top of page

Signs of a Battering Personality


Many people ask how they can identify if the person they are in a relationship with will become abusive. Domestic violence involves the physical, sexual, financial, and emotional abuse of one person by another in order to intimidate, humiliate or frighten the victim as a way of maintaining power and control. While Domestic violence typically involves an abuser and a spouse or partner, this crime is not always limited to violence within a romantic relationship.


Initially, the batterer will try to explain their behavior as signs of their love and concern, and while this may be flattering at first; as time goes on, these behaviors become more severe and serve to dominate and control.


Below is a list of behaviors that are seen in people who abuse their significant others. The last four signs listed are battering, but many people don’t realize this is the beginning of physical abuse. If the person has several of the other behaviors (say three or more) there is a strong potential for physical violence --- the more signs the person has, the more likely the person is a batterer.



At the time of a relationship, an abuser will always say that jealousy is a sign of love; jealousy has nothing to do with love, it’s a sign of possessiveness and lack of trust. They will question their significant other about whom they spend time with -- family, friends, or children. As the jealousy progresses, they may call  frequently during the day or drop by unexpectedly. They may refuse to let their significant other work for fear that they’ll meet someone else, or even do strange behaviors such as checking the cars mileage or asking friends to keep an eye on them.



At first, the batterer will say this behavior is because they are concerned for the  safety of their significant other. They will be angry if their significant other is “late” coming back from the store or an appointment, or might question them closely about where they went, and whom they talked to. As this behavior gets worse, the batterer may not let their significant other make personal decisions about the house, their clothing, going to church; they may keep all the money or even make their significant other ask permission to leave the house or room.



Many victims dated or knew their abuser for less than six months before they were married, engaged, or living together. The abuser may make claims like “You’re the only person I could ever talk to,” or “I’ve never felt loved like this by anyone.” They will pressure the victim to commit to the relationship in such a way that later the victim may feel very guilty or that they are  causing their abuser "disappointment" if they  wants to slow down or even break off their involvement.



Abusive people will expect their partner to meet all of their needs; they expect them  to be the perfect spouse, parent, lover, and friend. They will say things like, “If you love me then I’m all you should need or you’re all I need.” The victim is supposed to take care of everything for them emotionally and as well as in the home.



The abusive person tries to cut the woman off from all resources. If she has men friends, she’s a “whore;” if she has women friends, she’s a lesbian; if she’s close to family, she’s “tied to the apron strings.” S/he accuses people who are the woman’s supports of “causing trouble,” s/he may want to live in the country without a phone, s/he may not let her use a car (or have one that is reliable), or s/he may try to keep the woman from working or going to school.



If s/he is chronically unemployed, someone is always doing him/her wrong, out to get him/her. He/she may make mistakes and then blame the woman for upsetting him/her and keeping him/her from concentrating on the work. S/he will tell the woman she is at fault for almost anything that goes wrong.



S/he will tell the woman “You make me mad,” “You’re hurting me by not doing what I want you to do,” “I can’t help being angry.” S/he really makes the decision about what s/he thinks or feels, but will use feelings to manipulate the woman. Harder to catch are claims that “You make me happy,” or “You control how I feel.”



An abuser is easily insulted. S/he claims their feelings are “hurt” when really h/she’s very mad or s/he takes the slightest setbacks as personal attacks. S/he will “rant and rave” about the injustice of things that happen --- things that are really just a part of life, like being asked to work overtime, getting a traffic ticket, being told a behavior is annoying, being asked to help with chores.



This is a person who punishes animals brutally or is insensitive to their pain or suffering; s/he may expect children to be able to do things beyond their ability (whips a two year old for wetting a diaper) or s/he may tease children or young brothers or sisters until they cry (60% of men who beat the women they’re living with also beat their children). S/he may not want children to sit at the table or expect them to stay in their room all evening while s/he is home.



This kind of person may like to throw the woman down and hold her down during sex. S/he may want to act out fantasies during sex where the woman is helpless. S/he’s letting her know that the idea of rape is exciting. S/he may show little concern about whether the woman wants to have sex and use sulking or anger to manipulate her into compliance. S/he may start having sex with the woman while she is sleeping, or demand sex when she is ill or tired.



In addition to saying things that are meant to be cruel and hurtful, this can be seen when the abuser degrades the woman, cursing her, calling her names and running down her accomplishments. The abuser will tell the woman she’s stupid and unable to function without him/her. This may involve waking the woman up to verbally abuse her or not letting her sleep.



The abuser expects a woman to serve them; s/he may say the woman must stay at home; she must obey all things --- even things that are criminal in nature. The abuser will see women as inferior to men, responsible for menial tasks, stupid, and unable to be a whole person without a relationship.



Many women are confused by their abuser’s “sudden” changes in mood --- they may think the abuser has some special mental problem because one minute s/he’s nice and the next minute s/he’s exploding. Explosiveness and moodiness are typical of people who beat their partners, and these behaviors are related to other characteristics such as hypersensitivity.



An abuser may have hit women in the past, but “they made him/her do it.” The woman may hear from relatives or ex-spouses/girlfriends that the person is abusive. A batterer will beat any woman they’re with if the woman is with them long enough for violence to begin; situational circumstances do not make a person abusive.



This behavior is used as punishment (breaking loved possessions), but is mostly used to terrorize the woman into submission. The user may beat on tables with his/her fists, throw objects around or near the woman. Again, this is very remarkable behavior --- not only is this sign of extreme emotionally immaturity, but there’s great danger when someone thinks they have the “right” to punish or frighten their wife/girlfriend.



This may involve a batterer holding a woman down, physically restraining her from leaving the room, any pushing or shoving. They may hold the woman against the wall and say, “You’re going to listen to me!”

bottom of page