Potentially Abusive Personalities: Some Red Flags – by Dr. George Simon, Jr.

Once more we extend our thanks to Dr. Simon for contributing this second article on still another vital subject.  See his first post at How to Recognize True and False Contrition. As most of our readers know, Dr. Simon is the author of:

  1. In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing With Manipulative People [Affiliate link]
  2. Character Disturbance: The Phenomenon of Our Age [Affiliate link]
  3. The Judas Syndrome: Why Good People do Awful Things [Affiliate link]

This trilogy really serves to equip anyone with tools that you will agree we all should have learned much earlier in life.  Here then is Dr. Simon:

While there is no single profile for an abuser and no particular abusive personality type, there are certain personality characteristics an individual can have that can place a person at higher risk for abuse in any relationship with them.  Abusers come in every shape and size and from every socio-economic and cultural background.  But they also tend to exhibit some common behavioral characteristics and also tend to harbor troubling attitudes and thinking patterns that increase the risk they will behave irresponsibly with and possibly even mistreat their relationship partners.  It would therefore behoove a person contemplating a deeper relationship with someone to be on the lookout for these warning signs.

Some behavioral characteristics that raise the red flag for potential abuse include:

Spotty or poor impulse control – It’s not uncommon for abusers to “lose it,” and lash out destructively only to regret their actions later.  And while they might apologize profusely and swear they won’t behave irresponsibly again (a scenario that frequently invites abuse victims to remain in high-risk situations, thinking and hoping things will eventually get better), they don’t have sufficient internal “brakes” to modulate their responses, especially under stress.  Most of the time, problems with impulse control show up early in a relationship and potential partners really need to pay attention to this red flag.  Sometimes, folks are too willing to dismiss an explosive episode as a fluke, or trivialize the significance of an outburst.  They might also buy into rationalizations offered for the behavior, and give the self-control-deficient person the benefit of the doubt about future behavior.  But even when episodes of poor impulse control are rare or virtually unpredictable, they still spell risk.  And the very best single predictor of future behavior is past behavior.  So, if someone has flown off the handle once, you can safely bet they’ll do it again.  This is true even when you’re talking about primarily verbal or emotional explosions as opposed to physical violence.  And you simply can’t assume that just because someone’s deficient impulse control usually takes one form (e.g., non-physical) it won’t take another form at some other time.  This behavioral characteristic is more common in the individuals I describe in my books In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance as “aggressive personalities.”

Impaired self-regulation of emotional expression – All of us have minor shifts of mood.  It’s normal to have “ups” and “downs” in life.  But most of us are able to modulate our feelings and keep ourselves in some degree of emotional balance. Some personalities lack the ability to adequately regulate their emotions.  And relationships with them often feel like riding an emotional roller coaster.  Not all individuals with emotion-control problems are inherently prone to abuse.  But whether a person displays swings between intense fear and unreasonable anger, giddy elation and profound depression, or placidity and explosiveness, the fact that they have difficulty with emotional self-regulation should serve as a warning flag for increased risk of abusive behavior.

Behavioral rigidity – It’s certainly potentially problematic when someone always has to do things a particular way or have things done in a specific manner.  Being a conscientious and exacting sort of person is one thing, but being a personality with no room for flexibility or capacity for adapting is quite another.  Rigid folks become easily irritated, anxious, and upset when things don’t go the way they expect.  And it’s hard for them to hide their rigidity.  So, even early in a relationship, one should be able to spot this risk-enhancing sign.

As I mentioned earlier, some people tend to harbor some attitudes and to think in some ways that increases the chances that they’ll act abusively in relationships. Some of the more important red flags to watch out for include:

Attitudes of “ownership” – In my books I describe a type of thinking I call “possessive thinking” and a mindset of ownership that accompanies it.  Basically, this is a way of thinking about other people as if they were objects to possess and possessions to hold.  Possessive thinkers believe that their relationship partners don’t really have identities or rights of their own.  Rather, they think of their partners as personal property.  This kind of thinking is often reflected in their words and tone when speaking about others, referring to them in a manner that suggests that their spouse or their child inherently must defer to them simply because they are theirs.

Extreme or “all-or-none” thinking – Extreme thinkers cannot see the shades of grey in life.  For them, everything is black or white, and in many cases, it’s “their way or the highway.” And because they tend to see things in extreme terms, when life’s typical stressors occur, they are more prone to over-react.

