“When a psychologically vulnerable person views the spouse’s desertion as a total, devastating attack, they may develop paranoid ideas of betrayal, exploitation, and conspiracy.” (1)
It’s shattering to realize the partner of your dreams isn’t who you thought he was—or at least not all of the time. When you first met, he was beyond wonderful; he was perfect, at least for you. You shared an immediate bond, and you thought you had everything in common—interests, hobbies, morals and beliefs, even your outlook on life. And, as if that wasn’t enough, he adored you. He appreciated your strengths, supported and helped you with your weaknesses, admired you, and thought you were an angel (or a saint). It felt good to be so adored and admired by such an incredible, loving, trustworthy guy.
So what happened?
In one overwhelming incident, months or even years after a solid bond had been formed between the two of you, your loving Dr. Jekyll turned into a raging Mr. Hyde. He suddenly went on the attack, spewing verbal venom all over your sense of self, making crazy accusations, demonizing you and saying the most horrific things. His rage was frightening, confusing and dehumanizing. Suddenly you felt like Humpty Dumpty.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall …
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall ...
And what a fall it was. Yet you did get back up. Your pieces did fit back together again.
At least in the beginning.
He apologized, or minimized the abuse to such a point that you believed him. Much to your immense relief and gratitude, Dr. Jekyll returned. All was right with the world and your beloved partner was once again caring, appreciative of you, treating you with respect and honor, adoring you … In his mind, you were once more his sainted angel.
That is, until the next build-up of tension. He began picking at little things, making you feel small and childish, diminishing your self-esteem. Then the next outbreak of venomous rage erupted, in whatever form it took—physical abuse (including smashing household objects and punching holes in walls), turning cold and withdrawing, shouting, baiting you, accusing, battering you with verbal violence. “Whore!” “Bitch!” “Cold and manipulative!” “You’re the worst!” And, over and over despite your ongoing love, “You hate me!”
In his mind, you had suddenly changed back into a demon. But then, the next hour or next day or a few days later, he was contrite once more, minimizing and/or apologetic. As he handed you a bouquet of the most luscious red roses, he whispered in your ear, “You’re my precious angel. I truly appreciate how much you love me.”
“You hate me.”
“You love me.”
“You hate me.”
Again and again in a vicious cycle.
Years go by. Your head has been swimming so fast for so long that it’s in a permanent fog. Your self-esteem has melted to nothing. Most days you feel like a smothering blanket is shrouding your entire body. Friends … where did your friends go? Oh, right. It’s easier not to have friends. If you don’t go out, you’ll reduce the incidences of rage-filled accusations of infidelity, the constant barrage of demeaning questions and the destructive blame. Keep quiet. Head down. Eyes closed. Try to disappear. Don’t wake the sleeping monster.
But then you awake. Oh, glorious day! Something or someone has caused you to realize that this is not a normal relationship. Perhaps it was a persistent friend who stood by you despite your self-isolation, a perceptive family member, a book or blog post, or the voice of God within (1 Kings 19:12). But something or someone has caused you to realize that this, my dear friend, is abuse.
You may then try to talk to your partner, reason with him, help him to see what you see so he can change and your happily ever after can finally begin. But it doesn’t work. He won’t change, he refuses to admit he has a problem with control and abuse, he persists in blaming you for all your relationship problems. And so, for the sake of self-love and self-preservation, you leave.
And the smear campaign begins.
The smear campaign, also called the distortion campaign, happens when a person finally comes to terms with the need to end an abusive relationship. The abuser feels abandoned—his most profound terror come true—and he instantly sees himself as a victim.(2) This is because his black-and-white, angel-or-demon perceptions are now stuck in demon-mode. “Splitting may render them unable to remember the good feelings they had for you or to see you as a whole person with both good and bad qualities. As a result, the person with BPD may view you as an evil monster who deserves to be punished.”(3) Donald G. Dutton, clinical researcher and professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, describes this broken, dysfunctional mindset in similar terms:
“This split is related to the abuse cycle. Men in the dysphoric phase ruminate on their unacknowledged concept of their wife as a whore: unfaithful, sexually promiscuous, malevolent, and unloving. After the release of tension during an abuse episode, their entire pattern of perceptions regarding their wife and women in general changes. What’s more, it changes literally overnight. They become temporarily docile, almost servile, and the wife is now a Madonna, idealized on a pedestal.”(4)
But, if the tension is never released because of a permanent breakup, the skewed mindset is stuck in the “unfaithful, unloving, malevolent whore” mode.
Richard Moskovitz, M.D., author of Lost in the Mirror: An Inside Look at Borderline Personality Disorder, has written his book for those suffering from BPD, to help them understand themselves and seek help. However, his words apply to anyone who experiences survival-based thought distortions, which is most common in cyclical (Type III) abusers. Moskovitz states:
“You may experience your life as fragile and flickering, lacking in substance and permanence … This discontinuity of feeling is magnified by an amnesia for emotions. Whatever feeling-state predominates at the moment seems to last forever, and you can scarcely recall ever feeling differently … When applied to relationships, this peculiar disturbance of memory means that our last encounter may be recalled as the whole of our relationship. If we last parted on an angry note, then I may be remembered as a scurrilous villain and you may wish bitterly for revenge.”(5)
This accurately describes not only the reason for the smear/distortion campaign of the Type III (dysphoric/borderline/survival-based) abuser, but the reason why your abuser vehemently clings to his version of the story and truly believes it. To him, as he views the situation through his lens of cognitive distortion, his feelings are truth, therefore his version of history is accurate and undeniable.(6)
When you left, his intense terror of abandonment went into overdrive, halting the abuse cycle mid-churn: no longer is there chance for reconciliation, which would begin the contrition stage of the abuse cycle and, in the abuser’s split mind, cause his bitch of a wife to become a saint once again. Now you’re stuck in bitch mode, because you left. Your ex-partner can no longer remember any good you may have done, your past love and devotion, your acts of kindness, the joyful times the two of you spent together. In his mind, the entire relationship is colored by your supposed abusive behavior, your malevolence, your unfaithfulness, your coldness and cruelty. His brain is stuck, and he’s adamant that he’s the victim. His brain will never get unstuck unless he reaches the point where he can admit that he has an abusive personality, seek emotional and spiritual healing, and find a qualified psychological professional who can help him reformat his thought processes.
This is the sad, strange truth behind the Type III abuser’s smear campaign. I’ll discuss ways to protect yourself against this vehement attack in a future post.
