“My fiancé is jealous. He gets furious when I won’t dump my friends and spend all of my free time with him,” the weeping woman shared.

“I was so thrilled to have a guy who was devoted to me, that I ignored the warning signs. I convinced myself that he loves me, and that things would get better with time. I was wrong—completely wrong. The closer the wedding gets, the more controlling he becomes.”

“I don’t know what to do,” she concluded.

After more than 28 years of working with singles and married couples I believe abuse is an ongoing and escalating problem. Men are often portrayed as the sadistic ones; however women can be equally dangerous.

In an attempt to reveal how and why mistreatment is toxic to the relationship, I offer these insights on how to detect an abusive person.

An abuser is typically:

  1. Charming. This person quickly smothers the other with gifts and praise. He/she immediately pushes for an exclusive relationship using phrases such as “I can’t live without you” or “I’ll kill myself if you leave.” A clear indication something is wrong.
  2. Jealous. He/she views others as a threat to the relationship and relentlessly accuses adultery. “I know you are having an affair.” The irony is that the abuser is usually the cheater.
  3. Manipulative. Abuse and manipulation go hand-in-hand. This person easily detects vulnerability in others and uses it as a weapon to control, belittle and demean the victim. “You are weak and ugly; no wonder you were abused as a kid.
  4. Controlling. Constant checking on the whereabouts of the victim is a common trait for an abuser. “I check the mileage on your car. So don’t lie to me.” A male controller often refuses to let his wife or girlfriend have a job, she might “meet someone.”
  5. A Victim. An abuser doesn’t take any responsibility for his/ her poor choices. They are never at fault. When she loses her job, or he gets into a fight, someone else is to blame. “You make me hit you” or “I drink because you stress me out.”
  6. Narcissistic. The whole world revolves around the abuser and his/her needs. This person is invigorated by the fact that the victims “walks on eggshells” and live in fear of the next outburst.
  7. Inconsistent. Mood swings are a common trait for an abuser. One minute he/she is happy and sweet, the next they are pounding a fist or throwing a tantrum.
  8. Critical. Verbal assaults are typically the first steps of an abuser. “You are a stupid, fat, disgusting tramp. You can’t ever leave me; no other man would have you” or “Ha! You call yourself a man. You are nothing but a spineless mama’s boy.”
  9. Disconnected. Isolation from others is a key goal for the abuser. This forces the victim into total dependence and submission. “Your family causes too much trouble for us. I don’t want you seeing them anymore.”
  10. Hypersensitive. The slightest offense sends the abuser ranting. Everyone is out to “get” him/her. “My boss had it in for me,” “I bend over backwards to make your kids happy” or “The cops target me” are common complaints.
  11. Vicious and cruel. Intimidation, fear and inflicting pain fuels his/her power. “If I can’t have you, no one will” or “I just pretended to love you so that you would sleep with me.” Abusers think nothing of harming children or animals.
  12. Insincerely repentant. after an offense he/she will swear “I’ll never behave like that again.” But unless an abuser receives professional help and solid accountability it’s unlikely the abuse will disappear.

After marriage these behaviors typically escalate, therefore it’s crucial to recognize the warning signs beforehand. Tell someone you can trust, and get help. Refuse to believe the lie that it’s not abuse until he/she hits you.

WARNING: the MOST dangerous time when escaping abuse is shortly after the abuser realizes he/she has lost their power. When an abuser loses control they often react with rage and the abuse intensifies. Therefore, make an escape plan before breaking off the relationship. Contact a counselor or local domestic abuse hotline and/or safe house in your community.

Ignoring toxic, destructive behavior isn’t loving, compassionate or kind. It’s foolish. It’s destructive.

Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on relationships, stepfamilies, single parents, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce, 101 Tips for the Smart Stepmom , and The Smart Stepmom, co-authored with Ron Deal, and Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul. Laura’s website is www.The SmartStepmom.com

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Copyright © 2015 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved