Many abusers can seem like Prince Charming in the beginning.
It’s only later that their true colors start to show. It’s then when abusive men try to control their partners through intimidation, threats, isolation, and even violence.
So how can you tell if a guy will be abusive before it gets to this stage? Here are the clear signs to watch out for.
17 signs a guy will be abusive in relationships
1) He uses guilt as a way to control you
Abuse can be both emotional and physical. It’s important to remember that you can find yourself in an abusive relationship, even when violence isn’t involved.
Often one of the earlier signs of abuse forming in a relationship is emotional manipulation. A great way to manipulate you into doing what he wants is to try to make you feel bad when you don’t.
He may say things like: “You’re so selfish” or “Why do you always have to take care of everyone else but me?”
Guilt can be used to apply pressure and have things their own way.
If they manage to twist things and make you feel guilty, they get you back under control.
Look out for him playing the victim and trying to make you feel bad. For example, sulking when you want to go out with friends, or when you say no to him.
2) He puts you down
Survivors of abuse often find their self-esteem has been slowly crushed by their abusers.
Stripping away at your confidence and self-worth is a tactic that abusive men use in order to disempower you.
If he can make you feel like nothing, then you are less likely to leave him.
What is the behavior of an abuser? The truth is that, especially in the beginning, it can be quite subtle.
You might feel like he puts you down. He could call you names or make little digs. Rather than try to build you up, you may think that he criticizes and insults you.
Perhaps he embarrasses you but tries to play things down by claiming it was “just a joke”. Or he undermines you in front of other people.
Even if he quickly apologizes afterward, know that hurtful words and name-calling are never acceptable in a relationship.
3) Things move really fast
Perhaps one of the most surprising signs a guy will become abusive is the speed at which the relationship progresses.
Abusive relationships often have a fairytale start. He may sweep you off your feet. But this intensified attachment is a way of getting you to fall under his spell.
So-called “love bombing” and being very full-on are often reported in the early stages of a relationship that subsequently turns violent.
It’s part of the cycle of abuse that leads to coercive behavior, by breaking down your natural protective barrier and trying to get you to rush into things.
It can include:
- Excessive affection
- Excessive compliments
- Declarations of love straight away
- Buying you lots of gifts or treating you lavishly
- Showering you with praise.
- Wanting commitment straight away
- Making big promises
- Claiming he “can’t live without you” or that it’s only you who makes him feel this way
- Wanting to move in together, get engaged or start a family very quickly
4) It’s always someone else’s fault
Strangely, abusers often see themselves as victims.
They believe it is other people’s behavior or things that happen to them that “make” them get annoyed or act in a certain way.
Abusive men don’t take responsibility for their own behavior or feelings. Instead, they will always try to put it on somebody else.
For this reason, they may blame you for things that they did wrong. For example, because you were “winding them up”.
Abusive relationships often involve gaslighting. If you try to discuss an issue with him, he may twist reality to put it back on you — and in the process try to get you to question your own version of events.
He may also accuse you of lying or exaggerating.
By blaming others, he gets to keep doing whatever he wants while justifying that he is the victim.
5) He’s a very jealous person
Jealousy and possessiveness are common red flags that a relationship could turn abusive.
Whilst mild jealousy can crop up in any relationship, in an abusive one, it tends to be excessive.
- Not like you spending time with any other men, even friends or colleagues.
- Accuse you of flirting or having affairs.
- Want to check your phone or social media and claim if you had nothing to hide then you wouldn’t mind.
- Want to know the passwords to your email account and social networking pages.
- Always want to know where you are or who you are with.
- Sulk, get angry or try to make you feel bad for spending time with other people.
Sometimes we accept jealousy because we see it as a sign that the other person really cares about us. But that isn’t the case.
It is fundamentally about control and a lack of trust.
6) He has an explosive temper
Even when it is not directed at you, an angry streak is a warning sign of a man who could become abusive.
It shows he struggles to control his anger. He may have very little patience and is prone to overreacting, even at the slightest triggers.
When he does lose his temper, he might lash out verbally or physically. Perhaps he shouts, throws things, or acts aggressively towards you or others.
His anger can also manifest itself through controlling behaviors such as being overly critical or judgmental.
Perhaps he even threatens to hurt you or “warns you” that if you don’t stop he’s not going to be able to keep his cool.
An explosive temper is the sign of a volatile man. And the unpredictability of a volatile man who isn’t in control of extreme emotions has the potential to lead to abuse.
7) He tries to isolate you from friends and family
Another hallmark of an abusive relationship is getting cut off from support networks.
If you notice that you’ve been seeing far less of your family or friends, ask yourself why?
The reality is that we can get slightly caught up in a new relationship and make less time for others. But is it totally down to you, or are his feelings playing a part?
Maybe he “can’t stand being apart from you”, says he will “miss you too much” if you go out for the night with friends or questions why he “isn’t enough for you” if you want some space to do other things.
When they are starting to manipulate you, abusive men won’t necessarily “ban you” from seeing people. It’s more subtle than that.
They slowly isolate you from others by creating a protective bubble around your relationship. They don’t want you to do things without them, and they use manipulation to stop you.
8) He has “crazy” exes
How does he speak about his exes? How does he talk about his previous relationships?
Abusive men are unlikely to tell you the truth but there are big clues hidden in what they say about former flames.
Beware the guy who tells you that his ex is totally “crazy”. If he lays blame fully at their doorstep then there could be more to it.
At the very least, unstable patterns in a relationship are partly his fault too. Sure, he could have genuinely ended up in a bad situation once through no fault of his own.
But realistically, if things turned very sour, he had a hand in that as well.
