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Seven Red Flags in a Toxic Christian Dating Relationship

by | Nov 12, 2020 | Articles, Boundaries, Emotional Abuse, Learning, Popular Posts, Waking Up | 268 comments

I wrote a blog post several years ago in response to an email I received from a young, unmarried woman. This is an updated version of that blog post. I hope it is helpful not only for unmarried women who may be in a toxic Christian dating relationship, but also for women who are already married to a Christian narcissist.

Six years ago I would have hesitated to use the term “Christian narcissist” to describe this kind of person, but today I don’t think it is a strong enough term to fully warn a potential abuse target.

Here is the original email:

About a year ago you did a few posts about what guys and gals are looking for (and NOT looking for) in relationships. After following your blog for the last year, and reading through the many comments, I see that you are not alone in naming abuse and getting recognition for what it is. As a young, unmarried woman, it is unsettling to hear so many married Christian women reply over and over in the comment section-“yes, this is my story too.”

How can the current 20-something women be a generation that doesn’t repeat this struggle? I’m relating this back to the articles about dating – specifically what young women are looking for – because I recognize that there is no Mr. Perfect and we won’t marry Jesus…but I don’t desire an abusive marriage. God uses even devastatingly hard relationships for his purposes, yet I know that because God places value on me, being in an abusive relationship is not his desire for me.

I know there’s no secret formula- as long as we are in a relationship with another human being, abuse is possible- and that’s where our own ability to roar has to be developed. But if abuse is so prevalent in Christian marriages, do you think there are warnings or red flags we can look out for as young women, to avoid getting into a toxic Christian dating relationship?

This is an important question. The red flags are there, but very few people are willing to acknowledge them when passions are involved.

We’ve experienced this either in our own lives or as we’ve observed the lives of other people. It’s all about the here and now. The feelings. The romance. The dream. The excitement. The longings fulfilled.

Nobody wants to be practical and think about uncomfortable things that ruin all the fun.

The stone-cold fact is, if a person refuses to look carefully at the other person from all angles, taking time to observe them objectively, the feelings, romance, dream, excitement, and fulfilled longings will end abruptly at the altar.

And then there’s the long “and they lived unhappily ever after.

I’m not talking about the normal transition from the amazing drama of the dating days to the daily grind. Everyone goes through that and grows through that. I’m talking about when you wake up and realize with horror that you are married to a toxic, controlling, Christian narcissist.

How can you avoid this? A Christian narcissist doesn’t introduce himself like this, “Hello – it’s nice to meet you. I’d like to take you on a whirlwind romance, sweep you off your feet, marry you, and then abuse you until death do us part.

Noooooo ma’am. They enter your world like an angel of light. An attractive, charming, love-bomber.

They are a Christian, for crying out loud.

They might be super-de-duper nice. Like Barney.

They might worship the ground you walk on.

They might be very religious. Think Ghandi.

They might tell you that you complete them. (Watch out with that one. It might mean they are a parasite looking for a host.)

They might do good deeds. Like Mother Theresa.

They might be charming. Attractive. Kind. Thoughtful. Spiritual.

You might find them in, or jockeying for, leadership positions.

They might be confident and charismatic.

They might live generously (recklessly?)

Time is your ally. Take advantage of time in order to see what your date is like under pressure. Pay close attention to these red flags:

Red Flag Number One: A toxic Christian narcissist cannot accept negative feedback.

Feedback is a Christian narcissist’s Kryptonite. At the beginning of the relationship, you might just see him shut down a bit. Grow a little cold. Silent. But as the relationship progresses you will see and experience the drama of his anger, whether it is overt or passive aggressive.

Some abusers will express their anger with words and shouting. Others may even use physical violence if they feel that you already “belong” to them.

If anyone ever (even just once!) touches you in a violent way – and this includes just grabbing your arm or pushing against you a little – get out of that relationship immediately. If you aren’t even married yet, and they are already doing that, you will be the target of increased physical abuse once the knot is tied. When a physical abuser “owns” you, he will stop at nothing to control you. Don’t think that just because someone calls himself a Christian that he will grow out of it. I personally know women who believed that and lived to regret it. The church is one of the best hiding places for narcissists because they know Christians are often gullible about stuff like this.

Some abusers may express their anger in passive ways. This is called covert (passive) aggression. It’s a manipulative technique meant to make you feel guilty for calling them out on their behavior and get you to actually believe that you are the guilty party. Dr. George Simon puts it like this:

Covert-aggression is at the heart of most interpersonal manipulation. What the artful, subtle fighter knows is that if they can get you to doubt yourself, feel like you have to explain yourself, and question your perceptions and judgment, there’s a good chance they can get you to back down, back-off, or better still, cave-in.  Covert fighters count on the fact that you won’t trust your gut instincts or pass simple judgment on their character or the true character of their actions. They count on you being far too conscientious for that.  And they know that if they don’t come across as openly out to defy the generally accepted rules for civil behavior, exploit your good nature, and get the better of you, you’ll ignore that feeling in your gut that tells you you’re simply being played.

Covert aggression is probably the most common type of abuse found in Christian marriages. It’s deceptive and hard to detect, and it destroys entire families in a slow, methodical way. You may be living with it, and you don’t even know it yet. You just know that something is horribly wrong, and you can’t seem to fix it no matter how hard you try.

Ask yourself: Does your partner respond humbly to the negative feedback you give him? If your answer is rarely or never – you are probably dealing with a Christian narcissist.

A healthy person accepts negative feedback and grows from it.

If the person you are dating appreciates the feedback you give him, and if you actually see him implementing change in his life, you may have found a healthy Christian man. The Bible calls this humility, and it makes for good relationships.

Red Flag Number Two: A Christian narcissist has very little or no empathy

(Although they can fake it quite nicely when necessary).

Empathy: identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives.

A Christian narcissist can’t put themselves in another person’s shoes. If you lose someone or something you love, the Christian narcissist can’t relate. They want you to get over it.

If you are sick, that cramps their style. You are no longer able to meet their needs. It annoys the crap out of them.

If you are sad about something or mad about something or glad about something, a Christian narcissist can’t enter into your sorrow, angst, or joy.

Life is about them, not you.

A healthy person demonstrates empathy and concern for the needs of others.

They are interested in your life. Your thoughts. Your hopes. What makes you tick. They want to learn more about you, and you fascinate them, not because of what you offer to their existence, but because of who you are as part of God’s creation.

Red Flag Number Three: A Christian narcissist has to have his way.

This is where the teaching that the man gets to have his way in all things, and the woman is godly insofar as she gives it to him, comes into play. Christian narcissists cling to this teaching tenaciously and use it to feed their flesh. The Bible calls this selfishness, and it destroys relationships.

Sometimes the guy will let you have your way if it doesn’t matter much to him. He’ll make a big show of it to make sure you’ve taken note that he is a magnanimous, unselfish person. But try pressing him on something that really matters to him, and see what comes out.

A healthy person is willing to compromise and negotiate.

He is willing to let you have your way when he knows it is important to you. It’s respecting and honoring the desires of others and taking them into consideration because it delights you to do so. Healthy boundaries make healthy relationships.

Red Flag Number Four: A Christian narcissist uses passive aggressive communication tactics to control you.

Does he come right out and say what he means? Or does he use passive aggressive, manipulative communication tactics? Here are a few:

1. Does he tell jokes that clue you in on what he believes about things? (i.e. racial jokes, sexual jokes, dumb blonde jokes, etc.) Or maybe he just says something off the wall – and then when you ask him about it, he says, “Gee whiz. I was only JOKING.

2. Does he avoid giving straight answers?

3. Does he use guilt to get you to do what he wants?

4. Does he want you and others to pity him?

5. Do you feel intimidated by him?

6. Do you feel like he doesn’t care to understand you?

7. Does he expect you to read his mind?

8. Does he blame you every time something goes wrong in the relationship?

9. Does he say negative things about your family? Friends? Job?

10. Is he constantly correcting you?

11. Is he critical of you? Even in small ways?

12. Does he tell you how to wear your hair, what type of clothing he likes, how he wants you to act, look, or behave?

13. Have you ever caught him in a lie, a half-lie, or a lie by omission? (Where they leave out some information about something so you don’t have the full picture?) If he lies at all, he is a liar, and you are in for a life of never knowing what is up or down. A life of total confusion and chaos. Lying is a relationship killer.

14. Does he go out of his way to tell you that he would NEVER—look at porn, cheat on you, lie to you, or drink? Ladies, only men who are hiding something will say those things even though you’ve never asked. Think about it. Someone who isn’t doing those things wouldn’t even think of bringing them up because they aren’t activities on their radar screen.

Red Flag Number Five: A Christian narcissist prioritizes his own interests.

He lives in a pretend world where he is the center of the universe. You are merely a satellite in orbit. Here are some things to ask yourself:

Is he chronically late to everything?

This indicates he cares little for the time of others and feels entitled to show up any time he darn well pleases. It’s a control thing. (I’m talking about consistent lateness combined with other red flags. Put the pieces together. Don’t make a case with just one piece.)

Does he want to control your time and get jealous when you spend time with other people or when you cultivate other relationships?

Is he constantly changing jobs because he was mistreated or unappreciated at work?  Get out now. He is unable to take responsibility for his behaviors. There may be a good reason others are ending their relationships with him.

How does he treat his family members? Servers at restaurants? People in traffic? Is he honoring and patient? Or not?

Is he open and honest about his past, or is it like pulling teeth to get him to open up and share anything? If he is vague or reluctant to share private things from his past, then he is hiding from you. This is fine at the beginning of a relationship, but never tie the knot with someone who has something to hide. If there is shame that he hasn’t dealt with, he will deal with it at your expense through abuse.

Is he a good steward of his money, time, gifts, and resources? If not, do you really think he’ll be a good steward of his future family?

Does he respect your boundaries? Or does he feel entitled to invade them and eradicate them from your life? This is a deal breaker, in my opinion. No respect now = no respect later.

Red Flag Number Six: A Christian narcissist can’t take personal responsibility for his behavior.

Does he say he’s sorry when he hurts you or others? If he does, does a change in behavior follow? Or is he just saying sorry to get you off his back temporarily?

Does he make excuses for his behavior or shift the blame to you or someone else?

Does he want to get to the bottom of things and take responsibility for his part in a conflict, or does he prefer to minimize it and sweep it under the rug?

Is he good at taking responsibility for any outcomes of his personal choices?

Do you feel that after a conflict has occurred and been dealt with, that there is closure and a feeling of well-being for both of you? Or do you feel confused and sick and believe there are loose ends flapping in the breeze? This is a bad sign. Conflicts are good and should bring you closer—not make you guilt-ridden and bewildered.

Red Flag Number Seven: A Christian narcissist devours his target.

Here’s what I mean. When you are in a healthy relationship, both you and your partner are invested in encouraging the other one to be all they are created to be. To be able to live to their fullest potential.

But in a toxic, manipulative dating relationship with a Christian narcissist, the target is swallowed up in the interests of feeding the bottomless pit of the narcissist’s need.

Ask yourself these questions:

Do you feel you need to fix him (complete him or rescue him) and that he is helpless without you? Do you have to make excuses for him, and does he expect you to do so?

2. Does he have life-long friendships? Many narcissists are unable to hang on to good friends. What are his friends like? Are they honest and kind and emotionally mature? What do they say about him?

3. Where are you at? Are you desperate to get married? Do you feel unworthy of a good man? Unworthy of love? If so, you may be a magnet for a narcissist. You will want to get personally healthy (this doesn’t mean “get perfect.”)

You ARE worthy of love, and you ARE worth a good partner. Don’t settle for a Christian narcissist just to be able to say you belong to someone. You are not chattel. You are a treasure. You are a beloved child of the King. Raise your head, and don’t accept anything less than a good (not perfect – but humble), honest, healthy partner.

And by the way, no one person will have ALL of these traits. You may only observe a few. You want to look for patterns of behavior that are controlling or manipulative. Trust your gut.

I was always told I was deceiving myself. Of course, that can happen too. But if your gut is telling you that something isn’t quite right, give it more time. Even then, the abuse may be so subtle that it is difficult to detect for a while. The most common indicator of narcissistic abuse is when the other person doesn’t take responsibility for his behavior.

If you identified many of these red flags present in your relationship and you need a support system to help navigate the challenges of that relationship, I encourage you to find out more about the Flying Free Sisterhood.

Is It Me? Making Sense of Your Confusing Marriage by Natalie Hoffman

Safe People by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick

Foolproofing Your Life: How to Deal Effectively with the Impossible People in Your Life by Jan Silvious

Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Changes that Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud

In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People by George Simon

Character Disturbance: The Phenomenon of Our Age by George Simon

The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize it and How to Respond by Patricia Evans (secular resource)

No More Christian Nice Girl: When Just Being Nice Instead of Good Hurts You, Your Family and Your Friends by Paul Coughlin and Jennifer D. Degler PhD

Love is a Choice: The Definitive Book on Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships by Robert Hemfelt

The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships by Harriet Lerner (secular resource)

268 Comments

  1. Andi

    I want to add to the part about being chronically late- in my situation it was only to things that mattered to me. And I also would get anxiety every time we were going to functions, appointments, events, etc. that were related to him and things he wanted/s to do. To the point where is was crippling and I couldn’t think or function….which in turn would nearly shut me down. Which in turn would cause us to be late. I could never figure this out until I realized what was happening. Now if it was something important to me he would sabotage, show up late, and be very manipulative- this what to the point of where he blackmailed me several times and did other horrendous things to belittle and devalue me. Once I figured what was happening , I figured out better ways to manage anxiety and am working on the other parts to get my self esteem back and build myself back up.

    Reply
  2. If it happened to me it can happen to anyone

    “Nobody will have ALL of these traits.”

    I’m here to testify that yes, such a person does exist. I actually had a relationship with them, and it almost destroyed me in under a year’s time. He was a prominent member of clergy with a lot of power.

    I found it helpful to think through this list. I wanted to share so that others can understand what this can look like and how bad it can get.

    1. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GIVE HIM NEGATIVE FEEDBACK ABOUT SOMETHING HE HAS DONE?

    A. Pity. I call this technique “blame reversal.” This was a routine. I would tell him that I was hurt by something he did or was doing. Within 5 minutes I would find myself apologizing to HIM for hurting HIS feelings by simply pointing out what he had done. He was so good at this that I did not even notice for several months.

    B. Anger. “How dare you question my love for you.”

    C. Silent treatment. For instance, if a congregant gave him negative feedback or survey results showed that even a minority did not favor his sermon, he would give all of us/his whole family the silent treatment for days.

    D. Love bombing and Idealization. Sometimes he would listen and act like he was so thankful and tell me that I am the love of his life and make him a better person and that he loves me and is so glad that I’m saving him by giving him this amazing insight into himself. Then he would buy me a sentimental gift. Remind me that I was his savior. Each time this cycle happened, the abuse got even worse.

    E. Wanting accolades for the minor improvement or using minor improvement to dismiss larger problems. This was more for minor things. Periodically he would listen and then ask for space. He would emerge, trying really hard to change, and then when another issue came up, would use the fact that he changed this one minor thing as a reason that I should overlook a much larger offense. Note that he would never apologize or admit to wrongdoing for even those minor things he did change. I asked him about this once and he said that he shouldn’t have to feel bad, and that I should just let him be and if he changes he doesn’t want to talk about it unless it’s to get credit for it. He would also remind people that “well at least I’m not [xyz].” Basically whatever he was doing wasn’t that bad because it could be much worse.

    F. Admission with no remorse. At one point I asked him if he ever feels bad for all of the lying. I had caught him in yet another lie and confronted him gently about his poor impulse control and deceptiveness. He said that he does not have a conscience and should not be expected to (yes, he used the word conscience), and that if I want to be in a relationship with him, I just need to deal with the fact that he has poor impulse control and does not experience guilt or remorse and will just do what he wants. He later told me that he does not do remorse or apologies, laughing at the idea of himself apologizing (during a serious and traumatic conversation).

    G. Gaslighting. He denied reality, distorted it, or outright told me that I was “unstable” while rubbing my back and telling me how “concerned” he was for my mental health. This was towards the end and was the ultimate deal breaker for me.

    H. He would unfavorably compare me to other women, previous lovers that he had called overly demanding, controlling, unreasonable, overly sentimental, insecure, or insane. Earlier in the relationship he would invoke these women to tell me how great I was by comparison. Then when the abuse began and I wasn’t taking it well, he told me I was behaving “just like” those women.

    I. Of course things were not like this in the first few months. In the first few months he was apologetic, and seemed like a normal, decent person. But then he would mess up again really soon after. So I think the early red flag was that his apologies did not come with any genuine or deep change attached. He was simply telling me what I wanted to hear, even if it was feigning remorse. It is scary how good he was at faking all of that, early on.

    2. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HAVE NEEDS?

    A. I had a major surgery and was in the hospital for a few days. He had nothing going on at work and could have been there, but chose not to be. He used his clergy pass to show up for a 15 minute late night visit each night. A family member noted that he looked like he didn’t want to be there. I heard from others close to him that he treated them the same way too when they were sick. He wouldn’t even go to be with his son for a major life altering surgery, using his job as an excuse even though he had nothing on his calendar for that day. When I was recovering from surgery at home, he spent 7 hours with another woman one day and made little or no time to see me. He did all of this while insisting that I was his soulmate, his best friend, and that he loved me.

    B. Whenever I expressed needs, usually surrounding the need for respect, he would accuse me of being “controlling.”

    C. If I needed him to keep a promise or be consistent, he would deny having said things that he had said, even things that I had from him in writing. Whenever I produced the evidence (either through detailed memory or the written material) he would say, angrily, “It’s not my fault that you have the memory of an elephant.”

    D. I could find no evidence of empathy in this man in the hundreds of intimate hours that I spent with him in deep conversation about life.

    E. The few times he did something for me, all urgent genuine needs, he made statements like, “Remember this next time you want to break up with me. I expect a free pass for this.”

    F. Early in the relationship he was not like this. He actually went out of his way to fulfill small and large needs for me, when he hardly knew me. I thought he was the nicest guy in the world. But after he got enough control of me, all of that stopped and the above behaviors started. And that switch was traumatic and I blamed myself.

    3. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WHAT YOU LIKE IS DIFFERENT FROM WHAT HE LIKES?

    A. He had to choose every activity and the few times that I was able to choose the date activity, he changed our plans at the last minute to something he wanted to do. The few times I asked him to come to a social event in my world, he would decline. He only wanted me to revolve around him and his pulpit.

    B. Whenever I or others would talk excitedly about something we were interested in that he was not, he would “shoosh” me (really) and then switch topics, or even say “I don’t care — go tell one of your friends.”

    C. He would send me songs and music videos. He even asked me to do the same. I listened to everything he ever sent, including a whole playlist, responding with thoughtful conversation. Whenever I sent anything, he never bothered to listen. I felt so unseen during the relationship that I eventually started writing in dry erase marker on the bathroom mirror to see if he would even notice. He did not.

    D. He would criticize the person or thing I liked that he did not, attempting to sabotage my relationship with that person or thing. Usually it was a person or thing more powerful than he was and that he could not manipulate. This was a possessiveness issue — he didn’t want me to get too interested in things outside the relationship that could wake me up and threaten my idealization of him. So he would tell me those things were not safe or good and cause me to doubt my perception. I lost friends over this.

    E. It seemed that the law of the relationship was that everything must revolve around him and that if you don’t like all of the same things that he does, you’re no longer valued as highly — if at all.

    F. If he ever made any exceptions, he made a big deal out of it.

    4. HOW DOES HE COMMUNICATE WHAT HE’S THINKING?

    A. He eventually told me that he never communicates his feelings, as he plays his cards close to his chest. He would not articulate why. He scores high in Machiavellianism, when I put him through the screening instrument. He never gave straight answers about anything.

    B. He would make horrible jokes and then accuse me of being too sensitive.

    C. Guilt, pity, and intimidation were his bread and butter.

    D. He made no efforts to understand those around him unless it was in relation to getting them to do what he wanted.

    E. He always expected me to read his mind, and was always changing the goal posts without telling me, including major things about my own life. I felt like I had no control over my own life anymore, yet he claimed everything was my fault, including problems in his own life!

