A Cry For Justice

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

Signs of an abusive relationship — where the abuse is hard to recognize

If your partner is displaying a combination of these behaviors, you may have a potential violent person on your hands.

This list is adapted from “Signs to Look for in a Battering Personality,” from the Project for Victims of Family Violence, Fayetteville, Arkansas, and can be found at the archive of ARMSOnline.org (Abuse Recovery Ministry and Services)

1. A push for quick involvement: Comes on very strong, claiming, “I’ve never felt loved like this by anyone.” An abuser pressures the woman for an exclusive commitment almost immediately.

2. Jealousy: Excessively possessive; calls or texts constantly, visits unexpectedly, prevents you from going to work because “you might meet someone,” checks the mileage on your car, accuses his victim of cheating on him.

3. Controlling: Controls what you do, who you see, controls finances or whether you allowed to work or not. Controls what happens at home. Questions you intensely.

4. Unrealistic expectations: Expects you to be the perfect woman and meet his every need. Expects you to do more than you are able to

5. Isolation: Tries to cut you off from family and friends; accuses people who are your supporters of “causing trouble.”

6. Blames others for problems or mistakes: The boss, you – it’s always someone else’s fault for his abusive behavior or if anything goes wrong.

7. Makes everyone else responsible for his feelings: The abuser says, “You make me angry” instead of, “I am angry”, or “You’re hurting me by not doing what I tell you.” Less obvious is the claim: “You make me happy.”

8. Hypersensitivity: Is easily insulted, claiming that his feelings are hurt when he is really mad. He’ll rant about the injustice of things that are just a part of life.

9. Cruelty to animals and to children: Kills or punishes animals brutally. Also may expect children to do things that are far beyond their ability (spanks a 2 year old for wetting a diaper or may tease them until they cry.)

10. “Playful” use of force during sex: Enjoys throwing you down or holding you against your will during sex; says he finds the idea of rape exciting.

11. Verbal abuse: Criticizes you or says blatantly cruel, hurtful things; degrades, curses, calls you ugly names. This may also involve sleep deprivation, waking you up with relentless verbal abuse.

12. Rigid sex roles: Expects you to serve, obey and remain at home. Doesn’t see you as his equal, nor respects you.

13. Sudden mood swings: Switches from sweetly loving to explosively violent in a matter of minutes or even more confusing, within seconds.

14. Past battering: Admits to hitting women in the past, but says that they made him do it, or the situation brought it on.

15. Threats of violence: Makes statements like, “If I can’t have you, no one will”, or, “I could kill you,” then dismisses them with “Everybody talks that way”, or, “I didn’t really mean it.” If he has come this far, it is time to get help, or get out!

We published this list on our FB page recently, and Victoria commented:

I’m not sure what the answer to this is, but every time I read a “Warning Signs” list I get a little frustrated, not because its not true, but because I know if I had read that list a year ago I would never have recognized that what was going on was abuse. … I did know that our relationship was not healthy. I probably would have believed (if the idea were presented) that I was not respected by my husband, but I never would have been able to read a list like this and say “Ah Ha! He’s abusing me!”. He did all (or most) of these things in such a sly way and had me so programmed to think the best of him in ALL situations that I would have never recognized things like “isolation”. I was terribly upset that after we wed he refused to move back to my home state, but I never saw it as “isolation”, I thought he was afraid… When he shot our dog, he convinced me it was the “humane” thing to do since just dumping it off somewhere the dog might starve. …. The fact that I could not watch my favorite TV shows was presented as his “leadership” since some of the humor was rather “worldly”— yet sex and violence in movies WAS ok for him—… the fact that I was not allowed to hang towels or washcloths anywhere except his prescribed places seemed like a ridiculous thing and I assumed it was his strict upbringing come out in him… Oh, I could go on! But you see, I just don’t know how I would have been able to show me that what I was dealing with was abuse? It was a HARD road to finally SEE that his acts were intentional and part of a pattern of control, domination, degradation and abuse. I just wish there were an easy was to help people recognize these types of situations!

We think Victoria’s experience is fairly common. So we’d like to ask you, dear readers, to suggest a list of signs that might have been helpful for those of you whose abusers were so subtle and covert that it was exceptionally hard to see it as abuse. Maybe we can collectively come up with a list of signs that might help victims of the most subtle gaslighting and emotional abuse.  What questions would have helped switch the light bulbs on for you?

145 Comments

  1. BeingHealed

    I, like Victoria, had a very sly, subtle abuser. Right off the top, I’d say if ANYONE says to you, “He’s verbally abusing you” or “Are you going to take that from him?” is a sign that you have got to stop and think things through. Talk to someone you trust (obviously NOT him). Question his actions and words (to the person you trust, it really isn’t safe to do it to him).

    If it seems like he doesn’t have any friends but you might have a few.
    If he discourages you from spending much time with family – mine would control how much time – a sly way of covering up his control.
    If you keep moving… even if it’s under the guise of the “job” – question it – but not to him.
    If he refuses to follow counselor’s guidance; refuses to go to the counselor that already knows what’s going on with you and your family.

    I just realized these are the “after you wed” type things. For the before:
    Pay attention to how he treats the women in his family – especially his mother (and how his father treats her).
    DO NOT MARRY HIM – if you haven’t seen him in a stressful situation. You need to see/witness how he handles hard times. Watch his temper. Does he blame everyone else. Does he come up with other excuses?

    I married way too soon. Let time be on your side. LISTEN to family members and friends you trust. If you trusted them before you began to see him, trust them again and give it time.
    Oh, and for those of you who know the one being abused – speak up! Ask questions! Offer to be there “just in case” and follow through. Don’t give up on us, hopefully we will see the light one day and may need you pronto!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Good stuff, BeingHealed. Very good.

    • if he never gets angry. If his mother is severely controlling and manipulative.if he behaved in very insensitive ways and claims it’s because he’s afraid of confrontation.

    • Great suggestions, BeingHealed!

  2. Deborah

    My abuser was a covert aggressive type and in Bancroft language, a demand man water torturer, so almost everything abusive he did was subtle in nature. He was careful not to allow anything he did (most anything anyway) to be able to be identified as abuse. Here are some of the things I wish I would have known we warning signs:

    1) there is always something in it for him when doing anything for anyone else. Always a way to gain the upper hand in some way, yet look generous in the process.

    2) creating a web work of lies around just enough truth to make me question myself for questioning him.

    3) made promises he never intended to keep but was careful to dangle the carrot every so often, to make me believe it would happen if I complied with what he wanted.

    4) everyone around him was incompetent and that is why he couldn’t do whatever it is he was trying to do.

    5) he denied affection (the thing he knew I needed most) when I didn’t do everything he wanted me to. He also used affection to get sex and as soon as the sex was done, so was the affection.

    6) he called everyone who didn’t agree with him or who saw through him, “unstable”.

    7) He would get my family to tease me relentlessly and then sit back and watch while they did the damage for him. That way he could claim he didn’t do anything and it was all them.

    8) He would not sacrifice for my goals but would put plenty of guilt on me to sacrifice for his. There was promise of my being able to further my education, but always when he was done with his and then when he was, there would be something else to put my turn on hold again.

    9) crazy making-he told me not to tell him I loved him too much, because it took meaning away from the words to do that.

    10) crazy making-he would tell me I did something incorrectly and then ask me to do it a different way. When I would, he would say it was wrong and ask me to do it the original way. If I pointed that out, he would deny it was ever done the original way to begin with.

    To name a few…..

    ~Deborah

    • Jeff Crippen

      Deborah – it is still amazing, isn’t it, that there are actually these kinds of people around us and that they aren’t all that rare?

    • Agreed! I can see most of these with my situation too.

    • Karen

      Deborah, this is what I had to deal with. And so much more. This is the abuse that is hard to tell and to outsiders, it doesn’t look so bad. Try using this in a court of law for abuse and they just smile and ignore you. When he finally resorted to physical abuse, I put him in jail, but he has schmoozed the court system into thinking that it was just a one time deal. My church also fell into line and it is sad because they just enable his sickness but see nothing wrong with it-Karen

  3. His beloved

    Do you feel confused after discussions on important matters like your marriage, parenting etc? Do you feel blamed and unheard? If you look closely at the conversation would there be blame shifting on his part, did he bring up red-herrings to take the topic off course?

    Does he often say he sees what he is doing and promises to change yet eventually you end up in the same problems over and over?

    Does he tell you that what you are saying happened didn’t really happen? Does he deny saying things you remember him saying? Or does he say “I didn’t mean it that way you misheard me.”?

    Do you feel that he often re-writes history and claims he just remembers things differently than you, or just looks at you as if you are wrong and you can’t trust your perceptions?

    Does he look at you pityingly and ”caringly” and want to help you with your issues?

    Does he blame all your feelings and “issues” on your childhood and past abuse?

    Do you feel unclean and used inside and have no idea why?

    Is there a cycle to your relationship where at times you feel like it is the best marriage in the world and you are so close and it will be good like this forever (finally) and he really understands you and cares, and then for no reason you can find, things start to change and tension mounts and the familiar old pain and problems return and you have no idea why?

    When you withdraw to PROTECT yourself does he blame you for being distant and cold, tell you that you are rejecting him and say that YOU are causing the marriage problems?

    Do you feel as if you are walking on eggshells and living on a roller coaster?

    Does he seem to be a really nice guy to other people and do you think that no one would ever believe you if you told them he was making you feel crazy?

    If you say he is making you feel crazy does he say “That’s your childhood” or “”No one can make anyone feel anything — that’s your choice to feel that way.”?

    Have your physical symptoms or emotional symptoms or psychological symptoms gotten worse since the marriage? Do you feel like you aren’t growing in your relationship with the Lord?

    Do you think more about the marriage problems than about any other thing in your life?

    In counseling does he manage to say subtle things that trigger you and set you off so you look like the one with the problems and he sits there acting like he’s just fine, and you can’t even put your finger on what he said?

    Do you feel like you live with someone who is almost 2 different guys, but you think the nice guy is the real one and you can help him work through his issues?

    Does he give different reason for the same behavior — sometimes he admits and says he’s sorry, sometimes he blames you, sometimes he denies anything at all?

    In your heart of hearts do you wonder if there is something really wrong in the marriage but you have no idea what it is or what to do about it? Have you read many marriage books and tried many solutions and nothing has helped? Do you wonder if everyone lives with this kind of pain in their marriage and how do they survive?

    Do you feel like he is jealous of your happiness or good moments, your walk with the Lord, even your pets or your baby?

    Have you lost all sense of your self and all trust in yourself and think you are really messed up and feel hopeless about ever understanding what is wrong with you or how to get better?

    (I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here for now!)

    • livingtransparently

      I could have written most of this myself! There are so many things we could post… I usually can’t even come close to remembering all of them.

    • MeganC

      Wow, friend. I feel like you have lived my life for me and just wrote about it!!! I can relate ENTIRELY!!

    • Now THAT is a useful list!

    • Thank you so much for that-I relate to your post.

    • yes yes and yes!also I always have to teach him how to be a human being have to have emotions how to show emotion how to treat people.he was always so condescending and patronizing towards me like he was indulging a five year old child.
      it took me way too many years to realize that I carried all of the conversations and all he ever did was mirror back to me what I had already said in slightly different words.

    • BeginHealing

      Nailed it! Smart and subtle abusers. Nothing so overt that we can see clearly what is going on. We are just pieces on their chess board to be played at their whim to satisfy their whims.

    • AH

      I am a little late on replaying to this but… yes. As a matter of fact, before marrying, all my friends told me to get out and gave me lists. I half-believed the lists, half-believed the man. I would take the lists to him, and he would basically change all of it and show me how he wasn’t like that at all (great first question group: “Do you feel confused after discussions on important matters like your marriage, parenting etc? Do you feel blamed and unheard? If you look closely at the conversation would there be blame shifting on his part, did he bring up red-herrings to take the topic off course?”). I kept believing in him, kept holding on to “hope” — we broke up, found out I was pregnant, and I was guilted into marrying him for my daughter’s sake. No way he could have talked me out of believing this list (I think). Very good.