A penchant for “external” thinking – “Externalizers” tend to focus much of their attention and energy on people, places and things in their outer environment and don’t focus enough on the nature of their responses to those things.  They’re prone to blaming others when things go wrong and not looking inward for better ways to cope with stresses and frustrations.  This makes it hard for them to be fully accountable and to take responsibility for their role in problems and also makes it more likely they’ll lash out when they believe someone or something else is to blame for their predicament.

Attitudes of “entitlement” – Certain personalities are prone to a type of thinking that makes them feel entitled to act toward others in a manner they would never tolerate from others.  Attitudes of entitlement generally stem from a narcissistic inflation of self-worth and are common in the egotistic and aggressive personalities I describe in my writings.

Demanding, authoritarian attitudes – Some personalities believe they are powers in their own right even if they outwardly (and falsely) proclaim subservience to a “higher power.”  And most demanding/authoritarian personality types also harbor attitudes of entitlement, a bad combination when it comes to healthy relationships and a real risk-enhancer when it comes to the potential for abuse.

I discuss these and other risk factors for various kinds of trouble in relationships, including abuse, in my books In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance.  And in In Sheep’s Clothing I give particular attention to one personality type (the covert-aggressive personality) that is good at masking many of these characteristic, making a favorable impression at the beginning of a relationship only to inflict a type of emotional “whiplash” on their unsuspecting relationship partner once their true characteristics come to light.  Still, by paying close attention to the attributes I’ve outline above (attributes that are hard to fully conceal for very long), it’s possible to give yourself some measure of protection that you don’t become involved with someone prone to abusive behavior.  And while no single potential warning sign listed above is a reliable predictor of abuse, the more of these characteristics a potential relationship partner displays, the greater the risk they might engage in abusive behavior.  That’s why it’s a good idea to be on the lookout for these and other signs of character impairment during the early exploratory phases of a relationship.

51 thoughts on “Potentially Abusive Personalities: Some Red Flags – by Dr. George Simon, Jr.”

  1. Goodness! I read through this twice to let it soak in. It was shocking how many of these qualities my ex has but, even more shocking how many of these qualities a person in my immediate family has. Growing up, she displayed every single one of these qualities. Sadly, one cannot recognize these red flags as a child. 😦 And, even if one did, there is nothing to do about it. You simply have to grow up with it. But, I am so grateful to have a clear mind, now. Now, at age 39, I am beginning to know how to set up boundaries with aggressive personalities & how to teach my children about them.

    The woman in my “core” family growing up still believes that she owns my children and me and has a right to be in our lives, although she is highly abusive. She is entitled to the max. While I have set up boundaries with her, I fear she will “come after” my children when they are older — perhaps college age. In fact, I am 99% sure she will do this. The only thing I can do is inoculate the children . . . maybe show them some of her emails? But, definitely prepare them for her re-entry into their lives. In one of her last letters to me, she describes how she will continue buying my children gifts, even though I have asked her not to. She writes

    “I will continue buying your children gifts, but I will not send them to you. I will keep them for the day they decide they want to have a relationship with their family – [me].” Paraphrased for anonymity.

    I am pretty sure that she believes that she and her family are my children’s family . . . not me (their mother). So, for now, we are safe from her. But, later in life, I fear her involvement.

    Thank you, Dr. Simon, for writing this article and for writing your books! (I am presently reading about my life story in “The Judas Syndrome”!!) When my children are of age, they will be reading them, too!

    1. Well, it makes me wonder, Megan, how well your son will enjoy the toy train and blocks, and your daughter the baby doll, play dishes and girl size clothes when they are 20! Abusive parents/siblings, have a way of continuing to see our children as “babes”, not being able to see that the children are growing up. I also think it is important that we, as parents, protect our children, by allowing them to know the truth and be taught how to handle it. I have an extremely abusive remaining parent, that performed in front of my children, so they all know it now too. I am actually glad they got to see it firsthand for themselves, because it makes a much deeper and lasting impression on them, rather than just telling them about it. Of course, we also teach them to forgive, but to still protect every part of their beings, from such devastation and abuse.