(1) Paul T. Mason, MS and Randi Kreger, Stop Walking on Eggshells, 3rd Edition, 216.
(2) Ibid., 215. See also Neil Jacobson, Ph.D. and John Gottman, Ph.D., When Men Batter Women: New Insights into Ending Abusive Relationships, 253; Jerold J. Kreisman, M.D. and Hal Straus, Sometimes I Act Crazy: Living with Personality Disorder, 45-48; Donald G. Dutton, The Abusive Personality: Violence and Control in Intimate Relationships, 2nd Edition, 105 &123-146, especially “The features that were strongly related to borderline scores were anger, jealousy, and tendencies to blame women for any ‘negative event in a relationship’ which causes them to rewrite history and “to make highly idiosyncratic, illogical and inaccurate attributions of people’s intentions.”
(3) Paul T. Mason, MS and Randi Kreger, Stop walking on Eggshells, 217-218.
(4) Donald G. Dutton, The Abusive Personality, 126.
(5) Richard Moskovitz, M.D., Lost in the Mirror: An Inside Look at Borderline Personality Disorder, 2nd Edition, 5 & 6. See also Donald G. Dutton, The Batterer: A Psychological Profile, 34: "They find ways of misinterpreting and blaming their partners, holding them responsible for their own feelings of despondency, making impossible demands on them, and punishing them for inevitably failing."
(6) Richard Moskovitz, M.D., Lost in the Mirror, 6-8, especially: “If you are borderline, feelings may sometimes become so intense that they distort your perception of reality. At such times you may imagine yourself deliberately persecuted by those who have merely let you down.”
Not all abusers are created equal. Even though tactics and techniques often follow the same pattern in many toxic relationships, the underlying causes and motivations for mistreatment vary (and remember, causes are not the same as excuses). For example, Lundy Bancroft claims abusive behavior is a conscious choice, whereas Donald G. Dutton has observed through research from neurobiology as well as from analyzing the characteristics of certain personality disorders that “the simplistic notion that all abuse perpetrators choose to be abusive is contradicted by the work on subtypes and on impulsivity.”(1)
Be on the lookout! I’ll write more on impulsivity in a future post.
The reason some authors may claim all abusers are narcissistic manipulators who purposely mistreat their partners while others take a more empathetic view is likely because they’re focusing on a certain type of perpetrator rather than differentiating between the four basic subtypes. These subtypes have been developed by leading researchers and clinicians such as Neil Jacobson and John Gottman, Amy Holzworth-Munroe and Gregory Stuart, Donald G. Dutton, L. Kevin Hamberger and James E. Hastings, as well as others. In a very simplistic nutshell, the four types of abusers are:
Type I abusers tend to be extremely aggressive and physically violent, as well as displaying a high level of emotional and psychological violence, but their overt aggression isn’t limited to the home. These are the types of men who not only batter their wives as a means of control and subjugation, but they’re also publicly and socially aggressive.(2) They see absolutely nothing wrong with their behavior, have little or no empathy, often have a criminal record, are accepting of violence and tend to display antisocial traits.(3) Domestic violence expert Don Hennessy, director of the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency (located in Ireland), calls these antisocial abusers “psychophiles” because they groom their victims in the same way pedophiles groom their chosen targets. He describes this type of abuser as “somebody who manipulates the mind of their intimate partner for nefarious purposes without the partner or the community being aware of it.”(4) That’s a sinister and scary thought, and it’s easy to see why these perpetrators rarely change.
Type II abusers keep their aggression behind closed doors. These abusers “are likely to show poor social skills and communication,”(5) are more apt to slap their partners rather than using weapons such as knives, and are “the least likely to engage in psychological and sexual abuse.”(6) They are considered “infrequent batterers” and use violence on average about six times per year rather than in a cyclical manner, and they report “less conflict and more satisfaction in their marriages.”(7)
Type III aggressors, the dysphoric/borderline/survival-based, tend not to abuse consciously with a set goal of control and subjugation. Instead they’re subconsciously driven by a deep, rooted, and terrifying fear of abandonment, which is the foundational characteristic of borderline personality disorder (BPD). They harbor a great deal of shame, feelings of unworthiness, and a toxic terror of being unlovable. This profound fear causes them to rage at their loved ones, emotionally and verbally abuse them, and due to their own cognitive distortions, often use the manipulative tactics of gaslighting, crazy-making, and circular talk in order to appease or hide from their out-of-control emotions. This is all done to avoid feelings of shame and to try to keep their partner from leaving them, and it’s the behavior that fuels the abuse cycle. Ironically, however, their abusive behaviors and characteristic extreme jealousy tend to cause their fears to come true as partner after partner feels the need to separate from their toxic actions. It’s common for them to have suffered childhood emotional neglect, and they tend to be impulsive. They often experience depression, exhibit anxiety-based rage, have a fearful/angry attachment style, focus their fury onto their intimate partner, and are less likely to use physical violence—however, they’re extremely abusive on psychological, emotional, and verbal levels.(8)
Type IV, low-level anti-social abusers, are similar to Type I aggressors yet without full-blown antisocial traits, and therefore not as extreme. Although less violent than Type I, they’re more physically violent than Type II abusers, and unlike Type II and Type III abusers, their aggression isn’t necessarily limited to the home.(9)
Given these subtypes of aggressive personalities, it’s easy to see how all abusers aren’t the same. Some, with a great deal of professional help, a full admittance of their harmful behaviors without excuse or blame, and the “manly courage” to stop using the “shameful ill-treatment” and “craven acts of cowardice” of their controlling, abusive ways, can change.(10) This takes a lifetime of diligent determination, an internal, authentic desire for transformation, and the humble ability to seek and stick with therapeutic help. Certain types of abusers—such as Type II, family only, and Type III, those with survival-based, dysphoric/borderline traits—can make positive and lasting personality and relationship improvements. As for Type I and IV …. Well. It’s nice to think anyone can transform into a better version of themselves, but typically these types of aggressors have no interest in change. They see nothing wrong with their behavior, and they enjoy the control their abusiveness seems to give them.
In my posts, I’m most often writing about the Type III, cyclical abuser. Authors tend to gravitate toward one type of an abuser based on their own research, experience (whether personal or through working with survivors) or educational preferences. Type III is my area of expertise, so I focus on this subcategory more than the others.
(1) Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men; Donald G .Dutton, The Abusive Personality: Violence and Control in Intimate Relationships, 2nd Edition, 15.
