A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Red flags to look for in a new relationship

I’ve just re-consulted Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That? [*affiliate link] and re-discovered that he has a whole chapter called “How Abuse Begins”. [I feel like a bit of a goose because I said in a recent post that I’m not familiar with a good article about red flags in new relationship! 🙂 ]
I’m copying some of the subheadings from Lundy’s chapter;  this list can also be found on pp 121-122 of his book:-

The power of those early months
Why is he so good early on, if he is planning to be abusive later?
An abuser is neither a monster nor a victim.
An abuser’s behavior is primarily conscious – he acts deliberately rather than by accidnet or by losing control of himself – but the underlying thinking that drives his behavior is largely not conscious.

How can I tell if a man I’m seeing will become abusive?

  • – he speaks disrespectfully about his former partners
  • – he is disrespectful toward you
  • – he does favor for you that you don’t want or puts on such a show of generosity that it makes you uncomfortable
  • – he is controlling
  • – he is possessive
  • – nothing is ever his fault
  • – he is self-centered
  • – he abuses drugs or alcohol
  • – he pressures you for sex
  • – he gets serious too quickly about the relationship
  • – he intimidates you when he’s angry
  • – he has double standards
  • he has negative attitudes toward women
  • – he treats you differently around other people
  • – he appears to be attracted to vulnerability

Bancroft concludes this chapter with Key Points to Remember (p 135).
One of his points is:

If the warning signs are there, act quickly to either set limits or get out of the relationship. The more deeply you become involved with an abuser, the harder it is to get out.

I hope Lundy doesn’t mind me reproducing his words here. I would advise anyone to read the whole chapter as every word of Lundy’s guidance is helpful, and I’ve only touched the surface of it here.

Now I have a question for our readers, and particularly for those who are now remarried to non-abusive men.

Did you consciously ‘press his buttons’ during the courtship to find out how he reacted under pressure? Or did you do other things to check him out to see whether he might be an abuser? If so, could you please share your experiences so that others may learn?

May 2017 Update***IMPORTANT NOTE:  While we endorse Lundy’s writings about the dynamics of domestic abuse, we do not recommend anyone attend the ‘healing retreats’ Lundy Bancroft offers or become involved in his ‘Peak Living Network.’ See our post, ACFJ Does Not Recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Retreats or His New Peak Living Network for more about our concerns. 


* Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ  gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link



  1. Anonymous

    Has anyone read How to Spot a Dangerous Man by Sandra L Brown? It supposedly lists 8 types of dangerous personalities and aims to help women avoid getting into yet another abusive relationship. From what I gather, it is also helpful for men in spotting traits in dangerous women.

  2. Just came across this quote in Hearing Reveals Impact of Clergy Abuse, an article by the indefatigable journalist and ethicist Bob Allen, who is once more writing about clergy sexual abuse among Southern Baptists.
    Allen’s article is about Sammy Nuckolls, 33, a traveling evangelist who has been sentenced for 10 years for video voyeurism. One of the victims is married to Adam. Here is what the article reported:

    Adam, who considered Nuckolls his best friend for more than five years, said it is normal for victims of sexual abuse to blame themselves for not picking up on warning signs, and in hindsight he might have paid more attention to small things like why Nuckolls always cheated at everything from friendly golf outings to board games.

    [emphasis added by Barb]

    To me, this is a perfect example of those tiny red flags that most of us see but don’t pay attention to – we only recall these details after the abuse surfaces in all its sickening horror.

    • My ex never cheated, but she lied constantly. It was like a way of life for her. She didn’t even realize how ridiculous and obvious some of her lies were. I never knew how to handle it, but they were almost always about things that didn’t matter, and who wants to have a big argument about something silly? Of course, there were bigger lies too, and some I’m not so sure about. It always kept me off kilter with her and set the stage for me to learn to trust her no matter what, for the sake of peace.