    F. He was constantly lying. He said that lies of omission are not lies. At one point I found out that there were more than 5 other women he was dating, all while telling me that we had sacred fidelity!

    G. He often went out of his way to tell me that I could trust him. When I stopped trusting him (see F, above) he demanded that I trust him, was angry that I would not. In the early days, he went out of his way to tell me how he was not like most other guys and was not all that into sex and that he was so spiritual and intellectual and lonely.

    5. WHAT ARE HIS BEHAVIORS LIKE?

    A. He was always late, at first by minutes, but in the later half of the relationship he was late by several hours. The first time he showed up more than 2 hours late for a date, I could not reach him for those hours and was worried. When he arrived, he acted like nothing was abnormal. I was clearly shaken from worry and anxiety and anger, and he acted like my hero, hugging me and calming me and soothing me — but he would never apologize, and instead acted like I had hurt myself, not that he had hurt me (this was the gist of much of the abuse). He made me feel like I was crazy. The second or third time, I was angry and told him that this is unacceptable. He told me that I should give him a 4 hour window to show up to see me from then on, because he’s so busy and important. I was expected to accept that if he said 5pm, it meant “between 5 and 9.” This was more than 6 months into the relationship and was a sudden shift. I was confused, to say the least. I was hurt and questioning my sanity and bewildered. He said I was the most important woman in his life, second to or equal to his mother, but this is the way he treated me. I was (and still am) so confused.

    B. Early in the relationship, before he even met me in person, he texted me constantly throughout the day and always wanted to know where I was and what I was up to. He memorized my social media profiles and albums. Whenever I made a post on social media, he would send me a private message within minutes. Early on, he wanted to visit every place I work, eat, hike, or do anything. It wasn’t long before I felt like he was watching me always. Even years later it is hard to shake that feeling. My loved ones are still shaken by how much “control” he has over my mind, even today. I’ve come a long way but still have that sense of always being watched by him. It is awful.

    C. He had been made to resign from his prior congregation a few years before for sexual misconduct. The way he told the story it sounded like he was a victim. It was very convincing and I fell for it. Just a year later I found myself also submitting a complaint and he was made to resign from his new congregation for sexual misconduct, and other forms of misconduct. There are still people who feel sorry for him, though.

    D. I called his office once and he did not know that it was me. Hearing his voice I did not recognize it — it was so nasty. I was surprised that this intimidating tone was the way that he answered his office phone when an incoming call is from a stranger. That told me everything I needed to know. Unfortunately, that was after most of the abuse. Once he realized it was me, his voice changed completely to a completely different person — the nice guy. He sounded so different that it actually frightens me to this day.

    E. He began to show signs of physical aggression over small things. I eventually found out that another woman had suffered from physical abuse by him and that he was prone to put holes in walls and break things.

    F. He was vague about his past, on many levels. The things he did eventually say were scary and part of why I reported him to authorities. The things he did not say were scarier.

    G. He was not a good steward of his time, and he spent money like it was going out of style. He would write major sermons the night before they were to be read, and was an impulsive man in every possible way.

    H. His reasons for doing anything moral were because he had previously been punished or had seen others punished for amorality. He had no innate morality. The only time I saw him apologize was in his resignation letter, and it was not a meaningful apology. Even feigned apologies were for image. He had no genuine remorse. He encouraged me to think like he did and to do things for the sake of power. He was very political. At first I thought he was a good mentor to me but when I realized the mindset that the was living by and the way he wanted me to live, I could not do it.

    I. He did not respect my boundaries, especially sexually. He was coercive. I did not want to have a sexual relationship at first, but that choice was taken away from me (meets many people’s definition of rape, including the FBI’s, but it’s hard for me not to blame myself). The sexual coercion after escalated to stranger and stranger things. He began asking me to let him post an ads to find male strangers for me to sleep with. I refused. Each time I refused, he would ask again a day or two later. At one point, he even implied that I had said that I wanted it! I became fearful that I would come home to male strangers lined up to sleep with me, and that I would comply out of fear (as I had with him before). I was terrified, but he blamed me for my own terror.

    6. HOW DOES HE RESOLVE CONFLICT?

    A. See all of the above. Especially blame reversal. Once that stopped working on me, it seems that he became enraged and the abuse got even worse. My waking up to the blame reversal technique was the thread that caused the whole sweater to unravel. He lost a great deal of control over me after that.

    B. He never allows himself to be accountable. He will temporarily feign accountability to divert. He immediately goes back to the behavior that he was reprimanded for. He will actively lie to avoid accountability. And by his own articulation, he lacks conscience or remorse and it does not bother him to do so.

    C. He would use spiritual rhetoric to try to get me to be peaceful and permissive again. Reminding me that I was his spiritual soulmate partner and talking about forgiveness etc. (It’s a red flag if someone goes asking for forgiveness without experiencing remorse. Major red flag.)

    D. Even if I was not thinking about breaking up with him, he would remind me of how much his kids looked up to me, of how amazing I was and how much he needed me. This flattery was a key component of his conflict resolution style.

    E. He often attempted to resolve conflict with flattery (D, above) and with persuasive narratives that would inspire you to forgive him for higher spiritual reasons. He was extremely skilled at personalizing the narrative to the listener, including groups of listeners, by figuring out their ideals and appealing to those ideals.

    F. There was never any closure and I always felt sick. After only a year with this man, I hardly recognized myself in the mirror. I looked older and felt older and was physically ill all of the time. I regained my health almost immediately after going no contact and beginning the long road of articulating what I had experienced to authorities with the power to do something about this man.

    This blog is one of the things that has helped me most during my recovery. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would end up in an abusive relationship. It only took about 5 months before the abuse really took off. By month 6 or 7 close friends noticed that I was not myself. By month 12 I had people flying in to take care of me because I could barely eat or function. It took a lot of professionals and friends and family to help me get and stay away from this man. I now have much greater empathy for women who stay with abusive men and especially those who are married to them for decades. It is such an awful experience.

    At the suggestion of a professional, I learned that this man was likely someone with antisocial personality disorder. I read up on this and I think it fits. From what I observed in just one year, he would score above the threshold and some serial killers on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. But I’m no psychologist.

    “Nobody will have ALL of these traits.” I think this guy did, but that doesn’t change the point. The point is that a person does not need to exhibit all of these traits to be harmful. I think even one (such as the lying) is enough to be extremely harmful. Extremely! Of all the traits I observed, I would say that the lying and gaslighting were the most harmful to my sense of peace and ability to move forward as a trusting, whole person. Why? Because they altered my view of what humans are capable of, diminished my sense of safety in the world, and caused me to doubt my own reality. We need to stop making excuses for our partners. “Well, he only shows one of these 6 things…maybe he is not so bad.” That’s not valuing our own perceptions enough. We need to get better at listening to ourselves.

    That brings me to another red flag: a man who makes it so that you have trouble hearing your own inner voice. When you sense that your inner voice is being drowned. He had this effect on me in two ways, first in that he moved so fast and so smoothly that I didn’t have time or space to think. Within two weeks of knowing me he declared his “love” and was highly convincing and drowned out a lot of my solitude and time to reflect. Second, he would cause “decision fatigue” by giving me so many decisions to make in a short period of time and sneaking in a major decision with so many minor decisions that I would not have the mental energy to notice or think through the major decision. That state of confusion characterized the whole relationship from the first day we met, onward. If I had been aware that that fugue was a red flag, it might have saved me a great deal of time and agony, as I might have run away on day one.

    I also wish that I had not been in such denial about how bad things could be. I dismissed many red flags because I couldn’t imagine how bad things could get and so quickly. I didn’t think abuse could happen to me. It was like being boiled alive, slowly, without my noticing.

    I wish I could convey to people how seriously to take this stuff, because it is serious. When I left him, I was in fear for my life and could hardly explain why. But it really felt like life or death. So please, take this stuff seriously. Everyone.

    Reply
    • Natalie Hoffman

      Thank you for giving some real life examples of this. It’s very helpful, and I appreciate the time you took to carefully put this together for the benefit of others. (((HUGS)))

      Reply
    • Rachel

      Wow, i feel like we dated the same person!! This is so so so much of what i went through with my boyfriend of 8 months. At about month 5 everything changed and got progressively worse!! Thank you so much for sharing. Not sure how to handle dating from now on….i was guarded and this still happened. Been out of this relationship for 1 month now and very thankful!

      Reply
  3. Rebecca

    Hi again Natalie, well guess what my ex-husband has ALL of the traits you listed in this article. Wow, I don’t know what to say other than I guess when I do something I do it ALL the way. Don’t be a bear, be a grizzly bear right? Both of my parents are narcissistic abusers as well as my first and second husbands. But I finally woke up from that nightmare and have both eyes wide open as I learn and heal from all of that abuse. Thank you for all of your work educating women of abuse in marriage. I really feel blessed to have found your website. Glory to God

    Reply
  4. Madeleine

    My ex husband fits into all of the above… But what is seldom said, is how the church and christians around you reacts to the relationship. Many by looking away, choosing not to see or hear? Quoting scriptures and talking about forgivness. Some are so set on divorce being a sin, that we “sacrifice” women and sometimes counsel them to forgive him and stay in an abusive marriage… Not knowing better!
    Forgive, yes! Stay, oh no!!

    Reply
  5. mary

    I have been through all of this. It does a lot of damage!

    Reply
  6. Eleanor Sherman

    I find it extremely important to examine oneself. As one who came out of an abusive marriage some years ago, I found that in actuality I had married someone like one of my parents. If your family life has been abusive in nature it is likely that you will marry someone abusive. If you are aware that your family life was abusive in nature, take time to evaluate yourself first and shore up your self worth and set up boundaries in your life. Be extremely cautious in relationships, and at the first red flag get out. Life is too precious to allow it to get bound up from the results of an abusive marriage.

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Good advice!! In cases of child abuse, it is important to do that healing work prior to getting into a marriage relationship as an adult.

      Reply
  7. Jady

    That was an amazing & spot on article!!

    Reply
  8. NG

    This is a good list of some of the obvious deal-breakers and warning signs (love bombing, being sooo kind before going ballistic over a little thing…)
    However, something that I find confusing about this list: ‘Does he accept negative feedback well’ and later on, ‘Is he critical of you, even in little ways..?’ sem to contradict each other. It is assumed (rightly so) that he should be open to critical feedback and grow from it, but if he ever offers it, it’s seen as a major red flag… If I can criticize him, he should have the same freedom, and vice versa – within the spirit of love, of course.
    I would hope both parties feel free to share their thoughts in a healthy relationship – negative and positive. Neither should have the carte blanche though to be abusive with their feedback and crush the other person…

    Most people do not like negative feedback, even when justified and well-meaning, and it does take lots of wisdom how to present it, so it does not come across as mean and overly critical.
    This is just something that I would like to have clarified 🙂

    Reply
    • Natalie Anne

      We’re not talking about an average relationship in which there is a normal amount of give and take. This is an abusive relationship where there are multiple red flags waving in the air. Not just one. In an abusive relationship, there is a lot of criticism and no ability to take feedback. Ever. That’s not normal.

      Reply
      • NG

        I do get it that we’re talking of a pattern here. However, I still believe that calling criticism automatically abusive (when it comes from him) is misleading. 🙂
        In a healthy relationship, there can be even heavy criticism from both sides (about spending habits, etc…), but that does not eman there isn’t genuine love and care. Criticism does not have to be destructive or aimed at the worth of the person.

        Reply
        • Natalie Anne

          Right. But again, we are talking about an abusive relationship where there are critical patterns over a length of time. We are not discussing a normal relationship in which feedback (constructive criticism) is given and taken with good will.

          Reply
    • Jady

      My x husband was very critical of me & did not take feedback well at all! I wasn’t even being critical, just giving my feedback & he’d get angry. He would criticize little things & big things-not feedback. There’s a difference

      Reply
  9. Joy

    You are sooo spot on. Wish I’d read this 40 years ago. And he was a pastor! I just left 5 years ago and what my grown children and I are dealing with is unreal. Thank you for writing this!

    Reply
    • Sherry

      How does he treat his Mom, with respect and honor? How does he treat his sister, does he ridicule and belittle or treat her with love and concern. How he treats those closest to him will tell you much. What about how he treats animals? My daughter lived with his parents for several months. The things she didnt tell us would have raised red flags to us, it might not have made a difference but we never had a clue. His dad and mom was constantly fighting and putting each other down. His sister wouldn’t hardly talk to him and moved out while our daughter was there. He was disrespectful to his Mom. He did have good Christian friends. No one from his family except his Mom and dad came to their wedding but several couples from his church traveled several hours to be there and his pastor participated in the wedding. Only after he beat her did we learn these things. She was not a teenager, she had completed her bachelor of nursing degree and had a job, she thought she was in Gods will but later told us she was concerned but thought because he professed to be a born again Christian, and I am not saying he isnt, and he went to a good church and participated in all the appropriate activities and had good friends that he couldn’t be the person who only came out occasionally.

      Reply
      • Kate

        My h treated his mom and parents extremely well, to the point of telling me that there are many women, but one mother only. So treating his mother well is not indicator he will treat his spouse well, too. Not in my case

        Reply
  10. Abigail

    Dear Mel,
    This is a sermon from a Baptist minister in Ohio named Craig Miller. It is the single-most well-researched and clearly stated explanation I have ever come across of what Jesus meant marriage to be, the limitations on mistreatment within it, the necessity of divorce to protect his beloved daughters, and clarification on what he and the other New Testament writers intended when they spoke on divorce in the context of the speaking.
    Looking at the whole of scripture, it becomes clear that God’s heart of love does not hit a brick wall and turn hard against his daughters where abuse is concerned. Abuse is SO FAR from his intention in marriage that it’s unlikely God or the writers inspired by his Spirit ever felt the need to spell it out as clearly as we have come to think today (by justifying abuse for so long) we need to hear.
    Follow this link, the go to February 24, 2013, “When Marriage Isn’t Forever” for the sermon. It is excellent and thorough.
    http://www.gracecedarville.org/sermonarchive

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      This sermon is excellent. Thank you so much for sharing it here.

      Reply
    • Sherry

      The link did not work, but I would love to find the sermon.

      Reply
      • Sue

        I just called the church and spoke to a sweet gal. I told her what I was looking for, and she is going to make sure that this sermon is posted as a link on their Facebook page. The sermon is also available if you go way back to their 2013 sermon archive and podcasts, but it takes a little while to find it. Their church website is gracecedarville.org, and they have a link to their Facebook page from their church website. She was very kind and helpful, so hopefully this link will be available very soon.

        Reply
  11. Liz

    Thank you so much for this article, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for! I am a Christian campus staff worker and I work with lots of young women who become smitten with guys in college and just don’t head the warning signs. My husband and I worked for a narcissistic senior Pastor many years ago (so destructive) and we now know what to look out for – but if you’ve never experienced it you really just don’t get what emotional/spiritual abuse looks like. I’ve been trying to find something clear and straightforward that I can use with my college students to help explain the warning signs simply without having to read a long book (which most won’t because they don’t think it applies to them). My husband and I also do pre-marital counselling with lots of young people and I am planning to talk through these things with the women I mentor – this will be really helpful so THANK YOU! The comments here are really devastating though. I think most pastors and churches are completely naive when it comes to the prevalence of emotional and spiritual abuse and it’s long term damage. We had an horrific time working for this senior pastor, but on the bright side, at least I was never married to him. Can’t even imagine.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I’m actually working on a handout for campus staff/youth workers, etc.to give to students to educate them on how to spot an unhealthy relationship and get out safely. I’ve got your email, and I’ll let you know when it is finished. It will be downloadable, and you can make as many copies as you’d like. Sometimes it’s easier to hand out a hard copy of something and know for sure the person got it then it is to give them a link to a website. Thank you for commenting here.

      Reply
  12. alyssa

    How interesting…looking at this list of characteristics of abusers, unfortunately, my ex was the opposite of most of those things, but that should have made me run sooner. He definitely told me I completed him and worshiped the ground I walked on, but other than that, he was quiet, insecure, and was quite self-deprecating. Good luck to all of you who are struggling or don’t know whether or not what you’re experiencing is abuse. There is no sure fire way of finding out for sure, but if you do make that realization, you need to get out!

    Reply
  13. C

    This is about 90% of what I experienced and I didn’t put it all together and leave until he had a really bad ‘freak out’ and I had 2 new friends in the same apartment complex to run to. I had left before and either went to my parents that I didn’t feel comfortable talking to about it, slept in my car or just went back to him later.
    I also wanted to add to the inability to take criticism that he would sometimes over exaggerate my criticisms by agreeing with me but then saying he was a horrible person for it, even if it was something small or just something I asked him to try to work on.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Yup. I’m glad you got out. Thank you for adding your voice here.

      Reply
  14. Deb Ferrell

    Great article but would like to add if children are involved they tell you how you are mentally incapable of tending to them if you leave he will definitely take them from you so you stay but you are not doing them any favors. The kids see and hear and know what is going on and it does affect them as they chose partners and raise their families because they repeat the abusive cycle. It would have been better for them if I had gotten out before it got as bad as it did. Also the abuser tries to separate you from your families and friends so they can have full control but you don’t realize it until it is too late. They then have full control so be careful it is at this point they try to kill you so always have a safe get away plan. You think this will never happen just remember anybody can snap in a split second and whether they are sorry or not the kids will have no parents at this point. People think preachers or church officials are not like this but they are human and anything is possible.

    Reply
  15. Cindy

    I haven’t seen my beautiful daughter in nearly five years, because she married THIS GUY. She left everyone she ever knew in her entire life, to marry THIS GUY. She left art and music and joy behind, to become a non-person for THIS GUY. Will you all pray for her? Her name is Sarah, and she is beautiful.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      My heart aches for you. Father in heaven, we pray You would rescue Sarah from her abusive spouse. Make a way for her to get out. Open up her eyes to see what has happened to her, and put people and resources in her way that will help her escape. Cut this man out of her life somehow, and restore her to her rightful place in this world. Fulfill Your purpose for her life, and I pray the enemy would be thwarted at every turn. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, we ask this. Amen.

      Reply
    • Lisa Whitehead

      Praying for Sarah and will continue to do so.
      Any updates would be great.
      Praying for you also Cindy.
      God bless and help you both.

      Reply
  16. Kathy Maronic

    One more terribly sad item. A man truly abused or mistreated by his parents, will abuse. Count on it. Out side of God’s grace. They need help, and usually don’t know it. I know a woman whose husband was punished terribly, police were called etc many times. He turned into the worse abuser of his wife. Now is son is the same,his daughter is terrified of him.

    Reply
    • Millie

      “A man truly abused or mistreated by his parents, will abuse.”
      This is not true and not helpful. Please do not label victims of abuse – we have enough to cope with.

      Reply
  17. Rachel

    Then there are the abusers who don’t exhibit ANY of these signs until after the knot is tied. That’s what happened to me. There was nothing visible to say what he was going to turn into. Over the last few years as I’ve healed from it, I’ve been able to pick out a few things from his behavior based on what I learned of him. But none of those things were visible in any recognizable way before the wedding, and none of them would give off red flags to anyone other than me or someone else who survived being married to an ADD narcissist.

    I did a lot of railing at God for letting this man convince my entire family that he was who he appeared to be. Spotting these people is usually something my dad and I are very good at. But not in this case.

    He engaged in a lot of mental and emotional abuse, and I left a few days before he crossed the line into physical. We were getting ready to move about three months before I left, and he got so angry about something that he threatened to hit me. I’m not afraid to stand up for myself, and I stared him down with my arms crossed. Nobody believed me about it until my sister witnessed him explode at me over nothing while she was visiting me, and I came home with her two days later. Haven’t seen the SOB since and there’s 1500 miles between us.

    Even my cat liked him at first. Now, because of him, the only strangers she lets pet her are kids.

    Reply
  18. G.L.

    Interesting article, but sometimes the gender of the abuser is female. How many men keep it a secret because they’re afraid of being viewed as “weak”?

    Reply
    • tom

      Joy, can you provide scientific proof for your statistic please?

