Early Warning Signs

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Registered: 05-19-2006
Early Warning Signs
Wed, 11-29-2006 - 1:59pm

Here is a shorten version of a blurb from "Why does he do that" By Lundy Bancroft.


The following warning flags mean that abuse could be down the road, and perhaps not far:


A certain amount of anger and resentment toward an ex-partner is normal, but beware of the man who is very focused on his bitterness or who tells you about it inappropriately early on in your dating. Be especially cautious of the man who talks about women from his past in degrading or condescending ways or who characterizes himself as a victim of abuse by women. Be alert if he says that his previous wife or girlfriend falsely accused him of being abusive; the great majority of reports of abuse are accurate. When you hear that another woman considers him abusive, ALWAYS find a way to get her side of the story. Even if you end up not believing her you will at least know the behaviors to watch out for in him, just in case. Be cautious also of the man who admits to abusing a former partner but claims that the circumstances were expectional, blames it on her, or blames it on alcohol or immaturity.

Be cautious of the man who says that you are nothing like he other women he has been involved with, that you are the first partner to treat him well, or that earlier women in his life have not understood him. You will be tempted to work doubly hard to prove that you aren't like those other women, and one foot will already be in the trap. It won't be long before he is telling you that you are "just like the rest of them."

Notice whether he seems to accept any responsibility for what went wrong in his previous relationships. If everything was always the women's fault, you will soon be to blame for all difficulties in this new relationship.


Disrespect is the soil in which abuse grows. If a man puts you down or sneers at your opinions, if he is rude to you in front of other people, if he is cutting and sacrastic, he is communicating a lack of respect. If these kinds of behaviours are a recurring problem, or if he defends them when you complain about how they affect you, control and abuse are likely to be in the offing. Disrespect also can take the form of idealizing you and putting you on a pedestal as a perfect women or goddess, perhaps treating you like a piece of fine china. The man who worships you in this way is not seeing YOU; he is seeing his fantasy, and when you fail to live up to that image he may turn nasty. So there may not be much different between the man who talks down to you and the one who elevates you; both are displaying a failure to respect you as a real human being and bode ill.


These can be signs of a man who is attempting to create a sense of indebtedness. My client Alan, for example, spent much of his first two years with Tory helping her brother fix his car, helping her sister paint her new apartment, and transporting her father to medical appointments. When Tory's family started to become upset about how Alan was treating her, Alan was able to convince her that her relatives had taken advantage of him and were now turning against him unfairly. He said, "Now that they don't need my help anymore they want to get me out of the way so they can have you to themselves." Alan succeeded in getting Tory to feel sorry for him, therby driving a wedge between her and her family that endured for years until she saw through Alan's manipulation.


At first it can be exciting to be with a man who takes charge. Here's a typicl story from the partner of one of my clients:
-Our first few dates were exciting and fun. I remember him arriving at my house with our evening all planned out. He'd say "We're going to the Parker House for a drink, then we're having Chinese dinner, and then I've got tickets for a comedy club." It would all have to according to plan. At first I loved the way he would design what he wanted to do with me. But then I started to notice that he rarely considered what I might want to do. We kept going out to things that he enjoys, like hockey games. I enjoy hockey games, too, but it's not my top interest. After a few months, he started to get annoyed if I wasn't in the mood to do what he wanted.

Control usually begins in stuble ways, far from anything you would call abuse. He drops comments about your clothes or your looks (too sexy or not sexy enough); is a little negative about your family or one of your good friends; starts to pressure you to spend more time with him or to quit your job or get a better job that pays more; starts to give too much advice about how you should manage your own life and shows a hint of impatience when you resist his recommendations; or begins to act bothered that you don't share all of his opinions about politics, personal relationships, music, or other tastes.


Jealous behaviour is one of the surest signs that abuse is down the road. Possessiveness masquerades as love. A man may say "I'm sorry I got so bent out of shape about you talking to your ex-boyfriend, but I've never been so crazy about a woman before. I just can't stand thinking of you with another man." He may call five times a day keeping track of what you are doing all the time or insist on spending every evening with you. His feelings for you probably are powerful, but that's not why he wants constant contact; he is keeping tabs on you, essentially establishing that you are his domain. Depending on what kind of friend he has, he also may be trying to impress them with how well he has you under his thumb. All of these behaviours are about ownership, not love.

Jealous feeling are not the same as behaviors. A man with some insecurities may naturally feel anxious about your associates with other men, especially ex-partner, and might want some reassurance. But if he indicated that he expects you to give up your freedom to accomodate his jealousy, control is creeping up. Your social life shouldn't have to change because of his insecurities.

A man's jealousy can be flattering. It feels great that he is wildly in love with you, that he wants you so badly. But a man can be crazy about you without being jealous. Possessiveness shows that he doesn't love you as an independent human being but rather as a guarded treasure. After a while, you will feel suffocated by his constant vigilance.


He blames something or someone for anything that goes wrong. As time goes by, the target of his blame increasingly becomes you. This style of man also tends to make promises that he doesn't keep, coming up with a steady stream of excuses for disappointing you or behaving irresponsibly, and prehaps taking serious economic advantage of you in the process.


