toxic relationship

Do You Have a Pattern of Abuse?

patterns of an abusive man

Do You Have a Pattern of Abuse?

[This material is taken from What Do You Do When You’re Abused by Your Husband? by Robert B. Needham and Debra S. Pryde]

Below are behavioral characteristics of an abusive husband or father.  They could also apply to an abusive wife and mother but the majority of the cases of abuse is perpetrated by men.  This list can help identify abuse in the home.  How?  In the course of a counseling session, where the wife appears timid or fearful and there are other indicators such as the man's harsh words, arrogant attitude, hot tempered responses, or blameshifting to the wife or child, I would pull this list out and read each one to the man.  He was to simply answer yes or no.  It was important to carefully watch his body language, facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, and answers.  

Most often, if the question pushed his button, he would get angry or defensive.  That would raise red flags.  We would plan a follow up with additional sessions but without any other family member present.  Men who had a few of theses qualities and wanted to improve the marriage or family relationships would return for more counseling.  However, it was almost always the case that a genuine abuser refused to have another counseling session.  If the man was a suspected abuser and a member of a church, then proactive steps would be taken to safeguard the wife and family while also putting the man on notice. 

My philosophy for counseling troubled marriages has been to work with the father first.  The Bible gives explicit commands to the husband to love his wife.  In fact, there are more requirements for the husband in the relationship to love his wife than there are commands for the wife to respect and submit to her husband.  He is to be the godly leader and the Bible is clear the way he does that is as a loving, servant-leader like Jesus.

Family, friends, church leaders and others must take any accusations the spouse or child makes very seriously, especially if the half or more of these harmful qualities are evident:

  • I change from kindness and charm one moment to explosive, cruel or hateful behavior.

  • I am critical of others’ efforts, especially if they are happy or enthusiastic.

  • I blame others for my failures.

  • I react angrily if my family member cries or expresses emotional distress or dismay when I accuse him or her of something.

  • I am extremely jealous of their friends or family.

  • I wrongly accuse my spouse of improper interest in others of the opposite gender.

  • I am condescending.

  • I have disregard for or discredit family members’ views, feelings, interests, or preferences.

  • I attack others verbally.

  • I shout loudly when angry.

  • I grab his or her arm or neck roughly or painfully.

  • Afterward, I become remorseful and try to be kind after being very angry, then begin to get cold and increasingly irritable as the tension builds, until I explode again.

  • I am unreasonable or unapproachable during discussions.

  • I threaten with the loss of the children, or other ‘punishments’ if he or she confides in someone else about my or our problems.

  • I have stated or implied that I need to “teach them a lesson.”

  • I want my family isolated from friends or family.

  • I punish with long periods of silence.

  • I reply or treat others with sarcasm.

  • I belittle others’ accomplishments.

  • I belittle others’ physical appearance.

  • I use name-calling.

  • I react inappropriately or angrily or ‘hurt’ by family members’ faults.

  • I insist on complete control of finances.

  • I become angry over their trifling infractions to my rules.

  • I rarely or never admit when I am wrong or at fault to my family members.

  • I make rules and then change them without warning.

  • I blame others for my anger.

  • I believe that I would not become so angry if my family members were more godly, submissive or cooperative.


See what God says about anger:

At the heart of an abuser is anger.  The Bible uses descriptive language and this language in these verses paints a picture of an angry person.  The verses below are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

Proverbs 14:17 - A man of quick temper acts foolishly and a man of evil devices is hated.

Proverbs 15:17-18  - Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it. A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention

Proverbs 18:21 - Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its        fruits.

Proverbs 22:24-25 - Make no friendship with a man given to anger nor go with a wrathful man,   lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. 

Galatians 5:16-23  -  But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

A follow-up article might also be of help to you. Go to What are the Characteristics of an Abusive Man?  If you have questions or need help, contact me. If you believe you are in danger, call 9-1-1 or 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).