      “According to a 2010 national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Justice, in the last 12 months more men than women were victims of intimate partner physical violence and over 40% of severe physical violence was directed at men. Men were also more often the victim of psychological aggression and control over sexual or reproductive health. Despite this, few services are available to male victims of intimate partner violence.”
      http://www.saveservices.org/2012/02/cdc-study-more-men-than-women-victims-of-partner-abuse/

      “Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States…. In 2000, 1,247 women and 440 men were killed by an intimate partner.”
      http://www.americanbar.org/groups/domestic_violence/resources/statistics.html

      The closest I could find to your number, though it is old data & trends are increasing for % violence against men (or atleast increased reporting):
      “Domestic violence is primarily a crime against women. In 2001, women accounted for 85 percent of the victims of domestic partner violence and men accounted for approximately 15 percent of the victims.”
      http://www.dvcpartners.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=48&Itemid=58

      Reply
      • Natalie Klejwa

        Domestic gay relationships come into play here. Keep that in mind when looking at statistics that show an increase in domestic violence against men. It isn’t so much that women are getting bigger and stronger and meaner. It’s that men are connected in intimate, domestic ways with other men. The ones that play the female role are the ones most likely to be abused and manipulated.

        Reply
        • tom

          “Domestic gay relationships come into play here”
          Indeed, actually female on female are higher rates:
          “The National Violence Against Women survey found that 21.5 percent of men and 35.4 percent of women living with a same-sex partner experienced intimate-partner physical violence in their lifetimes, compared with 7.1% and 20.4% for men and women,”
          http://www.advocate.com/crime/2014/09/04/2-studies-prove-domestic-violence-lgbt-issue

          (Aside, not sure how same-sex marriage legalization will change this, but seems the rates of being abused as children/teens is higher abmoung LGBT than avg, so I doubt it will change drastically.)

          Reply
        • tom

          “These studies refute the myths that only straight women get battered, that men are never victims, and that women never batter — in other words, that domestic violence is not an LGBT issue. In fact, it is one of our most serious health risks, affecting significant numbers within our communities.

          “Abuse is not about violence; it’s about control,” says Beth Leventhal, executive director of The Network/La Red in Boston. “You can be just as controlling of someone if you are small — as if you’re large. It’s about using violence or any other means of gaining and maintaining control.””

          From same study: http://www.advocate.com/crime/2014/09/04/2-studies-prove-domestic-violence-lgbt-issue

          Reply
          • Terri

            “These studies refute the myths that only straight women get battered, that men are never victims, and that women never batter…”

            Natalie has never said or suggested this. Was there a deleted comment above that I didn’t see? It looks that way, because these citations are fighting a battle that isn’t being waged here.

            Reply
  19. bonnie

    He starts fights when you mention benign likes or dislikes. He turns it into a tirade against your character.

    When he is angry, he breaks the things you have given him. He blames his rage on his circumstances.

    He can’t be happy for you when you have a good day, because his wasn’t quite as good. He is angry at you for anything you enjoy that didn’t also benefit him.

    He demands your attention to the exclusion of sleeping and eating. He requires you to abandon your hobbies because they take you away from him.

    If you are not inclined to be intimate, he becomes angry and fights with you till you give up and give in.

    He threatens you when you when you finally get the courage to try leaving.

    Reply
  20. what to do?

    I’ve been in a passive-aggressive, emotionally abusive marriage for 26 + years. I’ve been lied to, slandered in every way imaginable, ignored for weeks at a time and generally been the scapegoat for everything that has ever gone wrong in my husband’s life. He is a depressed and miserable man and I truly pity him, but otherwise my heart is dead towards him. I don’t feel God leading me to leave, but wrestle daily with just how to live a life than honors Jesus in the midst of the emotional chaos of my marriage. During the past year or so the Lord has shown me (much through your blog, Natalie) that my husband/marriage will never change for the better. I’ve gotten a “life” and God has given me the confidence to serve Him in ways I’d never imagined. My dilemma is how to daily model godliness before my children, in the presence of a man I can’t even look in the eye and for whom I have no respect.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I’m so sorry. Have you read Foolproofing Your Life by Jan Silvious? It’s a good book to read if you plan to stay.

      “Oh my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress. My God in His steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.” Ps. 59:10

      Reply
      • what to do?

        I have, Natalie, and found it to be tremendously helpful and healing. However, the practicality of living a polite, arms-length life with someone with whom I’m supposed to be “one” is befuddling!

        Reply
        • Natalie Klejwa

          Yes. That’s why I had to separate. After 22 years, I couldn’t do it anymore. My life has been incredibly healing since he has left. I know that isn’t practical for everyone though. My heart goes out to you.

          Reply
    • Toni

      I was in a similar situation for 21 years until our church stepped in over four years ago after seeing the suffering of our children (now 15 and 17). One thing that helped me move forward was realizing that it was not good for my husband to remain as he was. The elders tried to work with him, but he did not listen. He filed for divorce this summer, so God has released me without my having to take that step, which I was finally willing to do this fall (that’s how I found out he’d filed first), after learning that he’d molested and raped our daughter several times when she was aged 7-11.

      Whether your husband is a Christian or not, it is not loving or good to allow him to continue this pattern. If he is a professing Christian, then he is bringing reproach on the name of Christ. His profession of faith coupled with such behavior is probably having an adverse affect on your children’s view of God and the gospel. A couple of believing men who understand and see the abuse need to confront him about his pattern of sin for HIS OWN sake, as well as for yours and the kids’.

      Reply
  21. nylse

    This is the most important factor that will allow you to see clearly character traits in others: —->Where are you at? Are you desperate to get married? Do you feel unworthy of a good man? Unworthy of love? If so, you may be an abuser magnet. Get personally healthy (this doesn’t mean “get perfect.”) You ARE worthy of love, and you ARE worth a good man. Don’t settle for an abuser just to be able to say you belong to someone. You are not chattel. You are a treasure. You are a beloved child of the King. Raise your head, and don’t accept anything less than a good (not perfect – but humble), honest, healthy man.

    If you don’t know your self worth and know that you are worthwhile, you will convince yourself to settle for anything.
    Now this list is kind of scary in that as humans some of us may exhibit some of these traits at different times. However if there is a pattern of constant red flags, I do think you should not ignore them.

    Thankfully, the person I am married to is not an abuser. I only have God to thank.

    Reply
  22. sherry

    I have a wonderful marriage, 41 years. Our children were encouraged to grow up to be confident in their decisions. Our daughter became a nurse and moved to another state. She met a man at a Christian singles retreat, we only saw him a handful of times before they became engaged. We didn’t know his family. After their first child was born we noticed a debate change in him and ask for the worst. He was jealous of the baby and would disappear for hours without even saying he was leaving. They live in another state so we don’t see than often. They had a second child and shortly after that she called us, he had beaten her and would not let her go. She managed to get away and called the authorities. He said sorry etc so she allowed him back into his life. She left again and came to stay with us but refused to talk about leaving him. I know he is abusing her and the kids, if not physically, I have seen marks on the kids backs, then for sure emotionally. I chi not believe she should stay with him. I know she can raise the kids alone with the sort of her family. He is getting worse in my opinion, he comes from a dysfunctional family and I think he has emotional problems maybe even something like bipolar disorder. Had can put on a good front for a short time but sometimes doesn’t make even an effort. How can I help my daughter? It breaks my heart that she and the boys live like this.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      It’s tricky because legally there isn’t much you can do. She has to get to a place where she chooses to take legal action and/or leave for good. Can she browse on the Internet without being discovered? If you think it is safe, I would send her links to places like A Cry for Justice and Leslie Vernick’s blog.

      I am so sorry. This is truly heart-wrenching.

      Reply
  23. Stillblessed

    The first list, beginning with “super-de-duper nice, like Barney” didn’t fit the guy I was dating – and later married – at all. He was nice, but not charming, not very religious, not confident…but rather needy, nerdy, forgetful, socially awkward. If all I had to go by was the first list, I would never see him as abusive. But the rest of the list – oh my! If I could have gone through that list before we married, I maybe would have seen the truth. As it is, I’ve been in an abusive relationship for 35 years. Thankfully, my eyes have been slowly opened over the last 5-10 years, and now I know.

    Reply
  24. Sherry

    Hi Roger,
    Your comment is almost word-for-word what my husband would say, has said, except we’ve been married for 6 years, not 30. Six years too many. I want to point out that abusive men frequently say their women are disrespectful, controlling, and manipulative. It’s part of their inability to take responsibility for their own behavior. It’s blame-shifting and denial. My husband (recently separated) will see the fact that I blocked him from calling and texting my cell phone, as well as blocking his emails as me being controlling, not because I’m trying to shield myself from further abuse. He considers me cold and unloving because I withdrew into a shell because I couldn’t say or do anything right. Do you see where I’m going with this? Being the “good” Christian wife, I allowed him to set the tone for our marriage and it had a devastating effect. I filed for divorce a few weeks ago. He didn’t see it coming. He honestly thinks he was a good husband. I sure hope that doesn’t happen to you.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I’m kinda hoping it DOES. (Dearie me, did I just write that out loud?)

      Reply
    • Lynn

      For a long time I was angry that my ex insisted to everyone I had just walked out without any attempt to communicate and fix things (never mind that he resisted counseling for over a decade because they always called him out on his behavior), but after a few years I’m beginning to see that he really was surprised. My defending myself really was seen as aggression, and my emotional separation as a shocking betrayal of the highest order. He was projecting his own attitudes and behaviors onto me. Truly, he lives on another planet. Sometimes he is fully aware that he chose evil, and sometimes he is completely bewildered by it all.

      Reply
      • Virginia Knowles

        What I hope for him is to know, express, and do authentic truth and love, preferably before it is too late. If a man can do that, even if it requires hard work and a radical change of paradigm and behavior, it is good for all. Trolling your post like this certainly doesn’t help his relational portfolio.

        Reply
        • Virginia Knowles

          Sorry, that was meant as a reply to Natalie’s comment.

          Reply
  25. Roger

    I think you have some valid points but if you jump at evry bullet point and break the deal you might as well not get married at all. We are humen and I have failed many times in many of your points. Also many of your points can be warnings for the man. Verbal abusive, physical abuse (a woman can get by with physical abuse to her husband but a man must never ever be) a woman can also be disrespectful, controlling, manipulative, and the list goes on. If a woman demands all your bullet points with no room for error what kind of woman will she be ? Matriarchal ? What does the Bible say about Husband, wife relationships ? I read this artical twice and it hurts seeing there is no room for error , correction, forgivness and growth. I love my wife of 30 years. I have failed many, many times in many of your points. I still love her and she claims (and I believe) to love me. Sometimes I tkink she dosn’t but I really know the bottom line. My wife also has many curves and all her edges all her perfect imperfections. Im abit concerned that you reflect that it is very much a problem amongst christian couples and it appears to be the mans fault. Am I reading this artical wrong ? I am sorry if I missed it. And forgive me. I really want to see a balance for both sides.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      1. You totally missed it.
      2. Your comment is self-focused and self-pitying (often a dead giveaway for an abuser – just FYI in case you want to be more clever at disguising yourself in the future.)
      3. It’s lovely that you WANT to see a balance, but too bad that you don’t, and probably never will. See #2.
      4. To the rest of you reading, can you spot the other abuser tactics in this comment?

      Reply
      • Lisa Whitehead

        Ah, putting it all back on you and the fact that women can be all the points he listed.

        Reply
    • debby

      I don’t have a lot of time but I did want to put this to you. This is how I finally started viewing this whole “I’m only human. I ‘m not perfect so does that mean I’m an abuser? You do these things, too.” that was always thrown in my face the moment I brought up the inappropriateness (bizarreness?) of his actions. So I started asking him, “Do you wake up every morning afraid of what I am going to do and say? Do you walk around the house watching your step, never knowing when I am going to attack you verbally? NO? Well, that’s how me and our kids have lived for all these years.” This isnt about “do you ever screw up?” We all do. This is about continuous, unrepentant destructive behaviors. These “signs” are a good indicator that you may be in for a train derailment somewhere down the road. This is about making a wise choice BEFORE we have made a commitment and brought kids in to the picture. You seem very defensive. I read this and I dont feel defensive at all even though I have, on occasion, done some of these, too. Women CAN, of course, be abusive. Nobody is denying that. But this site is for women who have lived through hell. You may find a more sympathetic ear at joejpote.com who has lived through an abusive marriage and shares a lot of wisdom.

      Reply
    • Lisa Whitehead

      Hi Roger,
      I just want to point out the title – Advice to unmarried women.
      As Natalie is a Christian, she is not likely to agree with same sex marriage.
      That leaves one alternative – to tell women what to watch out for in men.
      That is what the article is about.
      And when I read it, I read the part that said not everyone who is an abuser will necessarily have all these issues.
      And I read being pleased that my husband has none of the traits listed -no, none, I have just checked again to be sure, although I was. And he has none because he is not an abuser.

      Reply
    • Kari

      The fact is, we live in a patriarchal society, and it’s hard for that to not seep into the church. In fact, it can be most prevalent in the church, but so many people don’t want to see that. Yes, we know that women can be abusive, but men are taught to be aggressive and control women, so it is more likely for men to be abusive.

      Reply
    • Terri

      It’s honest and transparent to give credit when you cite someone else’s work. “…curves and all [her] edges, all [her] perfect imperfections” are lyrics from John Legend’s “All of Me.”

      Reply
  26. Laurie

    Thank you! This pretty much describes my father. He has anger issues; I haven’t seen him in years. I had to set up a boundary, which he tried to get through, but was easy to stick to, since I was grown and gone now. Another question to add: What kind of home did they come from? In addition to not talking about his childhood, my grandmother had a severe brain injury when my dad was young, which I believe altered a lot of her personality. I have no idea if this is fact or not. I know when I found my first serious boyfriend, I found someone just like him and fortunately, God opened my eyes! My youngest sister, however, I’m afraid she married someone too similar. She is now isolated from us, at least distance wise. Throws herself into her work. His family…..is a mess. Again, warning signs!

    Reply
  27. Lisa

    Just wanted you to know that I am praying for you. 🙂 Thanks for this important info..

    Reply
  28. Rob

    Natalie, thanks so much for this post. My wife and I are watching a dear friend march headlong into marriage with a guy exactly like the one described. It seems that she’s made up her mind to marry him, regardless of the repeated entreaties of her friends and family. We’re going to do our best to be there for her when the wheels eventually come off.
    One question I’m wrestling with is how to speak truth into the life of this guy. He exhibits the exact arrogance and manipulation described, but when you call him out on it, he denies denies denies. Do you have any strategies or resources for helping him to see the harm he’s causing, and pointing him in a more healthy direction? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I haven’t seen anyone find success in changing what the Bible calls a “fool.” You can help and point all you want. They don’t want to listen. They don’t “hear” reproof. There’s not much you can do with someone who isn’t interested in growing. (See my article series about fools on the sidebar of this blog.) Proverbs gives instruction for the rest of us when we come in close proximity with a fool. The book Foolproofing Your Life by Jan Silvious is a practical guide for this purpose as well. In a nutshell – feed a fool with a long handled spoon. Hard to do that when you are married to one.

      Have your friend read this article along with the dozens of comments from women who wish they could do it all over again. Life with a fool (abuser) is hell. It is hard to see someone heading for a cliff. 🙁

      Reply
    • debby

      Rob, speaking as a woman married to one of “these” for 28 years and just now coming out of the fog, I will tell you that the strategy of “trying to speak truth” into this guys life will not work. This is not about him “not knowing or understanding” and “if he just KNEW what he was doing he would stop.” This is about control. That’s how they operate. I begged, pleaded, cried, wrote letters, had others tell him, our kids finally started to speak up, his brothers told him for 3 decades to no avail. Giving HER as much information as she is willing to accept would be a more productive strategy as her wising up and seeing truth as soon as possible and giving real consequences and/or leaving, thereby causing him pain and discomfort, is the only way (and most of the time even THAT doesn’t stop the train from derailing) this guy may change his ways. The longer she stays, add a couple of kids and some financial ties, and it becomes all the more difficult to escape. She IS more fortunate than most of us as she already has a knowledgable advocate (you) who will be there for her whatever the future may hold. Don’t be discouraged or give up on her if she doesn’t “see” it fast enough and makes choices you know will be unwise. God has taught me a LOT and grown me a LOT in ways I never would have had I not gone through this crucible so pray for her, educate her, be there for her, protect her from “Christian counselors” who have no clue about abuse and will probably try to talk her into staying and “working on her marriage,” (that’s what kept ME in bondage for years) help her leave if and when she is ready, and leave the end results to God. I wish I had had a YOU in my life years ago.

      Reply
  29. Marie

    There is one thing on this list that is at least in the top 5 questions [I think #1] that should be answered before a trip down the aisle: Do you agree spiritually? Another way of saying it is, do you have the same religious views? One of the most tragic things I see is women whose husbands do not agree with their spiritual views and cannot share devotional time and fellowship with others. Usually the man demands a specific denominational church or he ‘allows’ his wife a few hours a week to go to church or Bible study but to ‘be on the same page’ isn’t even considered. He thinks her stupid or weak for having a relationship with her Savior and many times is downright jealous and either forbids it or put a time limit on it. It winds up completely dividing them on all levels, spirit, soul and body. Ladies, if you don’t agree spiritually from the start, do yourself a life-long favor and find someone else.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Unfortunately for many in Christian marriages, the “religious views” match up perfectly.

      Reply
  30. Ruth

    This is a great forum. I am a living victim. Was married to a very abusive man for 7 years. Yes – sharp on the outside but otherwise sick – sick- sick! In this state domestic violence is a misdemeanor for the 1st two convictions and a felony for the third. It was a nightmare & yes – PTSD is what it left me. (Oh – he was a no-show for the 3rd court case. The judge had the DA call me after leaving court and he was furious. She had an all-points-bulletin out on him. Two days later he committed suicide w/ a 45 mg. pistol.)
    By the time of that last incident I’d lost 1/3 of my body weight (starvation), could barely walk, it was December and I was taken to an abuse shelter in another county. I didn’t speak or remove my overcoat for a week. Sorry – it’s a long story…
    The most recent statistic I saw was that 1 in 4 women are being abused. That is very scary. It’s so important to talk about these things without being ashamed. It isn’t good to keep all the bad memories stuck inside yourself. No one is perfect – but a molester? They are very sick and oh so dangerous.
    Once I started talking there has been no end of it!
    The DV shelter I was at was wonderful. The shelters are under strict government rules and all the staff have to be certified abuse advocates. That’s were the ugly “scripts” of repeating what the abuser plants in us through repetition is dealt with by these great folks beautifully. It’s the right thing to do. They also planned events – Christmas parties, church basement get together dinners with lots of other survivors and all of it is good. Getting back to life!
    Much love and blessings to us all 🙂

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Oh Ruth. I am so sorry for all that you have been through – and so thankful that you are healing. What is frustrating for me is seeing how the church, in general, kicks women when they are down. The “world” is more compassionate and better equipped and trained to deal with abuse. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. Thank God that He works through all kinds of means to get His children the help they need. Thank you for sharing a part of your story. You are a courageous woman!!

      Reply
      • Ruth

        Thank you Natalie – but I sure had a lot to explain! It’s the best example I have about why God allows us to go through the fires. I firmly believe He has 2 purposes. One is to refine us, teach us something, put us through the melting pot & come out finer – and the other is to bring us closer to Him. I know what you mean – the things abusers accuse us of is that we caused it – people do seem to lean more in the abuser’s story than the victims. Yet the people who knew me (except for my sister) didn’t know until later. I have often wondered why my sister didn’t intervene. She’d been at the hospital for concussions, lacerations, and 1 suicide attempt. Doesn’t seem like we need to have a reputation like Carey Nation had but it’s hard to look back & wonder – what would Sis have done if someone else hadn’t rescued me. I’d wake up in the ER and there she was, crying & caring. Would check out and she’d drive me home. That’s scary sure enough. 🙁 But it’s OK! Appreciate your kind words. Kindness works here all the time! Best wishes to all your correspondents. Abuse in your own home… it is mind boggling. I pray everyone will take heed of the PD advise… get that emergency bag packed & hidden! I pray all will be safe. Thank you again.