      • Gina

        To trust them no matter what is exactly what we fall victim to. I was married for 16 years, countless lies & inappropriate behavior- even right in front of me, yet I “couldn’t” divorce b/c no proven affair. So, there was finally an affair. But I was pregnant & stayed in the relationship. Couples counciling for a while, then it faded.
        More silly lies, more big lies, control over family life, another suspected affair, then… I walked in on him with my good friend & neighbor in her garage! I found out its been years of encounters! So i finally left after hit over the head with all these lies, I received clarity. Walked away quickly. W.E.A.V.E quickly!!
        Got flack from most friends for divorcing in 6 months. Sold my house in one month after I found them. My neighbor (the lover) started to attend my church regularly (hadn’t ever attended church) and I couldn’t get the proper support from the church so I left. I shouldn’t attend where my ex & his lover sit beside me!
        Sociopaths don’t change. They can’t. Their behavior is semi conscious, their not monsters necessarily, but behaviors are controlled by the subconscious. It’s how they’re hard wired. I regret not leaving numerous times. I was in a position of inferiority. Pregnant each time an affair was suspected. I have a lot of forgiveness I have to afford myself in time. I’m a RN and aware of behaviors… just couldn’t wrap my head around being a single parent of 4 kids. I also lost both
        my parents the last 5 years of our marriage, so, many factors contributed to my emotional confusion and pity party.
        Anyways… lies are SIGNIFICANT no matter how big or small!!! And so is RESPECT. Good for you to leave!

  3. Bila

    Martha Stout in her book “The Sociopath Next Door” sums it up this way: “Sociopaths have no regard whatsoever for the social contract, but they do know how to use it to their advantage… When deciding whom to trust, bear in mind that the combination of consistently bad or egregiously inadequate behavior [see Bancroft’s list] with frequent plays for your pity [eg nothing is ever his fault] is as close to a warning mark on a conscienceless person’s forehead as you will ever be given.” ([…] added by me)

    Unfortunately, I felt hammered with the verse “love covers a multitude of sins” and made to feel that if I don’t forgive this, that or the other then I am the one with the bigger problem. So it seems pretty murky to determine where one steps over the line from the occasional human error to something else – particularly if I’m regularly reminded that godliness shows love that covers a multitude of sins. …. And the church-going abuser knows that verse and others like it pretty well. And, unfortunately, it’s not just the abuser who delivers that message – it’s the pastor or other church friends as well.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Bila – Yes, great book. Thank you. Yep, the so common misuse of scripture as a cloak for the wicked person. Love also speaks the truth and shines light on evil to deliver the oppressed. The covering that love performs is not a cover-up of evil. We are also told to test the spirits, to expose evil. Jesus will one day shout it from the rooftops and expose every hidden thing. So if He does that, it can’t be bad!

      • Anonymous

        Pastor Crippen, would you expound a bit more on what “love covers a multitude of sin” is referring to?

      • Dear Anon, I’m going to have a go at writing a post called “Love covers a multitude of sins, but not all.” Jeff may be working at an answer too but he’s probably got a lot on his plate at the moment.

      • Jeff Crippen

        See, here is one of those Scriptures that “nice” people (also known as “do-gooders”) love to throw in our face, ripped right out of context, to impress us with their piety. Sorry to sound so brassy, but I don’t have patience for people who distort God’s Word for their own foolish or selfish ends, and that is just what this business of quoting this line to us is. It is taken from 1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Peter seems to have been thinking of Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. Whenever someone wants to force an abuse victim back into company with the abuser they quote PART of these texts (the love part) in order to foist their agenda of “Hey, if you are a Christian then you will keep on loving everyone no matter what they do to you and that means that you have to continue in relationship with them and trust them and……blah, blah, blah. I hate that stuff! It gets people tormented and can even get them killed! But even a moment’s reflection on these verses shows that they don’t mean that the love of Christ always turns a blind eye to every sin no matter what. That somehow Jesus promotes the great “cover up” of sin! Hardly. Jesus is the greatest Expose of sin ever! These verse are talking to CHRISTIANS who love one another already. They are talking about us being patient with one another, even when we sin against one another. We should not respond in hatred but continue in love, not seeking vengeance which only adds to strife. These verses do not apply to wicked, evil people and all we need do to prove it is to look at Jesus’ own life, or the prophets, or the Apostles. Did they always “cover up” the sins of wicked people? Of course not.

