While not all abusive people show the same traits, the warning signs are usually present, In some cases, an abuser may have only one or two behavioural traits that can be easily identified, but they are very exaggerated, it is either they are extremely jealous or they get angry over unnecessary issues
The abuser will at the early stages of the relationship try to explain his or her behaviour as signs of love and concern while the abused on the other hand feels flattered; as the relationship progresses, the behaviours becomes intensified with the urge to manipulate and control the abused.
Last week I mentioned isolation, and chipped in how abusive partners tend to want to protect their victims from everyone, no matter how closely related. This week, we will be looking at other traits, I wants us to also note that no matter how deceptive an abuser is, he or she will manifest one of these traits if you study him or her closely; Jealousy, Strict Gender Roles, Verbally Abusive, Controlling Behaviours, Quick Involvement, Unrealistic Expectations, Playful Use Of Force In Sex etc.
One or two people may want to dismiss this as a trait an abuser may have, it is often said that jealousy is a sign of love. He or she may question you about whom you have spoken to or seen during the day, easily accuses you of flirting and or may be jealous of how much time you spend with family, friends, children or hobbies which do not directly include him or her. As the relationship progresses, he or she may call you frequently and unnecessarily during the day or even drop by unexpectedly. He or she may refuse to let you work for fear you’ll meet someone else, friends are instructed to keep an eye on you. Jealousy is a sign of insecurity and possessiveness and not in any form a proof of love.
Strict Gender Roles
Abusers usually believe in stereotypical gender roles. A man may expect a woman to serve him; stay at home, obey him in all things – even things that are criminal in nature. A male abuser will often see women as inferior to men, more stupid, silly, of less or no opinion on serious topics or during intelligent discussions, unable to be a whole person without a relationship. Female abusers may expect the man to provide for them entirely, shift the responsibility for her well-being onto him or heckle him as being ‘not a real man’ if he shows any sign of weakness or emotion.
This is a very important warning sign and really quite easy to spot once you can tell all the little ways in which you are being verbally abused. In addition to saying things that are meant to be cruel and hurtful, either in public or in private, this can include degrading remarks or running down any accomplishments. Often the abuser will tell you that you are ‘stupid’, could not manage without him or her. He or she may keep you up all night to ‘sort this out once and for all’ or even wake you at night to continue to verbally abuse you. The abuser may even say kindly things to your face, but speak badly about you to friends and family. He or she doesn’t see any good in you and whatever you do yet he or she stays in the relationship irrespective.
Controlling behaviour is often disguised or excused as concern. Concern for your safety, your emotional or mental health, the need to use your time well, or to make sensible decisions. Your abuser may be angry or upset if you are ‘late’ coming back from work, shopping, visiting friends, etc., even if you told him or her you would be later back than usual. Your abuser may question you closely about where you were, whom you spoke to, the content of every conversations held, or why you did something he or she was not involved in. As this behaviour gets worse, you may not be allowed to make personal decisions about the house, clothing, make up, going to church or how you spend your time or money or even make you ask for permission to leave the house or room. Alternately, he/she may theoretically allow you your own decisions, but penalise you for making the wrong ones. Concern for our loved ones to a certain extent is normal – trying to control their every move is not, moderation is advised or better put, knowing boundaries and respecting them.
An abuser will often claim ‘love at first sight’, that you are ‘made for each other’, or that you are the only person whom he could ever talk to so openly, feel so at home with, could understand him so well. He or she may tell you that they have never loved anyone so much or felt so loved by anyone so much before, when you have really only known each other for a short amount of time. He or she needs someone desperately, and will pressure you to commit to him or her or make love before you feel the relationship has reached ‘that stage’. He or she may also make you feel guilty for not committing yourself to him or her. He or she also feels in the right position to make important decisions for you from the get go.
An abuser may often expect his or her spouse to be a perfectionist. He or she is very dependent on you for all of his or her needs, and may tell you he or she can fulfill all your needs as lover, friend, and companion. Statements such as: ‘If you love me, I’m all you need’, ‘You are all I need.’ are common. Your abuser may expect you to provide everything for him or her emotionally, financially or spiritually, and then blame you for not being perfect or living up to expectation.
Playful’ use of Force in Sex
An abuser may pressurise you to agree to forceful or violent acts during sex, or want to act out fantasies where you are helpless. A male abuser may let you know that the idea of “rape” excites him. He or she may show little concern about whether you want to have intercourse and uses sulking or anger to manipulate you into compliance. Starting sex while you are sleeping, demanding sex when you are ill or tired, or refusing any form of intimacy unless you are willing to go ‘all the way’ can all be signs that he or she could be sexually abusive or sexually violent. To an abuser you cannot say no to any form of intimacy.
The question now is “are there traits or characteristics that make a particular type of person more vulnerable to abuse?”. Is there something I can do to ensure my daughter, sister, friend and even me doesn’t end up abused? There may be and I am yet to know but what I’ve learnt is that abusers are serial. That is if a person has abused once, chances are they would again and again. Abusers are predators, they sniff for fear or insecurities, vulnerabilities and they exploit it. As women, we need to put aside our feelings and start acting in our best interests. Before dating a man, what does his ex say about him? Do you make light of her bad experiences because he said she was terrible? How does he treat his mom, his sisters or any female around him? How does he treat animals? How does he treat those less fortunate than him? No matter how he or she tries to hide these traits, a patient and inquisitive partner will figure out with time… A popular Yoruba adage goes “Efin ni iwa buruku ko se bomole” (a bad behaviour is like smoke, it can never be covered).
Join me next week as I discuss on how and why you should leave an abusive relationship with one or two tips from a survivor.
Dainty is a woman with a strong passion for the oppressed, abused and rejected. A graduate of English who loves to write, read, sing and dance a lot. This diary will be about anything and everything that has to do with abuse, molestation and rejection. She’s not the type not to pick nose…like how does it feel not to do that?
She can be reached on Facebook: Alaba Mfoniso Jacobs and also on IG: @AlabaJacobs