that they demonstrate broader contempt rather than light humor. The Office Of Women’s Health notes that if you feel humiliated or ashamed by their behavior and they keep doing it, it’s a fairly classic signal that they lack respect for your boundaries and personal feelings, and will likely respond to your complaints with minimizing tactics.

7. You Arrange Your Decisions Around Not Upsetting Them

We can be superficially sure that our partners provide security and love, and yet unconsciously acting around the possibility of their abuse. This tends to be called “walking on eggshells,” and generally refers to the tendency for “the victim of emotional abuse everything according to how the abuser will react to it”, according to Everyday Health. If you fear compromise or asserting your will, or prepare for it in the knowledge that it will be difficult and likely involve some hurt, it’s not likely that the situation is a safe or supportive one.

If you feel like you need help getting out of this relationship or figuring out what to do next, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You’re not alone.

Images: ; Giphy

10 Traits that Characterise the Abusive Mentality

  1. He is controlling. The abuser believes in his right to control his partner’s actions and expects his word to be the last word. He does not accept disagreement and considers it his right to punish acts that a partner might take to regain ownership of her life.
  2. He feels entitled. The abuser believes that he has special status and that it provides him with exclusive rights and privileges that do not apply to his partner. In addition, he feels personally wronged if he doesn’t get what he wants all the time.
  3. He twists things into the opposites. If the abuser’s partner resists he will view it as control, if she cries, he will view it as manipulation. If she is happy, it will see it as covert anger.
  4. He disrespects his partner and considers himself superior to her. An abuser tends to see his partner as less intelligent, less competent, less logical and even less sensitive than he is. He will objectify and depersonalize his partner which allows the abuse to get worse and worse over time.
  5. He confuses love and abuse. An abusive man often tries to convince his partner that his mistreatment of her is proof of how deeply he cares. Media often capitalize on this idea for example describing a murder as a ‘crime of passion’.
  6. He is manipulative. Few abusive men rely entirely on verbal abuse or intimidation to control their partners. He will frequently switch to manipulation of his partner to get what he wants. He may also use tactics to get her upset or confused.
  7. He strives to have a good public image. Most abusive men have a sharp split between their public image and private treatment of their partner. Outside of the home the abusive man can be charming, generous, compromising, supportive, vocal supporter of equality and mutual respect. At home they can be angry, domineering, assaultive, selfish, disrespectful and misogynistic.
  8. He feels justified. Abusers externalize the responsibility for their actions believing that his partner makes them behave in abusive ways and will defend or feel entitled to their actions. He makes excuses and commonly blames his partner for anything that goes wrong not just his abusive behaviour.
  9. Abusers deny and minimize their abuse. Abusive men will rarely acknowledge their abusive behaviour or will minimize the abusive event and its repercussions on his partner, causing her to start to doubt herself and feel crazy.
  10. Abusers are possessive. He has the assumption that his partner belongs to him. He has a sense of ownership over her and because he feels he ‘owns’ his partner he feels he can treat her as he see fit. Out of this possessiveness he will start to isolate his partner – so that her life is focused entirely on serving his needs, and he does not want her to develop sources of strength that would contribute to her independence. Therefore any friendships victims make, become threats to the abuser.

An abuser will attempt to get everyone – friends, family, therapists, focused on how he feels (sad, stressed, suicidal etc) to foster a sympathetic reaction and to distract you from what he is actually doing to his partner.

This is where friends, family and the church community need to take a stand for the victim. Remaining neutral and maintaining the status quo is no longer an option.

So what can you do? Well start by educating yourself. Find out more here about what abuse is and what it looks like.

For more information on what a healthy relationship looks like click here.

If you would like to know more about our survivors’ community, or you would like to be part of this online community please email us here.

As always, you can give regularly to Restored to enable us to continue to work with survivors, train churches, and produce free resources.

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