        So when I hear someone tell me that “love covers a multitude of sins” and the speaker is trying to control me and put me on a guilt trip, I reject what he says right there and I let him know why. Actually I have to admit — I have thought in my mind about punching him in the chops and seeing if his love for me covers up what I just did!! Don’t try that at home. And you didn’t hear it from me:)

  4. Ella Walker

    As I mentioned in an earlier response, yes, sometimes I did consciously and deliberately try to “push his buttons.” I did feel guilty somewhat and felt like I was taking advantage of him, however I had to remind myself that this is my and my children’s future that I am considering and I have to know what I am getting. One example that comes to mind is that he wanted to give me money. I was uncomfortable accepting money gifts from him even though I appreciated them. He wanted to help me because he saw how I struggled financially as a single mother and sometimes he paid some bills for me, which I reluctantly accepted. But one day, some time into the relationship, he took his checkbook and wrote my name on a check, signed it and handed it to me and said, “Fill out the amount between $ and $,” giving me a minimum and a maximum amount. He joked that he had to keep a little bit to pay his own bills. I knew instantly that this was a crucial time for me to see what his real motives were. Was he just being a kind generous man who wanted to give or were there ulterior motives? Were there going to be strings attached and what would be his response if I took the highest amount he offered me? What was he going to demand in return? It was a considerable amount of money. I knew what I had to do and this is the part where I really felt I was taking advantage of him, but I made out the check for the highest amount he offered me. He didn’t bat an eyelash, but tore out the check, handed it to me and he never said another word about it.
    Now I don’t know that this is necessarily an example for everyone to follow, but it seemed to me the best response in this situation to tell me what I needed to know. Some others have written that they need to say “no” to offers of help and gifts which is right for them to do. But the reason I chose this is because my abusive ex never gave me anything but what there were strings attached. And in the rare instances when he offered me something, whether it was help with the children or giving me something, I was expected to turn it down or to take the least of what he offered. That way he could feel good that he had been generous without having to follow through with anything. If I didn’t turn it down he would become resentful and accuse me of taking advantage of him. He would demand endless thanks and praise for even the smallest of favors, and tell me that I owed him something in return, usually a much larger amount of time, energy and commitment then what he had given me. So in this case I wanted to find out whether this man’s response was any different.
    There are other examples but this is the one that comes to mind right now. Otherwise it was just basically watching his responses to life very closely. One of the things I listened for very early on was how he talked about his ex. He spoke to me very candidly about her and their marriage because he knew I needed to know, but he never vilified her or spoke a demeaning word about her or blamed her for all their relationship problems. That spoke huge volumes to me about what kind of man he was. If he had done that I would have known to leave the relationship. I think that is important to take notice of how men talk about exes. Maybe one of the reasons women fall for someone who badmouths an ex is that as women we tend to try to be nurturers and fixers of relationships and somehow believe that we can show them that we can do better than their previous partner. I don’t know if that’s the case, but just a thought.
    I’m sure there’s more, but this post is getting rather long so with that, I’ll sign off…

    • Thanks Ella, That the kind of great detail I was hoping you’d share with us. Bless you.

      Regarding the way a man speaks about his ex or exes, I have always wondered if any woman who is in the courtship stage with a divorced man has had the guts to approach is ex wife and ask for her side of the story. I maybe would have been wise to do that before marrying my second husband, but it would have been awkward: probably the only way I could have made contact with her was through his daughters. And the story he told about why she broke up with him involved intimate details about her private life, so it would have been embarrassing to ask her ‘is that true?’.

  5. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog.

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