No one is immune to abuse. Men, women, children, and seniors are all prone to being abuse victims. Abuse can take many forms, including physical assault, emotional bullying, sexual abuse, or neglect. Abuse victims may develop emotional and psychological problems, including anxiety disorders and depression. Victims that have faced severe abuse may resort to substance abuse and may develop posttraumatic stress disorder. There are usually a few warning signs that reveal you might be dealing with an abuser or someone who is likely to have an abusive personality. Abuse victims deserve to lead safe, fear-free lives, so it matters to identify the common signs of an abuser in order to protect yourself and the ones you love.
|SEE ALSO: How to End an Abusive Relationship with a Bully|
An Abuser is Eager to Commit to a Relationship
An abuser will claim you were meant for each other, that he has never felt this way before, and that it was love at first sight. He will say that he has never felt so at ease and that he never loved anyone as much as he loves you. He will be so sweet, romantic, caring, and generous—everything you have ever wanted. You will start feeling that he is too good to be true— and he probably is.
While it’s not always easy to find a man willing to commit to a long-term relationship, an abuser will demonstrate an eagerness to commit to his partner. Don’t be fooled. He will jump soon into planning your entire future together without getting to know you well enough. You will feel you haven’t grown close enough and that things are moving too quickly for your liking. Being in a committed relationship will make the abuse easier for him. Abusers are not evil monsters; they are just individuals with a very complex problem and a never-ending desire to be in control. If he doesn’t respect your wishes to slow things down and if your instincts are telling you not to trust him, then trust your instincts!
An Abuser Is Deceitful
Every relationship has its fair share of lies. Minor deceit and “white lies” occur even in healthy relationships where people don’t always tell the truth about themselves. At the early stages of any relationship, it is common for people to emphasize their positive traits and minimize their shortcomings. The abuser is often deceptive in his self-portrayal, expending great conscious effort in order to maintain his lies.
The abuser often pays great attention to appearances; he will spend excessive time on his image because he enjoys the attention that comes with it. He appears extremely confident and loves to be praised, yet he lacks real empathy for other people and when you question his apathetic behavior, the blame will always fall on someone else. You may notice that the abuser is not showing you any real emotion, spends on lavish, expensive gifts to win your affection, and fakes reactions to emotional events. The abuser will also encourage his victim to lie to family and friends.
An Abuser is Excessively Jealous
The thing about jealousy is, it’s often considered a sign of love. At first, an abuser might not show any signs of jealousy; however, as the relationship progresses, he/she will become excessively jealous. You might notice they get uncomfortable when you speak to people of the opposite sex; although you will likely perceive this reaction as “sweet,” this jealously will increase in intensity and might even develop into a lethal attack if you fail to abide by their rules.
A potential abuser will ask about the people you speak to or see when they are not around. They accuse you of flirting and they are jealous of the time you spend with other people without them. Hobbies which do not involve them are also enough to set off their jealousy. They take things further and may frequently call you or drop by unexpectedly. A male abuser could refuse to let his spouse work for fear she will meet someone else and leave him. While some jealousy in a relationship is healthy, when it crosses its boundaries, it’s no longer proof of love but a sign of the abuser’s insecurity and possessiveness. Jealousy becomes dangerous when it turns into obsession.
An Abuser Has an Abusive Past
Not every individual who has been a victim of abuse during his/her childhood will grow up to become an abuser. Negative experiences during childhood such as abuse or neglect are not deal-breakers per se; however, if these experiences continue to have a negative impact on them and if they continuously use their past as an excuse for poor attitude or feeling a general sense of resentment and entitlement, then this should be a red flag. It’s very likely that these individuals are abusers.
Because of their past, these people often feel entitled to receive special treatment or considerations not afforded to others. They have an exaggerated sense of self-importance and assume they are superior to others and thus their wants and needs should be met instantly. Consequently, they often feel offended and/or disappointed when special considerations are not made for them.
When they feel they are not being fairly treated, these individuals become resentful of others. Abusers blame the abuse they have faced in the past for all other failures in their lives. They are so focused on themselves and the pain they have endured that they fail to consider the needs of others.
Abuse is never a one-off event. Individuals with abusive tendencies usually have a history of abuse. If someone says, “I hit someone in the past,” believe them, even if they tell you they were forced to do it or it was completely the other person’s fault. When someone takes acts of violence lightly, they are likely to do it again. They may promise it would never happen with you because “you love them enough to prevent it.” This is a red flag and should tell you that they won’t take responsibility for the abuse.