      I ended my relationship with my parent, after “parent” came after my children. Two years later, I received a card from said “parent”, letting me know that if I would abide “parent’s” abuse, I would be allowed back into the “family”. Huh? I contacted my siblings, they told me they had no idea that “parent” had sent me that, and reminded me, that we still had relationships with each other and that I had ended the “parent” relationship, not “parent”. Now I deal with condemnation from my personal abuser, for not reconciling with my “parent” abuser. Life just goes on and on, doesn’t it? But my intention in and before the Lord, is to STOP this in my generation, and by His grace, that is exactly what He will do, through me.

      1. Anon — Thank you so much for these words. I find it interesting that abusive parents/siblings see our children are still babies. I did not realize that but it makes so much sense! The woman I am talking about acts like she feels sorry for my children . . . like I am ruining them or something. She doesn’t realize how strong-willed and smart these kids are! And this woman in my life has done the same thing — she has blurred the line between my setting up boundaries and her own self . . . acting like she was the one who set the boundaries. I love what you said about your intention being to stop this sin cycle in your generation. That is exactly what I want to do. It takes enormous amounts of work and I spend almost every day working on it. Not only to I have to completely redefine what healthy parenting is and what healthy relationships are, but I have to work with the children to make sure they are learning it, as well. Surely, great will be the reward for seeing healthy children! (oh, I so hope!!) Big hugs, Anon!

      2. PS — I recently downloaded a book by Mary DeMuth called “Building the Christian Family You Never Had.” My parents were Christians but, somehow, with their early death, etc., I began my journey of how to be a healthy Christian mom a few years ago. I haven’t read the book and I don’t know much about it but I plan on, at least, skimming it to see what she says.

    2. Megan- my late MIL used to do something like that with my kids presents, If we weren’t going to see her a state away for Christmas, she would tell us she was keeping their presents there for the next time they would visit. Among many, many other things she would do. My STBE learned from the master!

      1. Yep my MIW would by extravegant (ugh i took ten minutes on that word and I cannot even pronounce it now!! much less spell it!) Anyhoo BIG enticing gifts, lure them in front of the kids, then say they cannot have them, I recognize around 2007 that the MIW behavior was similiar to that of a pedaphile, at church when he choose not to come inside but rather wait somewhere out in the parking lot, if he spotted the kids with their friends outside he would literally lure them over to his van(yes I said van, that just happen to be what he drove)….he would get them in the van then try to lock me out, trying to drive me to hysterics, because he many times try to terrify us with reckless driving, and at that point I would not allow any of us to get in car with him. Of course in the church setting if I pitch a fit, start crying and panicking everybody would be like “He is their father, whats the big deal? ” But the MIW was just psychologically torturing me with my children, how could I make other people understand (because even when they witness it they just sum it up as a bad day or “we shouldnt judge him” this was a weekly routine at church especially once I started to refuse to come and leave with him in the same car. Nobody listen to my complaints of him threatening me in private, about taking my kids and never seeing them again, about killing us all and then himself, EVERY time I was brave enough to express my valid concerns, all their attention went to “”this poor man, what kind of pain is HE in?” Also people would refuse to understand my fears were based in the history of since my kids were small, to punish me for whatever he saw fit, he would threaten to take them, and that started when they were still in car seats 😦

        Gift giving was malicious cruel mind tweaking, and emotionally hurt the kids!! One time we met the MIW at a public park he showed up with this grand toy, for ONLY the BOY of course, leaving my other child out….then he said YOU can come play with it if you tell mom to bring you over.(which by the way in a 2year period we never knew WHERE he lived?) No clue where STALKING HEADQUARTERS was? By the way it was apparent why he was so sketchy about where he lived, because it played into him telling everybody that we “”Never even come see him”” and also the cops could not find him when I was forced to call them for him breaking a NO STALKING order. But the church looked at restraint orders as me being vindictive, because UH? I was an unforgiving contentious woman who would NOT get over a good head clocking, and my concerns for my children were always completely ignored by them all, unless of course the MIW left bruises on them THEN that would be my fault for “”letting them see him”” towards the end I was able to get my children included in the no contact orders for protection, but then the church would just ignore that, act as if THAT piece of paper was NOT legite but my marriage contract should come before that.

        So the MIW was so diabolical in the way he continually tried to set us up. The good thing about the park story, is kids were like 7 and 12, and when we got in our car to leave the younger said “”Did you notice how that toy was like a bribe mom?” then the oldest said “”Ya I dont think he REALLY bought it for us, I think he bought it for himself?””

