- He makes all the plans, decides where to go on a date, gives her things or does favors she hasn’t asked for, all without consulting her first. It’s easy to excuse this as an excess of love or simply out of the woman’s need to let him make the choices, given the emotionally difficult state she’s in. The truth is, though, that he will never care what she needs and will always insist that things be done his way.
- He talks about his previous relationship as a disaster. After a long period when everything was great (meaning the woman gave into him on everything), the woman turned into an abusive, manipulative monster. He couldn’t understand the change, but all of a sudden she blamed him for all sorts of problems she cooked up. She turned her family and friends against him. Perhaps she stole his children away from him by lying to a court. And on and on.
- He wants more and more of her time to himself.
- He disparages friends and family - exactly the people she wants to spend time with.
- He might even suggest she get a less taxing job so they can be together more often. The fact is he’s nervous when she’s not in his immediate orbit and under his control.
- He starts to get irritated if she disagrees with his ideas and attitudes about anything - politics, religion, other people.
- He gets serious too soon about the relationship and starts planning their future together, one that is exclusively his creation.
These are just a few of the typical behaviors that may not seem ominous at the time but are sure signs of what’s to come. The immediate question is: What should you do if picking up these signals?
Here is a summary of the advice of Lundy Bancroft, a psychologist who has spent years working with abused men and the women they have victimized. You can find these ideas and a wealth of other material on emotional abuse in his comprehensive book, Why Does He Do That?
- Talk to him as soon as possible about behaviors that make you uncomfortable and that you just can’t accept.
- If he keeps on doing the same thing, stop seeing him for a substantial period of time. If you simply give warnings about ending the relationship but keep on seeing him, he’ll assume you don’t really mean it.
- If he still doesn’t stop or instead goes to different behavior that is also a warning signal, the likelihood that you’re dealing with an abuser is very high. If you keep waiting to see if he’ll change, you could well get in too far and be trapped.
Remember, if you accept him despite misgivings, you’re fulfilling his fantasy as the compliant woman. If you object and resist, you’re ruining that fantasy, and he’ll get even.