Is Your Spouse or Pastor a Serial Bully?

This information blew my mind. It describes my ex-husband so precisely, it’s just spooky. I’ve known quite a few pastors who fit this description as well.

Please note, this is not a gender-specific problem. The gender of a serial bully can be female or male. This applies in marriage – the bully could be a wife rather than a husband. It also applies in church leadership. The female serial bully may be a Sunday School teacher, pastor in some churches, elder/deacon/board member, women’s leader, etc.

The serial bully:

  • is a *convincing,* *practised liar* and when called to account,
    will make up anything spontaneously to fit their needs at that moment
  • has a *Jekyll and Hyde nature* – is vile, vicious and vindictive
    in private, but innocent and charming in front of witnesses;
    no-one can (or wants to) believe this individual has a vindictive
    nature – only the current target of the serial bully’s aggression
    sees both sides; whilst the Jekyll side is described as “charming”
    and convincing enough to deceive personnel, management and a
    tribunal, the Hyde side is frequently described as “evil”; Hyde is
    the real person, Jekyll is an act
  • excels at *deception* and should never be underestimated in their
    capacity to deceive
  • uses excessive *charm* and is always plausible and convincing when
    peers, superiors or others are present (charm can be used to
    deceive as well as to cover for lack of empathy)
  • is *glib, shallow and superficial* with plenty of fine words and
    lots of form – but there’s no substance
  • is possessed of an *exceptional verbal facility* and will
    outmanoeuvre most people in verbal interaction, especially at
    times of conflict
  • is often described as *smooth*, *slippery, slimy, ingratiating,
    fawning, toadying, obsequious, sycophantic*
  • relies on *mimicry, repetition* and *regurgitation* to convince
    others that he or she is both a “normal” human being and a tough
    dynamic manager, as in extolling the virtues of the latest
    management fads and pouring forth the accompanying jargon
  • is unusually skilled in *being able to anticipate what people want
    to hear* and then saying it plausibly
  • *cannot be trusted or relied upon*
  • *fails to fulfil commitments*
  • is *emotionally retarded* with an *arrested level of emotional
    development*; whilst language and intellect may appear to be that
    of an adult, the bully displays the emotional age of a five-year-old
  • is *emotionally immature* and *emotionally untrustworthy*
  • exhibits *unusual and inappropriate attitudes to sexual matters,
    sexual behaviour and bodily functions*; underneath the charming
    exterior there are often suspicions or hints of sex discrimination
    and sexual harassment, perhaps also sexual dysfunction, sexual
    inadequacy, sexual perversion, sexual violence or sexual abuse
  • in a relationship, is *incapable of initiating or sustaining
    intimacy*
  • *holds deep prejudices* (eg against the opposite gender, people of
    a different sexual orientation, other cultures and religious
    beliefs, foreigners, etc – prejudiced people are unvaryingly
    unimaginative) but goes to great lengths to keep this prejudicial
    aspect of their personality secret
  • is *self-opinionated* and displays *arrogance*, *audacity, a
    superior sense of entitlement* and sense of *invulnerability* and
    *untouchability*
  • has a deep-seated *contempt of clients* in contrast to his or her
    professed compassion
  • is a *control freak* and has a *compulsive need to control*
    everyone and everything you say, do, think and believe; for
    example, will launch an immediate personal attack attempting to
    restrict what you are permitted to say if you start talking
    knowledgeably about psychopathic personality or antisocial
    personality disorder
    in their presence –