        Reply
  31. Savannah

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m in tears. This was my life, and I JUST got out. I was married to a seemingly wonderful man. Everything was wonderful until we had our baby, though honestly, looking back, I chose to overlook all the signs. After the baby was born, and he was no longer the sole focus of my attention, most of these behaviors came out full force. We were in the classic abuse cycle. He would get mad, say and do things that were designed to cut me down and control me, apologize, be sweet for a while. And repeat. When I finally admitted to myself that I had let myself get into an abusive marriage, I knew it had to stop because there was no way I was letting my sweet baby grow up the way I had been living. I filed for divorce and have been living back at my parents for 2 weeks now. No one seems to understand why I got out. He forced me to go to marriage counseling once I filed (I begged for it for months before that) so that he could act like it was my fault that the marriage failed, and even the counselor acted like it was no big deal because I wasn’t getting hit. My own sister told me that I hadn’t done enough to save my marriage, and my daddy told me I needed to stay for the sake of my child (he later learned more details and changed his mind). I wish I’d been more observant and more willing to see signs before we had our son. While I will never regret having him, I do regret that he has to be subjected to a father like that.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Dear Savannah, my heart goes out to you. You are in fresh, raw pain. It is even more painful when people don’t understand and are not supportive. You are doing what is best for you and your son. God will be your husband – and a father to your child. He is enough. His love is great. I pray you will feel His peace on your spirit as you recover and heal from your destructive marriage.

      For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

      Reply
    • Ruth

      Dear Savannah, it’s hard to understand or even analyze when you’re right in the middle of such things. Those “signs” come in on tiptoe and often it’s only in retrospect and with expert help can we understand how these things work. As Natalie speaks of the blindness or misunderstanding a fair amount of “normal” church folk have a hard time believing it. The police know for sure. The domestic violence calls are the most dangerous of all the 911 calls. It’s just great to hear your father came around! It wasn’t something the average American lived w/ but now it’s different. I’m so sorry, Savannah. But I’m so happy you do have “home” and family to be there for you and your son. God bless you Savannah. A professional advocate can help with taking the ugly words out of our “job description” as well as the blame and shame. Those do not belong to us. Take care & hope you find the world a better place than it would be without the knowledge you now have. May God and time grant you the ability to “mother” other mothers who don’t know what’s happening either. You sound like a mother that every child would want to be close to… Bless you all.. stay safe…

      Reply
  32. Lisa Whitehead

    Hi Mel,
    I have been thinking about this a lot as I was once in quite a legalistic church and can imagine how your daughter must find this so difficult.
    Thankfully, I have a real revelation from Christ of His grace.
    The thing is, for most people in church who would disagree with a woman leaving her husband, they can not understand that grace.
    I have 2 passages that may help.
    And as someone who learned the 9 rules of interpretation as used by lawyers and theologians,
    I know that scripture has to be read in context.

    Psalm 55, especially vs 12 & 21, but also bear in mind what the passage says about this type of enemy – God is condemning them. Why would He want a loving woman to stay?
    Also, 1 Peter 3 – especially good as it is talking about husbands and wives. Now, just because our bible breaks up a passage in a certain spot does not mean that is no longer part of the context. vs 8-12 is just as important as the previous ones.

    I hope that helps, and I will continue to pray for your daughter, that Christ will lead her, and that He will bless her with friends that do understand His grace.

    Reply
    • Single is Fine

      1 Corinthians 7 says in verses 10 and 11, ” To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.”
      There are some circumstances that do not fit in a conservative church’s divorce policies and yet separation and living alone is preferred by the Christian woman.
      My husband and I received counsel within the church after my husband was adulterous. He had been verbally abusive for years. We gratefully reconciled. After years, he was discovered guilty again, we counseled, got back together again. He regressed back to isolation, anger and his use of porn. I told him I could not bear his use of porn. I felt rejected still, insulted; very alone in the bed we shared. Soon he was communicating with porn sites.
      It was hard for my church leadership to watch me separate from him without another episode of physical adultery, but I preferred a life without any man to the painful, isolating, non-relating-ship we had. I also know I exhausted every avenue, by God’s grace, to stay in the marriage for decades seeking unity, restoration.
      1 Corinthians 7:15 says,”You are called to peace.” Peace was not descriptive of our home, I dreaded his return wondering what I would be criticized for, who he would be? Would he be silently stewing, angry and loud, civil and tolerant, would he curse me, my Jesus, one of the children, or be quiet, sad, whispering hatred of himself, would he be glad to see us?
      I have peace now as a divorced unavailable woman under the grace of Christ’s husbandry. I cannot confidently recommend my actions to anyone else but I would definitely never recommend the marriage I had. I was so lonely, so rejected next to my husband in our bed that being alone in my current bed, I am grateful for absence of bitterness, rejection and hatred. Jesus and I like me and accept me. I go to bed alone with me and Jesus; content, cheerful and grateful.

      Reply
      • Natalie Klejwa

        Thank you for sharing a part of your testimony of God’s faithfulness to you. It was a blessing to read.

        Reply
      • Lisa Whitehead

        Single is fine – thank you so much for sharing that. I am trying to think of just the right words to share with you how helpful that is to me.
        Not because I have ever divorced or want to but because so many church-goers either seem to condemn women who leave their husband for such issues or the opposite, tell them to just leave – you can find someone else.
        But it is close to home as well because my believing mother not only divorced my father, but then her next husband as well, because she did not like them.
        So, it is very refreshing to hear your testimony of honouring Christ’s word.
        Thank you so much.

        Reply
  33. Lisa

    I read this list and my goodness was I ever quick to judge my husband. Yes, he has been many of these things early on in our relationship. And then I looked back at myself, and there was the big red ‘A’ staring me in the face. I too was manipulative, destructive, controlling and put myself first. I was negative and downright nasty to my husband. Maybe we fed off of our horrid ways and it just exacerbated the situation. I do know that when I finally decided to put my husband first and stretch out the arm of respect (very reluctantly, it was pulling teeth to be quite honest) he changed. I changed. Just because somebody has flaws, doesn’t make them a bad person. I do also want to note that you are just putting men into this category. I know many woman, girlfriends, wives who fit the bill for many if not all of these things and their poor husbands/partners have to suffer in silence like many women do because of fear and shame. Men are abused as well and I hope you note that in your next article.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I don’t write articles because people say I should. If you want an article written about how women abuse men – feel free to write one – it sounds like you have some experience with that. This article on this blog is about men abusing women, and I didn’t write it for you (abusive people think the world revolves around them). I wrote it for the women who needed to read it. 🙂

      Reply
      • Lisa

        I love how your comment towards me is marked with contempt. Not very Jesus like if you ask me. Continue your witch hunt. I will pray for you. So sad.

        Reply
        • Natalie Klejwa

          Thank you for your prayers, Lisa. I’m sure I can count on those.

          Reply
  34. Emily

    another big red flag on the “abuser alert” board – are they in a rush. A move from first date to exclusive, to marry me is fast, days, a few weeks, a few months at most. If they can’t wait to make you theirs, that is a big red STOP sign for you.

    Reply
    • lady behind the mask

      Oh how true! Even if they’re willing to wait until you’re ready. If he “knows” within days of meeting you, he’s really likely to be the wrong guy. Or, in my case, the wrong guy-waiting-to-become-a gal. If your gut says something’s off, go with your gut!

      Reply
  35. Karen Sommers

    Is it ok if I print this off? I’d really like to keep this for my daughters as they reach the age of dating and courtship?

    Reply
  36. Amanda

    So what do you do when you find out this is what happened and is you?

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I’m so sorry, Amanda. It can be a shock when you first realize that what you are experiencing has a name. Abuse. A good first step is just to learn as much as you can about your reality. It can take a long time to believe and accept. There are many resources on this blog – links even in this comment thread. Check out some of the books others have recommended. Contact me via my contact page if you’d like to tell me more about your story. I’d love to hear from you!

      Reply
  37. Ida

    Clue into the way he talks about his ex-girlfriends or just friends in general (ESPECIALLY if he seems to only has girl gender-ed friends!!!!) RED FLAG.
    When I was just getting to know my ex, he talked about how he would break up with a girl, just for having to short of fingernails, or her hair wasn’t thick enough, she was too short or too tall, or she “had just a little too much weight”. These are grooming tactics to see if “it will offend you enough” to stay or make you run. RUN
    Also, if they tend to only hang out with girls (not in all cases) and kind of cower around their own gender…My ex actually hid behind a clothes rack the first time he met my brother. My personal belief is that guys, like girls, can see through there genders visage and he didn’t want his true character to be seen…

    Reply
  38. K

    Does he exhibit signs of anything you’d consider mental or emotional instability?

    Does he harbor deep suspicions of other people, society, government that fall outside reasonable norms?

    Does he harbor romantic ideas about life after the fall of society, and talk about how it would be ‘better’?

    Does he harbor romantic ideas about living without basic First World amenities? Does he excuse broken/inoperable plumbing and basic house systems as ‘not needed anyway’?

    Does he in any way express sexual attitudes that indicate women are sexual servants or property of their husbands? Is sex ‘one sided’ in the sense it is all about his pleasure and gratification? Do you hear “but I have -needs-“? Does it seem that everything comes down to when you plan to give him sex next? Run when you find these guys.

    Does he use porn? How often? How does he explain himself? A man who excuses himself without discussion is should be walked away from.

    Does he encourage you to seek medical care when appropriate, or does he seem to have issues with visiting a physician, having insurance?

    Any man who threatens to cut the hair of a woman without her consent and participation is one willing to commit physical violence to get what he wants.

    Reply
  39. Emilie

    My husband embodied ALL of these… I’ve had to file a protection order to protect me and our 4 week old son. Ive endure his accusations and lies all while he is living with his girlfriend. I’m heart broken and torn. Thank God for HIS amazing love!!! I don’t know why this is happening. Why the man I loved would do these things. It’s been a month now and the healing is slow. Thank you for this article! For helping me get through. For so long I have felt crazy!

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      You are not crazy Emilie! I am praying for you this morning.

      Reply
  40. Cate

    Thank you for all this information and insight! It’s obvious by the many hurting people responding that this is a “hot topic”, one that the Christian community either doesn’t want or know how to deal with. I’ll be sharing this with many women… 🙂

    Reply
  41. DM

    I was in an abusive relationship before I started dating the man I am now married to. At the time I did not realize it was an abusive relationship. Then I got out and looking back I realized, that’s exactly what I was in. At the time, this is what I saw:

    1) He was a Christan man and went to church.
    2) He was well educated and had a well paying job
    3) He liked to hang out with his family
    4) We had some mutual friends
    5) He was everything I thought I loved, tall, good looking, good sense of humor, could provide for me financially, etc.

    However, in the relationship things didn’t go well.
    1) He would either ask me to pay for things we did together or he would complain if it cost too much or was too far of a drive.
    2) When we got into a fight it was always my fault. He would always somehow make it out to be my fault.
    3) He could not deal with criticism. He said it was people judging him and he didn’t need that.
    4) He did not like my family and refused to spend time with them.
    5) He had me driving to his side of town. He did not want to pick me up stating it would waste too much time.
    6) When we were together we did what he wanted to do. Otherwise, I could just not come around.
    7) He told me I was emotionally unstable and said I needed to go on medication to remedy that.
    8) Brought up a past mistake I had made and said, “I forgave you for ______”. He was trying to chalk it up like, what a great guy he was.
    9) He refused to spend a lot of money on me saying we weren’t married. Why would he spend a lot of money?
    10) When I was sick, he didn’t want me around. He said I would only get him sick.
    11) If I was having a bad day, he didn’t want me around. I would ruin the mood/day for him.
    12) At one point I told him he was being a jerk and he replied with an extremely angry, dark look, and in a very hard, cold voice told me to get out of his house. That no one called him a jerk in his home.
    13) If we got into a fight before church and, as a result were late, it was all my fault.
    14) If we got into a fight on the way to church, he would turn the car around stating he would not go to church with me if we were going to fight.

    I could go on… needless to say, my parents were very concerned, my best friend was very concerned, and in my heart, I knew something was wrong. My mom finally said, “Do you feel you need to go on medication any other time than when you are with him?” I said, “No” and she said, “think about that. Why is it the only way you feel that way is when you are with him?”

    I finally told him I couldn’t do it anymore and he got very angry with me. He later said it was all my fault that things went bad and didn’t work out between us.

    All I can say is, ladies, if you are in a relationship and something doesn’t feel right, you are always feeling like everything is your fault, and people who know you well are seeing things you may not be, take note and get out if you see any red flags.

    Reply
  42. Kari

    To add to my first comment, staying in an abusive relationship is never beneficial if you have children because oftentimes he(or she) is abusing them too. My dad was abusive, and I don’t think we recognized it as abuse and neglect per se because that was the only method of discipline and fatherly relationship that we knew, but we wanted out of the home. At one point, two of my brothers and I threatened to call CPS on our parents. The effects of being raised in a home like that are still with me today. I am healing, but it’s a long process. I’ve had times(less and less now) where I would suddenly imagine my dad finding me and hurting me. I’ve seen one of my brothers become like my dad in his marriage, and that marriage didn’t last.

    Reply
  43. Anne

    I know some will not like this, and in no way do I want to lighten the seriousness of abuse. In fact, I say it in order to highlight the seriousness of it…
    There are many women who abuse their husbands, too. I have met abused husbands (and my husband and I have supported some in there bid to get out). It’s often not physical (yet that DOES happens), but covers all the areas addressed above. What’s important is that we all understand that we need to support women AND men as they get out of abusive marriages. The church often marginalizes divorced men and women, and somehow puts them in the category of ‘disqualified from Grace and Mercy’… and bible studies and ministry…
    This is a great article! I did a little check of my own heart and communication style as I read it. A little sting on at least one point.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Yes, what you are saying is absolutely true; however, this particular article was written to help women dealing with abuse. Perhaps a different article elsewhere focuses on the other issue. The reason that some may not like what you want to bring into the conversation is because many of these women are dealing with PSTD – and have been emotionally traumatized for years. This isn’t the right conversation – and the subject you want to introduce isn’t a safe one for this particular audience due to the fact that abusive men almost always play the “I’m abused” card and heap shame and blame on the female abuse target, keeping them deeply confused and stuck. I hope that makes sense. 🙂

      Reply
      • Natalie Klejwa

        Let me add that your point about the wrongness of how the church marginalizes divorced men and women is an important one. I also want to be clear that I agree with you 100% that, regardless of gender, it is crucial for abuse targets to get help and find safety and healing. 🙂

        Reply
    • Kari

      I understand that your intentions in posting this are probably good, but I would caution against posting about abusive wives/girlfriends on articles and videos that are designed to support abused wives/girlfriends because most of the time that line of thinking is used as a way to tell women to be quiet about their experiences or to say “Well, women do it too, so there!”, and, intentionally or unintentionally, it marginalizes the pervasive problem in our society that men need to control their women. That’s not to say that abused men shouldn’t get help or that they shouldn’t talk about their experiences in their own space or in a collective space, and that would be a much more appropriate and effective venue than using spaces that are designed specifically to help women.

      Reply
  44. Natalie Klejwa

    The book of Proverbs is full of references to abusive, unrepentant people. God calls them fools. If you go to the Cry for Justice blog – they have loads of resources and tons of Scripture to back up what you are finding. Glad you found this, Mel. My heart goes out to your daughter.

    Reply
  45. Princess Judi

    I have to say that your website has been such a huge blessing to me since I found it last week! I am freshly out of an abusive marriage of 15 years. The above warning signs are all excellent, but the covert-aggression….THAT one hit home the hardest. For years & years, there was always something that I just couldn’t put my finger on, and so, I felt I was just imagining things. It was me. I wasn’t loving him enough. I wasn’t dying to self enough. I even took it as far as to take pride in my “submissive wife” role, knowing that God would honor my sacrifices…but it just made me a party to allowing the abuse to run rampant in my home. And now my children are suffering. I sent this article to my almost 15 year old daughter, whom I see behaves much like she saw me behave. And it breaks my heart. Thank you for your voice in this wilderness. We need women like you to speak up. Maybe we will be able to join you someday. Until then, we can share what you have to say. God bless!

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I’m glad you found my site. I can personally relate to everything you have been through. 🙁

      Reply
  46. Ainslee

    What a great read! I was in one of “those” myself. I was too young to really pick up on the signs and I don’t know that we were together long enough before getting married for the real signs to even come out. I would definitely say pay attention to their family. My ex’s father was a sexist, racist, abusive man. He had no problem putting people down and his history was horrible. The day after we were married my ex turned into his father and the verbal abuse went on for 3 years until the day he turned physical. That was the same day I left. I never let his verbal stuff get to me because I knew he was full of himself so it was real easy to leave. But looking back, I should have taken a closer look at the man his father was. That’s where he learned how to be a man.

    Reply
  47. Jenna

    Completely spot-on. Wish I’d had this 17 years ago.

    Reply
  48. Deborah

    Just wanted to say thank you for this post.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      You’re welcome, Deborah. Thank you for connecting here.

      Reply
  49. Kari

    These are good points, but I do wonder if, as a result of living in a society that is fairly misogynist, abusive relationships in any form are abundant. Yes, I’m a feminist, but no, I don’t want to control men. I just see women being silenced in almost every aspect of society, including the church, so why wouldn’t that same manipulation and desire for control be prevalent in romantic relationships as well? Not that I don’t want a romantic relationship. I do. I was actually in a dating relationship at one point a few years ago, and the guy was nice and said he was a Christian, but I could see what I thought were red flags in the relationship. In my opinion, the way a man treats other women, especially women in his family(because he doesn’t have to win them over), is the way he will eventually treat you once he feels he’s won you over, and this guy was constantly starting fights with his sister and saying she started it and talking badly about his mother behind her back, and he constantly cancelled dates with me to go out gaming with his friends. On a couple of occasions I decided to join him to see if it was something I would like doing with him, but then he and his friends told me I couldn’t talk about anything other than the game when I played with them. So I left, and they got upset with me. As someone who had an abusive father, I have no desire to be in an abusive relationship. So I got out of that relationship, but sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened if I had stayed with him. I’m still single, and he’s engaged now, so sometimes I wonder if I was the one who messed up.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Oh my – no. You were wise to get out of that relationship. He was obviously on the throne of his life. Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope you will find a healthy man to share life with someday. But even if you don’t – you are complete and whole just as you are. You are strong, wise, and you have what it takes to navigate life from a place of dignity. If you have Jesus Christ at the core of your being, you will fulfill ALL of His purposes for your life – and they are GOOD ONES regardless of your marital status.

      Reply
      • Kari

        Thanks! By the way, it brings me joy to read some of these comments on here, as well as this post, and realize that there are Christian women who understand what feminism truly is. So many people assume it means man hating, and it doesn’t. I’m so glad to see Christians who want real equality for both sexes 🙂

        Reply
        • Laura

          Yes! I agree, Kari! It’s very encouraging to see that there are other Christian feminists out there. I also want to encourage you that there are feminist men out there too who are learning to recognize the overt and subtle impact their cultural conditioning has had on them and affected how they treat women and are working to overcome it. There is hope for change and to find someone who can truly be a respectful and loving partner in life!

          Reply
  50. Erin

    I’m amazed at how you were able to articulate everything I experienced for 5 yrs. and then add in alcoholism and a plethora of mental illnesses. You described my ex husband to a t. He lived and I endured 99% of what you described. As soon as the honey moon I knew things were not right. But I could never really describe what the problem was, at least until it was physically obvious… I tolerated all kinds of abuse. But the moment he hit me was the moment it was over. I’m so thankful that I now can recognize an abusive relationship. I also recognize that I have value, with out a man by my side. Thank you for this. God intended this article for me. Of all nights, I read it tonight, when I needed it most.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I’m so glad you found it. God loves you to pieces.

      Reply
  51. Virginia Knowles

    Natalie, I did a series of stories on women who have experienced abusive relationships. One was a dating/engaged relationship. You can find it here – “Lynn’s Story: A Dangerous Engagement” – http://watchtheshepherd.blogspot.com/2014/08/lynns-story-dangerous-engagement-dv.html
    There are several links about dysfunctional dating at the bottom of the article.

    Some of the symptoms that Lynn mentioned included erratic driving habits, showing poor control of finances, threatening suicide, visiting strip clubs to “evangelize” the women, claiming spiritual leadership (masking a need to control), and raging behavior even if it didn’t result in physical violence. She also noted that others had tried to intervene, seeing unhealthy patterns in the relationship. She credits one of them with helping her realize that she shouldn’t be treated that way.

