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Early Warning Signs That a Partner Could Become Physically Abusive

A 2018 report by the U.N. found that at least 50,000 women are killed worldwide by an intimate partner each year, and in 70-80% of those intimate partner homicides, the man physically abused the woman before the murder.

Most often, abusive relationships follow a cycle of abuse that begins with love bombing and covert manipulations. It is a well-established fact that the vast majority of these homicides occur after a continuing pattern of violence. 

Much of the information you are about to read comes from two world-renowned psychologists who specialize in intimate partner danger assessment: Dr. Donald Meichenbaum and Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell.

For the purpose of keeping things concise, the abusive partner will be referred to as “he” and the victim will be referred to as “she.” To be clear, abuse can occur in any relationship, regardless of the gender dynamic.

If you or someone you know is in a relationship with an individual who exhibits several of these indicators or more, understand that your life is already at risk. Do not wait to find out if your intuition is right.

The relationship moves quick...too quick.

Within weeks of meeting, he professes his love or makes fantasy statements such as, you are my soulmate, or, we are destined to be together. Within long he proposes marriage or asks her to move in. She feels as though he has placed her on a pedestal. 

Most victims of abusive relationships describe being love bombed with grandiose gestures of attention and affection. Psychologists have identified love bombing as the first stage in the cycle of abuse, wherein the abuser weaponizes love to gain power over their victim.

He reacts with giant displays of aggression.

His reactions to inconveniences or perceived rejections are bafflingly inappropriate and over-the-top. He seems entirely incapable of handling even the slightest stressors maturely. Furthermore, he believes it is his right to react aggressively and he behaves as though even the smallest offenses should be treated like a threat against his life.

He can't seem to handle stress at all.

Rather than resolving conflict with his words, he uses a variety of emotional or psychological manipulation tactics to evade accountability. If those don’t work, he may resort to engaging in risky behavior, such as binge drinking, reckless driving, or unprotected sexual intercourse. 

He abuses alcohol or other substances.

According to many global studies on the relationship between alcohol and domestic violence, two-thirds of abuse victims report that the abuser was drinking alcohol at the time of the incident.

Alcohol impairs the abuser’s judgement, reduces inhibition, and increases aggression. However, alcohol alone is not a trigger for domestic violence. Abusers consistently exhibit a distorted perception of reality- a distortion that is merely amplified by alcohol. But an abusive person has an abusive mindset, regardless of whether or not alcohol is involved.

A common thread among abusers is that either the alcohol made them do it, or the victim did. Although they may claim they were blacked out at the time of the incident, that’s simply not how blackouts work. A person’s memory and their intent are fully intact while they are drunk. The blackout doesn’t set in until afterwards- typically, the morning after. The point is, drunk or not, they know exactly what they’re doing.

He is in current trouble with the law.

He may be on bale, probation, or parole. He may have a history of violence against intimate partners. He may collect speeding tickets like candy, and yet he continues to drive over the speed limit as though he is entitled to do so without consequence.

He is moody, unpredictable, and a bundle of bad vibes.

More often than not she feels like she is walking on eggshells. His temperament is unstable and there’s no telling when his mood will change or for what reason. He regularly wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. She may feel exhausted by his irritability and prickly attitude.

A dark shadow trails him and his negative energy fills a room. He is so oppositional and argumentative that she hesitates to share her opinion or make suggestions. He asserts his dominance everywhere, controlling all aspects of their time together, from what they eat to where they go. 

He expresses zero remorse.

An abuser’s most manipulative tactic is that he convinces the woman he acts the way he does because of her or because of his love for her. For an abuser to be remorseful, they need to feel guilty, admit their mistakes, take responsibility, and offer a true apology. 

But when confronted about his behavior, the abuser is more likely to play the victim, blame her, or attempt to justify his actions by flagrantly lying or twisting reality. A man who cannot admit his faults and take actionable steps to make amends does not love or respect his partner. He is no more than a belligerent child who loves what he can take from her, and that’s not likely to change.

He has poor academic achievement.

He has a low level of education, and in most all things he displays poor commitment. He may have dropped out of school or put in very little effort. Research indicates that males with lower levels of education than their partners are more likely to be domestic violence offenders. Additionally, those with lower levels of education may resort to violence due to an inability to communicate feelings of anger or frustration.

He is controlling, jealous, and suspicious.

He becomes agitated when she spends time with other people and he tries to manipulate her against them. He may even try to turn her against her pets. He is bothered by her partaking in independent hobbies, and discourages her with put-downs. He may accuse her of loving anything she does outside of the relationship more than she loves him. He uses possessive statements like, you’re mine.

Hey may be paranoid and suspicious of her, no matter how loyal, faithful, and devoted she is. He constantly checks in on her, or insists that she share her location. He may monitor her emails, phone calls, and search history, or demand passwords to her social media. This is not love. This is control.

His demands are non-negotiable.

He treats the word ‘no’ as the beginning of a negotiation, rather than the end of a discussion. He interprets everything as a rejection or an abandonment.

If she is too tired for sex, he accuses her not loving him. If she doesn’t buy him what he wants from the supermarket, he throws a fit and accuses her of not respecting him. Any refusal to comply with his demands results in punishment in the form of verbal assaults, withdrawal of love, or violence.

He takes pleasure in testing her physical boundaries.

He randomly pinches or bites her to the extent that he bruises or breaks her skin, and he doesn’t let go when she expresses pain or tells him to stop. He seems to enjoy making her squirm. He “playfully” smothers her with a pillow then claims he was just kidding. She may express that she doesn’t find this funny, to which he gaslights her or tells her she is being dramatic.

He is sexist or has old-school stereotypes.

He automatically assumes it’s her responsibility to do his laundry, to clean, and to cook him dinner. He leaves his dirty dishes everywhere and expects her to pick up after him.

He treats her like his maid and puts in no effort to help. Nonetheless, he still has the audacity to criticize her when she doesn’t meet his standards. He is condescending. His words and/or actions make it clear that he believes the man is the head of the house and the woman should obey him. 

He isolates her from her social network.

He uses subtle manipulations to pit her against her support network along with anyone who could awaken some sense into her. He makes claims such as, your family doesn’t have your best interest at heart, or, your friends don’t want us to be together. 

He may fabricate stories about her friends to destroy her trust in them, or guilt trip her into only spending time with him. For example, he may lie that her friend hit on him. Or he may accuse her of cheating with a friend of the opposite sex. Finally, he may pressure her to move with him someplace where she has no support network at all.

He has many unhealthy relationships in his life.

Abusive people have abusive personalities and the romantic partner of an abuser won’t be the only one to notice. Many or most of the abuser’s relationships may be unhealthy, including his relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. 

The abuser may have few friendships at all, or they may have difficulty holding down a job. This is likely because they have spewed their toxicity into the lives of everyone around. 

Notice how he communicates with family. Does he talk over them? Does he raise his voice or cut them off? Listen to how he speaks of people from his past. Does he have nothing but negative things to say about his former friends or romantic partners?

If it seems like very few people in the abuser’s life want anything to do with them or that their interactions are kept to a minimum, there’s a good chance his toxicity will inevitably spew into her life as well.

A woman's intuition is the strongest tool she has.

Abusers utilize numerous emotionally abusive tactics to manipulate and gain power over their victims.

If you suspect that you are in a relationship with an abusive person, learn to identify these tactics before they get the best of you, and contact a domestic violence support counselor who can work with you to develop a plan to quietly and safely escape.

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