(2) Dr. Christauria Welland, “Violence & Abuse in Catholic and Christian Families: Preparing an Effective and Compassionate Pastoral Response,” online course at https://health-transformations.learnworlds.com.
(3) Donald G. Dutton, The Abusive Personality, 14 and 9. See also Christauria Welland, Psy.D. and Neil Ribner, Ph.D., Healing from Violence, 31.
(4) Don Hennessy, How He Gets Into Her Head: The Mind of the Male Intimate Abuser, 43 and 267.
(5) Esther Calvete, “Mental Health Characteristics of Men Who Abuse Their Intimate Partner,” https://scielo.isciii.es/pdf/sanipe/v10n2/revision.pdf.
(6) Amy Holzworth-Munroe and Gregory L. Stuart, “Typologies of Male Batterers: Three Subtypes and the Differences Among Them,” https://psych.indiana.edu/documents/holtzworth-munroe-and-stuart-1994.pdf.
(7) Amy Holzworth-Munroe and Gregory L. Stuart, “Typologies of Male Batterers: Three Subtypes and the Differences Among Them.” Christauria Welland, Psy.D. and Neil Ribner, Ph.D., Healing from Violence, 31.
(8) Donald G. Dutton, The Abusive Personality, 13; Christauria Welland, Psy.D. and Neil Ribner, Ph.D., Healing from Violence, 31-32; Randi Kreger and Paul T. Mason, MS, Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder, 3rdEdition.
(9) Amy Holzworth-Munroe and Gregory L. Stuart, “Typologies of Male Batterers: Three Subtypes and the Differences Among Them,” https://psych.indiana.edu/documents/holtzworth-munroe-and-stuart-1994.pdf; Christauria Welland, Psy.D. and Neil Ribner, Ph.D., Healing from Violence, 32.
(10) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “When I Call for Help,” https://www.usccb.org/topics/marriage-and-family-life-ministries/when-i-call-help-pastoral-response-domestic-violence. Pope Francis, “Amoris Laetitia,” https://www.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf, 54.
You may think the title of this entry was written tongue-in-cheek, but it wasn’t—I’m being serious. Numerous studies have been done that have shown a direct correlation to suffering a TBI (traumatic brain injury) and, as a result, becoming domestically aggressive.(1) In one such study it was "found that head injury was significantly associated with domestic abuse, since the prevalence rate of head injury was considerably higher in the domestic abusers group compared to the other groups … They could also prove that in 93.1% of the cases of domestic abusers with head injury, the injury was prior to the abuse."(2)
Additionally, “the neuropsychiatric disturbances associated with TBI are numerous. They are generally observed to be disorders of mood, cognition, or behavior.”(3)
Why have these studies shown that traumatic brain injury changes the personality of a person so much that he may become abusive? First, it's been established that there are some inherent traits common to individuals who become abusive after TBI, such as a natural personality style of risk-taking and impulsivity. As Charles Symonds, an English neurologist and senior officer in the Royal Air Force, stated, “The response to head injury depends on the kind of head that was injured.”(4) Someone with a natural personality of impulsivity and risk-taking before a TBI may experience heightened and more dangerous forms of these impulses after the TBI. Second, “certain neurological and neuropsychological deficits (especially those of the frontal and/or temporal lobe) can increase the potential for impulsive aggressive actions.”(5)
The role of the frontal and temporal lobes, and how they can contribute to domestic abuse and aggressiveness, is crucial to understand.
Damage to the frontal lobe can result in depression, substance abuse,
OCD, outbursts of anger and rage, and issues with comprehending
or accepting the varying opinions of other people.
The frontal lobe regulates an individual’s personality, impulse control, sexual and social behaviors, and the ability to balance emotion in a healthy manner. Knowing this, it’s easy to see why someone suffering from TBI can suddenly or gradually change from an easy-going person who enjoys life and the fun aspects of risk-taking (think: wild roller coaster rides, car racing, skydiving, and other adrenaline-pumping activities) to someone who can’t regulate his emotions and who has become a “Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde” personality.
After her husband suffered a TBI, medical professional Janet Cromer described him as having “volatile emotions [and] memory impairment.” He also blasted her with “verbal attacks, physical aggression and impaired impulse control … Sometimes his moods shifted so suddenly that I called it ‘Jekyll and Hyde syndrome.’ It was as if two different versions of Alan resided within him. One was rational and easy-going, but the other was frightening and even dangerous at times.”(6)
Damage to the frontal lobe can also result in depression, substance abuse, OCD, outbursts of anger and rage, and issues with comprehending or accepting the varying opinions of other people.(7)
The temporal lobe regulates the sense of smell and taste, behavior, communication issues, memory distortions (see my blog post about cognitive distortion), interpreting visual stimuli, and control of automatic and unconscious bodily reactions, such as the inability to know when you’ve had too much to drink (which inevitably exacerbates domestic abuse).(8) We again see here that a person with TBI will have problems communicating, will often believe his own distortions in memory, and will suffer from other regulation impairments—which are all hallmarks of domestic abuse. I spoke with a NeuroRehab specialist in Scarborough, Maine to validate these findings, and she confirmed that yes, there is a definite correlation between TBI and domestic abuse. I also spoke with a specialist in Deltona, FL, who confirmed that therapeutic intervention to increase self-awareness is possible and beneficial to a TBI sufferer who can also admit that he’s a domestic abuser, but it takes complete dedication, a lifelong commitment to change, and a thorough admittance of the issues that need to be addressed.
Lasting effects from a TBI can include rage-filled outbursts, irritability, problems understanding the perspectives of others, sleep issues, and noticeable personality changes (for example, a person who used to be an optimist becomes, after the TBI, far more pessimistic and less joyful). It’s also crucial to note that if the TBI happens during childhood or adolescence, “he or she is likely to stop maturing emotionally beyond the age the TBI occurred.” In other words, if the brain injury happened when he or she was fourteen years old, he/she will be stuck in the emotional world of a teenager.(9)
If your partner has ever experienced a TBI,
seeing a neuropsychologist for a neuropsych evaluation
could be of immense benefit.
Again, and as I so often repeat, there is no excuse for abuse. However, if your partner has ever experienced a traumatic brain injury, especially one that damaged his frontal and/or temporal lobes, and especially if he claims to have changed after his accident, seeing a neuropsychologist for a neuropsych evaluation could be of immense benefit. If—and this is a huge if—he’s willing to listen to what you’ve discovered about TBI and if he’s willing to seek appropriate help, in all humility and determination to change his abusive ways, he could vastly improve his life (not to mention yours).
