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Warning Signs: Are They Abusive?

How bad does it have to get before you say enough is enough? For me, took me 6 years of verbal, financial, emotional, and physical abuse for me to leave. Even then, I did not leave right away. It took him threatening to kill himself with a gun and mistreating my dogs for me to finally remove myself from his hold. An abusive relationship drains your energy, strips away your dignity and can be physically dangerous to you and your family.

A report from the U.S. Department of Justice found that one in three women who visit emergency rooms do so because of the effects of domestic abuse. It’s more important than ever to catch abuse before it starts. Protect yourself and those you love by knowing the signs and some common traits of a potential abuser.


An abuser is typically:


1. Charming

Abusers often get attached to the relationship very quickly and rush through the getting-to-know-you phases of courtship so that you know little about their past or family. They may disguise this hurried behavior as romantic by saying, 'I can't live without you' or “I've never felt loved like this by anyone” very early on. They may want to marry you or move in together right away.


2. Jealous

Your relationships with other people —such as friends, co-workers and even family —are threatening to them. They may accuse of you of being unfaithful and forbid you to see others who they deem a threat. At the beginning of a relationship, an abuser may claim that jealousy is a sign of his or her love. Jealousy has nothing to do with love.


3. Manipulative

An abuser is very intelligent. They know how to detect your weaknesses and uses your vulnerability and past pain to their advantage. They may use verbal abuse to wear you down in arguments or to make you feel at fault. They may twist your words to put the blame on you. They withhold affection and sex when they don’t get their way. Abusers may also try to control your money. Abusers seek to limit your options, including your financial ability to leave. They may encourage you to not work at all, with false, empty promises that they will take care of you. They may even use the threat of suicide as a tool to keep you unsure and malleable.


4. Inconsistent

Mood swings are a common trait for an abuser. One minute he/she is happy and sweet, the next they are pounding a fist or throwing a tantrum.


5. A Victim

An abuser doesn’t take any responsibility for his/ her poor choices. They are never at fault. When she loses her job, or he gets into a conflict at work, someone else is always to blame. “You made me hit you” or “I drink because you stress me out” are common ways they attempt to victimize themselves and justify their behavior. They may also blame their violent/abusive behavior on the alcohol or drug use by saying, “I didn’t know what I was doing. I was drunk” or “I was high. I don’t remember.” Remember, neither their vices nor their lack of control excuse their actions


6. Narcissistic

Generally, an abuser seems to believe the whole world revolves around them. As the “little woman who is beneath him” or someone who isn’t “man enough” it is your job to meet his every need. He is the master; you are the unworthy slave.


7. Disconnected

Isolation from family and friends is a key goal for the abuser because it forces the victim into total dependence and submission. “Your family causes too much trouble for us.”


8. Critical

No matter how hard you try you will never be able to satisfy this kind of person. They think nothing of degrading and verbally assaulting you.


8. Insincerely Repentant

They swear they will change and will never hit or yell at you again. Unless the abuser receives professional help and takes strong accountability for their actions, it’s very unlikely that he/she will change.


9. Vindictive, Intimidation, & Destruction of Property

Abusers will mistreat your property or animals. They may throw or break objects when upset. They may shove, kick, or hit animals out of anger. Hurting your pets or destroying your property is a way of hurting you.


10. Past History of Violence

People who commit domestic violence are often violent in general. A past record or history of assault, fighting, or abuse is a sign that they think violence is a way to solve problems. They may have elaborate excuses for these incidents or blame the person they attacked by saying they “had to” do it or that they were provoked.



No matter what relationship you are in, always ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I happy?

  • Does he/she make me better?

  • Does he/she support me in my goals?

  • Am I confident around him/her?

  • Am I safe with him/her?


It should be noted that abusers can’t always be easily identified. If your partner or the partner of someone you know is showing any of the above character traits, he/she may be laying the foundation for an abusive relationship. There are other possibilities beside abuse, of course, but any of the signs listed above are signs that a relationships is certainly in trouble. Try to keep your family and friends around. Talk to them if you start experiencing anything that might be cause for concerns. If this article has helped you realize that you or a loved one is in an abusive relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or a local safe house in your community. They can help.

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