    Thanks for posting your article.

    Virginia

    Reply
  52. Susan Clark

    Both Focus on the Family and Family Life have had excellent programs on abusive men. They need to be heard by every young woman and her parents. One of the main characteristics about these men is that their church leaders and friends think they are just the most wonderful person on earth. They lead double lives! They are also in a hurry to get the girl to marry. They are very high pressure.

    Reply
  53. Linda Nicola

    Do you feel if you were a better person, he’d not get mad at you?

    Do you feel worthless and lucky to have him?

    The emotional abuse comes way before the physical. He love bombs you and overwhelms you. Then the little digs start coming. Are you going to wear that? It makes you look fat.

    The little bits of control start coming. You should read this, drink this, be where I can find you.

    This is all conditioning, so when the beatings finally start, you are already under his control and keep thinking ‘i make him mad, its my fault.

    so look for the emotional stuff first. And don’t be in a hurry to get married or move in. Date for at least two years. They can’t keep up the charade forever before showing themselves.

    Reply
  54. Adele

    Excellent article. Wish I had this information 28 years ago. Would have saved a lot of heartache, tears, broken dreams and injuries. At least I’m out now. I hope this gets read world wide.

    Reply
  55. Sherry

    This was an excellent read. I am divorcing my Christian husband because he’s been emotionally and spiritually abusing my daughter and I, something I had to have confirmed by a psychologist and pastor of my new church. I told him only 3 weeks ago and in typical abuser fashion, he got so angry he moved out the next day rather than be sad or humble and try to see what he did wrong. Now he’s alternating day to day, even hour to hour, Repentance, anger and abusive talk with texts emails and phone calls. He is relentless and pulling out all the stops to get us back together, his main tactic making me out to be a terrible Christian if I proceed with the divorce. He refuses to believe that I don’t love him, that he killed it when he broke the marriage covenant by a abusing me. He’s definitely a spiritual narcissist and it’s being fed by the pastor at his fundamental evangical church. I am so grateful to God for putting those in my life to point me in the right direction, as I was so beaten down emotionally that I felt lost aBnd hopeless. Not any more. And my 13 yr old daughter is now safe and less likely ( she is going to be vulnerable) to be drawn into a relationship like this.

    Reply
  56. Carrie

    It’s great to see the signs, but sometimes you see the signs, you feel the gut instinct but still feel trapped. When I married my first husband (emotionally abusive) I also had others saying I didn’t “have” to marry him, but no one gave me options. We had just had a child, were still in college, he wouldn’t “not be around to raise his child”, and my family wouldn’t have approved of us moving in together unwed. Unfortunately for me I wasn’t strong enough on my own to get out of the relationship until he “found someone else, just like me, but different”. That was my final straw and the hardest, but best moment of my ‘married’ life up to that point. Another sign would be if the partner is unwilling to seek counseling at any point. But it is so important that friends and family members who see the signs to help people out of the relationship with viable alternatives.

    Reply
  57. anon

    What do I do if I have married someone who has 99% of these traits? I love him and don’t want to leave him for the sake of our three children. I am breaking down emotionally and don’t know where to turn.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Are your children safe spiritually, emotionally, and physically with their dad? Have you talked to anyone locally? Check out the blogs and resources mentioned in the earlier comments and on my About page. I think just learning about what you are facing is an important first step. If you can find someone locally who will support you emotionally and spiritually while you process what you are going through, that would be ideal. If you or your children are in physical danger, contact these folks: http://www.thehotline.org/ and they can help you figure out what to do next. Lord Jesus, I pray that you would give this woman wisdom to know what to do. Provide people who can be Your hands and feet in her life. Guide her into Truth – and comfort her. May she know Your presence in a very real way. I ask that she would experience Your love and mercy in her life. May she know she is precious to You. In Jesus Name, Amen.

      Reply
    • Toni

      Please, dear sister, get help for yourself and your children. I lived in an emotionally/spiritually abusive marriage for 21 years because I believed I did not have biblical grounds for divorce, I took my marriage vows seriously, I felt it was better for the kids to have both parents, and I believed that Christians will suffer for being obedient to Christ. (I still believe the last three, though not in regard to my particular marriage.)

      You need to be aware that not all churches will be able to help women in our situation. The original leadership at our first church (we had them for 10 years) basically told me that if my husband failed to keep his commitments, I should pick up the slack, that they were not in a position to correct my husband, and that I should go only to God and my husband for help. A couple of years later they treated a woman in an emotionally/physically/sexually abusive marriage the same way and God gave me the strength to meet with them and firmly, lovingly offer biblical corrective – which they did not hear. The Lord led me to pray for their removal, and six months later, they resigned and we had new leaders who spotted my husband’s issues without my having to say anything. They stepped in and after trying to work with him, involved a Christian counselor and initiated a six-month separation. My 13-year-old daughter had begun cutting, was suffering from depression and was suicidal. My 11-year-old son complained when his dad came home and asked if his dad could go to foster care (we had a disabled adult relative in that situation). The separation was extended indefinitely because my husband failed to do what the elders required of him. I am so thankful for their intervention. The effects of the abuse had been greater and deeper than I’d imagined. The Lord is faithfully healing, providing for and loving us.

      After 3 years of recovery, my daughter began having flashbacks of being sexually abused, including one incidence of rape, by her father. Not regularly, but at least five incidents over a period of four years, most likely when he was in one of his many “moods.” (She was not under any sort of repressed memory therapy that might create false memories.) This past year has been horrific. Not only did it lead to a suicide attempt in April, but it has caused her to question everything she was taught by her father and me (he is very knowledgeable about the Bible, having been a pastor for 4 years) and to distrust everyone’s love for her.

      When I was not around, the kids’ father would say things to them that mixed lies with biblical truth. He is currently trying to poison our son against everyone who has seen through the facade of Christianity he wears. His true character is being revealed and the man I thought was simply a kind, gentle person with some neurological impairment (ADD, Asperger’s) has been shown to be manipulative and hateful. His more recent behavior has led several people to label him a narcissistic sociopath, who uses and then rejects people once they no longer serve his purpose. I cannot tell you how many people he has “dissed,” people who had been friends, but who were rejected once they saw his problems or dared offer the slightest correction. Of course, those few who have never corrected him (like our former church leaders), are still close to him and think that I was in the wrong for separating. My husband filed for divorce on grounds of abandonment (I didn’t follow him to a job in another state almost four years ago) last summer, and I counter-filed in December. I suspect I have a battle ahead of me.

      Praise God, for he has brought my daughter through the worst of her nightmare and the true faith she was taught has become her own. She loves Jesus, though she still has regular periods of distrust of and anger toward Him. She suffers from anxiety and panic attacks and can no longer sleep in her room, but has a bed in mine. I know the Lord will use all of this to build her into the woman she is to become and to equip her for the work she wants to do – rescuing and rehabilitating women who have been trafficked. I still worry that I might “lose” my son to his father’s lies, but for now, though he is very confused about what to believe, we have a wonderful relationship.

      13 years ago, if I had known what I know now, I might have separated before so much damage had been done. (Even apart from the sexual abuse, the damage has been great.) However, I was so emotionally exhausted and my sense of self so battered that I might not have been able to stand up to the poor (yet strong) church leadership we had at that time. I also truly believed that staying in my marriage was part of my suffering for the sake of Christ, which for a season it was, but where is the love or obedience in allowing a man to continue in patterns of destruction?

      This is long-winded, but I felt a need to share details so it might help you and others avoid some pitfalls and pain. I am now hopeful for the future. At 50, I am back in school studying computer programming, for which I have a gift and a passion. I now know I am not crazy, which I doubted for years. My kids are recovering, as well. We don’t have a lot (my husband had trouble keeping jobs – just got fired for the fourth time last fall), but God faithfully provides. He led us to a new church two years ago and we are part of a very loving, supportive community of believers (my daughter’s wonderful therapist is a member of the church who offers her services as a ministry). God is truly restoring the years the locusts had eaten – praise His Name!

      Reply
      • debby

        I, too, fell for the “suffer for the sake of Christ” however, after learning from cryingoutforjustice.com and hurtbylove.com, I came to understand that to suffer for Christ has NOTHING to do with marriage! The whole “love your enemy” thing as well, should NEVER be confused for living with abuse. The Bible is very clear what love is, your vows (and I am assuming your hubs vows as well) said nothing about “enemy” or “suffering” and these are but 2 verses (among many) that are often used by legalists in the church. 28 years of abuse and I am just now getting knowledgable about what has been going on and the lies I allowed myself to believe. Our God is not a God of confusion and yet, confusion is something ALL of our stories seem to have in common. Had I known what I know now, THEN, I would have left, separated, divorced, whatever it took to either 1)get his attention so he would get some help OR 2) get me and my children to a place where we were not being constantly and minutely controlled and manipulated. Too, often, in my blog perusing, I see women doing the same thing I did: thinking that to STAY in the current situation is the best for the kids, the only option God gives me, the only way to show I have “real faith.” I know now that is a lie. I agree that: Divorce is awful. It affects negatively everyone involved. But this I also know: Abuse is awful. It affects negatively everyone involved. The difference I see now is that with divorce (or in some way getting out of the toxic environment!) can lead to healing. Staying in abuse never will. It will only get worse until it hurts him(the abuser) more (losing your fellowship and his influence on his kids and costs him money) to abuse than to get help. Most just move on to the next victim because they have no interest in changing. My h seems to want to get help (finally) but it took me separating (going on 6 months and I wont go back until I am completely and totally healed and ready if ever and that he is showing true long-term remorse and change, but nobody is going to tell me when that is!) to finally give him the consequences that evoked some action. No crying, pleading, letter-writing, trying to “be better” ever make one iota of difference. Few if any church folks agree with me. But here’s the thing: I have a relationship with God that is just as valid as anyone else’s. He designed it that way so I could have fellowship with Him, not through other people. I don’t need anyone else to tell me what GOD wants for me. He is big enough to get any message He wants through to me. I had to stop NEEDING people’s approval. I don’t have it, but I AM healing and so are my children.

        Reply
        • Natalie Klejwa

          God has made you a strong warrior princess, Debby. You’ve learned some incredible lessons through your situation, and I thank you for passing them on to us.

          Reply
        • Toni

          I’m so glad you got free, too, Debby!

          Reply
  58. Jennifer

    Dear Natalie,
    This article is a very good informative article, and the first I read from your blog, I realize that you are focusing on the male abuser. We have had a family member that fell victim to this, and her life was taken by his craftiness. Other family members saw it, but as the saying goes, “love is blind”. She eventually saw it and got out of the relationship, but men like this tend to think women belong to them not matter what.
    I’m a wife of 35 years, mother and grandmother.
    There are many wives that fits so many characteristics of your outline for an abuser.
    Do you have any articles that refers to women as the abuser?
    Or has your husband done any studying and writing on this? It is all too important for our young men to be careful too.

    I thank you Lord for your writing and warning for our dear daughters. I pray that dauther’s will have an open heart to hear the instructions from their parents or Christian leader.

    Love in Christ, Jennifer

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      My audience is Christian women, so the articles here are geared to that segment of the population – not to men. And no, my husband doesn’t study or write, and we are separated. Guess why? I don’t know any Christian women personally that fit these characteristics, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I’m actually surprised you know “many.” I’m curious about what kind of circles you run in that would foster these kinds of abusive and aggressive attitudes in women. Most of my readers come from very conservative backgrounds in which the woman is required to submit and keep her mouth shut no matter what might be going on in her home. It is for those women who seek to honor Christ – and their daughters – that I write.

      Reply
  59. Lynn

    This is very, very good. I would add to #1 that if he takes a swing and misses, it still “counts,” and you still walk. Seems like common sense, but it wasn’t to me. Please, readers, if you know a person headed toward marriage, and you see the red flags but maybe they don’t, SAY SOMETHING, even if you don’t know them well. Tell them that if they feel like they can’t break things off because they don’t know where they would go or what they would do, that they can have your spare bedroom for as long as it takes. Sometimes they only stick around because they see no way out.

    Reply
  60. Amanda

    Hi, my sister recently left her husband after some turmoil, only to realize she has been in an emotionally abusive relationship for 17 years (15 of which they were married). Many of these things listed, I saw from the outside looking in, told her about, and she disregarded everything I had to say. Saying, “you just don’t know him like I do” or “he’s just stressed out” or whatever else she came up with at the time. I eventually came to believe her excuses for him and even started to like him. Manipulation is a key factor for these people. He even voluntarily started therapy to deal with his “demons.” Eventually, he physically attacked her, was put in in-patient treatment, and would even tell the therapist that he “knew” what he did was wrong, but “if she hadn’t done…” He was diagnosed Bipolar (well after it should have manifested itself, by the way). Worst part is, I asked her while he was in treatment, if he was faking it, master manipulators these people, and she wouldn’t tell me yes or no. It was at that moment I told her to get a protective order in place for her and their children, to be prepared for him to use the children to manipulate her, and to get to a safe place that he cannot easily access (not their previously shared home). She decided to file for a separation and recently decided that divorce was the best course of action. Please, do NOT let anyone “explain” away poor behavior.

    That being said, some of these traits are also symptoms of PTSD and can be found in otherwise non abusive relationships. THAT DOES NOT MAKE IT ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR! What it means is the person needs help.

    Reply
  61. Deborah

    Communication that involves the woman being told that “everything”belongs to him. Sincere efforts to find out what I am doing wrong or need to change to make things better are met with sustained silence. Eventually being told that I need to give him time to process our conversation and me patiently waiting and then realizing he is simply watching TV. When I confront him, he tells me that this is why he can’t talk to me. When i cried, he told me, “woman are such manipulators”. Finally, being forced to continually deal with his use of pornography and eventually physical abuse while I raised our children and felt I couldn’t leave because I was a stay at home mom.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I’m so sorry, Deborah. It’s excruciating. It’s maddening. God sees it, and there will be justice one day.
      Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,” will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations, but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them. Proverbs 24: 24-25

      Reply
  62. Doug

    I am a good person. I am generous, feel love deeply, my partner compleets me, ( watch this one? ), treat others with great repect and reverence, do good deeds, I am nice, ( not silly nice but very nice), I am confident, charismatic and handsome. I fit most of the flags. My question is, how do I show that I am not an abusive person. These flags are who I am. I was raised to treat people this way, as my father had taught me. Am I wrong to be this way? I have never been an abusive person and was married for 21 years. Now I have to return to the dating world again and am having a difficult time with this being used as a reason to not continue a relationship with mw. Friends of a lady I was dating actually used these words, ( well simular) to convince her that I was bad news. I dont understand. I am not. But apparently I meet the requirements. Any advice would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      You’re so humble, too. I can’t imagine why any woman wouldn’t snatch you up. I have no advice for someone as amazing as you.

      Reply
      • Doug

        Ok, Thank you for the consideration and affirmation.

        Reply
    • Lisa Whitehead

      If you are these things Doug, then women who have good self esteem will see that and you will be fine.
      No worries.

      Reply
      • Natalie Klejwa

        Lisa, if Dougie truly is as perfect as he says he is, he wouldn’t be pointing it out. But this DOES make me realize I missed one on the list:

        ***If anyone makes it a point to tell you they are a shining star in the universe – turn and run.

        Most of the men commenting here on this female blog are abusive. I wish more of them would comment. I’m gathering up fodder for a future post.

        Reply
        • Lisa Whitehead

          Thanks Natalie,
          I know.
          His comment and his response just scream – Look at me!

          Reply
      • Doug

        Thank you. Actually, I do not point it out. And I am not screaminglook me! I am actually asking for help. I only point out my “attributes” for reference. I do honestly ask for help in this matter. I meant no insult in asking. I do appreciatethe advice that was given.

        Reply
        • Ryan

          The fact that you started your post with “I am a good person” is the main problem. No one is good, only God. I would think that after 21 years of marriage you would know this, and know that it is about two imperfect people living together. You are proud, and as a man who has abused my wife, I am starting to see that pride is one of the big roots (if not the biggest) of abusing.

          Your recent date may have started freaking out because you didn’t share your weaknesses too. When you say you shared your attributes, I see no weaknesses that you listed. God has not perfected you yet, so there are weaknesses (the apostle Paul boasted in his). Your date knew that, and when she didn’t truly see your heart/self over time, she left. Her and her friends are not idiots.

          If you truly are asking for help, you need to be open to the fact that it is actually you who is the problem. You do not need to try to manipulate a woman to have her “believe” you are not abusive (even if you aren’t). You need to change and become a more sincere, honest, and humble person. There may be some reasons why you find this difficult to do, and I would be interested in hearing them.

          Reply
            • Doug

              I must say that I have looked for assistance with my delema in ernest. So far I have been labeled as an abuser, been mocked, called fake, treated as a hostile and called a liar. Is it so hard to believe that a man is capable of being a good person, ( I said good, not perfect). So I say thank you for the one bit of advice from Lisa that made sence. But for the rest of it, if you are looking for an example of abusers, check yourself out. Thank you in advance for the attacks.

            • Natalie Klejwa

              Abuser tactic example: pity play

        • Tom

          Doug,
          Instead of starting with “I am a good person…” you should have started with “I am an SOB” then asked …” Why won’t ladies date me?”

          I read these posts and indeed hurt for the ladies that have been abused and taken advantage, particularly by the so called “Christians men”. I also think that our gracious hostess could have been more helpful to you.

          If I could give you 2 cents worth…If you are indeed as gentlemanly, kind, respectful, (see list above), then be patient…the ladies on this blog said it takes time, so give it time, particularly if you are wanting to date a lady that has been abused. These ladies need time to see that not all men(you) are jerks(abusers). If you have ‘lost’ a potential lady friend because you met the above mentioned criteria, then thank God, one less person to consider and use up the time God has given you both.

          You do not share why you are on the dating scene again, particularly after 21 years, or how long you have been newly single, but you also need time to heal.

          Respectfully,
          Tom

          Reply
    • spacegal2003

      You say that you are a good person, yet you fit most of these flags. While you may be “good” (whatever that means) the fact that you meet most of these flags means that you might actually be an abuser. The fact that you were raised this way does not make it correct, or mean that you are not an abuser, it just means you have a reason for acting the way you do. Right now it sounds like you dismiss anyone who suggests you might be an abuser, because you know you are not. How do you know? You probably know whether or not you hit, but are you sure you are not emotionally manipulative? How does your ex-wife feel about that? Other commenters have read this list and (maybe for the first time) recognized that some of their actions are abusive. Even if you aren’t technically an abuser, these traits do not make good relationships, so trying to recognize and correct them might be good for your long-term relationship success.

      Reply
      • Doug

        I will say a few things on this. For starters, being a ” good” person means that you do not take from others. You give freely and are supporting. You help thoes who need help and protect others. The fact that my father taught me to treat others with repect is a good thing. I do not dismiss others who say that I could be an abuser. I dismissed thoes who atack me unjustly . I would gladly take to heart any advice that is given with good intent. I would ask if it was possible. She is no longer with us. I have spoken with several about this and there advise was to not give so much of myself to others. I have taken that advise to heart and I am working onbeing less selfless and look to myself first. Thank you for you time, and I hope you are able to help others with there problems.

        Reply
        • Lynn

          Doug, obviously I don’t know you, so take this with a grain of salt. When people say you give too much of yourself, what I’m hearing is that you have *boundary* issues. If you automatically give up your personal preferences, that doesn’t feel good to a woman. That feels creepy. It also creates the awkwardness of wondering what kind of reciprocation is expected, especially if you are showing any signs of resenting that you are being so “nice” and so “gentlemanly” and she is not treating you the way you feel you deserve. We women have to be concerned these days that a man who buys us dinner may very well think he is therefore entitled to sex, and may attempt to force or coerce us. There is a blog called Captain Awkward that offers, from a secular perspective, a lot of really great information about how *not* to come across wrong/creepy. Even if you find this does not apply to you, it’s still a fascinating study of people and their interactions.

          Reply
          • Doug

            Thank you, I will check that site out. Boundary issues, havent thought about it that at before. Hmm, may be something in that. Thanks for some decent advice. It is appreciated.