An Abuser Always Puts Blame on Others
People with abusive personalities rarely take responsibility for any negative situation or problem they bring about. If they fail a test, cannot hold down a job, or fall out with their family, it is always someone else’s fault, be it their teacher, boss, or mother. They blame others for their own mistakes and believe that life is unfair and everyone is out to get them. It’s an abusive characteristic that shows in many aspects of life; they do the same when they hurt someone, claiming that it was also the victim’s fault.
People with abusive behaviors also blame others for their emotional well-being. An abuser often manipulates the victim into believing that the abuse was her/his fault and eventually the victim might end up believing it. The abuser will deny that their feelings are their responsibility. They use phrases like “you always make me mad,” “I wouldn’t be so angry if you obeyed me,” or “I only explode because you don’t do what I tell you.” Not only do abusers put the responsibility of negative feelings on other people, they also hold them accountable for their own positive emotions. They use statements like “you make me feel good about myself.” These are all signs that an abuser thinks that the victim is responsible for his/her well-being. Inside an abuser’s mind, the victim is the cause of all good and bad feelings and is therefore accountable for the abuser’s happiness and emotional well-being. An abuser also believes his/her victim is to be blamed for any negative feelings such as anger and depression.
An Abuser Feels Superior to Others
A potential abuser has a competitive personality; however, they aren’t just competitive in particular aspects of life, such as sports. In everything they do, they feel they have to prove their superiority. They are self-righteous and hold the belief that they really are better than everyone else. This belief enables them to feel good about themselves. They will point out how they are smarter, better-looking, or more skilled than others. They drive their self-esteem from making others feel worthless.
An Abuser Maintains Very Rigid, Stereotypical Sex Roles
The abuser believes in stereotypical gender roles, where a woman is expected to stay at home, forgo any career inspirations, and obey her spouse to a tee. A male abuser thinks of women as inferior to men; he might use derogatory female terms, all with the purpose of damaging her self-esteem and manipulating her into obeying him. He will make her believe that she is not a whole person without a relationship with a man. A female abuser will expect her husband to entirely take care of the finances, put the responsibility for her well-being onto him, or accuse him of not being a real man if he shows any emotion or weakness. These behaviors are typical of an abusive personality.
An Abuser Demonstrates Aggressive Behavior
When we think of the words “abuse” and “violence,” we often see mental images of physical harm, bruises, injuries, cuts, broken furniture, and so on. However, it’s very unlikely that during the early stages of a relationship the abuser will resort to physical abuse immediately. The abuser will usually show signs of aggression long before he starts attacking his victim physically. Abusers often have little patience and tend to throw or smash objects when they are irritated. They can be triggered into rages of violence by petty frustrations. Other warning signs could include the answers to these questions: Does he threaten to harm you? Has he threatened someone else? Does he punch walls, chairs, or tables when he gets angry? As the relationship progresses, use of violence may evolve into blunt threats of death; for example, they may say, “If you ever speak to him/her again, I will kill you.”
In addition, an abuser may start verbally abusing you. They will make cruel and hurtful comments—when you are alone or even in the presence of other people. The abuser will say things like “you are stupid and could never manage without me.” They will try to damage your self-confidence by putting down your accomplishments. They will make fun of you in public.
If an individual demonstrates aggression towards animals or children, it’s very likely that they are abusive. They may punish animals brutally, be insensitive to their suffering, or neglect them to the point of cruelty. Additionally, they will be equally cruel to children, treat them as “small adults,” and severely punish them when they make mistakes.
An Abuser Is Often Hypersensitive
Because most abusers have low self-esteem, they get easily insulted or upset. When they become very angry and lash out at someone, they may claim it’s because their feelings were hurt. They may also view unrelated comments as personal attacks. If, for instance, they choose a brown table and you choose a black one, they may view this difference of opinion as a criticism of their taste. They make a big deal out of nothing and find it very difficult to forgive others. This behavior will lead victims to feel devalued and will start apologizing for things they have said or done that were completely innocuous but that the abuser misconstrued.
Not all abusive individuals exhibit the same tendencies to be violent; however, if they display several of these behavioral traits, there is a very strong likelihood that they will be abusive. The abuser will try to explain that his/her behavior is a sign of love and concern. Noticing the warning signs should lead to you to take action even if the abuse hasn’t developed into full-fledged physical harm yet. Abusive behavior does not go away, no matter how hard you try or how much you love the abuser.
At the end, you should listen to your inner voice. If it’s telling you that “something doesn’t feel right,” trust your instincts. Don’t make excuses for your abuser, because the fact of the matter is, they have been abusive in the past and will probably continue to abuse you and other people in the future.