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12 Traits of an Abuser

By Laura Petherbridge
Guest Columnist

CBN.comAs a divorce recovery expert, I have dealt with similar situations. Often, people -- especially churchgoers -- assume domestic violence does not happen within committed Christian relationships. But nothing could be further from the truth. After 20 years of observing destructive relationships, I have discovered twelve traits that are most often exhibited by abusers.

Men can be abused by women, but the victims are predominately female.

An abuser is typically:

1. Charming.

Initially, he showers his woman with praise, adoration, and attention. His courtship is sweet and intense filled with phrases such as, “I can’t live without you.” He quickly pushes for an exclusive relationship or engagement.

2. Jealous.

He views other men as a threat to the relationship and accuses you of flirting with everyone from his brother to the mailman. “I know you are looking at him.” The irony is that he often is the one who is cheating.

3. Manipulative.

This man is very intelligent. He knows how to detect your weak spots, and he uses your vulnerability and past pain to his advantage. “You were abused as a kid because you are so ugly.”

4. Controlling.

He wants to know where you are going and who you are with at all times. He may check the mileage on your car or follow you to the grocery store. He often refuses to allow you to work because you might “meet someone.”

5. A Victim.

His poor choices are everyone else’s fault. When he loses his job, gets into a fight, or a business deal falls through, it’s always because of the other person. He is never at fault. “You make me hit you.”

6. Narcissistic.

The whole world revolves around him. As the “little woman who is beneath him,” it is your job to meet his every need. He is the master; you are the unworthy slave. It’s invigorating for him to know that everyone around him “walks on eggshells.”

7. Inconsistent.

Mood swings are a common trait for an abuser. One minute he seems happy and sweet, the next he is pounding his fist.

8. Critical.

No matter how hard you try you will never be able to satisfy this kind of man. He thinks nothing of degrading and verbally assaulting you. “You are a stupid, fat, disgusting tramp. You can never leave me. No other man would have you.”

9. Disconnected.

His main goal is to isolate his victim from family and friends so that you are totally dependant on him. “Your family causes too much trouble for us. I don’t want you seeing them anymore.”

10. Hypersensitive.

The slightest offense sends him ranting. Everyone is out to “get him.”

11. Vicious and cruel.

A significant number of abusers harm children and animals as well as a partner. Inflicting pain and intimidating others is what gives him power. “I’ll kill you before I’ll let you go. If I can’t have you, no one will.”

12. Insincerely repentant.

He will swear to never “hit you again.” But unless he receives professional help and strong accountability it’s very unlikely that he will change.

If this article has helped you to realize that you or a loved one is in an abusive relationship, please find a church, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, or locate a safe house in your community. They can help.

If you are a church leader, please understand that it is not uncommon for an abuser to deceive and manipulate people in the church. Although Christians are called to be loving and kind, this does not mean we are to ignore sinful behavior. An abuser often knows exactly what to say and do in order to get the church “on his side.”

For the church or individual who would like to read an excellent Biblical resource, I recommend a downloadable booklet from Radio Bible Class titled, “God’s Protection of Women.”

Laura Petherbridge

Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on relationships, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t” — Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce, and a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series. Her newest book, The Smart Stepmom, will be released in September of 2009. For more info, go to

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