            Reply
  63. Tiffany

    I am reading this and realizing thst I do most of these things. I am grieved at how i have been. I just never realized how terrible i have been to my husband. I will learn.

    Reply
    • Saoirsewoman

      Hi Tiffany, in one respect you don’t fit the abusive profile. You right away saw your error and took responsibility for it, not projecting blame onto anyone else. Most abusers rarely do that. You show the capacity for empathy and remorse and they are healthy signs. God gives grace the humble, all of us when we stuff up and admit it to God – and then He helps us. He will help you. There are some very good counsellors and also personal development courses out there. I can think of, for example, Non Violent Communication, Personal Effectiveness Training, Assertiveness workshops, perhaps a Co-dependency Anonymous support group – try finding a counsellor you like and trust, you you feel really listens to you – and she may be able to point you in the direction of good workshops and support groups in your area. So much GROWTH and FREEDOM is possible, awaiting you in your future. You can do it!

      Reply
  64. Sue

    How I fervently, fervently wish that I had this knowledge 27 years ago…then I would have avoided 27 years of steadily worsening emotional abuse. I am just now ending my marriage to a man who has many, many of these traits. He had me thinking I was “crazy” and I was to blame for everything wrong in his life. I cannot take it all back, because I wouldn’t have my two absolutely fantastic children…I would go through it all again the same to have them. I am going to print this out and give it to them to read. If I can prevent them from marrying someone with these traits, I will praise God from the mountaintops!

    Reply
  65. Wanda

    This is such a good article. Thank you. It took me 15 years into my marriage to slowly, painfully realize the subtle abuse I allowed myself to live with. I was blind to the red flags in the dating days. Oh that young women would read your article and figure it out earlier than I did!!

    Reply
  66. Ally

    As a mother of two young daughters, I’m saving this for when they start dating. It is an incredible list that I wish I had when I was dating.

    As a wife, I cry reading this list. While my husband isn’t physically abusive, he has been very emotionally abusive/manipulative throughout our entire relationship. He’s had several emotional affairs and lost is pastoral job because of them. He walked away from our marriage and we were separated for 6 months while I was pregnant with our second. I feel like we’ve been married 20 years with everything we’ve been through, but it’s only almost 5 years.

    I should have seen the signs before. I read the list saying, “Yep…Yep…Yep…Yep…” for almost every one of them. While things are infinitely better now that he’s done some counseling and cut off bad friendships, I know that at any moment things could revert back again. Do you have any advice for someone in my shoes? After it’s already “too late?” I’m trying to find a balance between being a godly wife and not playing into the manipulation, guilt trips, lack of concern for my feelings, etc.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I am so sorry, Ally. Waking up to this is extremely painful. It helps to learn more about what you are dealing with. It also helps to network with other women in similar situations. There are a lot of us.

      Foolproofing Your Life by Jan Silvious is a great resource. I have a blog post series on this here: http://visionarywomanhood.com/category/be-brave-be-balanced/the-fool-series/

      I have oodles of articles here that may be helpful to you – and I definitely recommend subscribing to the Cry for Justice blog http://cryingoutforjustice.com/ as well as Leslie Vernick’s blog http://leslievernick.com/.

      Reply
    • debby

      It is never “too late” to wake up to truth. God has a plan and it does NOT involve trying to “survive” with abuse. I highly recommend the websites Natalie is recommending as well as hurtbylove.com (also recommended by cryingoutforjustice.com). It took me 28 years and 3 children to finally get a handle on what I was dealing with. God is showing me the way and it MAY entail leaving for good, it may not. But I will stay separated until I am SURE I am emotionally safe! Your number one priority right now is KNOWLEDGE. The fog of confusion will begin to lift and your choices/action steps will become clear to you.

      Reply
    • Saoirsewoman

      Hi Ally, one thing I want to encourage you. There is LIFE after this relationship. You *can* have a happy and fulfilling life away from this man. I think it is important to catch a vision of the peaceful valley and “spacious places” with “secure borders” that God has for you, to know that this is not a life sentence and yes, there will be love and security and achievements and joy in your future. It takes so much courage to draw the line, step over the threshold and close the door behind you – but it will be worth it. That whole “better the devil you know” is a great big lie. Here’s a little poem for you: “I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, “Give me a light, that I may step boldly out into the unknown”. And he said, “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, safer than a known way.” God bless you and be your peace.

      Reply
    • Ally

      Ladies, I want to thank you so much for commenting with resources and encouragement. I really think God provided this post at the right time for me. Just two weeks ago my husband tried to grab our crying daughter from me and ended up grabbing my wrists and restraining me and then stood in the doorway as I cried and stared me down. It took my 3 year old telling him to leave because he “hurt mommy and she’s really sad” to snap him out of it for the moment and then he left for work. I called my sister, who called the police, and there are charges pending and took out a protection order. After talking with the police officer and several domestic violence advocates, I realized that he has been physically abusive for years throughout our relationship. I just kept excusing it because he didn’t just come right out and punch me. Although, I really didn’t think it was right deep down, because I had taken photos of bruises and welts on me and my daughter from a year ago.

      I feel like an idiot. Now that we’ve left, my mind is so much clearer. But all this to say, I am so grateful for this post and the timing of reading it just several weeks before this “last straw” was definitely a God-thing. It was definitely on my mind that entire time, so I believe God had started opening my eyes at the right time.

      If anyone would pray for us, I would really appreciate it. We have court dates coming up, and I need to fill out a parenting plan, find a job, and figure so many things out. It is so overwhelming and scary, and at the same time, it’s a relief.

      Reply
      • Natalie Klejwa

        Praying for you tonight, Ally. I’m sorry that you have so much to work through now, but I’m glad God is helping you pull up and out. He loves you, and I know He will care for you and your daughter in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

        Reply
  67. marc

    Also, another thing. You talk about this as if they were an “abusive Christian marriage trait”. What? by saying that, you are misleading people. “Abusive marriage traits”, yes, but why “Christian”?

    Your post is the example that trying to do something good as you did is not always good per se.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      You again? Ladies, meet Marc. Marc’s an abuser.

      Reply
      • debby

        Yep. I got that right away. The arrogance, the “not making sense but confidently moving ahead in his arrogance,” the ZERO empathy for hurting people who have tried everything in their power to be healthy with people like him. The “it’s all about me” mentality. Yeah, we see it clearly.

        Reply
        • Lisa Whitehead

          Yep, got that loud and clear. The excuses, saying everyone is like that – huh, whatever!
          I dont think I am married to the only man in the world who does not display those traits.

          Reply
        • Saoirsewoman

          Oh, the Mansplaining! Imagine if Marc and Natalie were in a room being interviewed – I guarantee she would be Manterrupted.

          Reply
      • Lynn

        Yep. Marc, I know lots of men and women, religious and not, who simply have none of the red flags described in this post. None. Healthy people simply don’t have those patterns. If they slip, they apologize for real and they don’t repeat the behavior. Lundy Bancroft knows all about you.

        Reply
        • Saoirsewoman

          Oh yes, Lundy Bancroft indeed. There’s also Christian Men Who Hate Women – healing hurting relationships by Dr. Margaret J. Rinck, published by Zondervan, it’s also helpful.

          Reply
  68. marc

    i have men of every condition, religion and very different backgrounds reading this post, and… it is making them laugh without exception. Btw, thanks for censoring my previous comment, it shows the degree of confidence you have in your posts.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Awwww, Marc. You’re just bluffin’ me, right? And I didn’t censor your comment. It’s up there for all the ladies to see. I just didn’t get around to publishing all the latest comments until now. Turns out I have a life outside of this blog. Did you think it revolved around you and your bizarre comment? Silly Marc. Now I’m laughing.

      Reply
      • Saoirsewoman

        You’re good, Natalie! Really good, LOL. 😀

        Reply
    • Saoirsewoman

      Oh, I can’t wait to ask my husband, who is of a certain condition, religion and background, to read this post and your comments Marc, and I wonder which he will be laughing at? You …. do realise that you just tried the “poll the brothers” “everyone ELSE has the same opinion as ME” emotional bully tactic … don’t you? Sorry Natalie, probably a bit norty of me to poke fun at Marc, it’s just so hard to resist prodding a troll!

      Reply
      • Natalie Klejwa

        As you can see – I have a hard time resisting as well. This is my sandbox, so if a bully wants to bud in – he (or she) is going to get poked back. If they don’t like it, they can always play somewhere else.

        Reply
  69. Rachel

    You mentioned that one of the red flags is that he belittles the things you love or enjoy. Another aspect of that (at least this is what my ex-fiancé did) is that I HAD to learn to love the things he loved. I understand that as a couple you should be interested in each other’s lives, but he was ridiculous. Because he loved video games, I had to learn to like video games even though I just don’t. His video game addiction was a whole other issue. Because he liked horror movies, I HAD to learn to watch horror movies, even though they terrify me. And he KNEW that certain movies would give me nightmares, but he manipulated me into watching them with him. He even told me I shouldn’t wear Chapstick becasue he didn’t. It sounds so ridiculous now, but his manipulation was subtle enough that what should have been black and white just wasn’t.
    And yes, I changed my hair and makeup because of him. But he knew how to word it . I remember him saying, “I would NEVER believe that a woman should change for a man because that’s not how submission works but….” (Insert comment about how all women look better with short hair and if you wear makeup automatically being fake). Any time I wore makeup or the subject of growing my hair out came up he would just push and push and push until finally I gave in and stopped wearing makeup and I grew my hair out. Even though I hated how it made me look. He even told me what kind of socks he thought I should wear!
    People, this is WRONG. This is manipulation. It’s abusive. It’s an arrogant need for control.
    He would also go on and on about how he would never physically abuse me. “Men who hit woman are scums. I will never hit you.” A few times I thought, “Why does he feel the need to clarify this?” WARNING! RED FLAG!
    Then, one day, in a rare moment of courage that I had against him, I pointed right in his face and said,” If you’re going to talk to me that way, just go ahead and hit me.” That was one of the few times I stood up to him. It says after we had gotten engaged. I wish I’d had the courage to break up with him myself. I wish I had been willing to let go of my plans and trust God to take care of me. But I think that moment, of “daring” him to hit me (that wasn’t really what it was, I just can’t think of another way to word it) scared him off. I think God gave me just enough courage to stand up for myself and to show my ex that I was starting to see his true colors. I don’t say that to make myself look good, becasue goodness knows I made so many mistakes. But I truly believe God was with me.
    I think my ex broke up with me through email (cowardly) so that he wouldn’t have to deal with the possibility of me calling him out on his actions again. After the engagement was off I learned that he was going around telling people, “oh,it was a completely smooth break-up. We both have peace that this is what God wants for our lives. God is so good in helping me deal with this trial in such a godly way.” Need I say more?
    I firmly believe that more people need to be educated on what emotional abuse is becasue it’s so subtle. I remember crying to a very close friend and saying, “I think he was ….emotionally abusive….that’s a thing….right?”

    Reply
      • Rachel

        I definitely know that now.

        Reply
  70. marc

    What you are saying here is ‘is he a human being? Then he is abusive’ I think everyone, absolutely everyone has some of these traits, both men and women too. Yes, women too. By writing this you are going to make many women, women who are with good men, limited but good men fighting for their relationships, think that those men are abusive. I can’t congratulate you on this article, Natalie. 12 bad experiences cannot make for a PhD.

    Reply
    • Saoirsewoman

      I think, Marc, that the combined evils of patriarchy and porn, manifest in every culture and religion, have normalised misogyny so much that the kind of psychopathic behaviour Natalie describes seems usual to far too many people. Escalating rates of sexual violence and domestic violence and homicide are the tip of the ice-berg that is telling us that far too many people have no idea what genuine equality and mutuality between the sexes really is. Almost every facet of culture these days does not support dignity, equality and empathy, but instead supports “power over” authority hierarchies (power), male domination, female subordination and exploitation, male privilege, the sexualisation and enslavement of women etc. If Natalie’s list of behaviours does not give you a clear profile of a dysfunctional and unsafe person, then like Natalie – I smell a rat.

      Reply
  71. Lola

    These are all good, however, I did not see any warning signs BECAUSE I was married to him within s year. You have forgotten a critical one: pushes for commitments and says you’re ” the one” way too soon. You need time time time to know someone. Thank God my husband desired to change and is no longer an abuserbut a wonderful man.

    Reply
    • Lisa Whitehead

      I think the push for a commitment is perhaps the flag there, maybe.
      I knew my husband as a pen pal for a few months, then we met one day as friends, we were engaged within a week and married 3 months later.
      We have been married now for 13 years and are still each others best friends.

      Reply
      • debby

        I think HOW he “pushes for commitment” (is he just making his druthers/how he feels about you known, or is he demanding and manipulative and pushy about it?) and how he RESPONDS to how YOU respond to his “pushing for a commitment” would be the most telling signs. If you are saying no, you need time and he is not respecting your boundaries (getting angry, cold shoulder, pouting, threats of “now or never, make a decision,” guilt-tripping, etc) even before marriage, it is a sure sign he won’t respect your boundaries (or even think you have a right to any) after you say I do. Having been separated for 6 months, I can tell you this is a tactic my h uses. He acts really nice and helpful for days at a time but will reach his limit and then demand “You need to make a decision!” and I calmly tell him, “I AM making a decision. I have decided to keep my distance so I can heal. That is my decision. So what decision are YOU talking about?” and he can’t answer because of course the decision HE wants is “I’m ready to reconcile.” Just showing you an example of how it can be played out. It takes a very healthy woman to be able to see these flags. FATHERS! You have no idea how important your job is!! Part of protecting your baby girl is showing her how a healthy man treats the women in his life. MOTHERS! You have no idea how important your job is! Part of protecting your baby girl is showing her how to set healthy boundaries. Taking any kind of abuse and ongoing disrespect is NOT Godly. It is crippling your daughter, modeling for your sons, and enabling your husband. I learned these facts too late, but fortunately for all of us, our God is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen!”

        Reply
        • Lisa Whitehead

          So true Debby.
          I had no dad around so I had no idea about how a ‘good’ man treated women, and had no self esteem for a long time because of it.
          And my Mum did not teach me anything really.
          I am glad to have God teach me as an adult, and use me as an example to help other women.
          It is so important for solo mums to find godly men to be examples to their daughters.

          Reply
    • debby

      Hey Lola! I am interested in emailing or facebook with women who have lived with abuse but whose husbands HAVE actually made the needed changes. I am not sure how to connect so I will leave this message and hope that Natalie might be able to connect us via our emails we use to leave posts here.

      Reply
      • Natalie Klejwa

        If you each send me an email – I’ll connect you. I need to get an email from both of you though. Contact me through my contact page above. Thanks.

        Reply
  72. Meg

    I was married for a little over 30 years to a verbally abusive man. Outwardly he looked pretty good. In fact it was only when he was asked by our church’s leadership to serve as an elder that this sin began to be revealed. He died recently and our family is So Broken. I am receiving help through counseling, and slowly rebuilding my life with The Lord’s help.
    I would say it’s vitally important to look at the way the his father treats his wife and children. This will give you insight into how this guy will treat his future wife and kids. In our case, my husband’s family would tell you they have a great spiritual heritage. The truth is they are an EXTREMELY dysfunctional family. His parents had a horrible marriage. Most of his family members try to hide their patterns of sin rather than humbly seeking repentance.
    I hope this helps others to avoid the horror story that is my love story.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I am so sorry, Meg. I can’t fathom the conflicted emotions you must be experiencing. Thank you for contributing to this discussion. I think your point about the family of origin is a good one. May God bring healing and wholeness to you and your family.

      Reply
  73. StillWiggling

    I am here to echo the chorus of “where was this information when I needed it?” Been there, done that, wore out the T-shirt and threw it away.

    I can add a red flag to the list, right next to “You complete me.” And that is, “I want to make you happy.” A man said that to me on our first date. I said, “You can’t. I’m already a happy person.” He looked shocked. I should have known right then to run like you-know-what. But I didn’t. I married him, and 7 expensive, pain-filled years later, divorced him.

    Reply
  74. debby

    I have BEEN married to one of these for 28 years. I did not see the red flags because I came from an abusive background and would not have even known what the flags were. It is a fine line to have to warn young women about this issue and yet we don’t want to “scare then off” but I will share that emotional and spiritual abuse will take a devastating toll on you and your children. My h shows about 90% of these traits (the using scripture to control, the treating others in public badly as well, the blaming, not taking any accountability and therefore no apologies of course, “loose ends” lots of confusion as to why he acts that way, sick to my stomach, trying to “fix it” “be better” his angry outbursts, etc) so even though no physical abuse occurred, it was hell to live with. The church itself, in the way it deals with abuse as a “marriage problem” instead of a control problem, ADDS to the perpetuation of the cycle, allowing the abuser to maintain power and heaping false guilt on the woman who DARES “badmouth” her husband (which is what they called it when I finally started to speak truth about what was going on in our home and asked for help). I wish I had read ANYTHING even remotely like this 3 decade ago although if I had to be honest, God has grown me to the point where I even understand what this article is talking about and probably back then, I would have blown it off as “Well, that’ not MY guy.” It was only a year ago I even googled “abuse” in marriage for my healing journey to begin. I have been separated for 6 months and I HAVE seen some changes for the better (I mean, lets’ face it, he’s had things go a certain way for a very long time so its going to take SOME time for him to get a clue and realize things are not the same) but the pain and agony of trying to get an abuser to “understand” what they are doing, to have any kind of empathy for the pain they are causing, it just is not going to happen without SERIOUS consequences and boundaries (which anybody outside of your marriage including church, family and oftentimes friends will NOT agree with or understand and will constantly make you second guess yourself so stand firm! You almost have to get to a point where you say, “I really don’t give a damn what you think. You don’t live it.” Sad because that is SOOO not my personality but I had to get to that point) and even then, it may not change anything. I am staying the course ONLY because I am seeing some change and I am giving it TIME to see how “permanent” the change is or is it only for manipulative purposes. Thank you for your wisdom and if your article can stop even one young woman (or man) from signing up for a lifelong prison term at the altar, then it is worth it. cryingoutforjustice.com and hurtbylove.com have been a Godsend! They have retrained me to SEE what is real and to know what to do and to understand the heart of God and not what others TELL me is “what God wants me to do.” I have a relationship with God for a reason: so He can talk to ME and tell ME what He would have me do and not depend on man to “interpret” for me what THEY think God wants. After so many years of trauma, I have never felt more calm and unafraid.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Thank you for sharing your story – and for recommending the Cry for Justice blog. (http://cryingoutforjustice.com/) It is an invaluable tool for helping Christian women find freedom from abuse in their homes.

      Reply
  75. Sarah Joy

    This is a great article. I tell young women to find completion in Christ before thinking about a relationship. If a guy wants you needy, he’s a monster, and if he’s a good guy, you will hurt him by depending on him for what only Christ can give you.

    Another question, does he respect the authorities in his life? In yours? Before you are married, he has no authority over you, and he should be reverent of your authorities, your parents, your pastor. He should respect your decisions, because he has no biblical basis to command. If he’s using Scripture to push you to do things, or resentful of his or your pastor, look for more problems with authority. If he has an authority problem, you will find them! Talk to his pastor and his teachers. “I’m the man, so you have to do what I say” is your red flag.

    Reply
    • Mama

      True!

      Reply
  76. Phoenix Mom

    I have noticed through my own experience and that of my friends, that if a guy says, “I don’t deserve you” then they are speaking truth. Get out! Although it can feel flattering and appeal to the women who like to save lost puppy dogs, somehow that phrase is a clarion call (subconscious or not) and the way they justify future maltreatment. I don’t know if this is 100% accurate, but when I hear a man tell a friend this, I usually get chills up my back because every single time the future became grim for those women.

    Reply
    • Lynn

      I read about a year ago that if a man ever tells a woman anything negative about himself, whether he appears to be joking or not, she needs to take it as 100% truth and act accordingly. Too bad I didn’t read it before I married my ex (during our engagement he showed me the x-rays of his hand that he broke punching his car in a rage. I know, I know 🙁 ), but as I’ve been paying attention since, it’s a very useful principle.

      Reply
  77. Jayde

    TRUTH! Many of these items check out with several of the men who have been in my life.