"Patients with traumatic brain injury are often referred to as 'the walking wounded,' because a number of them have persistent neuropsychiatric sequelae. Even though they appear physically 'normal,' they are disabled personally, socially, and occupationally. Ideally, treatment of these patients should involve a multidisciplinary approach, with the neuropsychiatrist working in close collaboration with the patient, family, neurologist/neurosurgeon, physiatrist, social worker, and the staff of community groups such as the local chapter of the brain injury association."(10)
(1) Esther Calvete, “Mental Health Characteristics of Men Who Abuse Their Intimate Partner,” https://scielo.isciii.es/pdf/sanipe/v10n2/revision.pdf; Kenneth Corvo, Ph.D., Jennifer Halpern, Ph.D., Richard Ferraro, “Frontal Lobe Deficits and Alcohol Abuse: Possible Interactions in Predicting Domestic Violence,” https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J146v13n02_04; Alan Rosenbaum, Steven K. Hoge, Steven A. Alderman, William J. Warnken, Kenneth E. Fletcher, Robert L. Kane, “Head Injury in Partner-Abusive Men,” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7860816/; Gordon Teichner, Charles J. Golden, Vincent B. Van Hasselt, Angela Peterson, “Assessment of Cognitive Functioning in Men Who Batter,” https://www.researchgate.net/publication/11451170_Assessment_of_Cognitive_Functioning_in_Men_who_Batter; American Association of Neurological Surgeons, “Traumatic Brain Injury,” https://www.aans.org/en/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Traumatic-Brain-Injury.
(2) Esther Calvete, “Mental Health Characteristics of Men Who Abuse Their Intimate Partner.”
(3) Vani Roa, M.D. and Constantine Lyketsos, M.D., M.H.P., “Neuropsychiatric Sequelae of Traumatic Brain Injury,” https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/psychiatry/patient_information/bayview/docs/Neuropsychiatric%20sequelae%20of%20TBI.pdf.
(4) Charles Symonds, “Mental Disorder Following Head Injury,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 1937; 30:1081–1092, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19991202/.
(5) Ibid. See also Angela Atkinson, “Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) Co-Morbidity,” https://queenbeeing.com/traumatic-brain-injury-tbi-narcissistic-personality-disorder-npd-co-morbidity/ and Vani Roa, M.D. and Constantine Lyketsos, M.D., M.H.P., “Neuropsychiatric Sequelae of Traumatic Brain Injury” and Donald G. Dutton, The Abusive Personality: Violence and Control in Intimate Relationships, in which he describes the “undercontrolled and impulsive” personality types as borderline individuals who “ act out violently in response to a building inner tension” and are “sensitive to interpersonal slights … overreactive, having a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ personality … anger, and jealousy” (6,9,10).
(6) Janet M. Cromer R.N., LM.H.C., “After Brain Injury: The Dark Side of Personality Change, Part I,” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/professor-cromer-learns-read/201203/after-brain-injury-the-dark-side-personality-change-part-i.
(7) Ibid. See also Brain Injury Institute, “Frontal Lobe Damage,” https://www.braininjuryinstitute.org/frontal-lobe-damage/ and Robert van Reekum, M.D., F.R.C.P.C., Tammy Cohen, B.A.(H), and Jenny Wong, B.A.(H), “Can Traumatic Brain Injuries Cause Psychiatric Disorders?”, The Journal of Neuropsychiatry, https://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/jnp.12.3.316 and Vani Roa, M.D. and Constantine Lyketsos, M.D., M.H.P., “Neuropsychiatric Sequelae of Traumatic Brain Injury.”
(8) Dan Brennan, M.D., “What You Need to Know About the Frontal Lobe,” https://www.webmd.com/brain/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-frontal-lobe; Cleveland Clinic, “Brain Lesions,” https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17839-brain-lesions; Spinalcord.com, “Temporal Lobe: Function, Location and Structure,” https://www.spinalcord.com/temporal-lobe; on alcohol abuse, see Dr. Christauria Welland, “Violence & Abuse in Catholic and Christian Families: Preparing an Effective and Compassionate Pastoral Response,” online course at https://health-transformations.learnworlds.com.
(9) Angela Atkinson, “Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) Co-Morbidity.”
(10) Vani Roa, M.D. and Constantine Lyketsos, M.D., M.H.P., “Neuropsychiatric Sequelae of Traumatic Brain Injury.”
The fear of abandonment often leads to abusive behavior. When a person suffers from object constancy (due to an underdeveloped attachment style originating in childhood emotional neglect),(1) this can cause such intense fear that the subconscious mind seeks relief by attempting to forcefully control the situation in the form of domestic violence. An underdeveloped attachment style is formed during the earliest years of an individual’s life when their primary caregivers (usually mother, father, or both) fail to meet their needs. When they cry, instead of being comforted they’re ignored or told to “stop acting like a girl,” or “don’t act like a baby.” When they show emotion—regardless of whether it’s positive, negative, or vulnerable—their feelings are dismissed or disdained. They’re emotionally neglected and, as a result, emotionally starving—but they can’t find any nourishing emotional food outside the self, and so they don’t know how to find it within the self. Without someone to show them the way, how can they learn? This results in “a core psychic wounding which stems from the experience of shame. Given a childhood in which the ‘vulnerable’ narcissist was devalued and discarded by primary attachment figure(s), the NPD individual grows up associating pain with love.”(2)
A consequence of the lack of emotional development is that as an adult the stunted individual is gripped with a terrifying fear of not being loved or worthy of love. He or she “becomes severely depressed over the real or perceived abandonment by significant others and then enraged at the world (or whoever is handy) for depriving [him or] her of this basic fulfillment.”(3)
It’s paradoxical that an individual whose core fear is that of abandonment actually causes his fear to come true by pushing away his loved ones through verbal, emotional, psychological and sometimes physical abuse. His fear blinds him; it engulfs and overpowers him until his cognitive abilities and logical skills are tossed out window in one big, messy heap.
It’s paradoxical that an individual whose core fear is that of abandonment actually causes his fear to come true by pushing away his loved ones through abuse.
