Warning Signs of Abusive Men

by Candice Bailey

About Candice Bailey

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Candice Bailey is a poet living in Austin, Texas. She moved here from Mississippi, where she taught poetry classes and tutored student-athletes in literature at the University of Mississippi. She began her study of creative writing at age 15, when she attended the Alabama School of Fine Arts.

Warning Signs of Abusive Men

Abusive men use more than just violence to intimidate their victims. Sometimes physical violence is never invoked; instead, abusers employ financial or emotional manipulation in order to control people. Because abusers rarely demonstrate violence during courtship, some people find out long after they have already become invested in an unhealthy romance. Men who have an abusive personality type often manifest several traits that may be considered red flags for more extreme behavior down the road.


An abusive person will try to gain control of his romantic partner as quickly as possible. This often involves "moving too fast," saying "I love you" too soon or suggesting cohabitation early in the relationship. For some, a strong expression of intimacy seems romantic, but it also establishes an intense emotional connection, in which the abuser has more power over his victim. It's normal for people to feel protective of their significant others, but watch out for overprotectiveness. When the need to "look out" for a partner crosses the line, an abuser checks up on her with alarming frequency, pries into her personal belongings, monitors time spent away from home and makes decisions for her. This hyper-vigilant "protection" can eventually make the victim feel dependent on him for safety and comfort; she may also fear upsetting him by making him feel worried or jealous. Likewise, the victim often feels that her abuser is dependent upon her for his emotional needs and that she should avoid "hurting" him at all costs.


One tactic abusers may use is to isolate their victims from friends, family or even co-workers. In some cases, the abusive man will forbid his partner outright from spending time with certain people if he perceives them to be a threat to the relationship. A slightly more subtle approach is minor but repeated verbal abuse: passive-aggressive comments about clothing, criticism, name-calling and shaming. Once the woman's self-worth has been degraded, she might voluntarily avoid friends and relatives, convinced they will also see her flaws. Take note if a man seems to interpret all relationships, no matter how casual or professional, as "personal" or "sexual." This attitude reveals hidden jealousy that may cause him to shut down his partner's contact with others.

Social Behavior

Some early warning signs of an abusive man exhibit themselves in social situations. If a man often acts in a way that is inappropriate to the circumstances, it may spell trouble. Pay attention when he makes comments that express a negative perception of women or statements that lay blame on victims. Men who appear to lack empathy for the pain and suffering others, whether in adults, children or animals, could have cruel tendencies. Also, irresponsible behavior around children might reveal that he doesn't understand or respect proper boundaries. Try to observe the way he interacts with other important people in his life. If he treats friends or family members with disrespect, a long-term girlfriend or wife might receive the same treatment. If he only has casual acquaintances or friends who are untrustworthy, it might be a clue that he has difficulty maintaining healthy interpersonal connections.

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