Is there anything you can do to avoid abusers and narcissists to start with? Are there any warning signs, any identifying marks, rules of thumb to shield you from the harrowing and traumatic experience of an abusive relationship?
Imagine a first or second date. You can already tell if he/she is a would-be abuser. Here’s how:
Perhaps the first telltale sign is the abuser’s alloplastic defenses – his/her tendency to blame every mistake of his, every failure, or mishap on others, or on the world at large. Be tuned: does he/she assume personal responsibility? Does he/she admit his/her faults and miscalculations? Or does he/she keep blaming you, the cab driver, the waiter, the weather, the government, or fortune for his/her predicament?
Is he/she hypersensitive, picks up fights, feels constantly slighted, injured, and insulted? Does he/she rant incessantly? Does he/she treat animals and children impatiently or cruelly and does he express negative and aggressive emotions towards the weak, the poor, the needy, the sentimental, and the disabled? Does he/she confess to having a history of battering or violent offenses or behavior? Is his/her language vile and infused with expletives, threats, and hostility?
Next thing: is he/she too eager? Does he/she push you to marry him/her having dated you only twice? Is he planning on having children on your first date? Does he immediately cast you in the role of the love of his life? Is he pressing you for exclusivity, instant intimacy, almost rapes you and acts jealous when you as much as cast a glance at another male? Does he inform you that, once you get hitched, you should abandon your studies or resign your job (forgo your personal autonomy)?
Does he respect your boundaries and privacy? Does he ignore your wishes (for instance, by choosing from the menu or selecting a movie without as much as consulting you)? Does he disrespect your boundaries and treats you as an object or an instrument of gratification (materializes on your doorstep unexpectedly or calls you often prior to your date)? Does he go through your personal belongings while waiting for you to get ready? Does he text or phone you multiply and incessantly and insist to know where you are or where you have been at all times?
Does he control the situation and you compulsively? Does he insist to ride in his car, holds on to the car keys, the money, the theater tickets, and even your bag? Does he disapprove if you are away for too long (for instance when you go to the powder room)? Does he interrogate you when you return (“have you seen anyone interesting”) – or make lewd “jokes” and remarks? Does he hint that, in future, you would need his permission to do things – even as innocuous as meeting a friend or visiting with your family? Does he insist on a “dress code”?
Does he act in a patronizing and condescending manner and criticizes you often? Does he emphasize your minutest faults (devalues you) even as he exaggerates your talents, traits, and skills (idealizes you)? Does he call you names, harasses, or ridicules you? Is he wildly unrealistic in his expectations from you, from himself, from the budding relationship, and from life in general?
Does he tell you constantly that you “make him feel” good? Don’t be impressed. Next thing, he may tell you that you “make” him feel bad, or that you make him feel violent, or that you “provoke” him. “Look what you made me do!” is an abuser’s ubiquitous catchphrase.
Does he find sadistic sex exciting? Does he have fantasies of rape or pedophilia? Is he too forceful with you in and out of the sexual intercourse? Does he like hurting you physically or finds it amusing? Does he abuse you verbally – does he curse you, demeans you, calls you ugly or inappropriately diminutive names, or persistently criticizes you? Does he beat or slap you or otherwise mistreats you physically? Does he then switch to being saccharine and “loving”, apologizes profusely and buys you gifts?
If you have answered “yes” to any of the above – stay away! He is an abuser.
Then there is the abuser’s body language. It comprises an unequivocal series of subtle – but discernible – warning signs. Pay attention to the way your date comports himself – and save yourself a lot of trouble!