All he can focus on is controlling the situation. His rage fuels his actions and causes Mr. Hyde to strut into the open in all his roaring ferocity. Someone in this state becomes “as unpredictable as they are frightening. Violent scenes are disproportionate to the frustrations that trigger them … thrown dishes are typical of borderline rage. The anger may be sparked by a particular (and often trivial) offense, but underneath the spark lies an arsenal of fear from the threat of disappointment and abandonment.” (4)
A desperate fear of abandonment is the primary trait of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), which (along with its close sibling, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD) is a common disorder amongst certain types of domestic abusers.(5) Other characteristics of individuals with BPD, according to the DSM-V, may include
The fear of abandonment has a flipside: fear of engulfment. This creates emotions to swerve and veer within the individual like an out-of-control Lamborghini; he longs to get intimately close and is terrified his loved one will leave him, while at the same time he’s petrified of personal vulnerability, for fear he’ll get hurt. This causes him to lash out at the person he’s supposed to love the most (his intimate partner), so he can hurt her before she can hurt him.
As a target of this roller-coaster behavior you’re left depleted, exhausted, confused, and hopeless. You’ve loved and forgiven, again and yet again; you’ve given everything you have and more, yet it’s still not enough. Nothing is ever enough. You’re not enough (or so it feels); your love is inadequate to fill his deep, bottomless well of desperate, clinging-and-pushing need. But then, suddenly, the next day or even the next hour (as your head spins yet again), you’re once more the love of his life, his precious soul mate whom he can’t live without. By the way, this is another classic trait of BPD—to see someone, including self, as “all good” or “all bad,” constantly careening between the two extremes.(7)
You’re either an angel or a devil in his eyes, but never anything in between—in other words, you’re not allowed to be a normal human being. When you make a mistake, it’s the end of the world and he resents you for your infraction, no matter how minor it may have been (or even one he imagined). When you go out for an evening with girlfriends, he feels as if you’ve abandoned him and will likely lash out at you in a jealous rage when you return home. When you grovel apologetically for something you didn’t even do, just to restore what little the peace is left in your household (because a single apology isn’t ever enough for him), you’re his adored soul mate yet again.
You’re either an angel or a devil, but never anything in between. When you make a mistake, no matter how minor it may have been (or even one he imagined), you're demonized. You become a whore, manipulative, cold or cruel--whatever his mind imagines you to be.
It’s not possible to maintain a healthy relationship or a solid sense of self in such an environment. Being abused is never acceptable, regardless of the circumstances. “Furthermore, abuse has a nasty habit of escalating slowly over time” as you become more brainwashed, as your self-esteem crumbles away, and as he realizes, consciously or not, how much he can get away with.(8)
If, finally, you’ve had too much and no hope of change is in sight, and you decide to leave the abusive relationship, you may be forever stuck in “demon mode” in his mind. There’s no more swinging and swaying between angel and devil; he can’t see or recognize his abuse or empathize with what you’ve endured, but instead believes himself to be the victim. He feels you’ve abandoned him, just like his mind told him you would. He’ll forget everything good you’ve ever done for and with him, along with all your love, devotion, and self-sacrifice. The deep narcissistic wound that your leaving causes him will likely impel him to launch a war of slander against you as he pitches himself as the wounded one and you the mentally-deranged, cold-hearted bitch. A future post will discuss the heartbreaking and slanderous, yet all too common, smear campaign, also called a distortion campaign.(9) Not all abusers engage in this deranged tactic — but sadly, most do.
(1) Jeffrey E., Young, Ph.D. and Janet S. Klosko, Ph.D, Reinventing Your Life: The Breakthrough Program to End Negative Behavior … and Feel Great Again, 30; Anthony Tasso, “Review Of: Dutton, D.G. (2007). Abusive Personality: Violence and Control in Intimate Relationships (2nd Ed.),” https://www.researchgate.net/publication/241743444_A_Review_of_Dutton_D_G_2007_Abusive_Personality_Violence_and_Control_in_Intimate_Relationships_2nd_Ed;Imi Lo, “Object Constancy: Understanding the Fear of Abandonment and Bordereline Personality Disorder,” https://psychcentral.com/lib/object-constancy-understanding-the-fear-of-abandonment-and-borderline-personality-disorder#1.
(2) Andrea Schneider, MSW, LCSW, “Abandonment Fears of a Vulnerable Narcissist: BPD at the Core,” https://psychcentral.com/blog/savvy-shrink/2017/11/abandonment-fears-of-a-vulnerable-narcissist-bpd-at-the-core#1.
(3) Jerold J. Kreisman, M.D. and Hal Straus. I Hate You—Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality, 36.
(4) Ibid., 51.
(5) Esther Calvete, “Mental Health Characteristics of Men Who Abuse Their Intimate Partner,” https://scielo.isciii.es/pdf/sanipe/v10n2/revision.pdf; Stuart C. Yudofsky, M.D. “When Traumatic Brain Injury is Complicated by Personality Disorders,”
https://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/pn.47.9.psychnews_47_9_27-a; Vani Roa, M.D. and Constantine Lyketsos, M.D., M.H.P. “Neuropsychiatric Sequelae of Traumatic Brain Injury,” https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/psychiatry/patient_information/bayview/docs/Neuropsychiatric%20sequelae%20of%20TBI.pdf. Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D. and Laura L Smith, Ph.D. Borderline Personality Disorder for Dummies, 2nd Edition, 302-309; Dr. Christauria Welland, “Violence & Abuse in Catholic and Christian Families: Preparing an Effective and Compassionate Pastoral Response,” online course at https://health-transformations.learnworlds.com; Kathleen J. Ferraro and Michael P. Johnson, “Research on Domestic Violence in the 1990s: Making Distinctions,” http://personal.psu.edu/mpj/2000%20JMF%20Johnson%20&%20Ferraro.pdf.
(6) Margalis Fjelstad, Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist: How to End the Drama and Get on with Life, 9. See also pages 7-8; Esther Calvete, “Mental Health Characteristics of Men Who Abuse Their Intimate Partner and Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D. and Laura L Smith, Ph.D. Borderline Personality Disorder for Dummies, 2nd Edition, 30-33.
(7) Elliott and Smith, Borderline Personality Disorder for Dummies, 2nd Edition, 125.
(8) Ibid., 303.
(9) Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger, Stop Walking on Eggshells Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder, 3rd Edition. See also Lilian Cabiron, “The Smear Campaign: How a Toxic Person Tries to Destroy His Target’s Credibility,” https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/smear-campaing-how-toxic-person-tries-destroy-his-targets-cabiron, particularly, “One of the clearest indicators you’ve got a mentally unstable person on your hands is smear campaigning.”