    but aggressively maintains the right to talk (usually
    unknowledgeably) about anything they choose
    ; serial bullies
    despise anyone who enables others to see through their deception
    and their mask of sanity
  • displays a *compulsive need to criticise* whilst simultaneously
    *refusing to value*, praise and acknowledge others, their
    achievements, or their existence
  • *shows a lack of joined-up thinking* with conversation that
    doesn’t flow and arguments that don’t hold water
  • *flits from topic to topic* so that you come away feeling you’ve
    never had a proper conversation
  • *refuses to be specific* and *never gives a straight answer*
  • is *evasive* and has a Houdini-like ability to *escape
    accountability*
  • *undermines* and *destroys* anyone who the bully perceives to be
    an adversary, a potential threat, or who can see through the
    bully’s mask
  • is *adept at creating conflict *between those who would otherwise
    collate incriminating information about them
  • is *quick to discredit and neutralise* anyone who can talk
    knowledgeably about antisocial or sociopathic behaviors
  • may pursue a *vindictive vendetta* against anyone who dares to
    held them accountable, perhaps using others’ resources and
    contemptuous of the damage caused to other people and
    organisations in pursuance of the vendetta
  • is also *quick to belittle, undermine, denigrate and discredit*
    anyone who calls, attempts to call, or might call the bully to
    account
  • *gains gratification from denying people what they are entitled to*
  • is *highly manipulative*, especially of people’s perceptions and
    emotions (eg guilt)
  • *poisons peoples’ minds* by manipulating their perceptions
  • when called upon to share or address the needs and concerns of
    others, responds with *impatience, irritability and aggression*
  • *is arrogant, haughty, high-handed*, and *a know-all*
  • often has an overwhelming, unhealthy and narcissistic
    *attention-seeking
    need to portray themselves as a wonderful, kind, caring and
    compassionate person
    *, in contrast to their behaviour and
    treatment of others; the bully sees nothing wrong with their
    behavior and chooses to remain oblivious to the discrepancy
    between how they like to be seen and how they are seen by others
  • is *spiritually dead* although may loudly profess some religious
    belief or affiliation
  • is *mean-spirited*, *officious*, and often *unbelievably petty*
  • is *mean, stingy*, and *financially untrustworthy*
  • is *greedy, selfish, *a *parasite *and an *emotional vampire*
  • is *always a taker *and *never a giver* [Note from Danni: On this one I would say, never a giver unless there is a hidden motive of manipulation to gain.]
  • is convinced of their *superiority* and has an *overbearing belief
    in their qualities of leadership* but cannot distinguish between
    leadership (maturity, decisiveness, assertiveness, co-operation,
    trust, integrity) and bullying (immaturity, impulsiveness,
    aggression, manipulation, distrust, deceitfulness)
  • often *fraudulently claims* qualifications, experience, titles,
    entitlements or affiliations which are ambiguous, misleading, or
    bogus
  • often *misses the semantic meaning of language*, misinterprets
    what is said, sometimes wrongly thinking that comments of a
    satirical, ironic or general negative nature apply to him or herself
  • *knows the words but not the song*
  • is *constantly imposing on others a false reality* made up of
    distortion and fabrication
  • sometimes *displays a seemingly limitless demonic energy*
    especially when engaged in attention-seeking activities or evasion
    of accountability and is often a *committeeaholic* or apparent
    *workaholic*
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Why Won’t the Church Address Domestic Violence?