In the first few months of a relationship, the abuser's self-centeredness is not always apparent, but there are symptoms you can watch for. Notice whether he does a lot more than his share of the talking, listens poorly when you speak, and chronically shifts the topic of conversation back to himself. Self-centerdness is a personality characteristic that is highly resistand to change, as it has deep roots in either profound entitlement (in abusers) or to severe early emotional injuries (in non-abusers), or both (in narcissistic abusers).


Be especially careful if he pressures you to participate in substance use with him. Although substances do not cause partner abuse, they often go hand in hand. He may try to hook you into believing that you can help him get clean and sober; substance abusers are often "just about" to quit.


This warning sign is always important, but even more so for teenagers and young adult men. Not respecting your wishes for feelings regarding sex speaks of exploitativeness, which in turn goes with abuse. It also is a sign of seeing women as sex objects rather than human beings. If he says you need to have sex with him to prove that you truly love and care for him, give him the walking papers.


Because so many men are commitment-phobic, a woman can feel relieved to find a partner who isn't afraid to talk about marriage and family. But watch out if he jumps too soon into planning your future together without taking enough time to get to know you and grow close, because it can mean that he's trying to wrap you up tightly into a package that he can own. Take steps to slow things down a little. If he won't respect your wishes in this regard, there is probably trouble ahead.


Intimidation, even if it appears unintentional, is a sign that emotional abuse is on the way - or has already begun - and is a warning flag that physical violence may eventually follow. Any of the following behaviors should put you on alert:
-He gets too close to you when he's angry, puts a finger in your face, pokes you, pushes you, blocks your way, or restrains you.
-He tells you that he is "just trying to make you listen"
-He raises a fist, towers over you, shouts you down, or behaves in any other way that makes you flinch or feel afraid.
-He makes vaguely threatening comments, such as, "You don't want to see me mad" or "You don't know who you're messing with"
-He drives recklessly or speeds up when he's angry
-He punches walls or kicks doors
-He throws things around, even if they don't hit you

The more deeply involved you become with an intimidating man, the more difficult it will be to get out of the relationship. Unfortunately, many women believe just the opposite; They think, well he does scare me a little sometimes, but I'll wait and see if it gets worse, and I'll leave him if it does. But getting away from someone who has become frightening is much more complicated than most people realize, and it gets harder with each day that passes. Don't wait around to see.


Beware of the man who has a different set of rule for his behavior than for yours. Double standards are an important aspect of life with an abuser.


A man may claim early in a relationship that he views you in a light different from that in which he sees women in general, but the distinction won't last. If you are a woman, why be involved with someone who sees women as inferior, stupid, conniving, or only good for sex? He isn't going to forget for long that you're a woman.

Stereotyped beliefs about women's sex roles also contribute to the risk of abuse. His conviction that women should take care of the home, or that a man's career is more important than a woman's, can become a serious problem, because he may punish you when you start refusing to live in his box. Women sometimes find it challenging to meet men who don't have restrictive beliefs about women's role, particularly within certain cultural or national groups, but the effort to meet such men is an important one.


Adult abusers tend to put on a show of treating their partners like gold when anyone is watching, reserving most of their abuse for times when no one else will see. In teenage abusers the opposite is often true. He may be rude and cold with her in front of other people to impress his friends with hom "in control" and "cool" he is but be somewhat nicer when they are alone together.


One way that this warning sign maifests itself is in cases of men who are attracted to women (or girls) who are much younger than they are. Why, for example, does a twenty-two-year old man pursue a sixteen-year old adolescent. Because he is stimulated and challenged by her? Obviously not. They are at completely different developmental points in their life with a dramatic imbalance in their levels of knowledge and experience. He is attracted to power and seeks a partner who will look up to him with awe and allow him to lead her. Of course, he usually tells her the opposite, insisting that he wants to be with her because of hom unusually mature and sophisticated she is for her age. He may even compliment her on her sexual prowess and say how much power she has other him, setting up the young victim so that she won't recognize what is happening to her. Even without a chronical age difference, some abusive men are drawn to women who have less life experience, knowledge, or self-confidence, and who will look up to a man as a teacher or mentor.

****No single one of the warning signs above is a sure sign of an abusive man, with an exception of physical intimidation. Many nonabusice men may exhibit a number of these behaviors to a limited degree. What, then, should a woman do to protect herself from having a relationship turn abusive?

-Although there is no foolproof solution, the best plan is:

1- Make it clear to him ASAP which behaviors or attitudes are unacceptable to you and that you cannot be in a relationship with him if they continue
2-If it happens again, stop seeing him for a substantial period of time. DON'T keep seeing him with the warning that this time you "really mean it," because he will probably interpret that to mean you don't.
3-If it happens a third time, or if he switched to other behaviors that are warning flags, chances are great that he has an abuse problem. If you give him too many chances, you are likely to regret it later.

Finally be aware that as an abuser begins his slide into abuse, he believes that YOU are the one who is changing. His perceptions work this way because he feels so justified in his actions that he can't imagine the problem might be with him. All he notices is that you don't seem to be living up to his image of the perfect, all-giving, deferential woman.