    • Oh my gosh I’m not alone…..this is my situation. Thank you for this list

      • Brenda R

        No loves6, you’re not alone. We are all together in a variety of way. We may not all have the exact same experiences, but we are far from alone.

    • Marah

      This is, by far, the most accurate list to describe my experiences with my husband. Almost everyone else has had plenty of overtly aggressive stuff in addition to these kinds of things, so I’ve been really questioning if it really is accurate to call my experience abuse. There were more overtly aggressive actions early in our relationship than there have been over the last 15ish years, and everything I’ve read says that sort of thing gets worse, not better, so that has added to my confusion. I need to print this one out.

      • 🙂 🙂 🙂 Glad it is helping you, Marah

    • Chilled

      Ended up here through a link to a difference abuse article here on COFJ (thank you @XianJaneway).

      I’m a little chilled. Most of those items apply to me & my marriage. I’m just–I have a lot of thinking to do.

      Recently I was writing a rough first-draft storyline (I’m a writer) and wrote the following passage about a character before realizing it was about me…

      “He doesn’t shout or swear at her, call her names, or demand to know her every move. He doesn’t monitor her finances or try to control who she sees. He doesn’t hit her or threaten her or loom over her to intimidate her. He doesn’t fit any definition of abuse that she has ever seen.

      “So when she feels desperate to move out, she can’t really explain why. She only knows she’s constantly tense and on eggshells whenever he’s around, that she’s tired of feeling defensive and guilty, tired of not being able to relax in her own home, tired of being wrong and bad about whatever topic comes up, tired of never living up to his standards, tired of the constant criticism, tired of living as a secondary assistant to someone who clearly doesn’t value her on the same plane as himself.

      “She was a stellar student in school and her intelligence is well above average, but after years of this marriage, she feels genuinely stupid. She can’t do things she cares about with him around because she’s so nervous and stressed and feels so vulnerable. He has demanded to know why she doesn’t do this or that, and she has told him it’s because he’s here and she’s stressed. He dismissed that, of course, and ripped her for being that way.
      The thought of re-entering the workforce terrifies her on one level because she doesn’t think she’s competent or has enough to offer to hold down a job. She only knows that she has to do it in order to escape this marriage.”

      So thanks, His Beloved, for so aptly describing the hazy, un-describable aspects of an abusive relationship.

      • Thank you Chilled. Your ‘fictional’ description is very good.

  4. His beloved

    Thought of another one:

    Does he make his problem, for instance with pornography, a “marriage problem that we can solve together” and then eventually subtlely blame you for it?

    • Brenda R

      Not even subtlely. More like “if you were more of a wife and did….., I wouldn’t have to…..”.

      • MeganC

        HB — Yes. Brenda — Yes. Amazing.

      • BeingHealed

        I was even told, on our honeymoon, that if I would dress like a prostitute, I would be more appealing to him.

      • Brenda R

        We married the same man. I was told I was his whore in the bedroom and Mrs. B–as long as you do as you’re told we will get along fine. I thought he was joking. He wasn’t.

      • To me, that indicates he was well and truly into porn and suchlike before he married you. 😦

  5. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog.

  6. livingtransparently

    Victoria is exactly right!!! And I have felt the very same almost every time. I’ve even started to doubt myself thinking that maybe I wasn’t abused or that my situation wasn’t that bad. But sometimes I think that covert abuse is even more damaging because it’s harder to identify. Here are my covert signs of abuse.

    1. He had to know where I was at all times because “he was my protector” and he “cared that much about me”. I would text him at every stop I made when I was out and if he didn’t hear from me and I didn’t respond, he would leave to come find me. I could have been in a wreck or something… blah!

    2. Anytime I wanted to or even chose to spend time away from him with friends or family, I was choosing someone else over him and our family and that was not Biblical and indicative of me not caring for me as much as he cared for me. He would “never choose anyone or anything else” over spending time with me and our kids. He projected himself as a great family man. He wouldn’t ever tell me I couldn’t, but he made me feel so selfish, self centered and bad about myself that I just stopped trying. Even church activities other than services on SUNDAY morning were putting others above him and he didn’t like that. Near the end of our relationship, when things were bad because I started standing up to him, I started doing things occasionally with friends and even to this day he tells people that I would leave him at home with the kids to go running around ALL the time and stay out all hours of the night (even though that’s not at ALL the truth).

    3. Everything is exaggerated. If I did something he didn’t want me to do, the quantity of it and the details are blown out of proportion.

    4. He was miserable with his job. And though he had 3 different jobs while we were together, none of them made him happy. So since I knew this, if I had a bad day and talked about it, I didn’t care about how miserable he was because if I did, I wouldn’t be complaining about my day. I had it much better than he. So around him, I never “had a bad day”. I didn’t want him to think I didn’t care about him and I would do whatever I could to make him feel loved and secure, including giving up myself and my feelings. Anytime I spent money he didn’t consider “necessary”, I didn’t care about him wanting to save up money to retire early. Anytime I forgot to turn down the air conditioner or any other mistakes that caused us losing more money than necessary, it was the time. This was a personal attack on him and not merely a forgetful mind. Because I wouldn’t forget if I knew how important it was to him.

    5. He looked at porn, was addicted to it. And anytime I expressed my hurt feelings about it or even just concern at what it does to him, he would get mad at me for not trusting in our relationship. Didn’t he show me enough how beautiful he thought I was? He would say “I can’t ever do enough to please you”. I know it’s crazy but he let me believe this for many years.

    6. I would cry at his attempts to get me to have a threesome with his friends and beg him to stop. He would tell me that he knew I would like it and that I was just saying that because I thought it was wrong, but what I really wanted was for him to push me into it. Because then I could blame him and not myself.

    7. Every time I had a complaint or wanted to discuss something that hurt my feelings or that he could do better, he would get his feelings hurt so badly. To the point that he would claim that he could never please me and that I didn’t appreciate the good things he did. Also, I can’t remember ONE time every having a tough discussion that I brought up something that was bothering me in which at the end of the conversation, I wasn’t crying and upset about something I did to hurt him and apologizing. Somehow, it always came back to something I did, even if it didn’t relate at all to the matter that was brought up in the beginning. I truly didn’t want to hurt him. But then I would get frustrated with myself for giving in again. It was a vicious cycle.

    Everything he did and said, he would try to make me believe that he was doing it for me. That he just loved me that much. He was so very manipulative and made me and every one else believe he was an amazing husband. He was so good at projecting that image that when I would ever doubt it, I would feel crazy, like I was seeing things that weren’t there. How could I be right when everyone else was wrong?

    These are all very subtle and even though it looks obvious reading it now, I didn’t see it at all. I wanted to make him happy. He was relying on me making him happy because his happiness depended on my actions and words. It was a difficult burden to bear and very hard. I’m so thankful I no longer carry it!!! Unfortunately, his new girlfriend does carry it now. She is super sweet and thinks she has found the perfect man. She is ME 14 years ago. I hate it for her. It took me years and years to figure out what was going on. It is NOT seen if you don’t know what to look for. In fact, the opposite is true. You think he’s Mr. Perfect and that God has truly blessed you with him. The fact is that he’s made you believe this through lies and manipulation and will continue to do so until you are not sure who you even are anymore. You exist solely for him and become the woman he wants you to be.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Living Transparently – In comparing these lists in the comments here, I think that you and the other commenters somehow must have married the same guy? In a sense, you did, right?

      • Jeff Crippen

        No, let me edit that last comment of mine. You were targeted by the same evil guy. Yeah, you married him, but I do think it is important for us to remind one another that EVERYONE, no matter how intelligent, can be targeted and duped by people like this. We shouldn’t wear a load of shame if it happens. We try to learn from it and survive, and press on in life.

    • ColleenR

      omg #7–this was a pattern I recognized the last two years of the marriage: I may start out wanting to talk about an issue I thought we needed to address that required some adjustment on his part but we would end up talking about character flaws of mine. Once I would apologize, it was as if that restored his comfort level in the relationship. He would hug me (while I usually cried) and we would go on as if nothing had happened. I would have no idea how we started out with me wanting him to work on an issue with me and end up with me apologizing for my flaws! I told a counselor about that pattern and he said there was no question in his mind that my ex was “Axis 2” (personality disorder, the expertise of this particular counselor!)

      • Colleen, I feel your pain. I’d say this was probably the clue I caught onto first that made me start thinking that something was wrong with him and us. And very frustrating!

      • Leslie

        Yes yes yes. 1000 times this has happened to me.

      • Thank you for sharing- I have lived that exact experience! Once I apologized (and he always did because he had a way of breaking and crushing my spirit) he would be happy again and “all was well” AND he took any and every apology from me as “me owning ALL our marriage problems-past, present, and of course, future”!!! Axis 2 personality? I need to read about that!

    • You think he’s Mr. Perfect and that God has truly blessed you with him.

      oh this is soooo hard. I believed this lie so totally, because my concept of my self-worth was zero. I remember sobbing and telling him that I was so lucky that he married me, that I didn’t deserve him. His response to my confession was usually stone cold silence.
      It took him escalating to more outrageous and cruel behavior before my lights finally came on! I shudder to think that if he had only contained himself to the psychological manipulation, I might still be with him today. Still believing that I was unworthy of love and that God had “blessed” me with a monster. 😥

      as Joe commented here this week — divorce has such bigger ramifications. It’s not just releasing you from an abuser – it’s releasing you from every wrong idea about God, and every bad relationship. It’s freedom on so many levels.

      • Katy, I understand all too well. It is exactly how I felt. Strange thing is he also told me how wonderful I was and how much of a better person than him. I know now that it was only to solicit the response of “no, you are AMAZING…” Bc if I didn’t give him that answer, I paid for it by him expressing hurt feelings and did I really think I was better than him? Which meant to him that he was nothing. He’s black or white. He’s either all amazing or all terrible. One small criticism meant to him that I was criticizing everything about him.

      • EXACTLY! Thank you for sharing!

    • Leslie

      OH MY GOODNESS. Living transparently. I have never heard anyone articulate some of those things…. You just described my marriage and covert aggressive spouse. Unbelievable. I too have thought so many times, it’s really not that bad. It’s not all those obvious things on that first list so I guess it’s me!
      George Simon’s book ” In Sheeps clothing” took the scales off my eyes in a way that I could FINALLY see it. I’m so thankful for that book and for CFJ.
      I’m still in shock at some of what you described. Wow. It’s my life, and that’s one of the great things about this site, knowing we’re not alone and not crazy afterall.

      • Amen to that!!!

      • livingtransparently

        It is so comforting to know I am not alone too Leslie. I STILL struggle at times trying to accept that I’m not the problem.

    • From #7 onward-that has been my life, except the girlfriend part… Yet. We are separated so that will come later, and maybe sooner than I know because he is a slave to feeding his flesh.

      7. Every time I had a complaint or wanted to discuss something that hurt my feelings or that he could do better, he would get his feelings hurt so badly. To the point that he would claim that he could never please me and that I didn’t appreciate the good things he did. Also, I can’t remember ONE time every having a tough discussion that I brought up something that was bothering me in which at the end of the conversation, I wasn’t crying and upset about something I did to hurt him and apologizing. Somehow, it always came back to something I did, even if it didn’t relate at all to the matter that was brought up in the beginning. I truly didn’t want to hurt him. But then I would get frustrated with myself for giving in again. It was a vicious cycle.

      Everything he did and said, he would try to make me believe that he was doing it for me. That he just loved me that much. He was so very manipulative and made me and every one else believe he was an amazing husband. He was so good at projecting that image that when I would ever doubt it, I would feel crazy, like I was seeing things that weren’t there. How could I be right when everyone else was wrong?