I have to give a round of applause to Michael Spencer of the Internet Monk blog for his piece yesterday on this subject. He did a great job and he’s taking some heat for it.

You have to read it, but he gives 10 reasons why churches and pastors won’t step up to the plate on the issue of domestic abuse in the church – and they are not only right on target but communicated in a way that strips all the veneer of piety right off the excuses. I love the fact that he’s daring to take on the issue, when he is 1) a man!!!! yeah!, and 2) not a victim. In a strange twist of illogic, victims who speak out are automatically discounted considerably because we are assumed to have an agenda of validating ourselves.

So check it out and be sure to let the iMonk know you appreciate it!

Christian Men with Abusive Wives

This conversation took place in one of the comment threads and I know there are many other men who are walking in the same shoes. My answer to this man is by no means comprehensive. But it’s a good place to start.

Scott said:.

I am a man and my spouse has been horribly abusive to me verbally. Sometimes I want to leave the marriage. I’ve gotten as far as to fill out the paperwork but I keep reminding myself that “God Hates Divorce”. I know a few good christian men that believe in mutual submission out of respect for God and are in a similar situation. i.e. the Woman is horribly abusive, mean, disrespectful and hateful. What is your experience with the reverse like my situation?

Danni said:.

First thing off the bat, I would recommend you read Barbara Roberts’ book, Not Under Bondage which I recommend in the left sidebar of this site. She digs into the Word in great detail.

As for my experience, I have definitely seen women who are abusive to their husbands! This is just as much of a problem for those men as it is for women who have abusive husbands. It is no less wrong for a woman to be abusive than for a man.

And here’s something important. God is no respecter of persons. He does not hold men in greater bondage to abusers than He holds women! That is impossible because it would violate God’s nature.

In the Word it says that a man must leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and then they will be one flesh. But what if that wife will not allow the husband to cleave to her? In that case, she is putting asunder their one-flesh relationship.

And what does the Word say about that? The one who puts asunder is the one on whom Jesus places blame — not on the party who may get a legal document attesting to the existing reality of the relationship. That marriage was put asunder by the one who refused to remain in the one-flesh relationship, not by the one who gets a legal document entitling them to live in safety.

And the Word says death and life are in the power of the tongue. It is just as deadly to live with someone who is verbally abusive as it is to live with someone who is physically abusive. That is not metaphorical; it is literal.

Look at Malachi 2 in the King James Version. I love the way it says this — it says God hates putting away. It doesn’t say God hates divorce. Yes, God does hate divorce. So do I. So do you (I would certainly hope). But God does here what He frequently does in the Word, and points all the way to the root of the problem. What God hates is putting away — the acts that separate the one flesh bond of marriage as He intended it. That putting away happens prior to the issuance of a divorce decree. It includes divorce, but it precedes divorce.

I would encourage you to go with God on this – and it may be necessary to stop looking at what other people in the church are teaching or doing in the name of righteousness in marriage. There is a LOT of mistaken teaching in the church on this subject. We have created a whole doctrinal system out of a partial understanding of the Word and a misunderstanding of God’s heart and nature.

All that said, you don’t say what steps you have tried as far as counseling and accountability. The Word also includes a process of accountability and church discipline in Mt. 18 which I recommend strongly, if at all possible. Most churches won’t follow it through to the conclusion, but you can follow it as thoroughly as possible. This will help assure your heart that you are indeed making every possible effort and not throwing in the towel too soon. Both in Barbara’s book and in the articles on this site we talk about what the Word says about judging a spouse to be an unbeliever (Biblically) and what the Bible says about when to stay and when you are free from an unbelieving spouse. And a person can look just like a Christian and not be a believer by Biblical standards — in fact, it happens all the time.

Dealing With the Aftermath of Abuse

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

[This article was originally written in early 2008. At that point it had been a little over two years since my marriage ended.

Now, in August, 2009, I am reading back over what I wrote and would like to add some further insight provided by time and the leading of God on my journey. I will add these comments at the end of the original piece.]

It’s 12:15 a.m. I’m awake again and can’t sleep. This happens to me alot. It’s light-years better than it used to be, but it’s still a common occurrence. I wake up in the night disturbed by my dreams. While I can filter my thought processes during the day, at night the gates are open and “unmanned.” That’s when all the emotions overwhelm me.

When I was in my late 20s I realized I had nightmares most nights and had for as long as I could remember. These nightmares were the product of the church terror motivation campaign – the world is out to get Christians and will torture and kill us all if they get a chance (including showing graphically violent movies depicting this to teens and adults – talk about abuse!); the government is controlled by evil gremlins who hate Christians and will tear apart Christian families if they get a chance; etc.

On the other side of the coin was the church’s constant drill that I was inherently evil and unacceptable. In real life I was regularly held up for public reprimand and ridicule in youth group and at Christian school and that phenomenon appeared in my dreams frequently as well – though I followed the rules religiously. Fortunately, I knew my parents loved me, but in my dreams they turned on me just like the church did. Those dreams were a reflection of what was happening in real life, just magnified and concentrated.

