The signs of an abusive person can be very difficult to spot for the person who is actually being abused. There are many reasons for this. In a child, for example, they are brought up in an abusive environment so the abuse seems normal to them. For a person caught in an abusive relationship, they are initially tricked into thinking that their partner is a wonderful person. Therefore, they don't suspect their partner of being an abuser. Another important factor is that the abuser creates a reality and forces the victim to live in it. In this reality the abusive behaviour is redefined as acceptable.
In other words, the victim comes to believe that the maltreatment is justified or even necessary sometimes. The power imbalance in the relationship (which is present by definition in an abusive relationship) means the victim is made to feel less then the abuser and is also made to be dependent on the abuser. The victim's ability to think and rationalise is severely compromised and they are unable to recognise the reality of their situation.
With these factors in mind, let's have a look at some of the signs of an abusive person with explanations as to why these things are abusive.
The abusive person is always right, you are always wrong. Even when you know you are right, you're made to feel guilty or ashamed to the point where you just give in to the manipulator. This simply reinforces the power imbalance in the relationship. It will often also make you doubt yourself because the manipulator seems so convincing and so sure of themselves that you end up wondering if maybe you made a mistake. This is often a crazy making aspect of an abusive relationship because even when you think you are in the right, the manipulator will not give in. You begin to believe that there is something wrong with you.
An abusive person will make all the decisions. In a new relationship, obviously, both parties will check with each other before making major decisions. However, over time in an abusive relationship the victim ends up checking with the manipulator before deciding anything at all. Along the way, the victim would have made some decisions on their own and gotten into serious trouble for it. So they learn that the best thing to do is check with the manipulator first. In this way there is less possibility of upsetting the manipulator. Pretty soon the victim will find themselves checking everything, even when the manipulator is not present. The victim asks themselves in their own mind how the abuser will respond if they do something. If they think the manipulator will get angry, they don't do it. If they think it will be pleasing to the manipulator, they go ahead. Even then, the manipulator was still sometimes get angry for apparently no reason. This unpredictability makes it very difficult for the victim to make any kind of decision, because they never know if they going to get into trouble or not. In this way, they are made even more dependent on the abuser.
Lies, lies and more lies. The abusers are practised liars. They will even lie when it would actually be better for them to tell the truth. Sometimes the victim is aware of the lies and other times they can be totally oblivious to them. Anybody in an abusive relationship is being subjected to a cascade of lies every single day. The whole relationship is based on a lie. It's a lie that the abuser is a good person. It's a lie that the abuser loves the victim. If you love someone, you don't deliberately be cruel and callous with them. If you love someone, you don't degrade them, belittle them and take advantage of them all the time. Some of these lies can be so big that it is difficult for the victim to get their head around them.
Physical or sexual abuse are other signs of an abusive person. The difficulty with these signs is that once they are happening the psychological abuse has been going on for some time and it's the psychological abuse that keeps the victim locked in the relationship and unable to leave. It's also very typical that the physical or sexual abuse has also been redefined. "I was abused as a child so I can't help lashing out now. I can't do anything about it." "I'm more sexually experienced than you are and this kind of thing is normal in an intimate relationship. You need to catch up. You need to adapt." Even when the victim recognizes physical abuse as abuse, as I said, leaving the relationship is never a simple matter because of the dependency of the victim on the abuser, because of the level of influence and control the abuser has.
Breaking things, throwing objects at you, punching the wall beside your head are all forms of physical abuse, too. These things are very controlling in nature because the idea is to make the victim sufficiently afraid that they comply. The unspoken threat is, "You're next!"
Verbal threats are also important signs of an abusive person. There can be all sorts of threats, for example, threatening not to give you money, threats of starting an argument, threats of revealing stuff about you to others and so on.