      These are all very subtle and even though it looks obvious reading it now, I didn’t see it at all. I wanted to make him happy. He was relying on me making him happy because his happiness depended on my actions and words. It was a difficult burden to bear and very hard. I’m so thankful I no longer carry it!!! Unfortunately, his new girlfriend does carry it now. She is super sweet and thinks she has found the perfect man. She is ME 14 years ago. I hate it for her. It took me years and years to figure out what was going on. It is NOT seen if you don’t know what to look for. In fact, the opposite is true. You think he’s Mr. Perfect and that God has truly blessed you with him. The fact is that he’s made you believe this through lies and manipulation and will continue to do so until you are not sure who you even are anymore. You exist solely for him and become the woman he wants you to be.

    • BeginHealing

      Oh my goodness #4 If I ever had a complaint about my day or how I was feeling he always would one up me and made me feel like he had it much worse so my feelings were less valid and not needing any care or attention. Because clearly he had it much worse than I did…..

      #7 My Husband will react 1 of three ways when I tell him something or ask him for something he doesn’t want to hear 1-Defensiveness it wasn’t him or I was just not understanding what he was trying to do 2-placate me tell me he would take care of something or change and then never did. 3-Fall into self hatred and despair which would lead me to feel sorry for him and then take care of him.

    • I am still in this very situation. The porn addiction is not there but there are other sexual issues that id rather not write publicly. The ‘nice guy’ ‘amazing family man’ that everyone sees. He loves that people see me as the unhappy unhelpful mother/wife. My kids tell me that I have a big heart of love. I am very affectionate with my kids and I tell them I love them. I just hate that I live with this man that is like you describe above. I’m a what you see is what you get type of person. I am over putting on a mask and pretending to make people feel happy. When my husband is overly nice talkative and friendly I withdraw from the situation, I hate it that much. I come across rude, I guess, but I just find it so hard to listen to. He tells me that he respects everyone as human beings, God loves them and he wants to be kind and courteous to all. I want to be real, just a normal person, kind courteous, respectful and normal (dont know if this makes sense) when he is like this I feel like he is insincere and to me he comes across ‘greasy’ … It makes my skin crawl.

      • I am over putting on a mask and pretending to make people feel happy. When my husband is overly nice talkative and friendly I withdraw from the situation, I hate it that much. . . . He tells me that he respects everyone as human beings, God loves them and he wants to be kind and courteous to all. I want to be real, just a normal person, kind courteous, respectful and normal (dont know if this makes sense) when he is like this I feel like he is insincere and to me he comes across ‘greasy’ … It makes my skin crawl.

        I think the Bible supports you not wanting to fake it.
        Romans 12:9
        Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. (ESV)
        Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (NIV)
        Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. (KJV)
        Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. (NLT)
        Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. (Message)

    • Chilled

      Oh God, some of that sounds hauntingly familiar. Thanks for sharing your story.

  7. His beloved

    Totally agree with Living Transparently about #7- I was always “hurting his feelings” or “accusing him of being a failure” even when I was trying to discuss parenting topics and not saying a word about him.

    and this is so true:

    “Everything he did and said, he would try to make me believe that he was doing it for me. That he just loved me that much. He was so very manipulative and made me and every one else believe he was an amazing husband. He was so good at projecting that image that when I would ever doubt it, I would feel crazy, like I was seeing things that weren’t there. How could I be right when everyone else was wrong?” “You think he’s Mr. Perfect and that God has truly blessed you with him. The fact is that he’s made you believe this through lies and manipulation and will continue to do so until you are not sure who you even are anymore.”

    There are still days when I have to talk myself through the facts or I’ll start to wonder if I am the wrong one again. Thank you Lord that this happens less and less.

    Perhaps we can call this “Signs of Covert Psychological Abuse”

    • livingtransparently

      I do the same questioning of myself. I have an assignment to work on that I haven’t started yet but plan to soon. Make a list of lies he made us believe about ourselves on one side of the paper, and a list of the truths on the other, using scripture when possible. I need to do this and keep with me every time I start to doubt myself. He “projects” everything that is his issue onto me, including calling me a narcissist. I doubt myself often because he STILL does it. And he is the father of our children so I can’t seem to get away from it.

    • “There are still days when I have to talk myself through the facts or I’ll start to wonder if I am the wrong one again. Thank you Lord that this happens less and less”.

      I couldn’t agree more! If I am not careful to do that, I allow my own mind to do “crazy-making” upon myself!!!

  8. livingtransparently

    Jeff, You are exactly right! And I HAVE struggled with shame for falling into his trap. But I realize that he is just that good. I have actually been able to see my relationship with him as a blessing. It opened up characteristics and pains deep within me that I am better for knowing they were there. I am a better person because of it, and may not have realized the deep seeded reasons for being so blindingly open to him and his abuse. Healing begins when we realize it happened FOR us and not TO us. I have had to work on myself… very hard. And it is making me a much stronger and healthier person.

    From My Beloved, I think I could have written these myself!!!
    “Does he tell you that what you are saying happened didn’t really happen? Does he deny saying things you remember him saying? Or does he say “I didn’t mean it that way you misheard me.”?

    Do you feel that he often re-writes history and claims he just remembers things differently than you, or just looks at you as if you are wrong and you can’t trust your perceptions?

    When you withdraw to PROTECT yourself does he blame you for being distant and cold, tell you that you are rejecting him and say that YOU are causing the marriage problems?

    Do you feel as if you are walking on eggshells and living on a roller coaster?

    Does he seem to be a really nice guy to other people and do you think that no one would ever believe you if you told them he was making you feel crazy?

    Have your physical symptoms or emotional symptoms or psychological symptoms gotten worse since the marriage? Do you feel like you aren’t growing in your relationship with the Lord?

    In counseling does he manage to say subtle things that trigger you and set you off so you look like the one with the problems and he sits there acting like he’s just fine, and you can’t even put your finger on what he said?

    Do you feel like you live with someone who is almost 2 different guys, but you think the nice guy is the real one and you can help him work through his issues?

    Do you feel like he is jealous of your happiness or good moments, your walk with the Lord, even your pets or your baby?

    Have you lost all sense of your self and all trust in yourself and think you are really messed up and feel hopeless about ever understanding what is wrong with you or how to get better?”

    And there are so many things I haven’t mentioned… it seems to go on and on. I’ve done a fabulous job of healing, though I have a good distance to still travel, and forget some of them. I need to write them down though… it would be good to have an exhaustive list for examination in other relationships and for encouragement and support to others.

  9. ColleenR

    Since I am still struggling to use the “abuse” label over two years after filing for divorce and almost a year after having it granted, I may be too close to offer great suggestions. I recently decided to record events, comments and patterns of my ex so that I would be able to see them in black and white outside my head in an effort to help me in this process. I thought if I read the entries and asked myself, “If a friend were telling me this, would I characterize that relationship as ‘abusive’?”

    So that might be a good question:

    If a friend told you that this happened to them would you say they were being abused?

    I’m also aware, as I get further away from being enmeshed with my ex, that I am able to think more clearly and be more organized, more aware, more able to set realistic goals and follow through (moreso than before! nobody’s perfect! ;)) on reaching them. The inference here is that I was very confused, disorganized, disheartened, etc. before.

    So I might include something like this:

    Do you notice feelings of confusion, insecurity, hopelessness, distraction, aimlessness, isolation, (I’m sure there is a long list that I will not exhaust here!) since being in this relationship where either NONE existed before or if they existed before were more in a “normal” or “manageable” range?

    There is the importance of learning to trust your instincts about what is happening. Because my situation was almost exclusively verbal/psychological abuse, I was affected in my very identity. I realized toward the end that I did not feel safe “being myself.” Whoever that was.

    Another question:

    Do you have less security in your identity (how you feel, what you want, what your gifts and talents are, etc.) than you did before the relationship?

    I am aware as I am writing this that these do not fall neatly into “listing categories.” I do not know if that is because of the nature of the concepts or because of the way I have written them. I am also aware that the kinds of changes or difficulties I am addressing could come from various causes, which may not necessarily include an abusive partner. That is part and parcel of the difficulty here. Skilled manipulators who do not leave physical scars which others can easily see and connect to the abusers actions have lots of nooks and crannies in which to hide. Also, these questions are more geared to identifying abuse very much “after the fact.” So, I don’t know how helpful they are for what you are asking to see.

    • Do you notice feelings of confusion, insecurity, hopelessness, distraction, aimlessness, isolation since being in this relationship where either NONE existed before or if they existed before were more in a “normal” or “manageable” range?

      Do you have less security in your identity (how you feel, what you want, what your gifts and talents are, etc.) than you did before the relationship?

      Two great questions! I think it’s easier for a victim in the fog to ask herself questions about her feelings and sense of identity, than to be able to objectively examine her partner’s behaviour. The abuser will have so manipulated her thinking about him and his motives, that it’s really hard to identify him as abusive — she’s always got some other explanation for his behaviour. But she’s very adept at examining herself and her feelings, so questions that probe her feelings and her sense of identity are easy for her to consider, and might lead to the flickering of the lightbulb that will wake her up.

      • AJ

        This is a good point, Barbara. There was a point in time that I was seeking help for my own issues but could not see his. People would ask about verbal abuse or narcissism and I would say no. I think I so needed it to not be true that I lived in complete denial. If it was my problem I could work on it but if it was his, then what? My theology wouldn’t allow for divorce and I have three kids. Without consciously making the choice I refused reality and accepted his delusion because I didn’t have the strength to face what I didn’t want to see. Evenly the lists are great but only when i stopped believing in make beleive was I able to see what was really happening.

        Speaking of make believe my 15 year old was watching TV the other night and the kid in the show was trying to convince others of someone’s manipulation. Everyone kept telling him to look for the good. He responded that good can’t look like evil. Totally jumped out at me. How easy it is to deny evil actions because we believe someone is good.

      • His beloved

        AMEN– very insightful. Continual, ongoing, never-ending self-examination which the abuser plays into masterfully. And all the while our eyes are off Him, the one who truly loves us.

    • I used the “if a friend told me this…” a lot. Funny thing was, when I would tell friends things they were mostly hearing things through their lens of normality and giving him the benefit of the doubt. (“That’s weird, but all men do stupid things…”)

      I ended up having to keep a secret journal of things the way I remembered them, because HIS memory was always sooo much clearer and mine was determined to be faulty (by him). So when he said something that I didn’t remember the same way, I could go back to what I had written right after. It was really probably one of the best things I did, because it helped me to see patterns, and look back at things more critically, especially as I learned more about abuse. I could then go back and re-read things and see the manipulation.

      • Chilled

        I realize it’s four years after this comment was originally posted but wanted to let you know it’s still helping someone. I cried after reading this. My husband will say something (and if I disagree will argue and debate me over it until I give in out of sheer emotional exhaustion), and then later when I bring it up will deny he said that and claim he said the opposite.

        It was so crazymaking I started to seriously question my memory and my sanity. So the next couple of times he said something and started arguing for it (something I knew would turn into a denial situation sooner or later), I got my camera and videotaped him.

        That helped curb that particular behavior, but it didn’t answer any of my questions, namely, if I loved someone I would *never* do something like that to them. If I did it by accident and got called on it I’d apologize and stop.

        I assumed it was just him having a bad memory combined with his propensity to be argumentative–until I made those couple of videotapes and the crazymaking stopped. At least that aspect of it.