Realizing I was being plagued by nightmares allowed me to address those fears on a conscious level. But they reappear from time to time still. In more recent years, the dreams that haunt me are of my marriage and rejection by the church.

By the time I left my husband the last time (Oct. 2005) I was having nightly terroristic nightmares. These dreams were direct products of the reality of our daytime relationship; somewhat magnified, but definitely reflections of reality on some level. I woke from these dreams sometimes sobbing out loud, sometimes shaking with terror so hard the whole bed shook, and three or four days a week I woke with a full-blown migraine in progress.

The church couldn’t – or wouldn’t — help with this. It took a psychologist to help me get free of these nightmares and the resultant migraines – though there was no reason I had to go outside the church for this help. It just needed someone with understanding and a willingness to dig into and address things, not someone with a doctoral degree in psychology. It really wasn’t complicated or technical.

Though my days are now peaceful for the first time in many years, I still relive the nightmare at night to a lesser degree. I wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes literally hurting so bad it feels like I’m having a heart attack. WHY??? Why does it have to hurt so bad?

What hurts the most is that the church both allowed and encouraged me to stay in an abusive marriage for 20 years. In fact, it did more than just encourage me to stay in that marriage. The church held additional rejection and judgment over my head if I dared to get out. I knew if I defied the church and got a divorce I would be branded forever. But staying and “working on” my marriage year after year after year was literally killing me. Ultimately it came down to obeying the direction of God and choosing the rejection of the church to stay alive. That’s a simplistic bottom-line view of a complex issue, but it is true.

In the nights when I wake up crying and can’t sleep I wonder how the church can justify its attitude toward marriage and family. The sanctity of marriage is not paramount over the sanctity of life. I wonder how the church can justify a gospel of fear, judgment and rejection. This has to be opposite of God’s desires and yet it goes on and on and on, with vested (or perhaps “encrusted” would be more appropriate) church leaders holding staunchly to tradition to the detriment of people’s real lives.
It is wrong, it matters, real people are being hurt by the church, and knowing this, I cannot sit by and do nothing. And I have to live with my nightmares and sleepless nights in the meantime.

Update: August, 2009

God is so faithful to hear the cries of our hearts. While, in the moment, things may seem insurmountable and endless, He sees a different picture. The nightmares have almost entirely ceased – so it does get better.

As I have sought God about all of this, He has worked to heal my heart – both toward my ex-husband and toward the church. He has continued to affirm that, indeed, abuse in the church and the home is not His plan.

Most importantly, as I have continued to seek Him and reject bitterness (which has been a terrific battle, in complete honesty!) He has taught me truth from His Word that has transformed my life on more levels than just healing from my abusive marriage. He has taught me so much as I’ve been willing to humble myself before Him and receive from Him – allowing Him full access to all my preconceptions of truth.

I know this is a work that will never be complete in this life as I’m transformed into the image of Christ. But it is a huge example of how God will redeem what Satan meant for evil. God is faithful, faithful, faithful and can be fully trusted.

If I look at the church through the eyes of my experience, and the continued experiences of others, I can easily become overwhelmed by discouragement and slide back into bitterness. But one thing God is teaching me is to see it through His eyes.

Jesus died for this church! He died to sanctify a bride for Himself. The church is misunderstanding the truth of who He is and what all He died to accomplish. That is a cause for grief, not anger.

I cannot single-handedly fix the problem. But what I can do is what He has given me to do – teach the gospel. Jesus defined the gospel in Luke 4:18-19 – it is about more than just handing out free tickets to heaven. It is for the hurts of our todays! Jesus provided an amazing gift in His death and resurrection for our present days, not just our eternal destiny – and the church has virtually lost that truth in the bondage of our traditions.