Another common and telltale sign that your partner may be abusive—and one you can often notice during that tricky dating stage when everything is still bubbly wine and roses—is if he harbors resentment toward his ex and speaks of her in highly negative terms. If this is the case in your relationship, you may want to consider that you’re dealing with an abusive personality.
Why? Couldn’t it be that he just happens to have a truly horrid ex (or a series of them)?
Yes, definitely. Many people have rotten exes. But the venomous stories of the ex's cruelty or the scathing commentaries about her horrific personality are a different matter altogether. If your partner talks about his ex in disdainful, disrespectful, and monstrous terms (no matter what she may have done), that’s a sign he’s not seeing her as a human being, but as a personal possession. And, in instances were the stories are exaggerated or fabricated, there's a good chance that the ex has triggered his underlying feelings of shame and unworthiness, especially if she was the one who left the relationship. He has to hide from those feelings and protect himself from his unbearable emotions by turning her into the monster, which may be a conscious or unconscious tactic. All these thought processes and cognitive distortions simmer beneath the surface of his psyche and often aren’t things he’s aware of. And because he’s not conscious of these abnormal thought patterns, the abuser eventually comes to believe his self-created sense of reality.
In my blog post “He’s Abusive Because He was Abused,” I promised to follow up on what Lundy Bancroft calls “Myth #2” in his list of “The Myths About Abusers”:
“He had a previous partner who mistreated him terribly, and now he has a problem with women as a result. He’s a wonderful man, and that bitch made him get like this.”
First, we’re all endowed with God-given free will—no one can “make” another person into an abuser. We all make our own life decisions.
Second, although it may be true that some men have had horrible exes, it's also true that using this as an excuse for abuse is a common manipulative tactic. In conducting interviews with over sixty domestic abuse victims/survivors, across three separate survivor platforms, I discovered that with the exception of three participants, every woman reported that their abuser claimed to have had crazy, cheating exes who caused them immense damage. And of the three who didn’t report this behavior, all three stated that their abuser didn’t have any previous exes because they’d been together since they were teenagers.
“He had a previous partner who mistreated him terribly, and now he has a problem with women as a result. He’s a wonderful man, and that bitch made him get like this."
I was also able to verify Bancroft’s observation that “in the most common version of this story, the man recounts how his ex-partner broke his heart by cheating on him, perhaps with several different men.” This is also used as an excuse for the over-the-top jealousy that is a “major, huge huge red flag” of an abuser. The manipulative man quite often attempts to shelter himself within the tactic of excuse and blame by claiming, “‘It’s because my ex-partner hurt me so badly by cheating on me so many times, and that’s why I’m so jealous and can’t trust you.’”
It’s sad and excruciating if anyone is treated this way, but infidelity in a past relationship is never an excuse to take it out on an innocent victim. Also, due to cognitive distortions, abusive men typically see infidelity where infidelity doesn’t exist, making up “worst-case scenarios” in their minds and obsessing over them until they honestly feel their own made-up stories are true. Abusive people “are pathologically jealous, drawing ludicrous conclusions about nonexistent extramarital affairs. They don’t merely react to events, but create a different view of the world in which emotional bumps become earthquakes.”
Think of it this way: his brain is broken, and unless he makes an internal, authentic effort to fix it, with all the arduous work that entails, his brain will always be broken. It’s very typical for a manipulative man to begin a smear campaign against his partner when she finally decides to break free and leave him. He’ll attempt to discredit her amongst family, friends, and—well, anyone who will listen, and even those who prefer not to—by spreading lies about how abusive she was, how crazy she still is, how much of a bitch and a cheater, how manipulative and back-stabbing, etc. This is done to soothe his own sense of wounded self. Being abandoned is one of his core fears, and when it actually happens, his sense of shame and worthlessness goes into hyperactive overdrive. In order to protect himself from his own unbearable feelings, he convinces himself that he was the victim, not the other way around. He can’t see his role in the demise of his relationship, because he doesn’t want to see it. It’s too painful for him to acknowledge the truth, look it in the eye, and fix what’s broken. And so he’s doomed to repeat the same pattern, again and again.
Again, even though this is incomprehensible to others, he truly believes his own lies and distortions of reality. This is due to a “rigid unconscious defensive structure” and “unconscious distortions and defenses” provoked by a desperate need to avoid the burning, horrific sense of shame that lurks deep inside most abusive personalities. It also serves to “alter reality in order to make it more palpable for a fragile ego.” In order to soothe that unbearable sense of insignificance and being unlovable, an abuser “often unconsciously incorporates a victim stance.”
Because of a desperate need to avoid the horrific sense of shame that lurks deep inside most abusive personalities, he truly believes his own lies and distortions of reality.
This level of distortion is scary, yet true—and it’s also extremely difficult for the victim to deal with. As the victim of domestic abuse and the target of your partner’s ongoing cognitive distortions, questions naturally swirl and swelter inside your head. You want to believe the best of him. You want to maintain faith that he’s always truthful and honest and wonderful. But then … things happen. You uncover the lies, and you're crushed with the betrayal of realizing that his lies are frequent, and automatic. Doubts niggle. Intuition begins perking up again. And you wonder: should you believe your abuser’s smear campaign against his ex and continue to feel sorry for him and his sufferings (which means continuing to allow yourself to be abused), or should you view his tale as a potential cognitive distortion (one he may not even not even aware of)? After pondering these questions, you then wonder: does it even make a difference, since the ex shouldn't even be a partner in your relationship in the first place?
Getting down to the core, what really matters is that mantra I keep repeating: There is no excuse for abuse. Whether or not a smear campaign against his ex is purposeful and conscious, truthful or not, makes no difference whatsoever. To again quote Lundy Bancroft:
"The instant he uses [his ex] as an excuse to mistreat you, stop believing anything he tells you about that relationship and instead recognize it as a sign that he has problems relating to women … Whether he presents himself as the victim of an ex-partner, or of his parents, the abuser’s aim—though perhaps unconscious—is to play on your compassion, so that he can avoid dealing with his problem."
Don’t fall for it. Give your compassion to yourself and your own healing. You deserve to be treated with love and respect, not with coercive control and cruel mistreatment. If he won’t deal with his problem head-on, without excuse or blame, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to help him. You can’t fill his bottomless well of need. You can’t love him into good behavior. For the sake of self-preservation please, please stop trying.
