An abusive relationship tends to leave a legacy of shame and fear in its wake. Women feel ashamed that they allowed themselves to suffer in an abusive relationship and -wrongly - take the blame for their partner's bad behaviour. They also feel afraid of getting into another abusive relationship.
The pull of old patterns can be very strong and ,certainly, abused women often do find themselves attracted to another abusive man. This happens because they have not been educated to recognize the tell-tale signs and behaviours of an abusive man. Once you know the surefire ways to spot an abusive man, you will have a much better chance of protecting yourself successfully. What follows are some of the things that people don't tell you - but should - about relationships. Remember, forewarned is forearmed.
1. You may be attracted by his apparent ‘strength’, ‘confidence’, determination, aggressive masculinity – the kind of qualities you know you lack.
2. Or it may be his vulnerability that appeals. You might find yourself saying: “he just needs someone to really, really love him (and heal his pain.) Why does it need to be you? Feeling sorry for someone is no basis for a loving, equal relationship.
(Your focus has shifted from you, your wants and your needs, to his. He has replaced you as the centre of your universe.)
3. He really, really wants to hear about all the problems you’re having at the beginning of the relationship. He may even have the same problems himself. (Be very wary, he may be doing one of two things: he may be learning all about your Achilles’ heel and the best buttons to push in the future to humiliate and control you; or he may be encouraging you to feel that at least he understands what you’re going through.
4. He expects a big return on his investment. He may seem happy to put your needs and wishes first for a little while, but it won’t be long before he starts saying: “Look at everything I do for you. You should be doing X, Y and Z for me.”
5. The relationship moves forward very fast. (Abusive men woo as fast as they can. They know that they can’t sustain consistent good behaviour for very long. Good behaviour doesn’t give them the pay offs they want. For more on that see The Circle of Violence)
6. He talks at length, and interestingly about himself. You share a common interest – him.
7. The women who he’s had relationships with in the past didn’t understand him and let him down or behaved badly. (Be afraid.) If at all possible, you want to meet these women and hear their point of view. If he can badmouth them, can you be sure you won’t be next?
8. His relationship with his family has broken down. They may have let him down too.
9. There are areas of his life that he’s not telling you about. (Rest assured, there is a good reason for that.)
10. He’s got a history of alcohol and/or drug abuse, and possibly violence.
11. When you first meet him, there’s something about him that you don’t like. (You can do it the hard way, or the easy way. Choose not to trust your intuition and you’ll probably pay for it. Big time. Your intuition is there to keep you safe.)
12. He’s all sweetness and light with you, but he shows quite different behaviours with other people. (Rest assured that, with time, you’ll become ‘other people’.)
13. There are odd ‘blips’ when his behaviour leaves you feeling that you’re dealing with someone you don’t even know. (The ‘good’ behaviours that you like are his best – or courting – behaviours. The ‘blips’ are an indication of his real self and what the future will hold; increasingly.)
14. He can always find reasons for not spending time with your friends and family. He may try to discourage you from spending time with them also. The more he can isolate you, the more power he will have over you.
15. He’s not happy to accept you the way you are. (Maybe it’s because he can see all your ‘potential’ better than you can. Maybe it’s because, with his input, you could present yourself so much better to the world; in his eyes anyway.)
16. He’ll remind you regularly what a wonderful guy he is and how lucky you are to have him. (Although he might also admit that he’s a loser when he’s feeling low, or else to get you back on side.)
If you have any doubts that your partner may be, or may become, abusive, take the relationship slowly and listen to the advice of friends and family whose judgement you can trust. If you don't like what they say and find yourself replying: "But you don't understand. He's not like that...", the chances are, you're wrong and they're right.
Any of the above should be considered an important warning sign. If you hear ANY alarm bells going in your head, listen to them carefully and act on them right away.
The damage an abusive relationship causes is cumulative. You cannot make an abusive relationship work by putting up and shutting up. It will drain you dry.
It is quite possible to break away from the hooks of abusive relationships, but it can be very hard to do without help. Enlisting the help of someone who understands and is skilled at helping women work their way through the problems of an abusive relationship will really speed your recovery.