Do you feel there’s something ‘not quite right’ about your new romance? Can’t put your finger on why? If so, you may have a budding abuser on your hands – and listening to what they say could prevent you from becoming their latest project. Here’s 15 early warning signs that are dangerous to ignore.
15 Early WARNING signs
1. He rarely – if ever – calls you by your name. You answer to ‘babe’ or ‘darling’ (because you’re an object, rather than a person). My ex managed to insert this into virtually every sentence, especially when he was making excuses for bad behaviour. Or, this unreformed playground-bully has thought-up a witty but cutting nickname, perhaps referencing the size of your posterior, which you are expected to find as entertaining as he does.
2. He tells you his marriage broke down because his wife was abusive / unfaithful / neurotic. The sub-text here is that he is darn-near perfect, and if you have any issues with him, it’s likely because you too are abusive / unfaithful / neurotic. Oh, and those rough edges that he will (eventually) admit to, need you to smooth them out.
3. He’s the first to say ‘I love you’. In fact, he makes this weighty pronouncement so early on – possibly even before the dishes of your first dinner-date have been cleared away – that you think he’s either a hopeless romantic, or personality disordered. By telling you what he thinks you want to hear, he’s trying to reel you in – fast!
4. He makes snide comments about gay people, or makes racist jokes. Beware, this is one of the top indicators for psychopathy.
5. He tells you that he loves to be with you 24/7. He may turn up at your place, unannounced, because he missed you. You think it’s because he’s madly in love, but – though you are an amazing person to be around – his puppy-dog attachment to you is really about controlling you.
6. He over-reacts to even the hint of a criticism. If you ask him why he’s two hours late for your date and he blows his top, you could be dealing with a disordered narcissist. If you proceed, do so with caution!
7. He says far too much, too often! You’ve only just met, but he seems to be bombarding you with contact. Maybe he’s just really keen or over-enthusiastic, but it makes you uncomfortable. One of my ex colleagues recently popped up on Facebook, and sent a friend request. He was a nice guy when we worked together, so I didn’t think about it too much. Within weeks, he went from the occasional cooing comment on photos of my child, to messaging me about why I didn’t reply to his inbox messages straightaway (when he could see I was online). Can you say, ‘Unfriend’?
8. He’s doesn’t mind letting you know that he’s never ironed, can’t understand the washing machine, and the only home-cooked meals he ever eats are made by his mother. Whilst some men (and women) aren’t fantastically domesticated, for an abuser, this is him telling you what he thinks women are actually for: cooking, cleaning (and sex – but we’ll get to that later).
9. He tells you that you’d be much more attractive if you lost weight, put on weight, or dyed your hair. This mashed-up insult in disguise is a tactic to knock your self-esteem, improving the likelihood that you’ll stick around as his behaviour deepens. My abuser used to insinuate that I didn’t love him because I wouldn’t wear trashy clothes, even when he was in the depths of delusional jealousy.
10. You disagree with him on a trivial point. He won’t agree to disagree, like an adult. He won’t let it go until you concede that actually, he is right: dogs are better pets than cats. It’s much better for him if you learn that your opinions aren’t valid, as soon as possible.
11. He bullies or nags you into doing something you don’t want to do. Not like robbing a bank, but maybe eating Chinese food although you know it makes you sick. He needs to know that you’ll put him above your own needs – even in the smallest things.
12. He’s the master of subtle guilt trips. He’ll let you know that whilst you’re getting ready for a night out with the girls, he is alone after a really bad day at work. This thinly-veiled emotional blackmail is designed to manipulate you into cancelling your plans. If you do, expect more of this as he strives to monopolise your time and push out everyone else.
13. He claims that you have low libido, or maybe that you want intimacy much more than ‘normal’ people. You may be experiencing the beginning of sexual control – which ends with you having little or no say over when (and how) you have sex.
14. He tells you he heard your best friend is a slut, or he believes your brother is secretly jealous of your success. Planting the seed of doubt, this is the thin end of the wedge he hopes to drive between you and your nearest and dearest. My abuser told me my sister-in-law made a pass at him – though I didn’t believe him, the allegation did make me uncomfortable around her. Job done.
15. He blames flip-outs on a rough day at work, bad family news, or a burgeoning migraine you didn’t know he suffered from. Be careful. This could be an insight into the deepest recess of his soul – an active abuser will never, ever, ever, accept responsibility.
What did your romance say that set your alarm bell ringing? Is there anything that your abuser did in the early days, that you now wish you’d red-flagged?
To uncover how an abuser tries to keep you trapped in a damaging relationship, check out What your abuser doesn’t want you to know.
© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14