 Lundy Bancroft in his talk “Inside the Minds of Abusers” given on June 2, 2021 at the WNAAD 2021 Survivor Empowerment Summit, https://wnaad.com. See also Lundy Bancroft, Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?, article “Jealousy is Not Love,” 42-43. Additionally, domestic violence expert Natalie Collins points out, “Negativity about an ex-partner can sometimes be an early warning sign that somebody is abusive. Setting up a scenario where his ex is responsible for all negative aspects of the previous relationship may show an inability to take responsibility.” Natalie Collins, Out of Control: Couples, Conflict and the Capacity for Change, 45.
 Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, 27-29.
 Ibid., 28; see also “The Narcissist’s Smear Campaign,” https://medium.com/psychology-self-healing/the-narcissists-smear-campaign-4ea460bbbd05; Dr. Les Carter, “Narcissistic Injury: Navigating the Injured Narcissist,” https://survivingnarcissism.tv/narcissistic-injury/; Angie Atkinson, “Narcissists are Liars! 12 Lies Narcissists Want You to Believe” (the 10th lie she mentions in this video, at 14 minutes), https://youtu.be/TV_xgPpb3O0.
 Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? 27.
 Lundy Bancroft in his talk “Inside the Minds of Abusers” given on June 2, 2021 at the WNAAD 2021 Survivor Empowerment Summit, https://wnaad.com.
 Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?, 28.
(For more on smear campaigns, see Dr. Lilian Caibiron, "The Smear Campaign: How a Toxic Person Tries to Destroy His Target's Credibility")
 Donald G. Dutton, The Abusive Personality: A Psychological Profile, 42.
 See Dr. Vanessa R. Abernathy, “Why is Lying So Important to Covert Narcissism?”, https://drvabernathy.com/why-is-lying-so-important-to-covert-narcissism/; Erin Leonard, Ph.D., “Does a Narcissist Believe His or Her Own Lies?”, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/peaceful-parenting/201906/does-narcissist-believe-his-or-her-own-lies; Angela Atkinson, “Narcissists Believe Their Own Lies: Here’s Why,” https://queenbeeing.com/narcissists-believe-their-own-lies-heres-why/; Lundy Bancroft, Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?, article “When Your Partner Rewrites History,” 114.
 Erin Leonard, Ph.D., “Does a Narcissist Believe His or Her Own Lies?”, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/peaceful-parenting/201906/does-narcissist-believe-his-or-her-own-lies
 Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?, 29.
One of the most common excuses abusive people give for their behavior is their damaging childhood. They may tell stories about their emotional neglect, physical neglect, beatings, narcissistic parenting, or any other issues. And it's true: most abusers do tend to have childhood issues. This early damage often results in a halting of emotional maturity and a development of personality disruptions. Even so, using these issues as a "get out of jail free" card is wrong -- always and in every way. It's just plain wrong, and devastatingly damaging to their target(s).
While these stories may be true, exaggerated, or outright lies, when we get right down to it, does the truth of the matter even make a difference? Although compassion towards all people is an essential ingredient of human existence, since we are all made in the beautiful image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26), “compassion” that takes the form of allowing someone to excuse their toxic behavior isn’t true compassion. True compassion is honesty; it’s fraternal correction, and “charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction … it is friendship and communion” (CCC 1829). As St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: “Hatred of a person’s evil is equivalent to love of his good. Hence also this perfect hatred belongs to love.”
Always remember: There is no excuse for abuse. None whatsoever. Domestic violence expert Lundy Bancroft points out that “abusers of all varieties tend to realize the mileage they can get out of saying, ‘I’m abusive because the same thing was done to me.’” He even lists this “excuse for abuse” as “Myth #1” in his list of seventeen “myths about abusers” (the second myth is another excuse that’s so common I’ll address it in a future post— “His previous partner hurt him”). Often, abusers have “woman issues,” so to blame a neglectful childhood by focusing on his mother as the cause of his misery further fuels his excuse for not being able to relate properly to the partner he’s supposed to love, respect, and cherish “all the days of his life.” However, it must also be noted that another type of abusive personality truly did experience childhood neglect which results in lack of object constancy (fear of abandonment) and other relationship issues. These are most commonly seen in personality disordered individuals, particularly those suffering from BPO (borderline personality organization, which is someone who has borderline traits but isn't necessarily BDP), as discussed by Donald G. Dutton in his seminal book Abusive Personality: Violence and Control in Intimate Relationships. I'll write more on attachment styles, the development of BPD, brain trauma, and the fear of abandonment in future posts.
Victims of intimate partner violence need to keep one thing in mind: compassion and empathy should never act as an excuse to allow him to continue his abusive ways, nor is it a reason to stay in a toxic relationship. Besides, wouldn’t being a victim of abuse cause him to be more likely not to abuse others, because he’d be more sensitive toward kindness and not wanting anyone else to go through the suffering he endured? If that’s not how he responds to his personal trauma, then he has serious psychological issues to work through. Such work will take a great deal of time (as well as professional help) in order for true change to take place—if he’s even willing to dig that deep into himself and experience the excruciating pain of healing. Some abusive personalities are willing to take the years (yes, years) necessary to do this work and to do it thoroughly, but most aren’t. Such change is extraordinarily difficult to make, and requires a complete life overhaul (he must change not only his actions and behaviors but his core attitudes, beliefs, and chronic toxic patterns, and he must stop clinging to his victimhood mentality as a way of excusing his behaviors and blaming others).
The thing to remember as you make your transition from a target of intimate partner violence to a strong and solid survivor of IPV is that you can feel compassion for the possibility that your partner may be telling the truth about his childhood, but you can do so from afar (whether physically from afar, or emotionally). Don’t let your empathy for him interfere with your empathy for yourself. That’s what he wants, so he can maintain the status quo and continue his behaviors of control and manipulation. Yet you deserve better than that. You deserve respect, love, and empathetic nurturing. The first step in respecting, loving, and nurturing yourself is to refuse to buy into his victimhood stories. Again, whether or not they’re true makes no difference whatsoever. If he’s using those stories as an excuse for why you supposedly “trigger” him and why he feels the need to mistreat you in horrific ways (whether those ways are physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, sexual, verbal, or a combination), then that’s a definite sign that the abuse will continue.
“When our friends fall into sin, we ought not to deny them the amenities of friendship, so long as there is hope of their mending their ways … When, however, they fall into very great wickedness, and become incurable, we ought no longer to show them friendliness.”
--St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II, Q. 25, a. 6, ad. 2.
 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II, Q. 25, a. 6, ad. 1.
 Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, 26.
 Ibid., 25.
 For more on the topic of the common technique of using childhood trauma as an excuse for abuse, see Dr. Les Carter, Enough About You, Let’s Talk About Me, 25; Shahida Arabi, A Highly Sensitive Person’s Guide to Dealing with Toxic People, 33; Shahida Arabi, Becoming the Narcissist’sNightmare, 54-55, 60; George Simon, Jr., Ph.D., In Sheep’s Clothing, 127-128; Debra Mirza, The Covert Passive Aggressive Narcissist, 149; Don Hennessy, How He Gets Into Her Head, 32-33; Patricia Evans, Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out, Chapter 5, “Blame,” 76-89; Natalie Collins, Out of Control, 44-45; the official website of NY State, “Understanding Domestic Abusers: Common Excuses for Domestic Abuse,” https://opdv.ny.gov/professionals/abusers/excuses.html; Love is Respect, “Childhood Trauma is NO Excuse for Abusive Behavior,” https://www.loveisrespect.org/resources/childhood-trauma-is-no-excuse-for-abusive-behavior/; and … far too many more resources to list.
Have you frequently or even consistently been called traumatizing names by the person who is supposed to love you for who you are, as you are, “for better or for worse”? Some name-calling techniques are overt, demeaning, and horrible, such as:
If any of this sounds familiar, and is a consistent pattern in your relationship rather than an all-too-human “one-off” mistake, then you may be involved with an emotional/verbal/psychological abuser. These types of abusers are often covert passive-aggressive, so their manipulative techniques are far more difficult to detect than the overt, grandiose types of abusers.
Think, too, about the context of abusive comments. If a man (and yes, I realize women can be abusers as well, but far more women are victims than men, and I’m a woman, so I’m going with that pronoun simply to avoid the awkward “he/she”) …. Anyway, as I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself. If an abuser claims he “said things he didn’t mean” while refusing to admit he’s an abusive person with a habit of spewing demeaning criticisms and accusations at his target (often in predictable cycles, see “Unwittingly Describing the Abuse Cycle”), then please be aware … Red Flag Alert! If he claims to be a victim rather than abuser for any number of questionable reasons , then … Red Flag Alert!
People with these sorts of mindsets tend to feel a huge level of toxicity and resentment toward those who they feel (or who actually have) slighted, abused, or mistreated them. Those who cling to their victim mentality love to talk about how manipulative, closed-minded, emotionally unavailable, and generally neglectful their mothers or peers or exes or bosses (or whomever else) had been toward them. They’re damaged, and that’s why they abuse. Or so their story goes.
All these things may or may not be true. I’m not judging one way or another, but I am saying that the levels of toxic resentment that are held by such personalities in order to maintain their victimhood status create a thick, tense, and unbearable atmosphere within what should be the safety of the home. And this is wording things mildly.
That’s why context is so crucial. Let’s say that your abuser has mother-issues; he resents his mother, sees her as a manipulative and emotionally cold woman and says he’s been damaged by her negative influence (which, again, may or may not be true—but that’s not the point). Let’s say that in one of his Mr. Hyde rages, he shouts in a spewing and toxic rage, “You’re the greatest manipulator since my mother!”
What then? Well, in context you can realize what an abusive man you’re dealing with. He has unresolved issues—obviously. But he should never—ever—take his psychological issues out on you. That’s just wrong—and cruel, and unjust, and unfathomable.
When hearing a phrase such as “You’re the greatest manipulator since my mother,” listening to it in context and knowing how he feels about his mother and her (real or imagined) manipulations sends a distinct, purposeful, and biting message to you, the target. In this example he intends to more than “merely” zap yet another critical insult at you, but is directly stating how he feels about you, which is on par with his mother, a woman he feels to be akin to the Wicked Witch of the West.
Solid relationships are built upon trust, mutual self-giving, friendship, and openness. All of these things simply aren’t possible with someone who can’t see you for who you truly are, but rather views you through his own darky-coloured lens of resentment and past hurt (injuries which have nothing to do with you).
I’ve used this “mother example” only because it’s so common, but you can apply this technique to a myriad of other abusive behaviors and comments. My point here is to demonstrate just one of the many red flags of abusive, coercive, and manipulative relationships. I’ll detail others in future posts but for now, I’ll leave you with this brief list of further red flags. If several of these are present in your relationship, you may want to consider seeking more information in IPV (intimate partner violence) and take the time to think seriously and deeply on where you’re at in your life, how you feel about yourself and your relationship, and the next steps you may need to take (here’s a list of resources to get you started). And remember, violence isn’t limited to physical or sexual abuse. It can also be emotional, verbal, psychological, and spiritual--the most toxic types of abuse.
The following list of red flags indicating that you may be involved with an intimate partner abuser come from my upcoming book, Don’t Plant Your Seeds Among Thorns: A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Domestic Abuse. Obviously the more traits you find in your relationship, the greater the chances that you’re involved with a chronic abuser. Again, it’s important to remember that these signs must be seen in a consistent manner, not a “one-off” mistake. Abuse is a pattern and a way of living for the manipulative person, not a one-time thing. Being abusive is a core attitude, not a merely human mistake.
Some typical red flags include:
“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45)
 “Playing the victim role” is a very common tactic domestic abusers employ “in order to gain sympathy, evoke compassion and thereby get something from another.” George Simon, Jr., Ph.D., In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People, Revised edition (Little Rock, AK: Parkhust Brothers, Inc., Publishers, 2010), 127-128. See also Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men (NY, NY: Berkley Books, 2002), 25-29; Don Hennessy, How He Gets Into Her Head: The Mind of the Male Intimate Abuser (Cork, Ireland: Atrium, an imprint of Cork University Press, 2012), 32-33; Patricia Evans, Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out: On Relationship and Recovery (Avon, MA: Adams Media, 1993), Chapter 5, “Blame,” 76-89; Joseph M. Carver Ph.D., “Love and Stockholm Syndrome: The Mystery of Loving an Abuser,” http://drjoecarver.makeswebsites.com/clients/49355/File/love_and_stockholm_syndrome.html (accessed April 19, 2021); Natalie Collins, Out of Control: Couples, Conflict and the Capacity for Change (London, UK: SPEK, 2019), 44-45.
I'm Jenny duBay, a domestic abuse survivor and now advocate. My degree is in Christian theology with a concentration on spiritual direction, and my vocational emphasis is on helping those who have suffered from domestic abuse to heal and reclaim their true selves.