If I am in bondage to bitterness and hurt, I cannot share the liberating truth of what Jesus came to offer to all of the body of Christ. And that “all” includes the very ones who have twisted the Word into a weapon – mostly in ignorance. God loves these people. In fact, these ones who hurt others are frequently themselves walking wounded, even if they will not ever admit to it publically or even to themselves in private. Wounded people wound people, as I’ve heard said many times.

I can’t free myself from the hurt of the past – but God is a faithful and sure healer. As I have sought Him, and continue to do so, He faithfully brings the balm of His comfort and healing to me. And He will do the same for every one of us who have been wounded inside the walls of buildings and institutions called “church.”

Abused Men: The Silent Victims of Domestic Violence

The linked article is a good look at, and brief overview of, the particular issues facing men who are victims of domestic violence.

Abused Men: The Silent Victims of Domestic Violence

Saddleback Church Backpeddles on Domestic Violence Divorce Quotes

In an article in which he interviews Saddleback teaching pastor Tom Holladay, Bob Allen of the Associated Baptist Press reveals that Saddleback has removed the audio clips which raised so much stink earlier this year. Holladay insists that the audio clips are taken out of context and do not reflect what the church teaches or believes, leaving the mistaken impression that the church will not support divorce for abuse under any circumstances. The original clips have been transcribed and can be read here:

Transcript of Saddleback Abuse Audio Clip
Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on Divorce
Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on Miserable Marriage

In the audio clips, Holladay stated (among other things), “I wish there were a third [reason for divorce] in Scripture, having been involved as a pastor with situations of abuse… There is something in me that wishes there were a Bible verse that says, ‘If they abuse you in this-and-such kind of way, then you have a right to leave them.'”

It is difficult for me to understand how Holladay’s comments could be misinterpreted, but to give him his due, he states for the record in this article that Saddleback does not teach or support the idea that someone must linger in an unrepentant abusive marriage. The linked article says, “What the clip didn’t make clear, Holladay said recently, is the question he was answering had to do with abusive language and not physical abuse. The way it was edited, Holladay said, gave the impression that a chronically violent and abusive situation is the only just cause for separation.”

This is something that touches right on a sensitive spot because then we have to address the question of what qualifies as “abusive language,” and more importantly, what happens when you have a non-physically violent, unrepentantly verbally abusive spouse. Words can literally kill and are just as deadly as physical violence. Not only does the Word clearly state this, but scientific research has affirmed it as well. The Word says that the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart and words are the first expression of a heart of abuse. There should be no need to wait for fists. The mouth is fruit of the heart’s reality and can give us all we need to know and act — and prevent physical violence, or physical death and disease by the tongue.

At any rate, I’m reporting this development on this issue in the interests of being even-handed. I do not know what was originally meant since what was published were the audio clips – which seem very clear – so I cannot make a judgment about that. All I know otherwise is what I have heard in talking with some individuals who experienced Saddleback’s counseling. The church does seem to have a much more supportive attitude than most churches, but I also have heard of some very serious failures and profoundly bad, even dangerous, counsel as well. So, I can’t make a concrete statement one way or the other about the original intention of the clips.

How To Spot an Abuser On the First Date

This post is in response to a question asked in the comments of one of the articles on this site.

Right up front, let me clarify that this is by no means a comprehensive answer! And as I said in my comments, I don’t think it will be possible to always spot an abuser on the first date. So the title of this piece relates to the question asked, not the answer given.

I have replied with some things that would have applied to my own situation with an abuser. I am quite sure there are more red flags which would apply with other abusers. I hope that others who read this will chime in with other red flags they have seen.

The original question was this:

If you were going on a date, now, with the same man, what would have given you a clue of your future? how would you know if it is real gold, or “gold” that doesn’t exist?

This was my response (somewhat amplified):

A single date could very likely be hard to see through. Someone can put on a perfect front for a brief period of time. With a skillful abuser, you have to put the pieces together over a period of time, though there are generally subtle clues that will peek through even on short association.

For me, with the specific man I married, there were some indications before hand that I didn’t understand.

