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Is there a typical background/childhood of an emotionally abusive man?

(31 Posts)
Proudnscary Mon 19-Sep-11 14:11:22

I have a vested interest in asking, but it's not for myself. It's a close colleague who is beginning to confide that he's been controlling/manipulative for years. I suppose I'm trying to see if he fits a 'type' that I may or may not present to her...?

garlicnutty Mon 19-Sep-11 14:32:59

The 'bible' is "Why Does He Do That?" by Lundy Bancroft.

There are pathological abusers, whose emotional development was arrested at a young age and are incapable of seeing the world other than as a small child does. There are also perfectly well-evolved people, who abuse because they're selfish and get their own way through abuse. They tend to relate generically to other people, for example making dismissive comments about women as "tarts", "nice little wives", etc.

All abuse follows predictable patterns. These are outlined in Bancroft's book. There are also loads of checklists on the web - look for "spot a loser" and "relationship red flags".

Proudnscary Mon 19-Sep-11 14:45:25

Thanks Garlic. Yes, have heard about this book on here many times and yes I think I will read it. Sorry another question - do EA men often pass the abusive comments off as jokes - either verbal or practical jokes? Even presenting them in a way that those outside of the relationship would or could consider to be jokes?

Proudnscary Mon 19-Sep-11 14:46:28

Also the guy in question would never refer to women in those terms actually. He's very PC.
Well unless it's 'joking' about wife's 'skinny' body.

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Mon 19-Sep-11 15:06:31

do EA men often pass the abusive comments off as jokes - either verbal or practical jokes?

Yes. Very commonly so. Since it's all about appearance (and control) for them, they need to dress up their abusive tactics to look respectable.

garlicnutty Mon 19-Sep-11 15:42:21

Does he control her diet?

Proudnscary Mon 19-Sep-11 15:49:10

Yes that makes sense Puppy.

Garlic - no not really. He makes comments about her being underweight but they are always coupled with 'you know I think you're gorgeous' and lots of bum slapping type thing (not overtly sexual - this is the thing it's all subtle. It makes me question myself when I witness these things - ie am I overreacting? So god only knows how she feels.).

Not sure whether to mention EA to her or whether it's not helpful - or even relevant ie if she's finding it distressing then does it matter what it's called?

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Mon 19-Sep-11 15:56:08

Is she confiding that she feels upset, or just describing behaviour that you find alarming?

(just trying to gauge what she might be ready to hear)

lubeybooby Mon 19-Sep-11 15:58:58

Not really sure but with my ex it seemed to be learned behaviour from his dad who constantly shouts at and belittles his mum.

amverytired Mon 19-Sep-11 16:02:04

Mine had an alcoholic mother and a narcissistic, abusive father who left his mum when he was young. Mother put on a pedestal of course, and father hated.- Unfortunately, as an adult, he became a binge drinker who was almost as bad abuse-wise as his dad.

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Mon 19-Sep-11 16:04:29

The "type" is in what they do, IMO, not in who their parents were.

You also asked: if she's finding it distressing then does it matter what it's called?

I think it can help to put a label on it. IME it makes it "real"; it is confirmation that you're not crazy; that there really is a problem and it's not you.

ike1 Mon 19-Sep-11 16:04:31

Yeah Lundy observes that men tend to learn behaviour from dad as opposed to mum, that and their peers, culture etc.

garlicnutty Mon 19-Sep-11 16:05:04

I think it's helpful to call it out - if you don't use the word abuse, we can speak of bullying or controlling. Have you told her his comments make you uneasy? She may welcome some validation - all abusers aim to make their targets blame themselves, so confirmation from others can be strengthening.

There are still a lot of people who haven't heard the term "emotional abuse".

An emotional abuser may make fun of his partner, or make subtle or not-so-subtle disparaging remarks about her while with other friends, and encourage the friends to make disparaging remarks. He will then be sure to tell her about the jokes they made and act surprised when she doesn't find them "funny". He may even tell her that she is overreacting and that it was "all in fun" and that no harm was meant by the "joking".

The longer a woman remains under the grip of an emotional abuser, the more she will start to question herself, her actions and her beliefs. It is the abuser's goal to make her believe that she deserves his cruelty and that only through her actions can she make it stop. It is his intent to get her to feel that she is the cause of any relationship problems, and that his (abusive) behavior is simply a response to her, and therefore acceptable. It is true, that only through her actions can she make it stop - she must have the courage to leave the relationship and avoid further contact with the abuser.

- from

Proudnscary Mon 19-Sep-11 16:13:22

Oh my God Garlic - I have got goosebumps reading that extract.

Puppy - both. I have known him a long time, too. My instincts said 'yikes' from pretty much the first time I met him.

She will absolutley know the term EA. Which in a way makes it harder iyswim?

Proudnscary Mon 19-Sep-11 16:14:09

absolutely sorry (hate bad spelling!)

I meant I had goosebumps because it's so like him btw.

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Mon 19-Sep-11 17:10:24

You say she knows the term, and you see that as an obstacle. I certainly knew the term "abuse" for the 12 years I was living it, and I just didn't see it in my own marriage. And then one day, I did.

So it's not what she knows theoretically that counts. It's what it's going to take to break through her denial and normalisation.

Would she be receptive to reading Lundy herself? You say she realises she is distressed, and that it is his behaviour that is distressing her. That is an excellent basis for further awareness. If she has used the words "angry" and "controlling" about his behaviour, and ever wondered aloud along the lines of "but why is he like that?", then the Lundy book has all those things on its cover in big bold letters, and you might be able to present it to her as a possibly helpful tool that you happened on for her that could answer her questions.