        The whole thing gives me the creeps, and when I have flashes of memories its like it was not really me or us having to deal with the monster. Isnt it interesting that in memories we are an outsider looking in on ourselves? One of my kids brought that to my attention a couple years back, kinda wonder why? It freaks me out? But then again I can sift through bad memories as if I am looking in, outside of myself. I guess that makes things less painful?

      2. I can sift through bad memories as if I am looking in, outside of myself. I guess that makes things less painful?

        Yes, Memphis, I think it’s a way our mind helps us cope with the pain in bearable doses because if we felt all the pain at once, it would be too devastating. From my reading about PTSD, this kind of thing is pretty common. Our brain is good at putting traumatic experiences into places where they are ‘on hold’ (the Pending Folder, if you think in Blog language like I do, ha ha) kinda distanced and sequestered from the rest of our autobiographical memories.

        And that’s one reason why recovery is such a long hard road. It involves taking up those memories small segments at a time, feeling the emotions bit by bit that we could not face processing when the things first happened, and filing the memories and emotions into the other part of our brain where the rest of our memories are located and all the dots are joined in our neural networks. So I gather, from my reading, but I’m by no means an expert at this, just a lay reader who has read a reasonable amount.

  2. Great post! I just have one thing I would like to say. Some of these abusers can hold out for a long time, or at least hide it for a significant enough amount of time, to “hook” the victim. I can see now, the signs I missed then, but there was never any “outright losing control” before we married. He would leave suddenly. I knew he was upset, but now I get that he was leaving, to cover his loss of control. He needed to get away from me, in order to blow up and still continue duping me. These abusers can also play the Church card so well. I think we need to do as Lundy says and watch for that “RED FLAG” and not allow anyone to push us into anything fast – whether that be just dating or marriage. Seeing, smelling and finding those red flags takes time.

    I have told my children that none of them will marry someone within a 6 month period. : ) How do you like that for control freakishness? They did not seem to mind. It takes at least that long, in my experience, to sniff abuse out and see if it is hiding in any corners anywhere. Maybe it is just because my history of abuse starts from childhood, so I just was not equipped and if people are equipped, maybe they could see it where I could not. But, after seeing someone hide it so well for 6 months — I don’t know! Two months later, after we were married, (so now 8 mos) I was being pushed and put up against the wall and he was storming out threatening to leave and divorce. Where did Christ go? I knew I was in trouble the month before that, and that is when I had to start telling myself, “this is just the way it is — all relationships must just be like this — it doesn’t matter whether you marry a Christian or not, they all abuse” — I had to do that, just to live. I took my vows seriously and told myself that it was just not God’s will for me to be free from abuse. I made the best of it — until.

  3. Yep the pastor that married us spent 20minutes on our pre marital counseling. It seemed as though there was some big rush, as not to “”defile the marriage bed”” …to my knowledge the pastor did not know I was already 3 months pregnant, although looking back most likely the MIW told him in private…..anyhoo this guy could not lock this deal up quick enough…..even when i said I was afraid of the MIW and wanted to wait, this lunatic seemed to believe that the MARRIAGE would be the end all and repair all, well he was right about the “end all” part,…by the way since when was marriage meant to be a death sentence?

    Oh how many time I have heard this, the number one “”stock”” answer to an abuse victom who is finally at the point of leaving, and is in essence searching for some way out…..
    “” If God did not put HIS stamp of approval on your marriage, then dont you think God would of not aloud it to happen?”” Well yes i did make the decision ultimately to get married, (i guess) but they do not realize victoms did not sign up to be abused and torrmented, because it does not take Einstein to figure out that abuse is not part of their sacred convenant or vows. What a bunch of manuer!!

    About 2 months after I was silly enough to seek help from the lunatic that married us, i showed up at his doorstep to show him exactly what God had brought together…..needless to say I was not helped, or invited in, rather I was nervously told to go back and tell my gripes to the MIW because the MIW was now my covering by marriage..

    ..my guess was high tea was already in place and satans minion was already devouring their crumpets. Not funny at that time, but I find it almost laughable now.