      • Chilled, from what you’ve written, I think you might find it helpful to read The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans. We have it listed here https://cryingoutforjustice.com/resources/books-by-author/

        And I recommend these two posts as well:

        https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2013/02/25/gaslighting/

        https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2013/03/21/in-opening-my-mind-to-my-husband-i-opened-myself-up-to-horrific-scarring-a-gaslighting-story-by-uszula/

      • Chilled

        Thanks Barbara–I have that book. It has been very helpful, but only after I had it for several years and started recognizing and admitting some patterns. Takes so long to wake up in one’s own mind. Evans well describes couples living in two realities and that’s one reason why it’s so hard to recognize these patterns and admit to yourself that your partner isn’t necessarily coming from a good place.

        Thank you for the links. When I got here yesterday I read through a lot of articles here, but didn’t see those two. Appreciate it.

  10. Amy

    These are all so accurate and helpful. I’ll add a few more from personal experience.
    1 He demands that you do things that go against your conscience.

    2 He demands that he gets his way in everything (where you have a different opinion or desire) Because he is the “head of the house”, his wife must submit to him in everything.

    3 He cuts down your family, blaming your problems and the problems in your marriage on them and your childhood. He demands that you “leave and cleave” if you enjoy spending time with your family.

    4 He tries to cut you off from your life before him – change churches, friends.

    5 He gets you alone in a place where it’s difficult to run away – in the car, on a trip, in a restaurant and berates you or yells at you and won’t stop until you repent and apologize for your behavior/beliefs. Any tears you cry are “false repentance”.

    6 Sexual intimacy is demanded as duty whether or not the partner is willing or desires it, regardless of his behavior. He has “needs” that must be met frequently and it does not matter who meets them. Sex becomes increasingly twisted and deviant at a higher frequency. The victim is told she should be spending lots of time, more time than at anything else, coming up with ways to please him sexually; she should really be thinking about this 24/7.

    7 He goes through your personal items/belongings as well as what belongs to both of you, including wedding and shower gifts, and gets rid of what he wants to, either secretly or by coerced agreement.

    8 He turns what you say into a slam against himself. Turns anything you do that he doesn’t like, or anything you don’t do that he wants you to, into a personal attack on himself.

    9 Says he knows your thoughts and motivations.

    10 If you are a homemaker, he says you are using him as a way to not work, when you do not live up to his expectations in any way.

    11 He does something “nice” for you and tells you how lucky you are to have him/a guy who will do nice things for you. If you thank him, he tells you that you can thank him later, meaning a sexually degrading act.

    12 When you bring up something he does that hurts you, it becomes either your fault that he does it or he twists the subject around so that he can become angry at you for something.

    13 He has a problem working under authority and must be self-employed.

    14 Your feelings are a good indicator. What makes you feel unloved and disrespected?

    • JES2013

      Amy, #9 and #13!!

      If he is easily offended or insulted.

      If he monologues (and gets offended if you try to get a word in edgewise) whenever you converse, especially if you talking about your marital “issues”.

      Tries to say that you did something or said something because you think or feel a certain way, i.e. talks as if he knows your mind.

      Talks as if everyone is against him and he truly has no one not even his own family, and you are “the only one” he has.

    • Chilled

      Oh dear Lord #12.

  11. His beloved

    Living Transparently said
    “He “projects” everything that is his issue onto me, including calling me a narcissist.”
    ABSOLUTELY. It was a big step out of the insanity when I started saying to myself “everything he accuses me of is actually a description of what HE is doing.” Unfortunately I didn’t really get this until the brutal divorce process — sure would have helped me during the 26 years before!

  12. I just thought of another BIG one.

    If they start trying to make you believe you are controlling when you set clear, healthy boundaries and do not respect your boundaries.

    • His beloved

      TOTALLY- and use your boundaries (a rewritten version of them and what led up to them) to prove to others that you are controlling.

      • Still Scared( but getting angry)

        Oh, exactly!!

  13. Here’s another one to add to the list:

    Does he pick one off the list and smirk, “See, I don’t do that! That’s not me!”?

    Bancroft makes the point that abusers don’t have to tick off ALL the symptoms of a list. Being intimately familiar with the abusive mentality, he knew that they would deny their abuse if they could pick a symptom that doesn’t represent their behavior. In fact, if it is something he finds repulsive, he would have a smug superior attitude, declaring loudly that HE is not that disgusting. So that’s yet another sign!

    • AJ

      Ha your comment is awesome! My spouse read The Verbally Abusive Relationship and said it offended him. He pointed out the single exception that didn’t fit him and declared the entire book ridiculous. He then refused to look at how every single other piece fit like a glove!

    • Even without a book, mine was very good at pointing out how good he was to me – “At least I don’t hit you,” “It’s not like I’m calling you names,” “You act like you’ve got it so bad – I never even yell!”

  14. I’m thinking not so much of a list of things he/she does as much as a response this seems to produce in you. Namely, if you have to excuse him, or tell yourself it is alright that he did x because of x, or otherwise rationalize/justify/qualify him or his behavior/demeanor/what have you, these are all flags that need attention.

    This may not work as well for those whose feelers have been damaged by previous abuse, particularly growing up in an abusive environment. But it may be helpful if the checklists of behaviors don’t work yet you find yourself in excusing mode anyway.

  15. How alarmingly similar. Guess human nature is constant. To add just a few…

    When trying to solve issues, do you feel as if problems never get resolved and true reconciliation never takes place thus more and more bricks are added to the ever widening wall between you?

    Feigning Ignorance:
    Do you believe if you can just explain to him how deeply he has hurt you that he will understand and stop doing it, only to find he never understands, or he says he does and promises to change but does it all over again and again?

    Does he act as if he just didn’t know any better when hurting you yet again in the same way? Does he make you responsible for teaching him how to treat you and others kindly?

    When you ask him to help you, does he feign ignorance on how to accomplish very simplistic tasks even though he is intelligent and can accomplish complex things he wants to do for himself?

    Do you find he feigns ignorance on many issues that concern you and your children and general issues of adult responsibilities and common decency?

    Does he want credit for your good ideas, and treat you as if you can’t think of anything intelligent on your own or that you could never survive without him?

  16. When in the abuse, I would never have identified that he isolated me from friends or family because he did not demand that I reduce my contact with them or forbid me from seeing them, or anything that overt. What he did had the effect of isolating me (to some degree) from them, and I made all the adjustments without realising that he had covertly coerced me to make them.
    I’m putting the things he did into question format, so they can be more useful to others. Some of these were done to me by my first husband. Others were done to another survivor I know.

    a) Does he get a bit more than usually grumpy, after you and he have together visited your family or friends?
    b) Does he show slight reluctance for you to visit any of your girlfriends? (just enough reluctance for you to cut back on that friendship so as not to displease him)
    c) Does he show a sight bad mood when you’ve been out (without him) visiting other people, or when your trip out of the house took a bit longer than you thought it would take?
    d) Does he gripe repeatedly about some members of your family when they are really not all that bad, they’re just slightly difficult or eccentric? And does his griping makes you reluctant to suggest a visit to those family members because you don’t want to stress your husband?
    e) When you suggest dropping in unannounced on a person or couple you both know well as friends, does he frequently tell you that “They might not want to see us”, so it’s never okay for the two of you to just drop in on such people, even though they are friends?
    f) When you’ve been out of the house on your own, doing an activity that you’ve recently taken up (such as a course or job or hobby) and he’s been home minding the kids, are the kids more-than-usually feral or hungry or dirty when you get home, so you decide of your own free will to drop that course or job or hobby, because it’s not good for the kids?

    And here are some questions that might expose an abuser’s treating his partner as a servant:

    g) When you’ve politely requested that he do a particular household chore from time to time, because for the last few times you’ve been doing it , does he blow up saying that “Our marriage is not about keeping a list of who does what, and making it all line up tit for tat. Our marriage is about sharing, not keeping accounts!”
    h) When you’ve asked him politely if he could please do a certain job, like make the coffee (which you know he can do, because he’s done it before), does he just say no and you accept his no, and does he do this enough times that you stop asking again?
    i) Do you find yourself thinking thoughts of gratitude for what he does around the house or garden, while at the same time find yourself taking on more of the everyday chores? And could it be that the things he does around the house or garden are only the things he enjoys doing, whereas you are doing all the tasks that are left, even the ones you don’t enjoy?
    j) When you’ve asked him to do a simple chore or household task, does he do it, but do it so badly that you decide it would be easier not to ask him again, and just do it yourself from now on?

    • Still Scared( but getting angry)

      Subtle things my ex-idiot would do to keep me isolated. When I would be visiting my family he would always call with some crisis with the animals. I would have to cut my visit short to come home because he might hurt said animal that was being a problem. He left my daughter on the toilet when she was little and potty training because he refused to wipe her. Any time I tried to work he would claim that I needed to stay home “just tonight, you need your sleep, I will call out for you.”

    • The slight reluctance to let you visit is a good one – so hard to see when it’s happening!

      Mine would ALWAYS call me when I’d been out ‘too long’ – it was so predictable that my dad would remind me to go before I got the call. And if I tried to plan anything he would suddenly have something (far more important) going on at the exact same time. It got so that I grew my hair out because I was tired of canceling salon appointments. If I said I wanted to go out to buy groceries or whatever, he’d suggest other things that I could do – things that he knew I liked to do. I often ended up not doing the things he suggested, even if they were things I would have done if he hadn’t suggested them, because I felt sick inside just doing things that he suggested.

      And my kids were totally feral when I’d leave them with him for an afternoon! So much so that was one of my greatest fears in leaving him, because I knew I would have to share custody (after all, he’d never hit me so of course he wasn’t abusive).

      • And my kids were totally feral when I’d leave them with him for an afternoon!

        Just this little blip right here brings a question to mind.

        Why is a doctrine that propagates unrighteousness so popular?

        Being forced to live under the same roof as an abuser messes people up. It messes up their character. It messes up their view of God. It messes up their heads. It messes society up.

        This is especially true for kids, and we all know how Christ feels about kids, particularly about putting a stumbling block in front of them.

        So the fruit of this is bad, am I right?

        Because if I’m right, then why is the reigning doctrine of marriage — no divorce for abuse — one that produces destructive fruit? I thought we were supposed to judge teachings/ers by their fruit. So what gives?

      • Spot on, BIT 🙂

      • A follow up.

        There is a post at the Cry for Justice FB page quoting Jeff and Anna’s book from page 148-149 that says this exact same thing about making children stumble. “The Church as Co-Agent with the Abuser.”

        So, we are doing this why?????

    • livingtransparently

      This list of questions is PERFECT.

  17. Otter

    I think it’s important to know that some abusers know the signs of abuse and they can be very clever at disguising their behavior. My abuser (ex-fiance) was a high-level genius (former child prodigy) who was the most amazingly manipulative person I’ve ever met. All my friends told me how sweet he was and how much he seemed to love me. He had everyone convinced that he was the most gentle and kind-hearted person on earth. He even runs a popular worldwide animal rescue where people post daily what a wonderful man he is and “if only the world had more people like him.” When I started trying to tell close friends some of the things he was doing to me, they actually laughed and minimized his abuse…saying that he was just so eager to marry me he couldn’t help his stress. Here are my abuse red flags if you are dealing with a highly intelligent individual:

    1) They can manipulate people without lying. It feels like a lie, but what they are saying is completely honest. Still, something doesn’t feel right…honor this!
    2) They make you feel as though they encourage you to see your friends and family. In reality, they are figuring out ways to control you AND your friends. I realized later it wasn’t that he had an interest in meeting my family and friends…he had an interest in controlling my family and friends and using them to control me.
    3) He would frequently go into full blown episodes of rage. Later my counselor said, “Don’t you realize that you were being abused?” Yelling, screaming, slamming walls, grabbing my shoulders, sticking his violent, screaming face in my face, etc. I said, “No! I felt sorry for him because his counselor told me it was PTSD from childhood abuse.”
    4) Mood swings/hypersensitivity. He would go off for no reason. Some days he would simply look completely “off,” and I would wonder where his sweet self had gone. Even his eyes changed…getting really dark and glassy. I would worry about him, so naturally I would innocently try to ask, “Is something wrong? Did I do something wrong?” He would blow up at me for this simple inquiry, and he would start yelling, “Why do you think there is always something wrong? Don’t tell me there’s something wrong with me – there’s nothing wrong, and you are creating this!”
    5) Jealousy. He would call incessantly. He would call at 2:00 in the morning and get enraged if I didn’t answer the phone. He would text my friends to check up on me. He told me a sad story of how his mother gave him no affection and left him alone in the crib. Sad to say that this made me patient with his bizarre behavior because I just kept believing I could make him feel loved and secure.
    6) He disguised his controlling behavior as concern for me. I can’t tell you how many times he said things like, “Let me be the man…let me guide you.” At the time, this actually sounded sweet. Now it creeps me out.
    7) I think the most confusing red flag is that abusers can appear completely normal and easy-going for periods of time. My abuser would go into a ballistic rage during the night, and then he’d be completely sweet and normal the following day (unlike most abusers, he NEVER apologized for his behavior or tried to make things up…he just acted like he wasn’t even aware that he had done anything). This made me believe that if I just endured the craziness for a few hours, he’d be fine shortly after. So I just believed it was PTSD stress…I had to lovingly and patiently wait it out, and he would be his wonderful self again. I can’t tell you how many times I would let him scream/yell at me until I was balled into a corner crying, and then the next day, I would feel so thankful I had endured it because he was such a wonderful, good man.

