Dr. Foster Cline, M.D., a psychiatrist noted for work in attachment, bonding, and human connection, put forth the theory that psychopathy operated on a gradient scale. According to his theories, a used car salesman trying to sell you a car that didn’t run right was a gradient psychopath, lower on the scale than a serial killer or rapist, who would have been the other end spectrum of the gradient. Dr. Cline’s purpose in such was to point out that liars are liars, and that while some of the specific behaviors accompanied with lying may be more socially unacceptable than some, the basis of psychopathic behavior is always inherent dishonesty.
Many different theories about domestic violence and men who batter women have been established throughout the years, with different complexities and different results. It is my own theory that chronic batterers are eligible to fit on the gradient of psychopathic behavior. The reason I say this is because batterers are incredible students of human behavior. They are often interested in psychology, on some level. They know how to work women, how to calculate them, and how to draw them into a game that an unsuspecting woman is duly unprepared for.
If we look at cycles of abusive behavior like this, domestic violence is as much psychological as it is physical or emotional, and the seduction of it starts before a word about it is said or a hand is raised. Domestic violence starts before the signs we typically hear about. By the time we hear about the typical signals, the cycle of abuse has already started.
While I do not deny that there are women who abuse men, the overwhelming statistics worldwide about domestic violence cite women are abused by men many times over men by women. The methods women often use to batter are also quite different than those used by men. This article, therefore, looks at the signs of a male batterer in the pursuit and hopes to educate women. It is essential for women to guard themselves with these signs, so they can know when it’s time to walk away early, rather than trying to get out once it’s too late.
• Batterers are emotional stalkers – Abusers are emotional stalkers; they are always waiting for you to make your move and waiting to corner you so they can make their move. They carefully note and watch words, behaviors, the things that make you tick, the feelings you have, and all your emotional push-buttons. They know what to say so you will drop issues, pass over faults or behaviors they may have, and ultimately, make you doubt yourself so you will stay involved with them when you should not.
• They like power – When an abuser gets in the cycle of violence, it becomes a craving; the rush, and it becomes as addictive as anything else. They aren’t just people who seek power over a mate; they seek it in every area of their lives. They aspire to be managers on the job, take unkindly to being told what to do, and often complain of feeling “pushed around” on the job when someone indicates their job performance is less than how they perceive it to be. They may seem to do well with people on the job who are beneath them, but do not do well with those who are equivalent or superior.
• They are driven – A batterer is a very driven person, one who takes any interest they have in things almost to an obsessive level. Some would call this an “addictive” personality. They have, at least once in their lives, been very successful with their careers, even though they may no longer be now.
• They are highly persuasive – Batterers are men who could “sell ice to the Eskimos.” They have a way with words and of making you comfortable with things you may not be comfortable with, given ordinary circumstances in your life. They know how to convince others in the pursuit to get what they want. I know in my own life that one of the worst relationships I ever had was with a man who I had no interest in until he started pursuing me. Even though I kept passively ignoring his signals, he kept it up and up and up – until I, in my extraordinarily naive 21-year old mind, thought maybe I was ignoring a good possibility. That’s the goal: to make you think that if you pass them up, you will miss something good.
• They are charming, engaging people – They seem easy to talk to, articulate and interesting, and often in a way that men tend not to be. This is not a put-down against men, as most would acknowledge that men are not as articulate as women, do not express their feelings as well, and often shut down verbally when they shut down emotionally. Batterers are the opposite. They are very expressive, seem open to talk, eager to share, and extremely articulate. They may appear to be very in touch with how they feel, especially being open about things that bother them. They carry themselves with a certain air, making a very good personal presentation, and often think they are very good looking, even if they don’t readily admit it out-loud. What they will admit is how women perceive them, and they are quick to mention how women check them out, find them attractive, or that they do certain things to be enticing to women. As a rule, they tend to be men who have an appeal, of sorts, to women.
• As engaging as they are, they tend to be, in many ways, “loners” – It is often a surprise to a woman to learn this seemingly charming, engaging man who seems so personable doesn’t often have many friends. They may have extensive issues with family members, have trouble keeping friends long-term, and seem to do well with people on the surface (as was discussed above), but not on a deeper level. This is in an incredible contrast to how they “seem” to be: they come across as in touch with themselves, with people, and with others. This contrast exists because their surface behavior is designed to inspire an intimate trust so they can manipulate and misuse others.
• They know women – Remember, batterers are incredible students of human behavior. They study other people to figure out how to get what they want from them – especially women. They know what women want to hear, what they want in their lives, all the key words and signs (marriage, family, romance, enticement, etc.). They can be almost nauseating at times, because they pay keen attention to very little details. They insist on giving you things you aren’t comfortable receiving or doing things that are way past the point of reason for that stage of the relationship – even if you say no. Even though batterers claim not to understand women (as most men do), batterers know exactly what a woman wants in a man – and targets that to draw her into the abusive cycle. Their major way of getting into your life is to present themselves as exactly what you are looking for, have sought for years, but has never been able to find.
• They take an intense interest in whatever interests you – Batterers are known for isolating a person from others in their life, because being around others helps give an individual a sense of themselves and what is important to them. One of the ways they do this is to take an intense interest in whatever is most important to you in your life, especially at that point in time. If getting married is what you most want, then getting married is what they want, too. If you don’t want to be single or alone anymore, than that’s what’s important; if it’s your career, they take an interest in that; if it’s having a family, then that’s where it’s at. In compliment to these desires, they present themselves as the perfect piece to what is most important to you, and start placing themselves in that role…without asking, considering feelings, or waiting to be invited.
