Focus on the Family

Are You in an Abusive Relationship?

Woman coping with an abusive relationship
You may be in danger from an abusive relationship and not even know it.

I once chatted with a 36-year-old man on the Internet who asked if I would like to see his requirements for a mate and marriage. “Sure,‚” I typed. “Send them over.‚” His request was curious, but I was amused when I received his list for the perfect wife.

His criteria for marriage were included in approximately eight e-mails with three to four attachments each. He’d also written an essay describing his perfect mate. She must home school their children, be attractive, trim and of average height and weight, debt-free, never married, a virgin, she must never have had any venereal diseases and she must be able to give him “wild sex” whenever he asked. Most of all, she must be submissive like his pastor instructed him.

Within minutes after reading his list, my “abusive man” detector started blinking wildly. But just to make sure that my suspicions were correct, I asked him a few questions.

I discovered that he grew up in a home with an overbearing father who was a perfectionist and a competitive mother who threw things when she was angry and who “was not submissive enough.” He said his parents showed him love by teaching him how to succeed (or, in other words, to be perfect). The wild thing was that he saw nothing wrong with his requirements and even stated that he had once struggled with perfectionism, but had overcome it.

I decided to run like the wind.

Why? Because even though some of this man’s standards are godly (he even said he thought a man should save $25,000 before marrying to provide for his family) his rigid rules, with an inability to extend grace, signaled potential control and abuse. His list reminds me of something author Patricia Evans wrote.

In The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Evans says that an abusive man creates an ideal world that does not exist by forming an image of the perfect woman. But when his love interest shows flaws that reveal she is human, he becomes angry because she does not meet his expectations.

Why It’s Not Always Easy to Recognize an Abuser

I wish it were always as easy to recognize a potential abuser like this man. However, it’s not always simple because: A) We’ve not been taught what red abuse flags to look for, B) Emotional and verbal abuses are often more difficult to identify than blatant physical abuse , and C) When you’re in an abusive relationship, confusion reigns, so it can be difficult to see if you’re date is abusive.

My prayer is that through this article you’ll recognize characteristics of an abuser so that you can get help for your current relationship or avoid abuse in the future.

Abuse Doesn’t Only Happen to Women

Even though so far I’ve focused on men, let me say that women can also be abusive. Just yesterday I chatted with a man in his 40s who stated that he is “hiding in an undisclosed location” to get away from an abusive woman. Given the right deadly cocktail of negative family influences and low self-esteem problems, anyone can be abusive, whether they are male or female.

A Quiz to Help You Recognize Abuse

Perhaps you’re wondering how you can spot an abuser and may even be concerned that you are involved with one. Here are some questions from Education Wife Assault to ask yourself about your relationship. If you answer yes to any of these questions, I encourage you to speak with a counselor or trusted friend.

  • Do you feel that something is wrong with your relationship, but you don’t know how to describe it?
  • Do you feel that your date does not value your thoughts or feelings?
  • Will he or she do anything to win an argument, such as put you down, threaten or intimidate you?
  • Does your date get angry and jealous if you talk to someone else? Are you accused of cheating?
  • Do you feel that you cannot do anything right in your date’s eyes?
  • Are you told that no one else would want you?
  • Do you feel like you have to account for your time?
  • When you try to talk to your date about problems, does he/she call you names?
  • If you want to spend money, does your date try to tell you how to manage your finances?
  • Does your date blame you for everything that goes wrong?
  • Do you feel nervous around your date?
  • Do you have to be careful to control your behavior to avoid his/her anger?
  • Are you afraid of disagreeing with your date?
  • Did he/she initially seem extremely charming but now criticizes and humiliates you in front of others?
  • Does your date tell you that if you changed, he/she wouldn’t abuse you?
  • Does your date’s jealousy stop you from seeing friends or family?
  • Does your date make you feel like you are crazy, wrong, stupid or inadequate?
  • Does your date ever scare you with violence or threatening behavior?
  • Does your date prevent you from going out and doing the things you want to do?
  • Does your date punish you for resisting control?
  • Does your date say that they will kill or hurt you or themselves if you break up with them?
  • Does your date make excuses for behavior, for example, by saying it’s because of alcohol or drugs or because they can’t control their temper or that they were “just joking.”
  • Did your date press you for quick involvement?

What to do if you are convinced that you’re in an abusive relationship

If after taking this quiz you’re convinced that you’re involved with someone who is abusive, the main thing to realize is that regardless of what your significant other has told you, you are not responsible for their behavior. Abusers are skilled at twisting the truth to make you feel like you are the one with the problems and that you are going crazy. Remember, you are not to blame.

Second, recognize that you cannot change your date no matter how good or kind you are.

Third, you’ll need to speak with someone about your relationship. Abused victims are often afraid to speak out about their abuser because they feel that they must protect their date or mate even if he or she is in the wrong. However, you must seek help. You can contact Focus on the Family at 1-800-A-FAMILY to speak with a licensed counselor and receive a free counseling referral for your area. Or, you may contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.

Lastly, remember that you are valuable and God has created you to be honored.

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