    I think the bottom line is…if you feel something is not quite right, it probably is. I also recommend seeing a counselor ALONE to talk out these feelings. My abuser manipulated me through 3 counselors…it’s really unbelievable now. At the end, one of them even said, “He called me first with all these problems about you, and now I see you don’t even have these problems.” My personal counselor said, “This man would have destroyed you.” I want other people to know that abusers are often highly intelligent people who are quite aware of their behavior, and they know how to work the flags.

    Thanks for this thread. I hope it helps others!

    • Otter, I can’t describe how comforting it is to read this comment. I am not alone and you are exactly right! My ex was and is so very good at disguising these traits. He knows them well. And he works around the typical warning signs. Highly intelligent man!

    • Yes – I’m not sure if mine knows his behavior was wrong, or if he just knows the lines he couldn’t cross. That was one of the things that made it so difficult to see what was happening. He didn’t rage – but he pouted and sulked and made me pay for doing whatever it was he didn’t like. Then he’d deny there was any correlation. He would hide his sexual demands in fake compliments – “It’s good that I’m so attracted to you! It’s right that a husband should want his wife that way,” he’d say. He hated my friends and family, but because they wouldn’t fall to his control. He’d ‘encourage’ – really it was allow – me to see and do things with my family but would make it enormously difficult to do by complaining and being difficult through it all – and then blaming them for it.

    • Oh my gosh .. This is helpful … My husband is very intelligent and some if this describes him to a T. Thanks for posting

    • Believer

      Your abuser seems similar to mine. Night time was the worst, he was so scary. Then just like clockwork, in the morning he was always all better, chipper, nice. He did apologize, he always apologized. And then he’d say “Let’s start over.” We “started over” countless times. But he never, ever changed. I could never escape his nighttime wrath. He was like two different people. And you know what, the “church” we attended could not have more truly enabled him. The pastor actually, explicitly, taught, that ALL of us have both a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde side, and they are both equally true and real. This was in a sermon after we separated but when I heard it I realized even more fully (beyond so many other ways) how my whole life and thinking was under wrong teaching. This blessed ministry’s teaching that “the evil side is the real man” has been so helpful, so necessary to grasping the truth.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Yes, wolves wear wool but sheep do not try to disguise themselves as wolves. Your abuser’s habitual, unchanging, unrepentant, dominating self was and no doubt remains that wicked man at night. All the rest was fake. That pastor who was teaching that we all have a Jekyll/Hyde nature was absolutely justifying evil, probably for himself too. The New Testament never calls the Christian a sinner, teaches us that in Christ we are new creations and that anyone who says they love Christ but walk in sin as a rule of life is a liar. That pastor was, frankly, a liar.

  18. Leslie

    A few to add to the great list:

    When confronted with a behaviour I found offensive or hurtful, his response was ” I cant believe you can think so poorly of me” Being the neurotic that I am…I felt guilty for hurting his feelings (for watching porn or drinking casually with other women….)

    He expressed his ‘high need’ of sex, and when i did not meet that need to his standard (either with frequency or enough passion or the ‘right words) he would sulk that I did not love him like he loved me.

    LIke Barbara, his isolation of family was very subtle. He actually would critisize ALL my siblings marriages and say how bad THEY were, so glad we were not like them. He would criticize all other marriages, making our seem like the healthy one…so crazy now that I understand. He would never say I could be with my family or his or friends, just sulk that I when we were with them cause I didn’t make him the centre of my universe when with other people. (I just believed I was a bad wife, not that he was a narcissist.)

  19. BeingHealed

    What a bittersweet topic this has been – bitter in all the crap/chaos their behaviors have reaped BUT sweet in knowing that I’m not alone in this. The insanity of it all – how he twisted things I had said or did – leaving me wondering if I really was making a mountain out of a molehill when I tried to stand my ground. Made to feel like I was the one off-kelter. It wasn’t until I opened up and eventually left, that I realized that what I thought was right, really was right! The behaviors, things he said and did were really out there in twisted living land.
    I just wanted to thank you all for putting in print the mixed up garbage I dealt with for so many years! I have finally realized that I do NOT have to prove myself to anyone. I bent over backwards trying to prove myself… prove that I was worthy of his time, worthy of being married to him, worthy of living! By the time I left, I had wondered if I was even worthy of living, of knowing… was I really this awful ogre of a human that no one would want to know me or spend time with me? Thankfully I know the answer to that – YES! I am worthwhile! Thank you God for hanging on to me and for pulling me through hell!

    • What touching words, BeingHealed. Thank you. 🙂

    • Brenda R

      You are worthy. You are loved and worth being loved. He is a monster who does not know the meaning of the word. I thank God for your rescue and healing.

    • BeingHealed — you are living up to your gravatar name! Hooray . . . and well done . . . and good on you!

      By the time I left, I had wondered if I was even worthy of living, of knowing… was I really this awful ogre of a human that no one would want to know me or spend time with me

      That reminds me of what one survivor told me once. Her abuser had told her that she had a bad smell. A bad body odour. She believed him. . . so she never sat near anyone if she could help it. At church in the coffee time, she would sit at another table on her own, rather than sit at a table where other people were sitting.

      That made me so sad, when I heard it. And so angry at the abuser for telling her that lie so much that she fully believed it!

      GRRRRR!

      She is a lovely, lovely lady. How awful, how wicked, to so brainwash someone that they believe they smell so bad that anyone would be disgusted by being near them!

      • Brenda R

        Barb, “Her abuser had told her that she had a bad smell. A bad body odour. She believed him.” This saddens me. I hope this woman has gone on to a better life and is much more self assured. Sitting at a table alone. This leaves such a sad picture in my mind. Her abuse had to be severe for her to believe such an awful thing.

      • anonymous

        My sister and her older best friend (both 6-10 years older than me) used to say this to me on a daily/weekly basis as I was growing up, among their many other tortures. I was already such a shy child, before they started emotionally abusing me in ways like this, that eventually it crippled me with self consciousness that I still battle to this day.

        I remember trying to describe my sister and her bests friends years of abuse of me as a child to my husband once, and using the constant “peeewwww, you smeeeellll” thing as one of the examples. She even did it again to me one last time as an adult, when I had been in the hospital non stop for days caring for my dying father (and no where to shower or clean my teeth).

        When I read your comment Barb, it reminded me that my husband does it to me as well. Except, he will out if the blue grab my shoulders, look down at me and straight in the eyes and say “nooowww don’t get upset…but you need to out some deodorant on”, in a patronising, fatherly voice like I am a little child.

        It’s like he stops the whole world to tell me, as if it’s a major incident, not something he flippantly says in a casual joking way. It will also be at times that I am quite aware I might need some deodorant, such as if I have just got back from walking the dog, or if we are on a long drive in a hot car, or I have been doing housework on a hot day, but I have not yet had the chance to freshen up or sometimes I’m not even aware I apparently smell.

        It never bothered me too much as I would just tell myself he is only saying it because he loves me, and in the early days he would precurse it with “now don’t get upset, I am only telling you this because I love you”.

        But now as I learn more and more about abuse, it’s making me do a double check on the whole thing of why he does that. Especially since he knows my sister used to do it in a nasty way.

        He has very, very bad breath and I have literally ignored it for years, I would never make a big drama, stop everything, take him by the shoulders, look him squarely in the eye and tell him he needs to go get some breath mints every couple of weeks or so.

        Maybe it’s nothing, but on a deeper level it makes me think it is also his way of saying he thinks my sister was right. That she wasn’t emotionally abusive to me and that I DID smell. (None of my school friends ever said I did). That he identifies with my abusive sister and thinks I somehow deserved it all. Or that he is subtly sending me that message or trying to re-truamatise me in a very subtle way. I hate to think these things, but there is just something that niggles at me about it a little.

        Something to ponder anyway.

      • Anonymous

        Thank you for putting this out there.

        My psychopathic children did the same thing to the one child who is not a psychopath. They told her she stunk and would sniff the air dramatically then pinch their nose and act offended. As a result, this non-p daughter became paranoid about her body and the way it looked and smelled. Even though it wasn’t true, it took her years of them being out of the house and us reading abuse websites for her to finally start letting go of the chains that bound her.

        The sad thing is that one of the psychopathic children DID stink but when we told her kindly about this she didn’t care and refused to brush her teeth and had no qualms about being around other people. My husband too had halitosis, and even though he knew he stunk, it didn’t stop him from standing close to other people or from being concerned he might offend others with his smell. (After all he IS god so others should desire to be in his presence no matter what he smelled like!)

        And what Anonymous said about her husband making a point to single her out for “her own good,” is something most of the abusers in my life have done. I now blow them off when they try this tactic (once they are identified as abusers) and no matter what they say under the guise of “just helping me out” I pooh-pooh as no big deal. They usually return with a comment trying to scare me with another something-or-other, something I should be REALLY be concerned about, and again I tell them, “Oh well, so and so had the same problem and he didn’t mind or it worked out for him.” Where did I learn this tactic? From the abusers themselves. This is how they often handle things and the saying that’s attributed to them, “They make mountains out of molehills, and molehills out of mountains” is so true! And ultimately, people without a conscience don’t really know how those who have one think or feel (they usually believe everyone else is just like them–pretending to care about others), so when you consistently rebuff these tactics, they will usually move on to more easy prey. (Those that have access to others or who aren’t the type to work on one victim till they are destroyed.)

        Thank you for addressing this!

      • anonymous

        Anonymous, it sounds like you are a very good mother. My mother was a narcissist and did not protect me from any of the abuse from my siblings. I would have loved to have a mother that helped me see the truth like you did for your child. Thanks for letting me know that I wasn’t the only one that had abusive siblings like that, and I hope your child is ok now.

      • MeganC

        Anonymous, Thank you for sharing your story, although it grieves my heart to think that you suffered in that way.

        My siblings did similar things to me. In fact, when I went through EMDR therapy, my earliest memory was when I was about 7 years old. It was the memory that started my very first session and was extremely painful. I was with my two sisters and both my parents. (They would roll their eyes that I was sharing this with you but the problem was that it wasn’t stopped by an adult and so this type of teasing and abuse went well on into adulthood, until I refused to be the scapegoat, anymore.) My sisters were teasing me because I was born in Utah (they were both born in Colorado) and I wore glasses. They kept chanting, “Oddball! Oddball” and told me I was adopted. Neither of my parents stopped it. And we got out to the parking lot and I asked my mother if I was adopted. She snapped, “Don’t be ridiculous!! You’re so easy!!”