• They are extremely interested – too interested in you – from too early on – It can be hard to tell a batterer from someone who is very interested in you, because the two can look a lot alike – especially if you have never had someone seriously interested in you before. Batterers disguise themselves as people who are very, very interested in you in a very serious way. They tend to be just a little too pursuant and just a little too interested…as if initially you are put-off with their affections and you want them to go away. They pass from interest to making you uncomfortable…to pressuring you into liking them, almost to where you feel like you have no other choice but to be involved with them.
• Their courtships are intense and overwhelming – A batterer knows intensity and overwhelm are the surest ways to get you interested, even if you aren’t. The batterer overwhelms with their presence, immediately placing themselves in your life, without your consent. They appear concerned with purchasing you things, and have to over-do that; i.e., they can’t buy one thing, they have to buy ten things. They also claim to be very interested in your self-esteem, how you are feeling, and are constantly monitoring your emotional state. This changes later, as they start playing on feelings and emotional states.
• They don’t offer much information about their past – Batterers know what to tell you and what not to tell you to draw you to them. If you knew the man had a police record for beating his former girlfriend, or that his past engagement, you probably would never take up with him. What a batterer will offer from their past relationships is simple: information to help you develop an empathetic attachment to him. They will tell you how they have been wronged, especially by other women. They will let you know how well they’ve “played the field” (even though at the same time they have been ‘wronged’ by women), how attractive they are to other women, and how any woman would want them, without coming out and saying that. They are selective about what they let you know about them, while wanting to tell them everything about you, your life, your likes and dislikes, your past relationships, and yes, even…what it is you “want.”
• They’ve had a long line of unsuccessful relationships – Most people today who are anywhere over 30 or so have most likely had relationships that are unsuccessful…but have had relationships that were good, as well, or at least some that were good for awhile before they started to go bad. In hindsight, we may look over our relationships and blame any number of things for their outcome: being too young, wanting different things, being in different directions, and so on and so forth. Batterers are different in that they never accept responsibility for a relationship’s end: they always blame the other party. The major thing all their relationships have in common is that every single one of them ends badly.
• They claim to be scorned or shamed by women, but actually have a history of abusing women, which they do not readily admit – I’ve met men who are genuinely emasculated by women, and let’s just say they don’t go around announcing it to the world. It is a pain that they carry and seek to fill through other women in their lives, constantly seeking admiration, sex, a one night stand, or even an affair. Some of them turn to drugs or alcohol. Batterers don’t carry the genuine traits of genuine emasculation. They may feel they are constantly wronged by women, but it’s more than a coincidence that every single woman they’ve ever met “didn’t understand “ them or “had it out” for them. Most likely what happened is what happens to many women in abusive situations: they get tired, things got ugly, and after awhile, they left.
• They claim to be searching for the “perfect woman,” a complete and total soul-mate, their Eve, etc., but never found her – Batterers know women want emotional support and, as they often feed stereotypes fed to them by the media, believe they need to be “completed” by a man. And what do they do with this…they tell you you’re the one to complete them, almost immediately. They claim to “need” you, unable to “live without you.” They will accept nothing less than the perfect complement to themselves in every way, and they claim that nobody will ever complete them like you do. So in other words, if you complete them, they have to invariably complete you, too, and you won’t be happy with anyone else in your life but them. That is the message they want you to get, and that is what keeps you with them, time after time after time.
• They start talking a long-term relationship very fast – Within a short time of knowing you, a batterer is already talking marriage or long-term commitment. While most men are stereotyped as fearing commitment (believe me, women, this is not true of every man), batterers know women tend to feel as if they will never get a man to make a commitment to them. They know if they say marriage, living together, long-term relationship, etc., the woman will put aside her personal misgivings about the relationship and jump into the situation with him without question. You will seldom find an abuser who simply expects a woman to live with him without some kind of promise of long-term dating, engagement, or marriage. Many ask the woman to marry them or move in with them within a period of a few weeks.
• They are chronically dishonest – Batterers are such smooth talkers, I sometimes wonder if they know where the truth ends and the lie begins after awhile. They start lying about where they are, who they are friends with or are with, and most often about their history and their past. They tend to leave out details that just change or slant the story a little differently, and would radically change your perception of what they are saying. Batterers use a “bait and switch” tactic: they tell you a partial fact about a situation, only later to tell you something else, which when you call them out on that, they tell you that you didn’t understand what they said, accuse you of not listening, or not paying attention. As they already share their situations in shadows here and there, it is perfect to make you think you’re the one who misunderstood something…when you didn’t.
• Batterers are sexually demanding – Everyone has their sexual preferences, things they like, and things they dislike. In a battering situation, sexual dynamics are a little different. Abusive relationships are not based in love, but in passion; they are intense, adrenaline rushes that go beyond the boundaries of good sense. Everything about abusive relationships are adrenaline rushes, followed by adrenaline crashes, and then the cycle is built back up again. As a result, abusive relationships often have an intense sexual charge to them; abusers tend to be very physically attracted to those they are involved with – they seek out certain types – and the abused also tend to be drawn into that intense attraction. Even the sexual dynamic within abuse is often luring and cyclical, as these men tend to function on sexual pressure in many ways. They don’t just want sex, they demand it, and are often very self-congratulatory about their prowess. Through the pressure, they tell you they’ll make it worth your while, that you want them, etc., making your consent to their pressures implied.
(c) 2011 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved. From “Domestic Violence Package,” Apostolic University, 2011.