Dear Dr. Buckingham,
I recently got married and I am learning a lot about my new husband. My sister said that she does not like him and expressed that she feels he is abusive toward me. She said that she witnessed him talking to me in a demeaning way. He does talk to me in a “loud” tone and treats me in a controlling manner. My sister was married to an abusive man and told me that she knows what abuse looks like. I have started to pay more attention to his behavior and I am kind of concerned. How Can I Determine If My Husband Has Abusive Tendencies?
Confused and Potentially Abused Wife
Dear Confused and Potentially Abused Wife,
You can determine if your new husband has abusive tendencies by understanding what abuse looks like for yourself. Some women are in abusive relationships and do not know it. Love does hurt occasionally, but it should not be intentional. Recognizing signs of abuse is critical because perpetrators typically become more aggressive over time. Unfortunately, a lot of people only pay attention to physical abuse because it is easier to observe and understand. However, emotional or psychological abuse can be just as bad as physical abuse. It is not my intent to compare physical and emotional abuse, but I want to emphasize that physical abuse is easier to recognize. Also, I want to emphasize that there are three common forms of abuse.
- Physical Abuse (inflicting physical discomfort, pain, or injury)
- Sexual Abuse (forced sexual contact, rape, or incest)
- Psychological/emotional abuse (diminishing your identity and self-worth)
Abuse occurs when an individual misuses his or her power and attempts to control others. In order to help you gain more insight about abusive tendencies, I have listed some information below.
Physical Abuse Tendencies
- Pushes or shoves you
- Holds you to keep you from leaving
- Slaps or bites you
- Kicks, chokes, hits or restrains you for control
- Locks you out of the house
- Rapes you
- Threatens or hurts you with a weapon
Sexual Abuse Tendencies
- Makes demeaning remarks about you
- Insists that you dress in a more sexual manner than you desire
- Calls you derogatory sexual names like “whore” or “freak”
- Forces you to have unwanted sex with him or others or forces you to watch porn
- Forces sex after beatings
- Forces sex for the purpose of hurting you with objects or weapons
- Commits sadistic sexual acts
Psychological or Emotional Abuse Tendencies
- Puts you down
- Makes you feel bad about yourself
- Calls you inappropriate names
- Makes you think that you are crazy
- Plays mind games with you
- Humiliates you in front of others
- Makes you feel guilty telling him no
- Intimidation (smashes things, displays weapons, uses aggressive gestures or looks)
- Ignoring you
- Isolating (limits your involvement in things, controls who you see and talk to, etc.)
It is not uncommon for men with abuse tendencies to treat women like servants, make all the big decisions, act like the “master of the castle” and believe that they should define roles. Also, a man with abuse tendencies often displays one or more of the following behaviors: has low self-esteem, believes all the myths about battering relationships, is a traditionalist, blames others for his actions, is pathologically jealous, presents a dual personality, has severe stress reactions, uses sex as an act of aggression and does not believe violent behavior should have negative consequences.
Please be mindful that the above-mentioned tendencies are not intended to serve as a means to label your husband, but as information to help you make an informed decision about the importance of getting professional help. I realize that your sister is knowledgeable about abuse based on her experience. However, I highly recommend that you speak with your husband about your concerns before you define who is or is not. Also, I highly recommend that you get professional help if warranted. Professionals who are trained can help you better identify behaviors that you need to be aware of.
As you move forward, please do not minimize how you feel or ignore your concerns. Denial is a major player in abusive relationships. The more that a person denies abuse, the more it will happen. Also, keep in mind my personal quote, “Love me or leave me because abuse is not an option.”
If you have questions for Dr. Dwayne Buckingham regarding relationships (married, single, etc), parenting, or personal growth and development, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions, and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.