        So, not only did I have the words from my sisters, but it was my fault, because I was “easy”. This happened many times. But, this scene told my siblings that it was OK to treat me this way. And they still treat me with more contempt and anger and hatred than they would ever treat anyone else. But, it is OK . . . because no one stopped it. In fact, if you get in their way, you get a verbal lashing. So . . . on and on it goes.

        After EMDR therapy, I am able to stand back and see how rotten that was. If I were walking past the family that we were that day, I would feel anger, in my heart, that an adult wasn’t stepping in. And I would whisper a prayer for that little girl who was small and being teased so mercilessly. If I step back and look at those scenes through my adult lenses, much healing comes. And I see how dysfunctional it all was. I would NEVER allow my children to do anything of the sort. We don’t tease that way. And, if my daughter was insecure and really believed she might be adopted . . . . how my heart would break. I would go over-board to give her security. These are my victories.

      • Anonymous

        Thank you MeganC for bringing up EDMR therapy as well as sharing your memory–it’s a great example of how there are so many incidents in our lives that we don’t remember, that build up over time, to make us into the insecure person we are (were) who was ridiculed into becoming a victim.

        I would like to add to the comment I wrote. When the psychopathic children were harassing my other daughter I NEVER allowed them to continue doing this and stopped it immediately. (I did the same for the other children when they were antagonizing one of the other children.) It was when I wasn’t around that they really poured this on her.

        My dad did a version of what you describe all throughout my childhood. When my sister was screaming at and accusing me, he would let her rage on and on and very rarely stopped her from doing this. But as SOON as I started to defend myself he would ALWYAS stop the argument by telling me to shut up. I was afraid of my dad and would always comply. It’s one of the reasons I repeat myself and over explain things–I was never allowed to stand up for myself and I never felt like anyone heard me. And it’s also the reason that I wouldn’t allow my children to verbally each other but I DID allow each of them to tell their version of things and then I tried to help them figure out a solution. Sometimes the best solution was to just stay away from each other for a while.

        I read an article somewhere that pointed out that it is usually the person who is the scapegoat in the family who seeks help. Oh how true this was in my case. I sought help in my teens but was NOT helped at all. My siblings and my parents have NEVER sought help, but for those who have gone to therapy, it’s because they were forced to attend.

        This same sister basically lost her job due to her abusive behavior and sense of entitlement. She was an officer in the military and would be on stand-by but sleeping in beds provided by the military. When she was woken up to do her job she would immediately start cussing at and verbally abusing the enlisted person who had woken her up, and because her tirades were so abusive, she got reported and ended up being forced to see a psychiatrist. He told her that she was a narcissist. This was decades ago but I’d be willing to bet that if they did an MRI on her they’d find out she was a psychopath.

        Thank you again!

      • MeganC

        Oh, yes, Anonymous. I have no doubt you would never allow abuse in your home. From what I understand (and I completely agree with you), the scapegoat is the one who seeks for help. The scapegoat is also (usually) the one who is brightest, who tries hardest, who wants to make a difference, who will not carry on the sin and iniquity handed down to them from generations and generations. You are going to make a difference, even if you cannot see it now.

        I so relate to you about the ranting and raving. I endured that, as well, and my mother looked the other way. 😦 My father would come into my bedroom at night and tell me that I was special, that he loved me and that I looked pretty with my glasses on. That little bit of affirmation helped me through life, I think, and kept me going. It still does. God bless you. I’m grateful for you because I don’t know many other people who grew up like I did.

  20. Song of Joy

    As the daughter of an abusive father and Christian mother, and a woman who has dated many men in my time, a few of which gave off abuser vibes, here is my recommendation for an EARLY warning sign (before marriage):
    When he says or does something, usually what seems to be a small thing at the time….such as:
    Making fun of someone
    Laughing about someone getting hurt
    Breaking a rule or minor law, and being proud of it
    Blaming others for something
    Being selfish
    Etc.
    ….And afterwards you find yourself thinking about it and then coming to the conclusion: (1) no-one is perfect (2) he’s only human (3) maybe he doesn’t realize that what he did was hurtful, inappropriate or (insert your own word here).
    This is a MAJOR red flag. But when it’s happening, it’s hard to realize that you are overriding your own proper intuition about bad character. I know, because I have had to pull myself out of this type of thinking too….even with the family experience I’ve had. Thankfully, I never married an abuser, but was able to get out of those relationships before it got ugly.

    • Oh wow, great flags, Song of Joy!

    • And afterwards you find yourself thinking about it and then coming to the conclusion: (1) no-one is perfect (2) he’s only human (3) maybe he doesn’t realize that what he did was hurtful, inappropriate or (insert your own word here).

      Yes! Yes! That’s what I meant (up stream)!

    • Believer

      Excellent, spot-on.

  21. These responses are tremendously helpful!

    I didn’t begin realizing my marriage was abusive until about year 5 or 6. Someone recommended a book about abusive relationships after hearing me describe some difficulties in our marriage (which of course I completely blamed myself for). It was so very hard to face the fact my husband was abusive because my mindset had been influenced to such a degree by him that I could justify/excuse everything he did. Also, to entertain the idea of abuse depressed me and sapped my energy so much that I simply tried to avoid even thinking about it. It wasn’t until several years passed and I was on my third book (Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That) that reality really started hitting home and I had the inner strength to start standing up against it. I think realizing the slowness of the process is really key for people who are trying to help abused women. Their whole mind has to be renewed and “de-programmed” and that’s hard. What was hardest for me was accepting that my dreams weren’t going to turn out exactly as I wanted them to.

    Some questions/key points that would have helped me would have been:

    Do you sense that your insecurity and self-shame is growing as the relationship progresses? Are you more unsure of yourself, feel more guilty or are you more critical with yourself? In this relationship have you begun to feel as if you have more flaws or defects than ever before- even stuff as simple as being more clumsy or forgetful or naive?

    Have you struggled with curious new health problems since the relationship began? (For me it started as weird flashes of head pain, profound leg aches, and irritable bowel syndrome…I was only 22.) Do you notice that you often have a lot of “butterflies” in your stomach when it is time for him to come home (anxiety)? Do you jump at loud noises or when you hear his key in the door? Have you started having episodes of trembling/shaking, nausea and hyperawareness and/or fear of your surroundings?

    Would you characterize the relationship as steady or more of a perpetual rollercoaster? Have you ever gone more than 2-3 weeks without a huge fight or event where you felt the relationship was at rock bottom? Have you learned to avoid/mitigate most big conflicts over the years by shutting down emotionally, stuffing your anger and even doing things you find repulsive or humiliating?

    Has anyone ever made the comment to you that he seems to talk over you or do most of the talking for you?

    Has he alienated you from your family, friends or acquaintances by his insistence on broadcasting and arguing about his judgemental, arrogant or narrow-minded opinions? Does his behavior embarrass you to such a degree that you feel uncomfortable going with him places?

    Does he talk positively about the women he’s had or has in his life, especially his mom, sisters AND past girlfriends? How does his dad treat his mom? What is the general attitude about women, porn, relationships, etc in his family of origin?

    Is sex for him all about “thrill” and novelty? Does he expect you to act like a porn star for him? Does pseudo violence in sex appear to be what turns him on the most (neck grabbing, covering your mouth, pulling your hair, restraining your hands, forcing your head “down there”)? Does he complain or seem to reject you more when you try to have an emotional connection to him or want him to climax with you in a face to face manner that doesn’t involve you having to put on some sort of show for him or say dirty and perverse phrases?

    Does he approach you for sex after treating you poorly? Does he blame his sexual sins on you? Are you expected to provide sex whenever and wherever he wants, regardless of his behavior toward you, sickness, exhaustion, etc? Does he grope you in front of the children or while at other people’s homes, and even after you’ve asked him not to?

    That is just a start…

    • Erika, you get a gurnesey for that list of questions! ( a lot of praise, a medal, a fanfare)

  22. Here’s one thing from early on in my relationship: Does he make most of the plans for the two of you? Does he dictate when or if you get to decide plans for things such as where you’ll have dinner?

    When we got together, I was new in town and he showed me around. This continued as he liked to show me new places, and I did actually enjoy having a tour guide. But it set a strong pattern that he got to pick all the fun things. To avoid being accused of controlling this, he would literally force me to decide things, even when I’d say I didn’t have a preference. Many times he’d do this when we were with a mutual friend, I think this was on purpose so that she’d see how he was giving me the power to decide. But I remember being in (or at least near) tears as they demanded that I pick a restaurant one day. I honestly didn’t care and didn’t really know what the options were near us, and they were forcing me to decide because I hadn’t decided in a while. I tried desperately to refuse to pick – a move that was pegged as stubborn. It was really traumatic, and really made me hate picking that sort of thing even more, which, of course, was probably the intent.

  23. sharpsheep

    Here’s my two cents worth of being whopped with red flags:

    Does he make jokes that have a slight put down element to them and then claim that he was only joking and that you just don’t know how to take him?

    Do you somehow find yourself moved into a position where you are desperate to please him, find him saying things that are insulting like ” You should grow your hair long like hers” ?

    Does he insist that he DID NOT say something he just said or did not do something he just did and does this happen more than once? Once, maybe twice its plausible as no one’s perception is perfect but if you’re being invited to undermine your own sense of reality fairly often that’s a big red flag.

    Does he seem to play little games with you, as if you are a little mouse and he’s the cat, just to “see what you will do” and actually think that’s normal and acceptable behaviour?

    How’s his relationship with alcohol? Does he drink more than you think he ought to, ie. drink to get drunk and think this is healthy adult behaviour? Does he blame awful behaviour on just being drunk and not knowing what he was doing?

    Are many of your arguments about you defending what is right, reasonable, healthy and respectful while he is fighting to justify sin or out of control behaviour, ie, make right wrong and wrong right?

    Does he do things that are incredibly insensitive, disrespectful or ignorant and then ignore how it affected you but focus on what it was about for him? Commit serious relationship offenses but behave as if they are minor not major?

    Does he do things that offend your sense of honor and integrity in dealing with other people? For instance when it becomes obvious that he can’t go over to someone’s place who is expecting him, does he just not bother to call and let them figure it out? Is he careless with other’s trust? Display a kind of contempt or refusal to treat others with respect?

    Does he have trouble letting his family know who he is, what he thinks or how he feels? Does he hide behind you so as not to incur their anger if he tries to make changes in his life? Are you a convenient scapegoat?

    Is he jealous and resentful of other’s success?
    Does he have trouble with emotional and spiritual generosity? Giving credit to others?
    Does he regard his talents and gifts as his exclusive territory and deny you any right to have gifts in that area or refuse to encourage you out of competitive insecurity? Does he give glory to God for his abilities or act as if they somehow originated from him and exist for him? If he has an ex, does he claim she was pretty stupid and he basically had to teach her everything she knows, so in other words the credit is all his?

    Does he display butt-covering cowardice that always leaves you holding the bag or puts your character and reputation in jeopardy? For instance, a friend of his or relative is rude and disrespectful to you in front of him and he acts as if nothing noteworthy happened and is more concerned with preserving his positive standing with them than you so he acts as if nothing happened. If you confront it he whines, blame shifts and accuses you of being too sensitive.

    Does he invite you to discount his actions in favor of listening to his words and explanations?

    Does he make pleas for grace and understanding but does not actively work to pursue change while saying his claims of conversion are sincere?

    Do you find that he uses denial a lot or comes up with lame excuses for obvious behaviour?

    Does he practice self examination or just major on what’s wrong with everyone else? Does he see all your faults but you never him mention any of his, except in a way that really implies you’re to blame for that fault? For instance you ask, Well, what faults do you feel you have?” and he says’ Well, if I have any faults its that I should have had better boundaries against the wrong kind of women”.

    Does he expect a standard of you that he doesn’t even attempt to follow for himself?

