"But He Loves Me!" - Signs of an Abusive Personality

"But he loves me!" How many times have you heard that line as you watched the blood gushing out of your friends mouth. How many times have you yourself looked in the mirror only to focus on the black and blue marks left on your body out of love? How many times has your partner belittled you ,insulted you or degraded you lowering your self-esteem? All the while, you knowing in the back of your mind this is NOT what love is. The statistics of abused partners are staggering. 4.8 million people per year are assaulted by those they are in an intimate relationship with. But less than 20% seek help. The purpose of this post is to provide information needed ahead of time so you will notice the signs of an abuser before you are so sowed up in to their "manipulative charm" that you lose your sense of self.

Please don't be mistaken that abusive is only physical. It can be emotional, mental, (verbal) and also spiritual.

Signs of an Abusive Personality
Below is a list of behaviors seen in people who abuse their partners. These signs can be observed within the relationship; because abusers generally manipulate people by being charming to get their way, it is very difficult to identify an abuser by his behaviors towards people outside of a relationship.

The last four signs in this list are almost always seen only if the person is an abuser. If the person has several of the other behaviors (say, three or more) there is a strong potential of abuse. The more signs the person has, the more likely he is an abuser. In some cases the batterer may only have a few recognizable signs, but they are very exaggerated; for example, extreme jealousy over ridiculous things.

The Signs

Initially the abuser tries to explain his behavior as a sign of his love or concern. The partner may be flattered at first, but as time goes on, these behaviors become more severe and serve to dominate the woman.
*Quick involvement

Many battered women dated or knew their abuser less than six months before they became engaged or began living together. He comes on like a whirlwind: "You're the only person I've ever really been able to talk to. I've never felt loved like this before." He needs someone desperately and pressures you to commit to him. Unused to men's wanting commitment, many women believe that this is a sign of his love.

*Unrealistic expectations

He is very dependent on you for all his needs, expects you to be the perfect wife, partner, mother, lover, friend. He often says, "You're all I need. If you love me, I'm all you need." You are supposed to take care of everything emotionally as well as in the home.

*Rigid sex roles

He sees women as inferior to men, more stupid, unable to be a whole person without a relationship. He expects you to obey him, to serve him, to stay home.

*Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde

He has "sudden" changes in mood. One minute he's nice, the next minute he explodes. Anything can set him off on a rampage, even things not involving you, like problems with the car, difficulties at work, etc. Explosiveness and mood swings are typical of men who beat their partners, and these behaviors are related to other characteristics, such as hypersensitivity.

*Blames others for his problems

Almost anything that goes wrong in his life is someone else's fault. For example, if he lost his job or is chronically unemployed, he may say, "They did me in. They were out to get me." He makes mistakes and blames you. Almost anything that goes wrong is your fault.

*Blames others for his feelings

When he becomes angry and abusive it's because "You made me mad. You're hurting me by not doing what I ask. I can't help being angry." He really makes the decision about what he thinks or feels, but uses his feelings to manipulate you. Hard to catch are his claims, "You make me happy. You control how I feel."

*Poor or negative self-image

Research has found that abusers have lower self-esteem and masculinity scores than other men tested. One researcher calls this a "failed macho complex." These men appear to over-compensate for what they see as their failure to live up to the masculine sex role stereotype.


He is easily insulted, or takes the slightest set-back as a personal attack. He claims his feelings are "hurt" when he's really very mad. He rants and raves about the injustice of things that have happened to him - things that are really just part of living - like being asked to work over-time, getting a traffic ticket, being asked to help around the house.

*Verbal abuse

He says cruel and hurtful things, uses foul and degrading language to describe you or parts of your body, attacks your self-esteem by criticizing your looks, running down your family, friends or accomplishments. He tells you you are stupid and unable to function without him.


At the beginning of the relationship, he says that his jealousy is a sign of his love. In reality, jealousy has nothing to do with love - it is a sign of his insecurity and possessiveness. He's constantly suspicious of any contact you have with other men at work or in social situations. He questions you about who you talk to, accuses you of flirting, or is jealous of time you spend with family, friends or children. As his jealousy and possessiveness increase, he may call you frequently or drop by unexpectedly to check on you. He may refuse to let you work for fear you'll meet someone else, or even check your car mileage or ask friends to watch you.

*Controlling behavior

At first, he says he's just concerned about you. He may throw a tantrum if you are a few minutes late coming home from work or the store, or question you closely about where you went, who you spoke to. He may not let you make personal decisions about the house, your clothing, going out with friends. He may keep control over all the money, making you ask him for anything you need.


He tries to cut you off from friends and family. If you have men friends, you're a "whore"; if you have women friends, you're a lesbian; if you have close family ties, you're "tied to the apron strings." He accuses people who are your supports of "causing trouble." He may restrict your use of the phone, limit your use of the car or prevent you from going to work or school.

*"Playful" use of force in sex

He may like throwing you down, holding your wrists, jumping on top of you or holding you up against a wall or door to have intercourse. He may want to act out fantasies where you are helpless. He's letting you know that the idea of rape excites him. He may show little concern about whether you want to have sex, and use sulking or anger to manipulate you into compliance. He may start having sex with you while you are sleeping, or when you are ill or tired. 34% to 59% of battered women report they were forced to have sexual intercourse. Although people usually associate rape with the use of great physical force or weapons, it is still rape if you agree to have sex simply because you are afraid of what he will do if you refuse.

*Cruelty to children and animals

Studies of battering men have found that between 40% to 70% physically abuse their children. He may expect a child to be capable of doing things far beyond her ability, like whipping a 2 year old for wetting a diaper, or may tease a child until he cries. He may not want to eat at the table with the children. He may punish animals brutally, insensitive to their pain or suffering, or deliberately abuse animals in front of you and the children in order to use the animal's anguish to terrorize or manipulate you. Between 71% and 80% of battered women have reported that their abuser also abused animals.

*Has witnessed abuse

Many abusers were themselves abused as children or saw their mothers abused by their fathers. In one study, 57% of male batterers were exposed to one form or another of domestic violence as children - either as victims of child abuse or as witnesses of spousal violence. Almost one-third were both victims and witnesses.


* Past battering

He may say that he hit a partner in the past - but she made him do it. You may hear from relatives or former partners that he is abusive. A Los Angeles abusers' counselor reported that all 150 abusers he had treated acknowledged they had abused other partners.

* Threats of violence

He makes threats meant to control you: "I'll smack you if you mouth off." "I'll break your neck." "I'll kill you." Most men do not threaten their mates, but an abuser excuses himself by saying, "Everybody talks like that."

* Hitting or breaking objects

This behavior is used as a punishment (breaking loved possessions), but is mostly used to intimidate and frighten you into submission. He may beat on tables or doors with his fists, or throw things at or near you. Again, this is very remarkable behavior; only very immature people beat on objects in the presence of other people to threaten them.

* Any use of force during an argument

He may hold you down, restrain you from leaving a room, push or shove you, or hold you against a wall saying, "You are going to listen to me."

Adapted from a handout developed by the Project for Victims of Family Violence, Fayetteville, AR.

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