    Disclaimer: I don’t think my ex-fiance meant to be emotionally abusive. I think it was an springing forth of his immaturity, his desperation to be married and in charge, and his knowledge that I had my life a lot more put together than he did.

    Another thing that I would add is when they start talking about your “calling.” My ex-fiance used this as a HUGE manipulative tool. He disapproved of my major, and most of the things I love to do, mainly because they took time away from him (by his choice. I was constantly trying to include him in the things important to me; but he had no interest). He often threw the “calling” word in my face. I believe that a person’s calling isn’t just one thing, but that God has a calling, or multiple callings, for a person every day. That calling might be nearly identical to yesterday’s calling and probably will be, but you cannot wrap your life up in ONE calling. I tried to explain this to him, but he would consistently argue with me and wear me down until I would finally say “Yes, my calling is to be a wife and mother.” Then he’d wear me down again until I specified “his wife” and mother of “his children.” Then he would patiently explain to me that my other interests and my major could never contribute to this calling, and were therefore garbage, the enemy, and should be discarded.

    Also be wary of guys who say “You have to know, I don’t want to be a tyrant. I hate men who are tyrants.” Right after manipulating you into agreeing not to spend time with your best friend anymore or convincing you that passing that class isn’t really important–he is.

    And guys who have to one-up every gift anyone gets you, or get ticked off because someone other than he gets you a gift. Or considers (and admits to considering) throwing away a birthday gift he was asked my someone else to convey to you, just because it’s not from him and he knows you’ll really like it. Love is not a competition of “best gift giver.”

    Also, men who have no regard for your health as opposed to spending time with them. When you have specifically (and frankly, already generously) said you are going to the ONE event and then back to your room to sleep because you have a temperature of 102, don’t let them harangue you into staying out for another hour to pacify them, and then spend the next two hours online texting them apologizing for your selfishness. If they cry because you are sick and want sleep instead of them, get out!

    And keep in mind, many of these things won’t start right away. When the relationship was young, I’d have laughed at those who suggested he would be doing these things! But we had our first fight about a month into our relationship, and no surprise, it was because I wanted to spend my Sunday afternoon (which I never spent with him anyway) with one of my work friends. About a week after that, he informed me that he despised my director for taking my evenings away from him (after which he manipulated me into never auditioning for another play during our relationship except the ones that he would have been involved in as stage crew). The list goes on and on, and I’m not going to spend more space on it. I keep writing down things I think are important then realizing I’m writing a book-comment and deleting it. I’m thankful that I’m out of the relationship, though, and I hope that he matures and finds someone who makes him happy. I’m currently content single, but hoping God decides to bless me with a good man soon.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      These are great examples (specific examples are very helpful!) – thank you. I hope God gives you a healthy man too! 🙂

      Reply
  78. Lisa Whitehead

    Natalie, what a wonderful post that will help so many people, thank you.

    I grew up without much input from my parent, and so I was a little like some of the bad points above when I got married.
    Praise God that He opened my eyes and quickly helped me learn how to be a Christ-like wife, although that is always on going, always something to work on.
    I have a non-christian husband, but actually he is much more like Christ than nearly every christian man I know.

    Reply
  79. Elizabeth

    Don’t forget that women can have these same issues, despite men bring the more common offenders. Unfortunately, my sister fulfills a lot of these minus any physical violence. However she has her super sensitive husband practically groveling trying to make her happy. So far they have two children together and she has had three affairs. The first of which (that we know about) ended in his suicide. Don’t be blind because the offender is a girl.

    Reply
    • Ryan

      I am a Christian, but I have been really hurt by God. He allowed me to go through an extreme amount of suffering that he could of had me avoid, and it left me resenting him and bitter against him, even over 5 years later. I don’t know why he doesn’t answer my questions, which I have expressed to so many mature believers and counselors. I need to have some of those questions answered before I can make complete sense of what happened to me. So I don’t really have a lot to do with him these days, though I would still say that I believe Jesus died for my sins and that I’m a Christian. One of the questions that I haven’t been able to have answered satisfactorily is how can God love me, but allow me to go through such pain? (my counselor said I experienced more pain than going through a divorce. now that I seem to be going through a divorce, I would definitely say that counselor was right, as divorce seems easy in comparison).

      Reply
      • Gigi

        Ryan, it sounds like you’ve been through a lot of pain, and still are going through it. It’s always most painful when we’re in the middle of it. I don’t know why God is allowing it to happen to you, but he has a reason. Job suffered horribly and never found out why. I went through a painful few years, but they made me stronger, and they made me much more compassionate to other people, more sympathetic and eager to help. I hope God will comfort you while you’re going through this pain, and that he’ll be your strength and your loving friend.

        Reply
      • Brandy

        Ryan,

        God loves you. He knows your heart. He can help you make your weaknesses into strengths.

        As part of God’s plan for us, He allows each of us to have trials. Some are brought by our own sins, and some are brought by others’ sins. Christ suffered for us, though He was perfect. He knows your pain, and He can help you come closer to Him because of it. Spend time in prayer and in His word as you seek the answers to the questions you have. God will help you; He wants to help you, because you are His child and he loves you.

        Reply
        • Carol

          And Job’s attacks came from Satan.

          My son and DIL are expecting a child with severe heart problems, and my son has recognized that the only way for all the cascade of sin’s effect on the whole universe (personal effects of our sins, others’ sins, generic effects of pain – even the baby’s heart defects – suffering, death, Satanic attacks) to end is for Christ to return. Do we want that – before the baby dies in utero, at birth, or years down the road? YES. But that means some people will not go to heaven, because they have not yet to chosen receive Christ. So his conclusion is, “I am glad that the timing of our baby’s death is not in our hands, but in God’s. Only God can handle the huge question of when HE will say, ‘That’s it! No more suffering allowed. Son, go get Your Bride.’ Only He can decide when to allow the huge grief of those who will participate in the second death, eternity without God. “

          Reply
  80. Ryan

    As a man who struggles with abusing women, how can I grow through this issue? What’s at the core of it? I don’t understand how I got like this. I have been abused myself but have worked through these issues for a long time in counselling. I thought I had grown into a healthy person, and so I got into a relationship and got married. Now my wife and I are both finding it too difficult to live together within our first year of marriage, so we’re currently separated. I have got so mad at her when she had a totally different interpretation of her marriage vows than me, that I literally dragged her out of the house. I’m not really sure what to do… I feel like my wife is similar to me and abuses me, which only makes things worse as I’ve called the cops on her before. I had a promise that I would never hurt my wife physically which I kept right into marriage, until a while into marriage when I just felt so unfairly treated that I physically pushed my wife.

    I recognize only a few of the warning signs you mentioned in myself. I think trusting your gut is good advice. It was my gut instinct that my partner would be abusive, and now that I married her, she is. It is probably vice-versa for her.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      It sounds like you still need to do some personal work. You aren’t responsible for your spouse’s behaviors. You’re responsible for yours. Find a competent (key word) counselor – and work toward getting healthy. It can take many years of hard, personal work. I’m not sure what your exposure to the saving work of Jesus Christ is – but without Him you’ll spin your wheels. You definitely want your Creator involved in your healing. He created you for a purpose, and His goal for you is wholeness and dignity. http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-must-someone-believe-in-order-to-be-saved

      Reply
    • Lola

      Ryan, as a woman whose husband was in your situation, I can tell you how he did it. First and foremost you must acknowledge that the underlying issues are your need for control; everytime you get mad during a conversation it is because it is moving out of your control. Maybe she has an opinion you don’t like, you can’t persuade her so you escalate your volume in an attempt to repress and shut her down. When this doesn’t work, you become violent as a last resort. And so on. Very disturbing in your letter are many references to your wife’s problems. Nothing she does makes your actions ok. Not saying she’s never wrong, but your decisions are YOUR responsibility. Lead the way for her. You can do it with Gods help. I now worship the ground my husband walks on and we have a beautiful marriage because of his willingness to be humble. God changed me too slong the way. God Bless.

      Reply
    • Lynn

      Ryan, pick up Lundy Bancroft’s book, “Why Does He Do That?” What your wife does has no bearing on your own issues. If you have an underlying need for control and you feel the right to abuse if control is slipping, you’re probably doing it to other people in your life, at least the ones who can’t hold you accountable for your choice. Bancroft has worked with hundreds of abusers, and his findings in a nutshell are that it doesn’t matter what situation you’re in now, or what kind of a past you came from. Lots of people have difficult spouses and came out of abusive homes, but they don’t consider abusing others to be an option. Abusers believe they have the right to control other people, and *that* has to change.

      Reply
    • tom

      Ryan, here are some stories that might help shine a light:

      Long ago on a date I noticed during a discussion she was getting mad, & I was staying calm. She seemed to get madder that I was not getting mad with her. Then, she grabbed my hand & started to punch herself with it. I asked an insight, “Does your dad abuse you?” (This was in Italy where people tend to live at home until marriage). She cried “Yes”.
      About 1/3 of the women I dated since her seem to do something to ‘pull’ abuse from me, though not as obvious. One guy I was mentoring had a wife that would pick fights until he got abusive (her mom & grandma were abusive on every level).
      Only full forgiveness & perhaps some trauma help can people become free from this.

      I remember one lady had an abusive husband (mostly anger, but started to cross into physical). Her friends & I encouraged her to make him to get help.
      Lost track of her for a few months. When we caught up, she said he went though anger management classes. Things were going really well; he lost the anger & could discuss things calmly without manipulation. One time she lost her temper, & he calmly suggested for her to take anger management classes as well 🙂

      Reply
      • Natalie Klejwa

        Women “pull abuse” from you? Are you delusional? Never mind. This comment is going into my collection of classics.

        Reply
        • tom

          Odd how you can question what I felt, but no one else here?
          Sorry, this is my first time posting here, but I feel disregarded to what I experienced, I hope calling guests ‘delusional’ isn’t normative.

          I’m describing ‘pulling abuse’ as one side abuses the other to receive a response, often a tactic of bullies. Such as my ex-girlfriend getting hot-tempered expecting me to join the argument, then punching herself with my own hand when I didn’t join that dance. Such as a guy verbally bulling to get the other to start a fight (common in schools, bars, etc). Such as a wife nagging her husband past the point of him letting her know she’s crossed boundries (which my friend said happened many times).

          Believe it or not, there are people who ‘push buttons’ (even after knowing the other’s weakness) to get the other person angry/abuse at them, Could be a way to ‘justify’ an excalting argument/abuse. Might be because that is what they experienced before as normal in previous relationships, eg ‘learned behavior’.

          Yes, it takes 2 to tango, & hopefully the other person dodges button-pushing attempts. But ‘pulling abuse’ is another road in the viscous cycle.

          Reply
          • Natalie Klejwa

            Poor Tom. Did you think I was only questioning YOU? Heaven’s, no. I’ve questioned several self-centered, probably abusive people in this comment thread. The world doesn’t revolve around you. It revolves around Marc. Oh no – wait. Maybe it revolves around Doug? Oh dearie me. So many of you…

            Here’s the thing; this is my sand box, and I get a little touchy when anyone craps in it. Nobody’s forcing you to hang out here. If you’re not comfy, feel free to move along. It’s supposed to be for women, anyway. Hence, the name.

            Reply
          • Lynn

            One thing I’ve learned over the years of discovering what healthy relationships look like, is that non-abusers don’t abuse. It hardly matters what someone does to a person who is not an abuser. Somebody else can intentionally push every button they have, but if they don’t have that core belief that they have the right to control another person, they won’t escalate, and they won’t respond with abuse. They might be horrified and walk away. They might do some yelling back. What they *won’t* do is abuse, because it isn’t on their menu of options. If someone is “pulling abuse” out of you, you are an abuser. You believe you have a right to respond in that way. Sure, the abuse may be mutual, going both ways, but that is no excuse. People don’t abuse because their buttons are pushed; they abuse because they feel entitled to do it.

            Reply
            • Lynn

              Responding to my own post to note that my ex husband called lots of things buttons that I was pushing to pull abuse out of him. Things like asking twice, which = nagging in his world. Only problem was, his boss could chew on him for weeks to get an overdue project done, and somehow he would never abuse his boss. Why not, since his boss was pushing buttons much harder? Surely he was pulling abuse out of my ex? Nope. Because my ex not only didn’t believe he was entitled to abuse his boss, he knew he’d get his butt fired if he didn’t comply. Fascinating how something supposedly uncontrollable was completely controllable after all.

            • debby

              This is what bullies do. They don’t pick on EVERYONE because the cost is too high. They pick on those weaker than they because they can get away with it (until they can’t…) My h still continues with the “I didn’t do it on purpose” (the yelling, controlling, manipulating, crazy-making for 28 years; it’s called a “pity play” btw “I’m a victim, too, ya know?!” kind of attitude) and I used to fall for that (it seemed so “mean” not to! And my, my, we don’t want to appear mean do we?!!) because he WAS wounded as a child, etc. however, I began to see truth when I realized he didn’t treat EVERYONE the awful way he treated us. Not on purpose? Didn’t know? (even though I told him many times through my tears how much he was hurting me, even though I wrote letters specifically laying out the behaviors that were crushing me and the kids, even though he prides himself on his Bible knowledge and yet seemed to skip over those uncomfortable verses that clearly tell us how to treat one another, ESPECIALLY the one we promised to love, honor and cherish…) His actions toward others who were “pushing his buttons” shows the truth. He CAN control his behavior. He chose not to.

            • Lisa Whitehead

              Too right Lynn!
              When I was first married I was rubbish at being a good wife, but my husband never once did anything to retaliate.
              He would tell me he didn’t like how I acted toward him and after, thankfully not very long, I learnt to stop.
              I can sure testify that it doesnt matter how hard you push, a non-abuser wont respond with abusive behaviour.

          • Elizabeth

            Tom,

            The way you say your ex-girlfriend behaved badly towards you was not right; however, her behavior is not to blame for why you responded the way you did. It is easy to think this way, though; we all do it to some degree. For instance, we are caught in traffic and get frustrated, and think, “If only I hadn’t run into this traffic, I wouldn’t be so mad!” But in actuality, our circumstances do not determine our behavior, our circumstances only reveal what is already in our hearts. Take, for instance, a bottle of water. Imagine me taking the top off and shaking it violently and water going everywhere. Why did water come out? Our first inclination is to say, well it’s because you shook it. But water came out not because I shook it, but because there was WATER inside. If there were milk inside, I could shake it all day long and water would not come out.

            So in that sense, you are somewhat on the right track when you say someone else “pulls abuse” from you. The reason that you responded in angry, abusive ways toward her (whereas with someone else, they will respond differently in the same situation) is because anger is what was in your heart already. The fruit we exhibit is always from what roots we have deep down within us.

            Another example to help illustrate: say I have an apple tree in my back yard. But I want peaches. Well if I simply buy some peaches and staple them onto the branches of the apple tree, that may temporarily change the fruit I see in my back yard, but next season, what will grow back? Apples. Why? Because the tree has apple tree roots, not peach tree roots. So if you think, okay, I responded angrily to my ex, so next time I’ll just try really hard to be nice. You may pull it off in some circumstances, but eventually, the angry, abusive behavior will come out (be “pulled out,” if you will) again. Why? Because you have not dealt with the source–your angry roots.

            All to say, the issue with all of us is our own hearts, whether you classify as an abusive man or anyone else under the sun. Our hearts are made to worship. But our hearts are full of sin, constantly replacing God with created things to worship instead of Him (Rom. 1:25). So when we respond in sinful ways and display sinful fruit, the question is, what sinful roots are beneath that behavior? What is your heart worshiping in that moment instead of God?

            If you don’t know God, Tom, your sins are separating you from Him and deserve His judgment and eternal punishment. But He has lovingly made a way for you to enter into a relationship with Him as your Heavenly Father through sending His son Jesus to die for your sins against Him and offering you Jesus’ righteousness and new, eternal life in Him (John 3:16). If you do know God, have hope, because He who has started a good work in you is faithful to complete it (Phil. 1:6). He loves His children so much that He does not leave us where we are but He is constantly refining us into His image. And He uses our circumstances to do that, to graciously reveal to us areas of our hearts that are not surrendered to Him, so that we can go from being blind to our sin to seeing it and repenting of it and delighting in Him instead of whatever we are idolizing in that area of our hearts.

            I hope all of that is a helpful addition in the collective attempt here by these ladies to explain why using terms like “pulling abuse,” etc.–basically saying your behavior is (even just partly) the other person’s fault–doesn’t really jive with them. I do want to add that my water bottle and apple tree examples are not original to me; they are from a curriculum called “How People Change: How Christ Changes Us By His Grace,” by Paul Tripp and Tim Lane. My small group is currently going through this book and video series together and it has been amazing. I am learning a lot about my own rotten, sinful fruit and roots! And I’m learning to put my hope in Christ to change those deep roots in my heart. I highly recommend it for everybody out there. 🙂

            Reply
          • Elizabeth

            Just a side note to my comment: I don’t know you Tom and I don’t know how you respond in every situation, so please forgive me for assuming that you have responded angrily or in abusive ways. I’m not sure if your examples are only talking about situations with other guys or your own behavioral responses. Regardless, I think the fruit-root analogy to our behavior and hearts is still a better way to think through one’s responses in various situations, rather than the verbiage of someone “pulling” it out of us.

            Reply
  81. Stephanie

    I appreciate this article, and the start of the video made me lol… so funny. I was a little surprised by the phrase, “Slap that girl!” mid vid, but then the end – when he actually slaps her?? I’m confused. That’s actually a legal assault. Not the kind of abuse you really have to wonder about. So why joke about it in the midst of such an important conversation about more covert forms of abuse?

    Reply
  82. Jennifer E.

    He may also, question or belittle those in authority over you like your parents especially your dad and make comments like: “they’re too protective of you” etc.

    Reply
    • Mama

      This is SO true. That was our first “caution”… when our daughter’s boyfriend began to undermine our authority in her life. From there we started seeing other issues until we finally realized our sweet daughter was being emotionally abused. Praise God, she saw it just in time and broke off the engagement. Hardest thing she’s ever had to do, but now she realizes what she was spared…a lifetime of emotional abuse!

      Reply
  83. Jo

    Abusers are not all men. My husband suffered physical, emotional and mental abuse from his ex-wife for 6 years and their children still do. It took a lot of courage for him to leave her and rebuild his life and trust women again. My step-children are blessed to have a strong and loving father. They are blessed to have an aunt who strives to protect them. They are blessed to know a mother’s love, not from their birth mother, but from me. The tragedy of abuse is real for both women and men and children.

    Reply
  84. Allison

    Another red flag is if EVERYONE you know has a problem with the person, even complete strangers! I got asked by several people, “why are you with him?” My first husband fit many of these attributes. He is also Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which goes along with it all. This article is wonderful. I wish I had had the smarts to listen to the wisdom of everyone around me!

    Reply
  85. Natalie Klejwa

    Great advice, Terry. Thank you for weighing in here! Love you!