1. He never quite managed to tell the truth. Everything he said was either over-exaggerated or under-stated, whichever would put him in the best light. I frankly suspected him of lying with all of his self-glorifying stories, but then I did find out at least one of them was true so I thought I must be wrong.

Later, this issue of him recreating reality was HUGE – he used it all the time when talking about me to others, especially pastors, counselors and his family. For many abusers, (I don’t know if it is universal but I’ve seen it in several) their reality is self-customized to their specifications – whatever meets their perceived need at the moment. So dialog becomes virtually impossible since they turn everything that actually happened around, even taking incidents that happened and recreating or even repositioning them in time/space to suit their purposes – generally to the disadvantage of the one they are abusing.

2. There was an incident where he punched a fellow student. I didn’t see it happen so all I knew was his own story, which was that the other student persistently provoked him, telling him over and over, over a period of many weeks, to punch him. So finally he did. I wish I had known to ask other students who knew both of them and would have seen these interactions, what really happened. After experiencing his violence first-hand, I know his version of this event was not true.

3. His mother asked me before we were married whether I thought I could handle his temper. Well, she never explained exactly what she meant by that or told me of any history or examples. And I had literally never seen an adult with a “temper.” In my family, everything was always handled very civilized. That didn’t mean that people didn’t disagree, but no one ever got nasty or yelled and screamed, or called names, or used profanity. And certainly, there was never any violence, not even throwing things, punching walls or furniture, slamming things, etc. So I was completely clueless about what she meant. And I thought that if we truly loved each other we could certainly work out any disagreements. After all, that was what I had seen modeled all my life.

4. I didn’t realize that he was utterly self-absorbed before well into our marriage. Before our marriage, he attempted to engage me in conversation (scripted, no less, with 3×5 cards with questions on them) to try to “find out about me” – but even these were about him. He was trying to find out whether I matched his purposes – not wanting to get to know me because of me. Years later I realized some of those question were designed to make sure I was the type of person who wouldn’t catch on to him or stand up against him – though he may not even have been consciously aware of that fact. I don’t know whether that would have been more obvious to me unless/until I had a clue about abuse, however.

This is something I have seen other abusers do, to a greater or lesser degree. Their conversation, even about you, is always really about them. And they will use flattery, gifts, and constant statements of deep attraction, love, need, “you are more than life to me” yada, yada to win you over. But this is really not about adoration – it is about obsession and desire to “have” you like a possession. And that turns deadly once the “I do’s” are said (or when they feel confident they “have” you).

5. He didn’t really listen to the things about me — he recreated his understanding of me to match his desires and expectations. This was demonstrated in things like the gifts he purchased for me which were things he liked and I didn’t (after his persistent probings to find out what I liked). Also it was revealed in his choice of activities for us – which were always things he wanted to do and not things I would have enjoyed.

Later in our marriage, he went through several months of again probing to find out what I liked to do. He gave me lists to fill out and questionaires to complete. I resisted at first, because by then I knew what would happen. But, of course, he insisted under the banner that my resistance said I didn’t care about him or our marriage. So I filled out his forms.

He didn’t say anything about them at first, but then weeks later he again accused me of not liking to do anything, having no interests, etc., etc. My reply was that I like a lot of things and I had even filled out his forms telling him all of them. His response — none of those are any fun. My response — so, in other words, if I don’t like what you like, I have no interests and don’t like to do anything “fun.” He didn’t reply – but that didn’t mean he changed his mind. He said the same thing again to me and to others about me multiple times after that.

6. Things always had to be done his way. Even if I had another way or another preference, he would pick at it and pick at it, and “reason” and cajole until I gave in to his way. This was vividly apparent (but I didn’t see it at the time) over our wedding plans. I planned that wedding for 18 months, during which we were separated for the most part. I had to pay for all of it, so it had to be on a very strict budget. When he came back from overseas and out of state 3 months before the wedding, he managed to get me to change almost everything. This wedding was “his” day, not the bride’s day. Boy, should that have been a clue!

