• Robin Parry

Recognising an Abuser: Early signs

Everyone is wiser in hindsight. Abused women are often distressed that they coupled with an abusive person. At the beginning they could not see it at all. Had anyone warned them about their choice they would not have believed them because abusers are especially good at feeding back the qualities a woman desires. This is not to suggest that each abuser is calculating but he intuits what his partner needs and endeavours to give it to her. He is unable to sustain this image of a perfect partner though because it is just one aspect of him. His darker side is generally kept in check until it’s safe to be himself, which is a person who runs hot but then reacts coldly or menacingly when something bothers him. His eruptions can come out of nowhere and before the woman knows it she is embroiled in an abusive relationship. At that stage she is emotionally committed to his ‘perfect’ self and may be locked in socially and financially as well. Oppression usually follows.

It is possible to make better partnership choices if you keep in mind that ‘love is blind’. If you are recovering from loss of any sort accept that your judgement will be even more impaired and for that reason it’s important to check him out. Also listen to feedback from the people who love you. Maybe your children or one of your friends are wary of him. Don’t ignore that. Some people have good antennae for people who are best avoided or they may see a side of him that you are blind to.

The earliest signs of abuse are very subtle which women scarcely notice at the time, but always recall much later. She may experience a feeling of hurt over something he said or did but it’s fleeting and then ‘forgotten’. It was most likely an unempathic response on his part and a hint of what he’s really like. Or she may want to do something but he doesn’t and so he steers her to do what he wants. Again, it’s a hint that he intends to get his own way. During disagreements he may convince her that she’s at fault and then refuse to discuss the matter further. This is an indication that he’s not reflective which impacts on his capacity to communicate and resolve issues constructively. These are all small happenings but not insignificant especially if they form part of a pattern of control and abuse. Later that will become clearer. So hold back on committing early. Take you time. Remain sceptical. Move at your pace, not his, and see how he manages that.

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