There are two particular threats I want to pay attention to here. The first is the threat of suicide. Some abusers will use this threat over and over. They know that nobody wants to feel responsible for somebody else taking their life. It's a very strong form of building compliance in the victim. The thing to watch out for here is that they never actually do anything about it. In rare cases there is some form of action taken but when you look at this action closely there never really is any danger to the person's life. For example, they scratch the skin on the wrists but the laceration is not full thickness, or they take three paracetamol tablets and claim they have overdosed. These are simply intense manipulation tactics designed to control and dominate.
The second severe threat is that of leaving the relationship. Now, because of the dependency of the victim on the abuser as I've mentioned already, the response of the victim to such a threat is to immediately do what the manipulator wants so as not to lose the relationship. This may sound ridiculous to many, with cries of, "if somebody threatened me or abused me I would just leave!" When somebody is involved in an abusive relationship leaving is not a simple matter, again because of the dependency created by the manipulator. The actual response to abuse is to do whatever it takes to get the approval of the manipulator. I know, this is completely twisted, but this is what happens in mind control environments!
Isolation of the victim from their friends and family, their support networks, is another of the significant signs of an abusive person. The manipulator will use all sorts of tactics to achieve this. He or she may criticise the victim's family and friends, he or she may criticise the victim for having such friends, for being a bad judge of character. The manipulator may make it very unpleasant for visitors to the house such that the visitors decide it's easier not to return.
The manipulator can make it very unpleasant for the victim to interact with other people such that the victim themselves stops doing it in order to make life easy for everyone. The victim may believe that the abuser is jealous or the manipulator themselves may justify their jealousy by saying that they were cheated on a previous relationship (which is often a flat out lie, it's usually they were the one who was cheating on their partner).
Something to be aware of is that abusive people hide their nature at the start of the relationship. They make out that they are kind, loving, friendly, caring and that being with them would be in your best interests. They often do such a good job of this that the victims talk about having found their soul mate, having met somebody finally who actually gets them, or somebody who has made them feel more special than anybody else in their life. The general rule here is that if it seems too good to be true, it is.
The manipulator will rush the victim through the bonding stage of a relationship very quickly. They send the victim very strong messages about how they like them, how they have things in common, how they are safe together and what a good partnership they will make. The strength of the messages, the repetition and the speed at which it all happens means that the bond with an abuser is typically much stronger than in a normal, healthy relationship.
All these good feelings at the start of the relationship (love bombing) are linked to the manipulator. The manipulator does not make the victim feel good for the sake of making them feel good, all those good feelings are dependent on being with the manipulator. Very soon into the relationship, these good feelings also become conditional on following the rules and regulations of the manipulator.
Initially in the relationship the victim is made to feel wonderful because the manipulator is constantly messaging them, spending lots of time with them, giving them gifts, making them feel special and so on. In this way the manipulator is creating an amazing impression of themselves in the victim's mind. Later on when the abuse starts, the victim tends to justify the behaviour as out of character or because the manipulator is stressed or is having a bad day at work. This initial impression becomes very difficult to change and the abused person will often continue to believe that the abuser loves them even though they don't like some of the behaviours. What happens is that the victim will often even deny reality because it goes against the very strong belief they hold that the manipulator actually loves them and has their best interests at heart.
Manipulators need information to maintain control. The more information they have the easier it is for them to control. The manipulators train their victims to reveal things about themselves. At the start of the relationship, the manipulator will ask lots of personal questions. Victims often report that they felt that this new person in their lives was really interested and caring and listened attentively. They were interested all right but they were actually gathering information beyond what the victim was aware of. The manipulator was assessing weaknesses, strengths, fears, needs and desires. And this information is subsequently used to control and dominate the victim.
Later on in the relationship the manipulator will often insist on having lots of information. What have you done today? Who were you with? What were you talking about? How much money have you spent?
If you stop giving them information they will complain that they don't feel part of the relationship, that you are making unilateral decisions, or even that you are lying to them. In other words, they guilt you into giving them more information, often more information then you are actually comfortable giving. You are no longer allowed any privacy or intimacy.
Continue reading the second part of this article on signs of an abusive person here.
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