    • Brenda R

      Most of those. Problem is the flags didn’t start way early enough. He was real good at hiding them until he didn’t need too any more.

    • Deborah

      All but the drinking one….to a T. Sigh…. ~Deborah

    • Good stuff, SS!

      Brenda – yes, that’s part of the trouble with the red flags. They’re way more red when you’re looking back at them.

      Deborah – Mine didn’t drink excessively, and he held that as a shining example of what a great guy he is (alcoholism runs in his family). I’m pretty sure it’s just because he doesn’t like to lose control of his control, though.

    • Believer

      Most excellent list!

  24. I stumbled across this blog post and…

    His Beloved @9:19 nailed it. In my case, it’s my relationship with my stepmother, so it’s a platonic thing not a sexual relationship thing but your entire comment pretty much is spot on for the way my stepmother acts towards my sister and I (our brother is the golden child, so he really can’t see it). Wow.

    Of course, the downside now that I recognize it is how to work around all her crap while still being allowed access to my dad. :-/

  25. God Fearing Mom

    All of these resonate me to some degree. Some of them much more subtle than stated here but he’s done all of these. My only abuse was one time I broke a mirror and pushed him away from crowding me and once I socked him in the jaw but it was just because he was really crowding me and it was NOT okay to do that! Ultimately I won’t allow myself to feel intimidated at least outrightly by him. We will probably end up going to therapy together. I want to tell them everything. I wish I had more time to articulate better on this blog but I have babies.

    • Dear GFM, just a tip re joint counseling. You may be lucky enough to strike a counselor who is very astute at recognising abuse and brave enough to name and denounce your husband as an abuser. But be aware that many of us at this blog have had great difficulty finding such astute counselors, and that in many instances (possibly most instances?) of couple counselling for domestic abuse, the victim only ends up getting more hurt and condemned and the abuser manages to manipulate the counselor to be his ally. Even if the counselor does not become the abuser’s ally but just takes the neutral stance, that still is bad for the victim as neutrality is NOT neutral when it comes to abuse. We have a tag for “neutrality” on this blog, and another tag for “couple counseling“. You might want to explore them, as time permits.

      • G. F. Mom

        Thanks for the tip and the tags. Believe me, I know the pain of neutrality especially from friends, fellow Christians including those who “encourage” or “inspire,” leaders and elders, and family. People who are in a position to speak up so that harm in general does not continue to multiply. I know the pain of them that call themselves Christians but their loyalties are to their friends or themselves more than on the Lord and caring for the weak. 😦

  26. God Fearing Mom

    1. He did pressure me for a quick exclusive relationship and always begged me to go against my conscience. He said he knew I was the girl he wanted for the rest of his life after I think only about two weeks into the relationship.
    2. Calls me from work several times a day sporadically. Shows up at home unexpected. Unhealthy jealous. He can have girl friends and I’m discouraged from checking his phone or emails or he feels deeply offended that I would even wonder.
    3. Controls the money. Discourages me from working. I’m in the dark about the money. Questions intensely. I avoid talking to men. I feel unallowed to regard them as even a “Brother” but I can talk to his friends when they visit.
    4. Has had unrealistic expectations: Expected me to be the perfect woman and meet his every need. Expected me to do more than I was able to. I used to feel a strong need to pray when he was coming home from work but after praying he was understanding.
    5. I am Isolated from godly friends. He never wants to mingle at church and leaves quickly but tells me I can mingle but I have to do it by myself. He hates me reading about abuse and felt hurt or offended. Didn’t tell me not to read but says I try to apply everything I learn online to my situation.
    6. Has laughed or made jokes about really evil or sacrilegious things leaving me perplexed and bewildered and frightened to the point I showed my extreme disdain
    7. Very selfish in bed but tries to give the illusion he isn’t. He jokes saying “cluba- cluba” like a caveman, trying to be cutsie
    8. Does not protect or defend me or the children from his twin brother’s highly questionable behavior but allegedly tells him to apologize behind my back when I get really mad and make threats to leave because I don’t feel protected.
    9. Lately he can be sweetly loving and then have an anxiety attack or be harsh with the kids.
    10. He has said he says really ugly things about hurting us that he doesn’t mean because he says he got it from collecting Garbage Pale Kids” cards when he was young. He says he was desensitized that way. And though I’ve asked him to stop saying stuff like that he doesn’t stop.
    11. He says me and you against the world all the time and he’s never giving up on us that sort of thing.

    This behavior could pass off as normal but it doesn’t feel right. On some of these it really seems okay but it’s not completely okay and adding it all up it looks like a lot but some of this happened over time and some of it still happens from time to time. He knows I’m on to him and I’m calling it abuse and he’s trying to be good right now. Times are good *right now* but I am going to save money and pray a lot more and do my best. I want to stay with him but pray more and be vigilant. I think the whole patriarchy thing made it flourish but now I think things may start to subside hopefully.

  27. Lesley

    Thank you so much for this list it has helped me so much. It was so weird reading peoples experiences that were just like my own. thought i would just add a few of my own.

    1. Defining me as a person. Telling me i was a liar, spoilt, lazy, irresponsible, a terrible Christian. All the time projecting his character onto me.

    2. Calling me mentally ill to the extent i actually asked my friend if this was true. Telling his family i was mentally ill – and they believed him.

    3. Telling me he would prove i was an unfit parent and take my children off me to another country where i would never see them again. Then carrying around a note book full of my misdemeanors (full of nonsense, but written like evidence – dated, quoted etc) as ‘prove’ for court.

    4. Looking at other women in front of me then denying he did anything at all.

    5. Telling me i never apologizes when i may have even apologized for something in the week.

    6. Pursuing me, (when i had removed myself emotionally from him because of his treatment of me) until i gave in, then he would emotionally remove himself from me again.

    Just a few off the top of my head.

    • thepersistentwidow

      Lesley, Yes, it is strange how our experiences are so similar. I can say that reading your list brings back some unpleasant memories of life with my abusive ex. Thanks for sharing your list. All that you mentioned are definite red flags of abuse. We are glad to have you here and I am sure that you will find a lot of helpful information as you explore our site.

      • Brenda R

        This is truly a wonderful place filled with compassion. I have found that the red flags wee everywhere and unpleasant memories come back faithfully to remind me of where I have been and where God has delivered me from.
        The X is trying again to manipulate his way back into my good graces with gifts for my b-day, but of course he has to give them in person. No work has been done on his part, just words. I told him that gifts were not needed as we are divorced and no longer in relationship. It hasn’t stopped the calls. I have to wonder if it will ever be over. Even if he changed, I would not be able to ever have a relationship with him again.

      • thepersistentwidow

        Brenda, Gift giving was my ex’s mode of operation and it functioned quite well for him being a narcissist. Besides using them to make me feel that he was repentant, he got quite a charge from buying them. He liked to give me jewelry, and whatever he purchased, he would show off to all of his co-workers first. I later found out that he liked to purchase these gifts from attactive saleswomen and make a big show there of what a great guy he was and what good taste he had. He would flaunt his purchases to relatives and really anyone who would give positive feedback. Of course, I came to look at the insincerity of it all, knowing that these gifts were part of a payback for all of the verbal and emotional abuse. Really, just a hook to keep me in the relationship and I never was as keen on jewelry as he was-I am more into gardening and books!

        When the affair was discovered (one of many, I assume) and I filed for divorce, I sold the jewelry for attorney fees. He was so outraged! He screamed and shrieked on the phone like the wicked witch when Dorothy threw water on her. I think that he thought of that as erasing some part of his identity. As a result, he erased me. Although he sees the children for two afternoons a month (court recommendation), he has refused to acknowledge me at all for over three years. He hasn’t spoken to me or if he sees me on the road, he quickly looks away. He is trying to show that in his mind, I am dead. And I can live with that!

      • Brenda R

        Widow, Much of what you say sounds more familiar than what I want to think about. The whole “look what I did” thing is X all over again. The last “gift” he gave me before I left was a piano. When I told him I was going to save the money for one, he threw a fit. I didn’t need one and why would I want one when I had had one a few years before and never played it. It had a broken sound board and could not be repaired. The keys had no ivories and half of them didn’t make a sound. I hadn’t had a decent piano for 25 years and missed it so much. After causing me to cry, feel like I was nothing and what I wanted meant nothing, he went out and bought a piano as a “gift”. He let everyone know that he had given it to me, but neglected to tell the rest of the story. When I, more than once, said it was not a gift he ignored me completely while he smiled about it. I could tell he was patting himself on the back for his good deed. Once again, I had to figure out how to pay for it, as he had put it on a charge card. I was willing to save for what I wanted, but X had to have everything his way and in his time.

        I wish he would not acknowledge me! That would be wonderful. I wouldn’t mind being dead to him at all. Fortunately, we had no children together. Buffy kitty doesn’t seem to miss him at all. A few weeks ago, he showed up at my door. He tried to get her to come to him and she turned her back to him. She is so smart.

  28. LM

    Is your partner exceptionally sensitive to your feelings and dreams before marriage
    and insists on staying over in your appartment although theres no sex for conveniece sake.

  29. NG

    Thankfully, no dating or marriage to an abusive man – but several have attempted to get me into their web.
    I would say the most important red flag is constant boundary violations: small and large, in many different ways.
    You tell him to stop doing X, and he just continues —> whether it’s texting, e-mailing, or sending unwanted love poems.. (the logic goes, ‘I’ll disregard and disrespect everything she said, so she’ll surely start to love me!’)

    • Hi NG, just letting you know we removed the link you’d given in that comment; we simply don’t have time to check it out.

      • NG

        That’s OK, it’s secular psychology: not what I often read, but I came across it and it had very apt insights about abuse and boundary violations.

        It also mentioned the dilemma that many women seem to have ‘Why do I only seem to attract abusers?’ and the answer was not that it’s her fault, but good, respectful men just abide by boundaries and do not try to overstep them, while abusers force themselves on others and take advantage of vulnerable people.

  30. Brenda R

    ‘Why do I only seem to attract abusers?’ I have been asking myself that very question all over again!! Going into year 4 post divorce, I had a date and then another (with the same man). It didn’t take long for things not to add up. I suppose I should be thankful that I can spot it sooner, but I would really like someone to show up that is a nice, loving, Christian man.

    • The abusers seek prey. They observe and subtly test potential prey.

      They look for things like:
      Does that individual overlook minor boundary violations?
      Does that individual have a strong and wise support network round them? Or is the network around that individual naive, stressed, too harried with life to be good guardians of that individual?
      Does the individual easily take on blame for what is not their fault?
      Does the individual have a history of being abused? If so, that might (but it’s not a certainty) mean they are an easier target.

      So you do not ‘attract’ abusers. They seek out victims.

      And there are many abusers seeking new victims because their previous victim left them. The older the demographic, the more that is true, I think, until it tails off because of debility in old age.

      • Anonymous

        Barb, I LOVED your reply…and thank you Brenda R for inspiring her to write it! Barb wrote, “So you do not ‘attract’ abusers. They seek out victims”

        I was raised with the psychology of the day (back then) as well as the influence of AA (via the many alcoholics in my family) that had me confessing everything and digging deep within myself in order to ensure I was taking responsibility for all my stuff. But I was never taught about psychopathy. So when my husband and I agreed to get married I made sure to tell him every significant sin or mistake I’d felt I’d made so that there would be no secrets between us, and if there were things that he couldn’t live with, I wanted him to make his decision to marry me based on truth. What a NAIVE, SWEET-HEARTED girl I was!

        Because I’d never been taught about P’s and the wolves in sheep’s clothing that they are, when I shared my heart with my husband all I really did was give him ammunition to use against me. Looking back I realize that the things he “confessed” about were all red flags of an abuser and he was actually bragging about his evil.

