Death by Love

How can a woman spot a potential spouse abuser? Are there telltale signs?

Research and clinical literature reveal that many wife batterers think and act in similar ways. Here are a few warning signs which may help women avoid abusive relationships. If many of these traits describe your potential mate, be wary of deeper involvement.

He needs you - and needs to control your decisions

Does he need you too much? Does he try to control your time and attention?

Is he concerned about too many details of your daily life - for example, the places you go, the people you know, your use of money or time, your choice of clothing and makeup, etc.? Does it seem like you have to answer too many
questions? Follow too many instructions?

Abusive men try to hold their intimate partner on a close rein. They may need to show ownership of their partner. These men are quick to accuse their partners of being unfaithful or flirtatious.

He shows you hostility

Does he seem more hostile when no one else is around? Does he give you the silent treatment? Would others be shocked or alarmed by the things he says or does to you? An abuser may not show this kind of hostility in public. Some abusers keep up a "nice guy" image for everyone else, then change abruptly in private. Even silence can be hostile.

You "made" him do it - and it wasn't so bad

Does your partner blame you or others for causing his feelings? Does he excuse or deny any harm he does? Batterers rarely take responsibility for their own actions or their consequences. They tend to blame other people and circumstances. If they do admit causing harm, they are likely to say that something or someone made them do it - perhaps it was stress, or the beer, or the cocaine, or the woman herself: "She pushed me to it; I warned her not to get me so mad."

He thinks men should dominate women

Does your partner think men need to dominate to be manly? Is he particularly sensitive about his masculinity? Does he expect you to perform traditional female roles? Is he critical about how well you perform domestic roles? Is he overly focused on your sexuality? Many abusive men believe in rigid, traditional gender roles in which males have authority over females.

His parents or relatives were abusive or violent

When your partner was a child, did he witness his father beating his mother?

Is wife abuse common in his culture? Was he abused as a child, or were his siblings abused? Batterers may also excuse abuse because it is a familiar pattern. Research suggests that a large percentage of male batterers come from abusive, violent families.

He abuses drugs or alcohol

Does he get drunk or high on drugs regularly? Does he seem more irritable or aggressive when drunk or high? A large percentage of spouse abusers are also abusers of either drugs or alcohol. Being high is often used as an excuse for his behavior.

You are afraid when he is angered

Does your partner have a quick temper? Is he easily frustrated, stressed or provoked? Does he lash out verbally or physically? Has he threatened you? Does he intimidate you about leaving him or "cheating" on him? The typical abuser lives in terror of abandonment. He may tell his partner that she will be very sorry if she is not loyal.

He has been violent in other intimate relationships or circumstances

Do you know about his past? Was he violent with previous female partners? Has he assaulted men, children, pets or objects? Does he have an arrest or jail record? Has he ever coerced you into sex? While a portion of spouse batterers are violent only in relationship to women, others have acted aggressively in more than one way.

Source: The above checklist was written and provided to The Times by Dr. Marcia Petchers, an associate professor of social work at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. She has served on the board of the Center for Prevention of Domestic Violence and is conducting research on battered women, male batterers and the effects of family violence on children.