    Reply
  86. Rachel

    Thank you so much for this post. I dated a man all through college who had so many of these traits. We got engaged my senior year. I said yes when he proposed because I thought that making a commitment to marry would change him. Under any other circumstance I would never have believed that, and I had even counseled other people to never believe that lie. But I was in love and he had control over me. After we got engaged his abusive behavior only got worse. I felt like I was going out of my mind. I wanted to change him. I believed that he could change. I put up with his emotional and verbal abuse becasue I felt like, “Well, I’ve committed to being his wife so I need to be willing to deal with his faults.” I justified his inexcusable behavior as “faults”.
    Any time I tried to confront him about his behavior he would get angry, give me the silent treatment, turn the conversation to something about me that annoyed him…..etc… One time he even told me to shut up and stop whining!
    People have asked me why I put up with him as long as I did and I tell them, “That’s why abuse is so scary.”
    He ended up breaking up with me two weeks after I graduated from college….through an email. I could go on, but that would be a very long comment.
    All I can say is that I am deeply thankful and humble that God saved me from what would have been a devastating marriages. After reading something like this article I wrestle with why God chose to save me from that kind of marriage and not other women, but I guess that’s another post for another time.
    Please keep writing these posts. Women my age NEED you to keep writing.
    I am 24 and while I desire marriage, I can honestly say that I would rather be single for the rest of my life than marry the wrong man.
    But I will also say that Jesus has been a better husband to me than anything I could have fathomed.
    Again, I could go on, but that’s another post for another day. 🙂

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

      Reply
  87. Elizabeth

    Oh my goodness. The guy I dated before I met my husband totally fits the bill! (Well not the whole thing, he failed out of the college we went to, worked a hum drum retail job for years, wasn’t even attending church regularly… so wasn’t really exuding the Best Student or Best Leader or Best Christian image or whatever.) However. Towards the end of college I tried to break up with him and all of a sudden he became super obsessive, calling, texting, IMing (back in the days of AOL instant messaging!), finding out where I was going on the weekends and showing up…. eventually there were late-night arguments that turned into yelling, cussing, arm raised and finger pointing in my face, grabbing my arm when I tried to get out of the car in the middle of an argument, busting the side mirror off of my car in a fit of rage…. I mean it got pretty. darn. ridiculous. That was just not behavior that I had ever seen from him before (and I had known him since middle school) so I didn’t even know what to think. Actually, someone called the cops one time because they heard our argument at 2 in the morning in the parking lot, and when they showed up and asked about that broken car mirror (which had just happened), I lied and told them it had been like that for weeks. (!!!) I didn’t believe this guy was a threat; I was so tied to him emotionally that I didn’t want to get him in trouble. I wanted to protect him. I think he was hating losing control and losing his idol. Because at the heart of it all was him worshiping me and me worshiping him. This was before I was a believer. Now I’d like to say I became a believer and poof! Adios amigo! But that wasn’t the case. Once I was saved, I continued to date him for two years; our relationship had been very physical and one big reason for staying in it was my own sinful desires in that area. But eventually, by the grace of God, I started researching biblical manhood and womanhood and the Lord opened my eyes up to the fact that what he was was not biblical manhood. I was beginning to pray and spend time in the Word; he never did. Even though he claimed to be a Christian and went to church sporadically and would tell me things like God had called him to love me and lead me. (??) Probably the two big kickers for me being able to break up with him for the final time were, one, coming to a place of true repentance in the area of our physical immorality as God changed my heart and gave me a desire for purity. The second big reason I kept holding on was because I kept thinking, in my pride, that I would be the one to fix him and all his problems. Literally all of my family and friends (all non-believers, at that!) had been telling me to get rid of this guy for years. But I kept thinking that I would be the one to make a difference in his life and help him get back on track. He kept telling me he was going to join the Special Forces, he was going to take college classes again and get his degree, he was going to do this, do that… so I kept holding on, thinking change was right around the corner. But praise the Lord, He began to show me the difference between secular psychology (what I had studied in undergrad) and biblical counseling that allows the Word and the Holy Spirit to change people’s hearts, and ultimately He brought my heart to a place of surrendering this guy to Him to save, NOT ME.

    Anywho. Sorry for the long rambling. This list just makes me SO MUCH more grateful for God’s gracious hand in getting me out when He did. Who knows where I’d be now without His intervention.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Thank you for sharing your story – I’m so glad you were able to get out of that relationship. Crazy stuff!

      Reply
  88. Katy

    I’m one of those Christian girls who discovered on her honeymoon that she had married Satan in disguise. 🙁 It took me 7 years (and 3 babies) before I got out.

    The thing I wish I had known?? There is NO SUCH THING as “wedding jitters”! That nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach was my instinct trying to warn me off! (Or the Holy Spirit, however we want to put it — it was definitely a horrible absence of peace on the inside).

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Thank you for sharing here, Katy. We all need to hear this kind of testimony to remind ourselves of how real and actually prevalent this danger is.

      Reply
      • JW

        I am on my second marriage, this one also emotionally abusive with a personality disordered man. My first husband was a pastor, and I KNEW walking down the aisle that it was a mistake. But I was so messed up that I just thought I was the one who was messed up and couldn’t see a good thing. My ex was an associate pastor and ended up pastoring a church. As I understand it now, he is STILL pastoring. He was pure evil.

        Reply
  89. sheisovercoming

    Sadly, the last church we were involved in encouraged several of these harmful practices.

    1.)They taught as a part of heir bridal showers this teaching “This is where the teaching that the man gets to have his way in all things, and the woman is godly insofar as she gives it to him, comes into play.”
    2.) A young woman without a Christian father, was encouraged to put herself completely under the authority of the church including in courtship.
    3.) The church encouraged fast marriages. A young woman had a young man ask to court her. She did not know him and asked for time. A month later, he was courting someone else. That girl’s father nixed that after a month and in another month, this young man proposed to a 3rd young lady at a church event. A month and a half later, they were married. He was from 3 courtships to a marriage in less than 5 months.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Complete and utter foolishness. And sadly, the young woman and the children she bears are the ones who suffer. Not the church or the parents. They go on their la-de-da way – and will probably throw her under the bus if she manages to stick her neck out and ask for help someday. They don’t care about her. The institution of marriage is more important than a human life.

      The Bible refers to the idea of waiting over 170 times. It never hurts to wait, pray, and give life decisions like this time.

      Reply
  90. MeganC

    Natalie . . . This is GOOD STUFF. We’re all sharing it today. 🙂

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Thank you – it’s an important message to get out there – especially in the conservative Christian circles. It could literally save lives.

      Reply
  91. Michelle

    I’m a single woman who is almost 40. I almost married a man who was emotionally abusive, and I’ve grown up in an emotionally abusive home.

    I’ve watched Christian friend after Christian friend go through abusive relationships for years. Sadly, often the ones that impressed their parents the most were the worst possible choices. Many of these abusers were very charismatic and successful. Some of them were pushed into marriage with people like this by their Christian parents, because their parents were just as taken in.

    I wish I could say the incidents were isolated, but the majority of my friends from campus ministry and the Christian university I attended are now divorced, either due to abuse or infidelity. My university really made marriage seem like the answer to all problems, and they talked very little about the warning signs of abuse. And sometimes I wonder if my generation and those after it are just more broken than those before.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      This really makes me sick to my stomach. Literally. I do think, in ultra conservative Christian circles, the twisted view of headship and submission is what encourages and enables domestic abuse. It’s a cesspool of satanic activity, in my opinion. Women play their own part in making this cycle repeat itself. I wrote about that here: http://visionarywomanhood.com/the-role-of-women-in-their-own-destruction-authority-and-abuse-part-two/

      I’m so sorry you have not found a good man (yet). I think you are right, though. They are few and far between. You are far better off unmarried than married to one. Both lives can be very lonely – but one includes all kinds of emotional and spiritual turmoil, and sometimes physical abuse as well.

      Do you like to read? I loved this book: Unseduced and Unshaken: the Place of Dignity in a Young Woman’s Choices. The author touches on this subject of not just marrying for the sake of marriage. God has given you dignity regardless of marital status. Never settle.

      Reply
  92. Lauralee

    What do you do if you recognize some of these traits in your son? I especially related to the covert aggression one. For a few years now I have recognized this time of manipulation my son does to me and to his siblings. Mostly the making you doubt yourself about calling him out on something. Any advice on how to correct this behavior or help him see this as abusive? My husband is not abusive, but I fear that over the years my son being the first born, some of my discipline I would relent on feeling to harsh or what have you. Perhaps I created this situation by allowing the jockeying for position, not knowing that it would result in a covert manipulation tactic in the future. My husband mostly deals with him now, he does not try this behavior with his dad, which is why his dad didn’t see if for a long time. I chalked it up to “boys just behave better for dads than moms” I don’t want to create a problem in his future relationships, is there something I can do to reverse this behavior?

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      That’s a good question. My knee-jerk thoughts are to have him study Proverbs and the various types of fools. Study narcissistic personality disorder with him and see if he can discover some of those traits in his own behavior. When you find articles like this online – print them off and have him read them. Get his opinion. Find out what he is thinking. When he is being manipulative, challenge him to be a man and own responsibility for his behavior. If he ever lies – make sure to warn him that lying is a relationship killer. When he sins against you, make sure that the relationship is not restored until he repents and asks for forgiveness humbly. I wouldn’t give him the silent treatment – be honoring, but I’d make sure to let him know, “Our relationship has been damaged because of your destructive choices. Until you make it right, we won’t be able to be close. I love you, and I know you will do what is adult-like and right. We can be made right with God and others when we repent and work on our stuff. A strong man – a leader – takes responsibility for himself and his choices. He doesn’t shift blame. That’s cowardly. I know you are not a coward.” And then just continue to repeat, repeat, repeat every time these behaviors come up – until he is gone. Hopefully much of what you have taught him will “stick.” I think all young adults go through this to one degree or another. With education and training (and a lot of prayer), many of them will pull out and become responsible adults.

      Reply
  93. Tina

    I would add that some women are abusers as well, so both men and women should watch for red flags!

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Yes – this is true. And since we’re on the subject – everyone has the potential to be abusive now and then. We are all sinners. But there is a world of difference between a person who has “normative” sin and a person who is chronically abusive (“abusive” sin). A person with normative sin is self-aware and convicted by their sin. They actively work toward repentance and change. An abusive person is not self-aware and is not convicted by their sin even when it is pointed out to them by several people. They refuse to change. They are the Proverbs fool.

      I should probably add that I am not addressing abusive women for two reasons. First, this blog is for women, not men – and this post is how women can avoid marrying an abusive man. Secondly, the majority of abuse comes from men. This is a fact with statistical evidence to back it up. But no, that doesn’t mean abusive women don’t exist. They do. And they are just as destructive in their relationships as the men.

      Reply
  94. libl

    This is dead on, other than sometimes abusers don’t come across as confident, suave, Christian Grey types. Hurting arrogance, perhaps.

    I am married to an emotional abuser, passive aggressive. I grew up with one for a dad, too, and knew so many with this kind of husband, father, step father that I thought it was normal! It took over a decade, two women friends two different times two years apart to confirm that I am indeed in an abusive relationship. My pastor also confirmed it and also saw through my counseling session that he, too emotionally abused his wife and set to remedy it, leaving the ministry.

    I have chosen to stay in this relationship for several reasons: 1. We have children. 2. He is improving beyond just for show. This is only by God’s hands and please please don’t think you can pray it to happen if you marry him. I am literally aged and physically ill (not to mention mentally ill) from what I went through. 3. I have tools thanks to some counseling I have received. 4. Unfortunately, it is so common where we live, it is hard to find support.

    Single gals, READ AND HEED! Be content and occupied with your singledom. Believe me, being tied down to such an imprisoning relationship is not worth the fluttery feelings and bringing in your biological clock into the mix only makes it worse. If he can’t handle you having a headache, how do you think he’ll deal with you being pregnant and having babies to care for?

    Fact is, Godly men are few and far between. It may be, in this fallen world spinning towards the end times, many ladies will not walk down the aisle. Accept that possibility and make the most of your marriage to Christ.

    Reply
    • kolabee

      25 years. 25 suck the life out of me years. I was old at 30 because of that man. You could not have described him better (less the hands on.) Every time we had sex I was a prostitute…. My children have suffered (I have them in counseling) WE are done. 6 months we have been recovering.

      We are happy. No one misses him. No one wants to talk with him on the phone. The kids don’t want to stay with him.

      He still tries to control me. He first cut our support in half. Then all together (we haven’t been to court yet. He’ll have to back pay… poor guy) His reason. Because “I’m wrong and he is not going to support my lifestyle. because he has not committed adultery” What he was giving us kept us off food stamps. He thought he could bully me back.He lied to people in my former church telling them all kinds of things. Like I’m mentally ill and having a break down. (trouble is they see me strong) He “confronted” my friends.(trying to get them to quit helping us) They tried to get him to see that HE was wrong. That in 1 Timothy 5:8 he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (he neglected us before I left. This isn’t new.) So, why do I even mention this?

      There are women trapped in these marriages because “he’s pure” God does not want you trapped in Satan’s snare. You CANNOT freely serve God with a man like this! Because no matter how great your marriage looks on the outside,YOU know how it really is on the inside. And then you are a liar too. Or your “bitter” and you shouldn’t speak ill of him. I know the verse Jesus said about divorce. Yes. He hates divorce. He also hates drunks and liars too. Jesus came for the most vulnerable. He came for you! If you need help getting out, please tell someone.

      Reply
      • Lynn

        Oh, the pain of having scripture thrown in your face and the story twisted! My ex has kept his newer “friends” in the dark, and people wonder how someone like me could just walk out on someone like him. Sometimes it’s really hard not to march up and tell my side, especially to the church people who think that since he didn’t commit adultery, that I sinned in leaving him.

        Reply
  95. Cindy

    Just occurred to me, when you started posting this, I told you that I didn’t have any experience of these kinds of situations, and then today I told you I did. That’s because I don’t have any experience of being *married* to somebody like that, with children, trapped. Once I realized I was about to get killed, and that I kinda hated him, and he literally hated me, getting out of that relationship was not difficult. It just required marrying another guy and moving far away, as fast as possible. Of course, I nearly ruined that first man’s life, as he was a very good, though immature, young man, and I was about as bad as the first relationship trained me to be. So that marriage ended as quickly as it began. So there you have the answer as to how I could have both had an abusive relationship, and had no experience with what you’re going through. Just in case you pay as much attention to what I’ve said as I do. 😉

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I figured it was something like that. But thank you for clarifying. 🙂

      Reply
  96. Pam

    I wanted to add:
    I was engaged to him. After I broke up with him he still pursued me, showed up at my job, called and talked to my family about how heartbroken he was. I let my Dad take him the ring back. Even after I was dating my now husband he didn’t stop pursuing me until my now husband scared him off ( funny how hard they run when they encounter a real man )
    He did try to contact me through facebook a few years ago. He PM’d me because apparently anyone can do that even with a strictly private account…I think it was just to flip me out and let me know he’s still out there and knows I am?…he went as far as telling me that my kids were beautiful ( seems innocent unless you know that person :/…. All of my photos are EXTREMELY locked down and private ) If I’d known he was even on FB I would have blocked him as soon as I opened my account but I never thought to search for him…needless to say he is blocked from mine and my husbands page now. It’s all about control :/

    Reply
  97. Cindy

    If it were me, and the relationship were fairly new and uncommitted, I’d drop even a humbly repentant boy like a hot rock. Let him learn his lesson from me and treat the next girl right. 😉

    Reply
  98. Pam

    This is spot on. I was in an abusive relationship when I was 16 with an older guy (20)…He was a young “preacher” ( leadership position ) A few other things I will add…They will use and twist scripture to make them “right”, they will “punish” you and outright tell you that they are punishing you for disobedience or defiance by withholding attention or ( non-sexual ) physical attention ( hand holding, kissing, etc. ) and somehow make that situation seem very normal. Note: when you’re looking back on it of course it sounds crazy BUT when you’re in it it feels normal somehow…
    My parents and everyone around us thought he was pure perfection.
    A lot of times when the physical abuse starts they will abuse you in ways that no one else would notice…such as: bruising your upper arm, pushing you up against a wall, throwing you on a bed or couch ( cushioned )…then they day after the abuse occurs they will shower you with apologies, gifts and attention only to do it again. He would have roses delivered to my school…or show up himself with gifts. I could go on for days but I don’t want to go into anymore bad memories. Now I’m married to a true Christian man, have been for almost 10 years now. He rescued me from the psycho 😉 as I call him now…and showed me true love. We have 5 amazing kiddos and an amazing healthy marriage.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      YES. Thank you for sharing your experience. You added a lot to this discussion when you brought up the twisting of Scripture. HUGE tactic that “Christian” abusers use. God will not be mocked. They are on dangerous ground with Him when they do that. It stumbles many people – and in families with a father that does that? Oi. Lots of damage. You made some other important points too. Thanks for chiming in!

      Reply
  99. heidi

    Really excellent article. We were strict and very involved in our daughters premarital relationships. No physical contact or alone time allowed. This allowed their dad and I to get to know the young men and helped the girls to get to know the guys without the physical romance clouding their judgement (not that emotional attachments don’t cloud judgments). Our daughters were not always delighted with our oversight, but all of them thanked us after the wedding vows were spoken for the boundaries we set.

    Reply
    • Saoirsewoman

      Would your oversight of your sons be equally strict? Christian patriarchy is very controlling of adult female children because they do not support equality between women & men, and don’t like sovereignty, personal agency and personal power for women (just men) – not because they just really care about their children.

      Reply
      • Natalie Klejwa

        I’m going to address this exact issue in a future post.

        Reply
  100. Cindy

    Natalie, this is all so important. Thank you. I was in an abusive relationship for a couple of tumultuous years before I got married to my non-abusing, really thoroughly wonderful husband. The warning signs that you point out are pretty much fool-proof, and the truth is that most parents are paying so little attention to their late-teen daughters that they can end up in this situation very quickly. It is a miracle that I am still alive.

    I wanted to point out, because I’ve had both kinds of relationship, I wanted to point out that there are normal ranges for some of the signs that you point out. For instance, a young man might fib about something because the truth is embarrassing (say, he wrecked his car because he’s a bad driver, and he was trying to impress you) but his reaction on being found out might be more important than the lie itself. I’m not saying it’s ok. It’s definitely a red flag. But if that is the only symptom out of this whole list, and friends and family are not sounding a warning about things they see that you can’t, you might accept his apology, if he can be brought to apologize in a non-defensive way. I use this example because I’ve seen it. 😉

    However, I would be careful about overlooking a lie. He might just be a really stinking good liar. Most sociopaths and narcissists are actually pretty bad at it, thankfully, because they really are that bad at seeing things from any point of view but their own, so you’re correct to tell them NOT ignore that icky feeling that there are still lose ends flying out everywhere. You are the sane one, here. You are not the one who lied.

    Not much else to add, except that I will print this out and hand it to every available young lady I know. 🙂

    Reply
    • Cindy

      Did you see how many times I used the phrase “point out” in one sentence? LOL. The dangers of a small typing field. I had no idea.

      Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      Very important “point.” (BAAAA HAAA) You’re right. We all might do any of these things here and there. The thing to look for is patterns of these types of behaviors. The only caveat being that it takes TIME to see patterns develop, and these people really know how to put on a front. If a girl can tip his apple cart a few times in order to see what spills out – that would help. It’s all about control. Take control away from him and see what happens. If his knee is bowed to Christ, and his love is true, he will be humble. If he is on the throne, his true colors begin to fly.

      Reply
  101. Karen

    As a mom of an unmarried 20-something daughter, I appreciate this post SO MUCH!!!
    In her senior year of college she dated a young man who had all the qualities that the average Christian girl looks for. He was popular, handsome, outgoing, was a leader in many different Christian organizations, romantic, manly, etc., and he pursued her HARD. He brought her thoughtful gifts, prayed with/for her, he led her in devotionals, he even serenaded her under her dorm window. What else could she have dreamed of?!?
    But there was just something not right.
    He said the right things… he said he would support whatever decision she made about post-college employment because he could get a job anywhere. But when she had solid leads on jobs he would have some reason for not wanting her to pursue it. He would introduce her to all of his friends as “the most wonderful girl in the world” but then post dozens of pictures on facebook of himself with other girls. He portrayed himself as a very humble recipient of God’s blessings but would get quite blustery with the slightest bit of teasing. He was verbally enthusiastic about the two of them living a healthier lifestyle but then sabotaged her efforts to exercise and eat better.
    After we met him we let him know that we did not think he was the one for our daughter. And that’s when he started treating her badly. When she would say “why are you acting like this?” he would say “I don’t know what you are talking about!” He would cancel dates citing her well-being (you need to study/sleep/whatever) and then go out with his (mostly female) friends. And those devotionals he led her in… he would cleverly avoid making any of his own opinions known and only affirm what she thought. I could go on. And on.
    She was thrown into such a state of confusion! She said that who he was before we met him was perfect, and who he was after we met him was a nightmare. Like we broke him! 😉
    No, once a person realizes that you see behind the mask they have nothing else to rely on so they must destroy you. Nobody wants to be picked apart but if they try to hurt you when you question their carefully polished veneer… RUN! Run like your life depends on it. Because it probably does!
    I pray for the poor girl he marries.

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      THANK YOU for sharing this real life example of how this can play out. I’m so happy she was able to get out of that relationship before it was too late, and I hope other readers will benefit from reading about her experience.

      Reply

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