7. Another indication, which seriously bothered me at the time, but I didn’t understand it’s significance, was in our physical relationship. Now, you have to understand that we were in a very strict environment. We were taught that men and women were not even to touch until after the wedding, period. We had both come to realize that was not only ridiculous, but unhealthy. Well, I thought that was we. Perhaps it was me and he was just glad to agree. But still, it was not to go beyond normal and healthy demonstrations of affection. No petting, etc.

In spite of our agreed boundaries, the first time he kissed me he attempted to french kiss me. I was appalled (understand, I had never done anything of the sort – I know most people would think I was nuts). And personally, I think I was rightly appalled. The boundaries of our physical relationship were to be completely non-sexual and french kissing is symbolic of the sex act – deliberately. But I figured I was being a ridiculous prude, so I gave in to him from the second kiss onward.

Now, here’s the serious part. Every single time he kissed me from that day until after our wedding, it had to be a french kiss. Never a simple kiss of affection. Not only that, he would hold me very tight, push my head as far back as it would go so I was overbalanced, and would prolong each kiss for minutes at a time. I literally couldn’t breathe. It took me many, many years (he still did this after we were married, just not every single time he got near me) to realize this was physical domination and control.

During our marriage, he started griping when I would push him off so I could catch a breath, and he told many, many people that I “wouldn’t let him kiss me.” In fact, this was one of his favorite gripes, along with accusing me of refusing him sex. That got the pastors, counselors and his family every time. What no one ever paused to find out was that I only refused him abusive sex – and he knew that. He also knew that he was welcome to intimacy that wasn’t abusive.

In fact, a year before our marriage ended, he got up in front of an entire church and “testified” that his life had been changed that week because his wife of 19 years had finally let him kiss her for the first time. I was completely humiliated and there was nothing I could do to defend myself. But I did wonder if anyone took a second to wonder how this man had managed to acquire 3 children without ever kissing. That would be really weird.

Going a bit off topic, this habit of humiliating me in front of others was also a consistent issue throughout our marriage. I don’t remember him ever doing that before we were married, but then we also were not together very much before we were married. Strange environment, long story.

But he did this often during our marriage, lying to people about me or telling them twisted things about me. I eventually observed that he did this, not only randomly, but also any time he felt that other people might be viewing me in a complementary way, if he felt I was getting too much attention, or if he felt that others might see him as “less” than me in some way.

But the result of this habitual behavior was that I was even more isolated than I was just by his refusal to let me do things, see family, go out with friends, etc. (And to be completely clear, he even accomplished this by manipulation and pushing, pushing, pushing me until I gave in and did what he wanted. He rarely just flat said, “No you can’t.” Instead he guilt-tripped, manipulated, etc. to get me to agree with him about me “needing” to stay at home.)

As a result, I never knew what people really thought of me because I knew he had lied about me to various people, but I never knew who, or what he had said to them. So I always kept myself reserved to a greater or lesser degree around people who knew both of us. Invariably, the things he had said about me would end up jumping out and slapping me in the face at odd times when people would accuse me of things, or decide to no longer associate with me, or whatever. This was especially true with his family, with the church, and with the pastors/counselors we saw.

Back to the issue of point 7, this behavior of pushing in the arena of physical relationship is common with abusers. They want whatever they can get, and they will flatter, cajole, manipulate, and flat-out push past boundaries to get it. Then if you feel guilty or want them to quit, it is you who are at fault, never them.

These are a few I can think of off the top. As a general rule, I think a single date would be difficult to know (though, not always; sometimes it’s really obvious if you know the signs) but over time it is not hidden.

What makes it most difficult, actually, is that if you have come from an abusive background (and unfortunately, a lot of people do not even realize their background was abusive since it was their “normal”) these behaviors will not seem abnormal to you. You may even feel flattered by the persistent attention and apparent adoration. So the very best way to learn to spot an abuser is to get healthy yourself first. In fact, I would go so far as to say, this is the only way to really protect yourself from an abuser.