One thing I've learned from working with my clients in the #bringingsparkleback clinic is that the abuse of women in relationships touches an unimaginable number of lives. The abuse ranges from physical, verbal, psychological, emotional, sexual and humiliation. All too often the abuse is accompanied by some degree of financial exploitation or isolation. It keeps my clients in a desperately unhappy place, scared, lonely, vulnerable and convinced something is deeply wrong with them and often the driver for them coming to therapy in the first place.
Abusive and controlling men are driven by their thoughts and beliefs. They have their own story, which makes them see the world very differently and able to justify (in their own heads) their abusive behaviour. He will try to fill your head with excuses and distortions which will keep you anchored down with self-doubt, self-loathing and self-blame. I hear so often, "I'll do anything to make him love me" or "I don't know why I can't make him happy" or "why am I so useless?"
Ladies, you cannot fix him. You cannot change him. Only he can change the way he sees the world and that takes effort and a willingness to accept that the problem lies with him.
A book I will often prescribe to my clients, is one written by Lundy Bancroft, a US based counsellor who has worked with hundreds of abusive men over the years. In her book 'Why Does He Do That?' she gets inside the heads of abusive and controlling men to arm women with the insights so they can take control of their lives. Lundy identifies 10 common abusive personality types and how they think. These are the ones to avoid ladies:
1. Mr Demanding
He expects your life to revolve around meeting his needs. He becomes enraged if his needs aren't met or if he is inconvenienced. You will feel like nothing you do is ever good enough and it's impossible to make him happy. He will criticise you frequently, usually about things you should have done, or done better for him. He believes…
It's your job to do things for me.
If I'm unhappy about my life, it's your fault
You shouldn't place demands on me
I am above criticism
You are lucky to have me.
2. Mr Always Right
He considers himself the expert on everything. He speaks with absolute certainty and dismisses your opinions entirely. He finds little value in your thoughts or insights, so he seeks to empty them out and fill them with his. He believes…
You should be in awe of me. I know everything and know what's good for you.
Your opinions aren't worth listening to.
The fact you disagree with me shows how you know nothing.
When you disagree with me, you are disrespecting me.
If I put you down for long enough one day, you'll accept the facts.
3. Mr Torturer
He assaults you psychologically without ever raising his voice. He often has a smug, self-assured grin on his face. He uses aggressive conversational tactics including sarcasm, laughing at you, mimicking your voice or making cruel remarks. He may even humiliate you. His behaviour makes you blow in an argument. He will say you are the one getting angry, being irrational and that it's impossible to reason with you. He believes..
You are crazy
I can easily convince others that you are the one with the problem
As long as I'm calm, you can't call anything I do abusive, no matter how cruel.
I know exactly how to get under your skin.
4. Mr Drill Sergeant
He takes controlling behaviour to the extreme, running your life every way he can. He criticises what you wear, tells you whether you can go out, interferes with your work and stops you from having friendships with others. He monitors your texts, emails and listens into your calls. If you are home late, you are at risk of abuse. You will feel like you have the freedoms of an 8-year-old. He is fanatically jealous and will accuse you of cheating on him or looking at other men. He is almost certainly likely to be physically violent because you are his possession. He will up his violence and threats until you submit to his control. He believes…
You shouldn't have or need anything in your life other than me
I am going to watch you like a hawk to keep you from developing strength or independence
I love you more than anyone in the world, but you disgust me.
5. Mr Sensitive
He's soft spoken, gentle and supportive - when he isn't being abusive. He's in touch with his feelings, he hugs other men, he likes watching rom-coms, he presents himself as an ally in the struggle against sex role limitations. To some women he is a dream come true, your friends love him, but he has the potential to turn physically frightening. He believes…
You should be grateful to me for not being like those other men
Can control you by analysing how your mind and emotions work
I'm against macho men, so I couldn't possibly be abusive.
6. Mr Player
He's usually good looking (or he thinks he is), he's an exceptionally good lover and you'll feel lucky you've found someone so into you. After a while you notice he's losing interest, he flirts with other women in front of you and sexual undertones run through most of his interactions with females. He'll start to get cold feet about moving in or committing. You will start to perceive any woman as a potential threat to you and it will damage your relationships. He is irresponsible, callous in dealing with your feelings and verbally abusive. He believes…
Women were put here to have sex with men - especially me
It's not my fault women find me irresistible
If you could meet my sexual needs, I wouldn't have to cheat on you
If you act like you need anything from me I'm going to ignore you.
7. Mr Rambo
He's aggressive with everyone. He gets a thrill out of intimidating people. He has an exaggerated view of what a man is supposed to be, which goes hand in hand of seeing women as delicate, inferior and in need of protection. At first, you'll love feeling safe and protected and you would never consider that his aggression could be targeted at you. However, his lack of respect for women and aggression will combine and you will eventually find that you are the one on the receiving end. He believes…
Strength and aggressiveness are good
Females are inferior. Women are here to serve men and be protected
Men should never hit women, but it's OK to keep them in line if need be.
You are a thing that belongs to me.
8. Mr Victim
His life has been hard and unfair. He appeals to your compassion and desire to feel that you could actually make a difference in his life. He'll tell you stories about how his ex-partner was 'crazy' or ‘frigid' or always had to have her own way and how she's now preventing him from seeing his children. He believes:
Everyone has done me wrong, especially the women in my life
I've had it so hard that I'm not responsible for my actions
Women who complain about abuse are anti-men.
9. Mr Terrorist
He's highly controlling and extremely demanding. He frequently reminds you that he could physically destroy you and even kill you if he wanted to. He's not always physical but will use threats, statements and bizarre behaviour. He is sadistic in nature and gets enjoyment from causing you fear and pain. He is likely to have been abused himself as a child. His primary goal is to paralyse you with fear so that you are too scared to ever leave him. He believes…
You have no right to defy or leave me
Seeing you terrified is exciting and satisfying
Our children are the best tools I can use to make you fearful
would rather die than accept your right to independence,
10. Mr Hybrid
He's a mixture of the different types above, which makes it even more confusing and baffling if you are in a relationship with him.
You may have days when your man is loving and attentive and thoughtful. However, don't be fooled. The abuse ALWAYS comes back, that is of course unless your man checks himself in for some therapy to deal with his own issues.
Catherine Asta Labbett is the founder and owner of Yorkshire based 'Bringing Sparkle Back' Psychotherapy, Relationship and Life Coaching for women who want to sparkle again.