Is he in contact with any of his exes? How did they part — on good terms or bad?
Red flags in his relationship history can indicate the potential for the same issues in your relationship.
9) He has mood swings
One day things couldn’t be better between you two, and the next he’s like a totally different person.
This is a sign that his mask is starting to slip.
If you don’t know who you will come home to, then his moods seem quite unstable. Perhaps you even feel like you’re dating Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
He may have periods where he seems really happy and loving one minute, and the next he’ll turn into a monster.
At this stage, some survivors of abuse stick around because they so desperately want the man they fell for to come back.
They still see glimmers of him and they hope that the unpleasant sides are just a phase. Or they think that maybe he’s not all bad, and just needs someone to help him work through his problems.
This is how the cycle of abuse often continues — bad behavior, followed by regret, followed by a repeat of bad behavior.
10) His life is focused on you
It’s certainly the sign of an unhealthy relationship when someone has little else going on in their life other than their partner. And it can be an early warning sign of a potentially abusive relationship too.
If he doesn’t have a life away from you it’s not a great sign. For example, he doesn’t have much of a social life.
As a consequence you find it challenging to have time on your own. You might also notice that he’s constantly checking up on you, making sure you’re “safe”, whether you’re doing something alone or with friends.
You may notice yourself feeling guilty if you spend time with friends or family without telling him first.
11) He is forceful or pushy around sex
If he makes you feel uncomfortable during foreplay or intercourse, then it’s a red flag.
You might get the impression that he doesn’t care about your feelings or needs sexually, as long as he is getting what he wants.
You might feel bullied or manipulated into having sex, even when you don’t want to. If you’re not in the mood, he piles on the guilt until you change your mind.
He might display some violence or force in the bedroom and is into aggressive acts.
Sexual violence can be a common feature of an abusive relationship. Pay attention to anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, and don’t make excuses for it.
12) He is an addict
What causes a man to become an abuser?
It’s a complicated picture made up of many factors. But one thing is for sure, there is a very strong correlation between addiction to substances and domestic violence.
Research has estimated that anywhere between 25 and 50 percent of men who commit domestic violence have substance problems.
One study identified that men with alcohol problems are six times more likely to abuse their partner.
Meanwhile, the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence claim that some sort of substance use preceded 47 percent of domestic assaults.
They also noted that when it came to violent assaults, a whopping 92 percent of men who attacked their female partner had used substances on the day of the assault.
If he heavily uses drugs or alcohol, it’s a clear sign that he’s got serious issues. Maybe he’s using them to cope with pain. Perhaps he’s trying to self-medicate depression or anxiety.
Regardless of the reason, heavy use of substances makes a man more volatile and less in control.
13) You’re always watching what you say and do
Does it feel like you’re walking on eggshells?
You might be constantly worried you’re going to say or do the wrong thing and set off a reaction in him.
He may be hypersensitive, easily insulted, and view lots of little things as a personal attack. Some days it might feel like he is looking for a fight.
Even the littlest thing you say he can blow out of proportion.
Living with this unpredictability has meant that you can never tell what will upset him. You may find that you have started going along with things, simply for an easy life.
14) He can’t take feedback, even when it’s constructive
When you try to talk to him about his behavior, he shuts down.
It’s hard to communicate with someone who won’t listen to you. It’s impossible to have a conversation with someone who only talks over you.
He might lash out at you verbally and get defensive. Or he could just ignore you completely.
This kind of person is difficult to live with because they don’t seem to understand how to have a constructive conversation about your relationship problems.
He feels threatened at the slightest questioning, so any suggestion that he may need to work on things is only met with anger or dismissal.
15) He seems like a control freak
Do you ever wonder why he wants to micromanage everything?
Maybe he likes to know where you are all the time. Maybe he doesn’t trust you to do something by yourself. Or maybe he gets really moody if you leave the house without telling him where you’re going.
You might find that he wants to “take care of” much of daily life and decisions.
This might not seem such a big deal at first. It could even feel gentlemanly that he wants to choose the restaurants you eat at, be in charge of the finances or arrange the finer details of everything.
However, you may start to notice this spreads out into trying to control much of what you do — what you eat, what you wear, when you use the car, who you see, where you work, etc.
He doesn’t seem to respect your personal boundaries and wants to take over. Yet he tries to mask this control with the pretense of it being a sign of how much he cares about you.
16) He scares you sometimes
You should always listen to your gut. If it tells you something isn’t quite right about this guy, then don’t ignore it.
Rather than being paranoid, it’s more likely that you are picking up on 1001 intuitive signals.
If you worry about the situation and question whether the relationship is healthy or not, then there is something wrong.
There may be a few (or many) occasions when you have felt scared of him.
You struggle to say no to him for fear of his reaction. You watch him fly off the handle and worry about how things might escalate.
He could even make threats towards you.
Know that if you are scared of a man you are in a relationship with, then that fear alone is enough to validate that the relationship could turn (or is turning) abusive.
17) He has a history of abuse
We all want to think we are the person who can make someone change their ways. That our love can heal all, as long as we try hard enough.
This is a very dangerous thought to let cross your mind.
The reality is that studies suggest more than 20 percent of those who have abused a partner go on to re-offend.
That means that if a man has been accused of or convicted of abuse in the past, you are at greater risk of him being abusive in your relationship.
Certain countries allow you to check for a history of abuse in your partner.
For example, the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme — which operates in the UK, Australia and Canada — gives someone the right to ask the police for information about a potential abuser.
In the US criminal records are generally considered public, so it can be possible to check federal courthouses to find out if somebody has any official convictions.