The Early Warning Signs of an Abuser

Dear Neil: Would you write about abusive relationships and how to avoid them?

Concerned in Denver

Dear Concerned: Here are some of the key early warning signs of an abuser:

  1. Possessiveness and jealousy. Does your partner demand that the two of you go everywhere together, and that you should not be alone, interact with other people or have a life outside of the relationship? Does s/he attempt to keep you isolated from friends, family or the outside world? Is your access to money, a car or a phone restricted?
  2. Controlling behavior. You are to do what your partner expects, and there will be hell to pay if you don’t. Does your partner essentially expect you to meet all or his or her needs/desires—and will yell, insult, pout, name-call or be disrespectful if you don’t? Is your partner constantly checking up on you, asking where you were or who you talked to?
  3. Entitlement. Does you partner expect special treatment or act as if rules don’t apply to him/her? An entitled person will regard his or her needs, feelings, aspirations and longings to be more important than anyone else’s, including yours.
  4. Does your partner have flexibility and negotiation in a disagreement, or is his/her stance more rigid and inflexible?
  5. Do you feel you are walking on eggshells so s/he doesn’t get upset? Is s/he emotionally unpredictable or volatile?
  6. Do you feel safe in the relationship? Are you afraid of him or her?
  7. Does your partner change when under the influence of alcohol or drugs? Does s/he become a mean drunk, for instance, or a complainer, or volatile or violent?
  8. Is your partner mean to animals or children? Does s/he punish harshly or act grossly insensitive to the needs and feelings of those dependent on him/her?
  9. Does your partner treat waiters, waitresses or service workers rudely? Is your partner hard on people s/he considers to be “beneath” him or her?
  10. Is your partner dishonest or deceitful? Do you feel confident you know the whole truth about matters of importance?
  11. Are you routinely belittled, criticized, judged or found to be inadequate no matter what you do? Are you made to feel you are defective and no one else would want you? Does your partner attack you with insulting remarks, shame you or otherwise attempt to make you feel worthless? Do you feel verbally degraded? Are things said in order to hurt you?
  12. Do you get blamed because your partner loses his/her temper, causes a scene or hits, pushes, slaps or restrains you? Is your partner’s bad behavior made to be your fault?
  13. Are you forced to have sex?
  14. Does your partner threaten you? Does s/he break or throw things in order to intimidate you?
  15. Does s/he use physical force during an argument or disagreement?

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