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It’s not always easy to tell if you are in an abusive relationship. We, as a society tend to see the abusive man as a towering hulk who leaves bruises on his wife and kids. The truth is far more sinister. Emotional abuse is real and dangerous with lasting effects.
Did you know that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men are victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime. ONE IN FOUR WOMEN. That’s just the reported statistics. It hurts me to think about how many women are in abusive relationships and don’t even realize it. “Hey he’s not beating me, so things are great!”
Guess what? It doesn’t have to leave bruises to be abuse.
Am I Emotionally Abused?
If you are a victim of emotional abuse you may have heard yourself saying something like:
“My partner didn’t mean it he just lost control!”
“He never hits me or the kids, he just yells all the time.”
“I know it’s not the best way to communicate, but it’s normal ”
“It’s just the alcohol. Hes so nice when he’s sober!”
“He’s not controlling me, he just loves me and is protective of me.”
“I know he shouldn’t say stuff like that to me, but I’m not perfect either.”
“He just gets me so twisted up in my mind. Maybe I really am the problem.”
I could go on and on. The most important thing so many women need to understand is that you don’t have to be hit, pushed, threatened, or in any other way physically assaulted to be abused. Emotional abuse is every bit as harmful and damaging as a physical assault. [click_to_tweet tweet=”you don’t have to be hit, pushed, threatened, or in any other way physically assaulted to be abused. Emotional abuse is every bit as hurtful and damaging as a physical assault. http://muchnessmama.com/identifying-types-of-abusive-men/” quote=”you don’t have to be hit, pushed, threatened, or in any other way physically assaulted to be abused. Emotional abuse is every bit as hurtful and damaging as a physical assault.”]
How do we identify an abusive man before he crosses the line into physical violence? Let’s face it, we’re all going to screw up and do something we aren’t proud of every now and then. How do we weed through normal human imperfections to identify those men who use abuse to control and destroy us?
The Types of Abusive Men
The first step is to be able to identify the different traits of abusers. In his book Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men Lundy Bancroft outlines ten different types of abusive men. Some men will fit into one category, while others will choose bits and pieces from each type to suit their needs.
Following is a short summary of each type. Just click on the title of the abuser to go to a post that gives greater detail on the specific type.
The Demand Man believes that it is your job to take care of him. He may insist that a hot dinner be on the table when he walks through the door (and may or may not tell you what time exactly that will be). He expects his partner to clean up his messes, do his work, and drop anything she is doing to attend to his wants. If you request service or changes from him he says “I’m not your servant!” or “stop being so needy/controlling!”
If anything is wrong in the Demand Man’s life or your relationship it is CLEARLY your fault (in his mind). He keeps a ledger of every tiny act of service he does for you in his mind and uses it to justify why you should be so grateful to have him without any further expectations.
As his name states Mr. Right believes he can do, say, and think no wrong. Mr. Right believes he is mentally superior to you and makes sure you know it. He always knows better than you do, even when talking about your wants and needs. Furthermore he doesn’t listen to you or take any of your ideas seriously.
If you disagree with Mr. Right it is merely proof of your inferior intellect. He can’t possibly be wrong. Disagreeing with him is mistreatment of him, because clearly you are trying to start trouble. You can’t possibly be right.
The Water Torturer is an expert at maintaining his cool. He knows how to push his partners buttons until they explode. Then he will calmly inform her that she is abusive because she raised her voice. He gets great pleasure out of convincing everyone around him, including you, that you are the one who is crazy and abusive.
The Water Torturer’s subtle cruelty is relentless. His mastery of calmness allows him to escape the label of abuser in his own mind. Because he is an expert at the presentation of a calm exterior, he is able to convince others that you are the problem. He often uses the silent treatment or ignores his partner to cause her to explode.
The hallmark of the Drill Sergeant is control. He wants to run his partner’s life in every way he can. He tells her who she can be friends with, where she can go, how much money she can spend, and even restricts her time with family. He calls frequently, tracks her movements, logs into her computer to check on her, and so much more.