        And the list you compiled Barb is great! Those of us who were conditioned to behave, to be nice, to get along with others no matter what it cost us spiritually and emotionally, and to blindly serve everyone without any discernment, end up wearing a neon sign on our forehead that tells every abuser that they can enter our lives for free and that we will let them abuse us for years–and a “kick me” sign on our backs.

      • Brenda R

        I am putting your reply close by. My support system is an army of one. She is always working and I have no family close by. My sight on most days is minimal and the hearing is right there with it. I need help and he was right there. That should be a good thing, right? That is until I see him with another woman. His defensive response was that I was not suppose to see that and he didn’t mean to hurt me. So it was my fault that I saw him with her and since he didn’t mean to hurt me it was just suppose to be ok. He lied, cheated and his mask came off. Old age doesn’t stop them unless they are in memory care and I’m not sure that would stop a sexual deviant. Just because their equipment doesn’t work it doesn’t stop them from wanting to touch. This man is much older than I am and I felt safe with him for a while…..until I didn’t.

        When my army of one met him, she didn’t like him. In general, she doesn’t want men around her, so I didn’t heed her warning. I will not make that mistake again. Her senses are much higher than mine.

        You are spot on. I fit in all of these categories.

      • Oh Brenda R, (((((hugs))))

        …. and I know that hugs won’t fix your eyesight and your hearing. But I’m so glad that you commented and prompted me to write something that proved helpful for you.

        As for the old age thing, let me tell you an anecdote. I used to work as a nurse, and sometimes I worked in Aged Care Inpatient Units. In one of those places they had a locked unit for ambulant patients with severe dementia. The unit had to be locked because otherwise the patients could wander and leave the safe environment.

        One patient I nursed in that unit was a man who would sometimes go into other male patients’ rooms and start touching their private parts. It was clear to me that this man had been a molester of males — quite probably a molester of boys, or if not, a closet homosexual in his non-dementia days. And now, with dementia, he no longer had the cognitive ability to hide his perverse behavior. His perversity was out there, uninhibited. And the patients he molested didn’t have the cognitive ability to stop his molestation or to call for help when he was doing it. The relatives of one or two of the molested patients were concerned about what was going on, but their voices were not taken seriously enough.

        Once I was leading that molesting patient back to his own room. We were going down the corridor of the locked unit. Another patient, a male, was walking unaccompanied towards us down the corridor. As we passed this other man, I saw the molester give him the ‘come on’ (seductive eye). The other man flinched — he felt assaulted — I could tell… my spirit felt it just as much if not more than I saw it with my eyes. I felt sick. And I KNEW that this demented man who I was leading back to his room had been a pervert all his adult life.

        I documented in the molesting man’s ongoing file all that I observed, and all that the relatives of the molested patients had told me. And I reported my concerns to the Charge Nurse. But so far as I know, nothing was done. And I VERY MUCH DDUBT that the doctors in that ward (who were the only professionals who had real power) even read my notes. Most health workers are too busy to read a lot of the notes in the patient’s file…..

      • Lea

        Barbara, things like that happen in health care systems, particularly with older, demented patients. We have a system for reporting them up and investigating. I think the result is generally to watch the patient more carefully, move them from shared rooms, put a flag in their charts, etc, but I’m not sure.

    • standsfortruth

      Brenda Im just going to chime in here and suggest another reason as to why abusers (agents of evil)- target Gods true children.

      I personally believe that just like in the old testament with how evil always pursued Gods elect to physically destroy them, the devil has his emissaries today that go around – seeking to steal, kill and destroy “our potentially powerful testamony” or wittness in Christ.
      That is the quest of the evil one.
      (To overtake and subdue the undeniable light of Christ residing in us through a personal relationship.)

      And what does the devil use to snare us with?

      Our very own human desire to be loved, protected and appreciated.

      So keeping in my mind that already 30+ years of my potential testamony for Christ has been whittled away by my ex-abuser and his ally churches, I have taken a stand (now being free from my abuser,) to be very proactive at keeping my focus on “staying busy at work” – to keep myself from being targeted by these types.

      *All the while letting the light and truth of Christ shine through me.
      In the public occupation that I am employed with, there ARE men who attempt to get personal with me, but I keep up my “professional persona” up-so as to not offend them, while protecting myself from their possible malicious intentions.

      I understand that I will be a target for abusers -just because I am a child of Gods- until the day the Lord comes back for his elect.

      Now with that all said I just want to add that their was a young 25 year old man that worked at the same place I was at, and although he was young enough to be my son, he had a heart of gold and maintained his honor and integrity throughout the year I worked with him.
      No matter what we had each others back and It was easy to smile at him because he was very kind hearted.
      This same company abused him by making him take on way more responsibility than his job title warrented, while refusing to give him more pay when he asked.
      So he applied for a different job at a well known bank and last week the bank called and told him he had the job.
      So that same day he told me and my friend goodbye while we were working.
      We were happy for him but sad that we would be losing the best man that this company had.
      I guess what I am trying to say is that there are good men out there, but in my experience they are FAR and FEW in between, and it seems that the only ones I have found are younger in age too.

      • Brenda R

        Stands for Truth,
        You are right…the good ones are FAR and FEW in between. I was on a good path for over 2 years, post last abuser. And, yes….I believe that darkness uses evil men to tear down the light. My reading time has been taken away and that is when I feel closest to the Savior. Listening to the series on Esther has been a good opportunity for me.

        Work is not a problem for me. There is my boss, who is a good married Christian man, and me. Thanks to govt policies I am never without work and have no spare time. It is sad what your company did to this young man, but he was rewarded for his efforts and you had the opportunity having known him and growing in the process.

        I think it is good to have the means of practicing boundaries. I have been trying on new churches. So far, I have not found one where I felt safe. The one I attend is far from where I would like to be, but I do have an excellent opportunity to speak up about abuse and feel comfortable doing it. It is odd that I am able to do this and at the same time allowing myself to get close to another abusive man. I pray for him, but at the same time have come to realize that he chooses to reject Christ. For all the good deeds that he does with a humble appearance, there is pure evil on the inside. So many people that don’t get close to him are completely taken in my the mask he puts out there. There is nothing that he does that does not benefit him in some way. He has a lot in common with Ebenezer Scrooge.

  31. Brenda R

    Anonymous. Minus the AA, I know these things, as well. I tell too much about my past far too early. I have to stop that. I was always told that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. I was conditioned to take the blame and not talk about the evil that was happening. The “kick me” sign was installed at an early age.

    I thought I had gotten to the point that I wouldn’t be taken in AGAIN. Anon, what is in the past is probably best left there. We’ve learned that the hard way.

    Today, I feel good about waking up alone.

  32. Brenda R

    Barb, Hugs no matter how they are given are more helpful than you know. I would like to work until I reach 62. That is 2.5 years away. Only God can make that happen. I do not know what His plan is, but I pray that I will accept His will for His Glory. In the past 2 months I have been plagued by infections most likely caused by MS as most things are these days. He gave the docs the wisdom to get me through it and I am back to working full time.

    Your story about the man in memory care does not surprise me. His heart was never changed and those around him knew what he was doing and who he was, even if they could not express it or others just weren’t listening. He shouldn’t have been allowed with other patients.

    This is the story the man I spoke of told me several days ago. The Scorpion and the Turtle.

    The turtle was about to cross the river and the scorpion asked the turtle if he could ride on his shell so he could cross, as well. The turtle said no to the scorpion, because he would sting him. The scorpion said to the turtle that he would not sting him when he was helping him in such a thoughtful way. The turtle allowed the scorpion to climb aboard his shell. As they crossed the river the scorpion stung the turtle The turtle said to the scorpion you promised that you would not sting me. The scorpion replied, “that is just what I do, I can’t change”.

    That story wasn’t an idle warning. He was the scorpion and I was the turtle. I will pray for Jesus to change him and turn him over to His mercy. I am moving on with my life.

    • That scorpion turtle story — wow! Sometimes, briefly, abusers admit to their wicked mindset quite unashamedly. That was one of those times.

      • Brenda R

        I doubt the story was his own, but the mere fact that he told it sent darkness into the room. He sits on the board of a church and has for many years. That to me is now frightening. I have to look at this as a set back and move forward in Jesus Strength.

      • Lea

        It’s actually a version of the Scorpion and the Frog, with is one of Aesops fables. In that version, the Scorpion says ‘it is my nature’.

  33. Brenda R

    Lea, So this is something that people read to children??? I find that scary.

  34. Relieved

    I am still married. We just adopted my grandchildren. [details of treatment of the grandchildren by their former guardian(s) have been redacted]

    I was in counseling last year and finally came to the realization that I was in an abusive marriage but we were in the middle of the adoption process.

    I read through all these lists and feel like I am reading my own story. I feel such relief because, for so long, I have thought it was me.

    I just don’t know what the next step is. [other details of commenter’s situtuaon redacted]

    • Hi dear sister. I changed your screen name to “Relieved”. It’s not a good idea to use your real name here if you are still in danger from your abuser. We try to help our readers keep safe!

      Welcome to the blog 🙂 We always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      What is your next step? We can’t say for sure, but here are three of our pages for starters:
      our FAQs
      Safety Planning
      and Deciding to Stay or Leave

  35. R

    I’m dealing with a spouse who exhibits 6, 7 and 8 consistently, and a couple of the others on occasion. I don’t know how to tell when it rises to the level of abuse or whether the label even matters, or what my responsibility is to him. I’ve been living with this for a very long time and it’s wearing me and my kids down. But I think some of it may be beyond his control (mood disorder or something) rather than calculated abuse.

  36. justkeepbreathing

    I wish I had found this blog when it was first published! My ex-husband was this kind of abuser and he is also a pastor. The signs were all there from the beginning of the relationship, but it was so subtle and so tied in with the most love, care and attention I had ever received. Somewhere I read the term “love-bombed” and that is exactly what happened to me. I had bad feelings sometimes, but I believed that was normal in a relationship and that there was something wrong with me if I expected him to be his most perfect, loving and generous self all the time! The good side just didn’t “fit” with the scary, unsettling, odd side and I didn’t want to seem too demanding, so I just focused on the good. I read these replies and my heart aches, seeing my own story in so many of them and seeing so many other people who have been hurt like this.

    Does this covert abuse go hand in hand with the ultra-Christian type? My ex husband is very liberal and progressive both politically and theologically, and yet the rigidity of his very conservative upbringing comes through in so many ways. He is almost dogmatically politically correct! Even so, his hardness of heart and jealous, self-serving nature would come through time and again. He was well read enough to find ways to re-frame it to make himself sounds spiritually and morally superior to anyone who contradicted or challenged him. His repeated defense through counselling, investigations from CPS and our legal struggles, has been that he is a pastor and so how could anyone ever question or doubt his goodness and moral superiority to me and everyone who questioned him.

    I feel torn between believing his abuse of me and our children was hard to recognize because it was covert and sly rather than blatantly violent, and not wanting to share some of the things that ultimately led to me leaving him, because of how utterly shocking and horrible some of his actions were. It constantly twists my mind into knots.

    • Dear sister, thank you so much for your comment. I’m busy at the moment so I hope others have time to respond to it in a bit more depth than I’m doing in this brief reply.

      Welcome to the blog! 🙂 We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      And after reading the New Users’ Info page, I suggest you look at our FAQ page.

    • Hi JustKeepBreathing, you asked “Does this covert abuse go hand in hand with the ultra-Christian type?”

      From what I’ve read, all domestic abusers use covert abuse, whether or not they profess to be Christians. Some abusers do not use physical violence, they just specialise in really subtle covert abuse. Some use the subtle covert abuse and occasional physical violence. Some use subtle covert abuse and financial abuse and or sexual abuse as well. It’s a smorgasbord. Add on the social abuse (isolating the victim). Each abuser uses the tactics of abuse he thinks he can get away with, and the tactics he has the most skill or the best temperament for. Hope that makes sense.

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