Mind you, you have to be willing for her to continue to be in denial, and be ready to risk that she balks and lashes out at you for bringing news she is not ready to accept yet. You are the best judge of how you want to play it.

HerHissyness Mon 19-Sep-11 17:14:23

have a look at the abuser, vs the non-abusive man....

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Mon 19-Sep-11 17:14:40

Lundy is not a panacea if you're not ready to hear it, mind.

For example, my Dad -- an abused husband -- read the Lundy book during the breakup of my marriage because he wanted to understand what had been going on in mine, and he didn't clock at all that the book was also talking about his own marriage...

The really important thing for you is to keep talking to your friend, keep making her feel that you are a receptive audience, keep asking her open questions (Qs in "what, where, how and why" rather than "yes no" questions), and keep validating her feelings ("that's not a tiny thing at all", "no wonder you're upset", "that must have felt horrible", etc). It will do her so much good, when she is in a relationship where she is being invalidated at every turn.

thisishowifeel Mon 19-Sep-11 17:49:57

I think that, given that this is such a mammoth issue in society, that there is a shamful lack of research on the op's question.

The fact that htese people show behaviour and even speec patterns that are pretty much identical, and predictable. I am astonished that no one has researched it more fully.

After all, the figures speak for themselves in terms of cost to the country. (WA website).

There are no class or educational factors at play it seems. But there must be something...beyond a learned sense of entitlement or whatever, that is actually WRONG with these men.

From my random readings, it appears that many of them have abandonement issues pertaining mainly to the mother. Beyond that...nothing. I suppose Patricial Evan's socialiastion of boys to deny their feelings and their reality goes some way to explaining, but it's hardly scientific.

I still can't work out which of my parents was the worst abuser...they both were in different ays, although "mother" is diagnosed bpd, and was sexually abused as a child...the two do often go together.

That's not much help is it?

babyhammock Mon 19-Sep-11 18:03:52

ExP was from a large family. His mother extremely narcissistic and he was the golden child who could do no wrong.. his brother the scape goat who she was very cruel to. He also wasn't ever allowed in the kitchen apparently as that was women's work

Proudnscary Mon 19-Sep-11 20:14:25

Thanks all.

I wish I could post with more details but it's more than possible she could be here. She is also closer to me than I revealed in first post.

I asked the original question because I had a sudden thought about his upbringing and just wondered if there was a huge red flag re a particular childhood experience.

I looked at EA indicators on the WA website. I'd say he ticks at least half the EA boxes but not in an extreme way. I would say he is mildly EA - but that sounds like I am downplaying it and it feels like a rather offensive thing to say/think.

Puppy - yes I think I do that, validate and ask open qu's. Though through trying to disguise my dislike for this man I have sometimes gone the other way and 'seen his side too'.

And at rocky times I have never urged her to leave. Partly because he is not dangerous and he does not display anything like the terrible behaviour I have read about on here. He is also a really pretty good father to their three dd's and I am very big on keeping families together because of my own childhood experiences.

thisishowifeel Mon 19-Sep-11 20:36:55

I'm going to stick my neck out then. Not scientific, not nothing...just what I have noticed from my own life and from reading a LOT.

I have found that there is a clear link between childhood sexual abuse and personality disorders.

Abusive people behave like people with personality disorders.

When I first embarked on this, I found that gaslighting, almost always came up in tandem with narcisisstic personality disorder.

That other forms of abuse tied in, always with other personality disorders, always seemed to link back to massive trauma in childhood, usually involving abandonement...whether that be physical, ie just not being there...boarding schools, disapearing, workaholic, etc...or alcoholic/ depressed/ drug affected.

So abusive people, appear to have the same triats, as those with personality disorders.

There are books that say that they simply feel "entitled" to be abusive. Well that never really cut it with me. Why do they feel entitled? That's the question. Others say that they know exactly what they are doing. I have been surrounded by abusive people all my life...and I know that they have absolutely no idea that what they are doing is wrong or abnormal in any way. To's just how everyone deals with life.

Sorry to go on. I've been immersed in this fo a long time, and navigating my way out is tough. It's just that most of the stuff out there doesn't go deep enough.

Proudnscary Mon 19-Sep-11 20:41:46

thisishowifeel - in theory (and with very little RL experience of my own) I agree entirely about the 'entitled to be abusive' issue.

In this case though, I feel sure he is aware of what he's doing. So actually there is some sort of superiority complex/entitlement thing going on. But, that still came from somewhere and I know he had dysfunctional parents to say the least.

LittleHousebytheRiver Mon 19-Sep-11 20:54:52

That is a really interesting question! It would seem a screwed up childhood sets you up either to abuse or be abused.

My H had an abusive father, physical emotional and sexual towards his mother She, I think, is a narcissist, and my H was her golden child and "divine" while his brother was the scapegoat. That took me 28 years to work out!

I was the boarding school abandoned child who expected nothing better...
but now I do!!

Proudnscary I hope you can help her, but at least you are there to pick up the pieces.

thisishowifeel Mon 19-Sep-11 21:05:14

I am finding a link between abusers and the goldenchild...maybe that's the entitled bit?

But the abused come from abusive and dysfunctional families too...the scapegoat continuing in that role, and becoming the abused.

EXCEPT: that the lines between the two, become blurred. I have read loads to suggest that BOTH behave as though addicted to the relationship. As opposed to healthy loving and supporting stuff.

So yes Liitlehouse, I think that what you say is right.

I do wish that some serious money was put into more research into this.It would save us all a fortune, not just emotionally, but financially too.

Proud, I am trying to put ideas into the pot to think about, as knowledge is power. If you understand the issues, you can be of more help. I know you don't want to give stuff away.

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