The Drill Sergeant makes his partner fear making any decisions at all without his approval. He maintains power by isolating her from those who may help her to escape his control. He then convinces her that this is all because he loves her so much he just wants to care for her and spend time with her.
Mr. Sensitive is another covert abuser. His core belief is “NOTHING is more important than MY feelings”. Mr. Sensitive takes offense to everything his partner does. It is incredibly easy to hurt his feelings, no matter how hard his partner tries not to. The harder she tries, the more entitled he feels, and the more reasons he finds to have hurt feelings.
Mr. Sensitive will demand over the top apologies for every perceived offense, and may hold things against his partner for years. Then, when he hurts her feelings, he will quickly flip it into how overly sensitive she is and how it hurts his feelings that she judges him so harshly. He firmly believes that, because he is so in touch with his emotions, he can’t be abusive.
I bet you can guess the Player’s core belief “Women were put on this earth to sexually please men, especially me!” The Player is usually good looking, sexy, and an excellent lover (in and out of bed), or at least he believes he is. He flirts with everyone, and believes his partner should feel lucky that she snagged him. He is super quick to progress the relationship to a point where he gets her into bed, but then hesitates to seal the deal and call the relationship exclusive.
The Player is the king of one night stands and infidelity. He paradoxically believes that women who have sex with him are easy or loose, but the ones who won’t are uptight or bitchy. He doesn’t appreciate anything about a woman outside of her physical looks, and her ability to satisfy his sexual needs. He then blames the women he uses for his failures to stay committed. If they could fulfill his needs he wouldn’t have to cheat.
Rambo is the kind of abuser that most people recognize. Rambo is aggressive with everyone, not just his partner. He yells at the ref during sports games, gets road rage, and won’t hesitate to punch another guy in the face if he’s offended.
Rambo believes that his worth lies in his physical strength, and that showing compassion is a weakness. Anything considered weak or feminine is inferior. Women are on earth to serve men. Men are on earth to protect women. Rambo sees his partner as his personal property.
Rambo’s partner is impressed, at first, that he defends her honor, but is in for a shock when that aggressive attitude targets her. The Rambo paradox is that he must protect women, as they are the weaker sex, but it’s OK to hit his own partner if she needs to be put in her place, or taught a lesson.
The Victim is an expert at feeling sorry for himself. Everyone is out to get him or has done him wrong. His failed relationships are all HER fault. He spends a LOT of time badmouthing his former partners, his mom, his teachers, and anyone else he can blame for his failures. If anyone tries to call him out on his abusive behaviors he quickly places them among the ranks of all the others who are cruel and unfair towards him.
The Victim perceives constant attacks from his partner. He has a “whatever you do to me, I’m going to do to you” attitude. Additionally, he justifies that he needs to retaliate at an even higher level to show her just how cruel she is to him. For example if his partner fails to hear him when he starts a conversation, he will give her the silent treatment for days to get even.
The Victim believes their victim status exempts them from responsibility for their actions. Their actions are simply the natural response to the hard treatment they themselves have had to endure.
The Terrorist abuser type thrives on the fear of his partner. Threats to hurt or kill her are frequent. Terrorist abusers enjoy causing pain and get a thrill from their own cruelty. The constant fear of their partners is exciting and pleasurable.
Terrorist abusers believe that women are evil and must be kept down. They will frequently use threats to harm children, pets, or other loved ones to maintain control of their partner.
Most terrorists would rather die than accept their partner’s right to independence. When a woman leaves a Terrorist, he is likely to stalk, harass, seek custody of the children, threaten her loved ones etc. to keep her under his control despite their separation.
Mentally Ill or Addicted
Mental illness and addiction do not cause abusiveness, alone. They can, however, make an abusive man worse. When a man is mentally ill or in active addiction he often receives a free pass for his abuse. He can’t be held responsible for what he did while drunk, can he? If he has depression he will use that as a tool to manipulate the woman into feeling guilty for any boundaries she tries to enforce, or threaten suicide any time she tries to leave him.
