It is important to identify an abusive partner and acknowledge being in an abusive relationship. Acknowledgment is the first step to a solution.
Most abusers display one or many of the following behavioral traits.
- Projection of self: In projection, a distinct trait of himself that the abuser finds difficult of painful to accept is passed on/projected on the wife. Abusers are often a disordered lot who have difficulty dealing with the reality of their own behaviors. They often will try to hold the wife responsible for their problems in life. Very, very often they project characteristic is “mental illness”. Statements like “You need to see a shrink”, “Get your head checked”, “You need psychiatric help” are indicative of projection in use. The abuser will deliver these punches so convincingly, that he will leave you weeping and thinking “Do I actually need a shrink?”. Get alarmed, at the first occurrence.
- Blaming/Taunting: Blaming is a classic tool that abusers use to pass the buck. An abusive husband will blame the wife for anything and everything, be it a clogged drain in the bathroom or a bad investment decision or unruly kids. He could also blame her for the war in Syria! Most abusers have very low self-esteem and poor perception of self and are therefore easily insulted or upset and often take unrelated comments/actions as personal attacks. However, what is interesting to note here is that the abuser will seldom do anything to address the issue, because if the issues(s) are addressed then they will not have anything to blame for. He does not want to let go of the reason to keep blaming her. If you are being constantly being held responsible for all things that go wrong, it’s time to get alarmed.
- Brainwashed isolation: This technique is used to cut off the victim from her support system and well-meaning friends who offer a more balanced perspective and question the abuser’s distortions. The abuser knows, the more you meet these people, the more they will come to know about his truth, and of course, he will never want that to happen. The abuser weaves stories like “Everyone hates you”, “People talk things behind your back”, “Your best friend wants to break your marriage because she is divorced”, “People think you are an arrogant bitch”, “It’s a pity your parents and friends have to tolerate a skunk like you”. The victim soon begins to cut off from her friends and parents, thinking “what if all that he told me are true.” Mission accomplished for the abuser! Get alarmed.
- Criticism and name calling: This is as common as blaming. Chronic abusers love to use ‘constructive criticism’ to shame the wife. Constant criticism about the way she looks, cooks, clothes, walks, talks, the house keeps etc. are warning signs that need to be read in time. The abuser loves to do all this in public in front of a bunch of friends. The abuser also loves comparing the victim to other women, not even remotely similar to her. Chiding in the presence of others (often leaving them in awkward situations) is a great way to shame the wife. Don’t try to look for reasons why he called you a bitch, whore or slut, instead get alarmed!
- Stonewalling: Now this is a pretty interesting technique. Not all abusers use as many words. Some are pretty good at it without the use of words too! Stonewalling is used exclusively by men. They disengage or stonewall themselves from the victim, her feelings, her needs and her total being as if he never knew her. The abuser ignores the victim as if she just doesn’t exist in bone and flesh! Men are gifted biologically, and trained and conditioned socially making it easier for them to turn OFF their emotions. The stonewalled husband will say, “Do whatever you want, just leave me alone”, “I am not interested to know”, or “I don’t have time for all this.” If someone values a relationship, he better has time! He is often a couch potato, glued to the TV or the internet, seldom socializes, has very few friends, and avoids family at mealtimes. He deals with his inadequacy about relationships by simply not trying – no attempt means no failure. He will often say “I am not interested in mending things”, “you are the cause of the breakdown, and you have got to mend your ways”. The irony is that the victim, all the while, mistakes the abuser’s silence as suffering and tries to do things to please him, to make him happy, to get his affection and attention, unaware that the abuser has stonewalled himself on purpose. Woman, stop attempting to melt the wall, instead, get alarmed!
- The Newton syndrome: Abusers think themselves as Newton and propagate the theory that “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”! Wow! Thanks for teaching the poor wife some Physics! In this technique, the victim bases every hurtful action/word of his as a reaction only, to the victim’s deeds. This “external locus of control” signifies that poor emotional quotient of the abuser. The abuser will often say things like “I said/did this because you deserve it”, “You trigger my actions, so you have to change if you want me to change”. Such a theory also helps the abuser remain guilt free. He believes his actions and words are well justified. Lady, time to get alarmed!
- No discussion policy: This technique is part of and often follows the previous one. The abuser avoids all efforts of the victim to engage in a fruitful and solution-oriented discussion. He closes himself to all communication initiatives taken by the victim, reaffirming his belief in his convictions that there is nothing wrong with him that needs to be discussed. Also, the victim avoids discussions as he dreads finding solutions. His entire being thrives on blaming, projecting and abusing. The abuser also makes vague statements like “You have to change: avoiding discussion on what exactly he thinks should the victim change in herself. When confronted he will often say “Think about it yourself”, or “You know it”, or “Look into yourself and you will know”. His statements are vague, hollow, meaningless, unsubstantiated, and non-solution oriented. Lady, stop looking for faults in yourself, instead get alarmed!
- Blocking: This technique is similar to the previous one. When the victim becomes adamant on having an open discussion and sorting things, the abuser will make all possible attempts to block, derail or end a valid conversation prematurely. Often the abuser will say that the victim is being unreasonable or is nagging. Statements like “Stop nagging me” or “There is nothing to discuss” is common in response to a reasonable discussion. A common form of blocking is to go on the offense and become accusatory of the other person. If your attempts to talk, engage or discuss aren’t being reciprocated, get alarmed.
- Denial: The abuser will go on a denial mode, denying his statements or actions.
- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: This is typical of ALL abusers, who rarely conform to the stereotypical image of a constantly harsh, rude, insensitive, unattached, affectionless, cold, manipulative or violent person. Often the abuser portrays himself to be a perfectly normal and pleasant person. More often than not, the abusers are highly positioned and have responsible jobs or are respected members of the local community. He is a social animal and very conscious of his image in public. In public, he will either avoid eye contact and interaction with the victim or if forced to, will pretend to be loving and affectionate. The abuser reserves the abuse for the victim, within the confines of his territory, his own home. The abuser is often extra helpful, extra cordial and extra considerate towards friends and colleagues. This has two motives: One, he is actually building his alibi (the victim will be forced to think that no one will believe her story) and, two, to sustain in this world he needs people around him (like all of us do), and since his domestic relationships are defunct he tries to derive the warmth from other superficial and temporary associations. This Jekyll and Hyde tendency of the abuser serves to further confuse the victim. Many victims describe “sudden and extreme” mood swings and unpredictable reactions to the same situation, as common. The victim leads a life like “walking on eggshells”, not knowing what will trigger the abuser’s anxiety and what will please his fancy.
Next time he yells at you, or abuses you, don’t assume it to be normal. You could be in a severely abusive relationship without even knowing it. Get alarmed!