This type of abuser will tell his partner that she can’t stand up to him or she will trigger his mental illness or addiction. He places the responsibility for all his abuse on her, and her actions. He may use going on and off medication as a way to threaten or control his partner. Also, many abusers will claim a mental illness, that they don’t really have, as a means to exercise more control.
It is important to note that physical abuse is not restricted to any one type of abuser. All of the different types of men listed above are capable of resorting to violence, and even enjoying violence, as a method of abuse. Just because a man hasn’t been violent towards his partner does not mean that he won’t become violent. Most abuse is progressive, and remember the stat from above: 1 in four women WILL suffer intense physical abuse from her intimate partner at some point in her life.
You don’t need to wait until he crosses the line into physical violence to get help or leave a relationship. Emotional abuse is reason enough to get out.
The best resource I’ve found for understanding abuse is the book Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft. This book is an amazing tool for understanding the mind of the abuser and assessing if he really wants to change his ways.
I also recommend the book Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. This book will help you understand how to set and maintain healthy boundaries that keep you safe.
You may also find my Ultimate Betrayal Trauma Resource Guide useful.
If you are in immediate danger please call 9-1-1. Your life is important.
If you are in an abusive situation, but not in immediate danger call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). Their help is anonymous, confidential, and available 24/7. You can also check out the resources on the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)’s website. They even have a sweet little “exit safely” button at the bottom of the screen you can click if your abuser walks into the room that will reroute you to an innocent site like a joke or weather site.
You can also download the Aspire news app, created by Robin McGraw (Dr. Phil’s wife). It can help you plan a safe exit from an abusive situation, and is disguised as a simple news app.
Natasha of Unjunkiefied
A much-needed post that needed to be written. I’m Natasha from the sober living blog, Unjunkiefied. This topic hits close to home bc while I’ve never had a significant other that was abusive. My mother has always been an abusive relationship (even though she denies that things were ever bad and life was perfect ) So I was the child who suffered from both physical and emotional abuse. Not that I blame my past addiction on anyone but myself. Yet the drugs did help me escape the chaos of what I dealt with at home.
Personally, I feel as if emotional + mental abuse is much worse than physical abuse. Actually, I have suffered from two stepfather’s who took on every single abusive role that you mentioned above.
Thank you for sharing. I am pinning this and sharing on my site’s fb page. 🙂 Keep up the outstanding blogging!
Thank you for sharing your story. Abuse can mess up your brain and addictions are really common for those who have suffered abuse.
I recognize a number of these in my last relationship: he exhibited some Drill Sergeant, Sensitive, Player, with a little Rambo (He never hit me, but I’m pretty sure it would have happened eventually if I hadn’t left) and Victim on the side. Even the Terrorist showed up- for our breakup.
He got upset and insecure when I would talk to other men (even in business or work contexts). He would claim that his desire to know where I was was b/c he “loved” me more than anyone else had loved me. He called himself the “alpha dog” and that nobody ever told him what to do. He told me that he didn’t want me to ever be disrespected (even though he was the worst to violate that). He would regularly picked fights and accused me of cheating… and threatened to leave (including veiled threats to kill himself or his ex or her mother)
He actually ran a variation of the Player- fast to initiate intimacy, even lock down and call it exclusive. Little did I know that it was only exclusive for me. He cheated on the sly from the very beginning, even trying to chat up a couple of my close friends. When I found out about the cheating and broke things off with him, he made excuses- that he was hedging his bets in case I chose to leave (He’d rather initiate a new relationship than nurture the one he already had?)
But the Terrorist was what really came out when I left- When I went no-contact, he didn’t. So I took screenshots and forwarded all of them to the police. He ended up getting arrested and ultimately was sentenced to 2 and a half years for felony harassment (felony stalking and felony extortion were dropped as part of his plea bargain).
Wow, that is all so intense! Good for you sticking up for yourself, having boundaries, and holding him accountable for his actions.