    Pretty sad state of affairs this kangaroo marriage counseling that spews out of the churches pulpits. OMGoodness? Its just this breeding ground for stupidity, and how it works so nicely with the mentality of abusers,.. just such a hard reality check, even when I actually believed their crap would help, it hurt to swallow.

    1. Pre-marital counselling by pastors is a general waste of time. Pastors take one course (if even that) in counselling in their seminary program. They are not licensed to counsel nor qualified to counsel. They are only “qualified” to preach (some not even that). If a couple wishes (and I think it is a good idea) seek pre-marital counselling, I believe it best to seek a professional who is trained to counsel and DOES ask the questions asked here about abuse and what will be done should it arise in the marriage.

  4. You know, having done some pre-marital counseling, I wish I had known some of this. Unfortunately, this kind of knowledge is hard to find in the pre-marital counseling world. I wonder how many marriages may have been prevented and lives preserved if, as part of the counseling process, the pastor sat with each of the engaged and openly talked about these warning signs?

    Most of the books and materials used for pre-marital counseling are more about how to plan for the future, get along, be submissive, handle money, sex, etc. I don’t remember any talking about warning signs of an abuser.

    Of course, by the time a couple comes to a pastor to be married, the future victim is usually already smitten and often will not listen. The blinders are on. It is so sad and frustrating.

    1. Wendell, our pre-marital counseling was exactly that. All about how we will compromise, how we will handle conflicts, how we will deal with money, what will happen if your elderly parents need to move in with you, how to properly submit, who gets the final say in the decisions (husband), and blah blah blah. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in those books addressed what I was soon to discover – abuse.
      pre-marital counseling in the church, as it stands today, is completely and utterly worthless. The pastor never gave me any “red flags” to look out for – if I’d been given a list like the one Dr. Simon has written above, I would have KNOWN there was potential danger! But at the age of 22 with little to no life experience (except for a very angry father) – I had no clue what was coming. None. And my pastor was only concerned with making sure that I agreed to be “submissive” in the marriage!!
      It still burns me up so bad when I think back on it. I was like a lamb to the slaughter.

      1. So are we saying we should add to the questions, “Are you an abuser?” and to the “what if” list, “what if he slaps you? what if he mentally/emotionally tortures you? what if he spiritually, financially or sexually abuses you? then what? what exactly is your plan then? If she/he is a prior victim, lights will be dancing all over in her/his head, just for the asking! If she/he is an abuser, her/his plan may be derailed, but if she/he is not, then the answer would be very interesting to hear and actually comforting to the other person, if it is the right answer. You could find out a lot about a person just by asking those questions, don’t you think? I guess it would depend on how good they were at hiding that they were abusive.

      1. KD haha! The formula is hysterical!!! What a genius, OKAAAY???? Hey Poindexter? Can you say L U N A T I C!!!??? Well I was married ten years, I have been single for (well single physically seperated for 9yrs) Well? I think I may be wrong but I have eleven more to go in order to reap my rewards, what exactly are those rewards anyhow? I mean whats my motivation according to him? Cuz we all know its people like this we want to live our lives for?…..pffft.

        I have NEVER heard a guy tell another guy that!!! EVER!!!! I think that rule only applied to you as a threat as to what you will have to endure if you CHOSE to leave at any point….we ALL have defiencies that we need to own, the problem is abusers will never own theirs, so you have NO responsabliity in that. You cannot really accept any responsablilty in the fact he was an abuser…wether you think you “allowed it to happen to you” on any level, does not change that he is what he is.

        Everything else he did, or failed to do, well thats just complete shame he should feel on his part, but I doubt it even made him miss a step…..Good thing he had the rest of his flock, “flocking” around to distract him from any guilt.

        Terrible stuff.

    2. I agree, more direct pre-marital counseling would HELP! I know the pastor who did our pre-marital did actually mention that my husband may not be ready to get married because of the timeline of his previous divorce (the pastor used a formula of two years single for every year married). However, there were SO many more RED flags that were unaddressed and ignored by my “blissfully in love mind”. It would have been helpful to have a very direct private conversation with the pastor, where maybe he could have addressed the fact that my tears had NO impact on my fiance and that he dismissed every suggestion the pastor made about possible ministry opportunities (since pastoring was not an option for my previously divorced fiance) demonstrating a huge lack of respect for authority.
      Honestly though, I don’t really know how much anything would have changed or if that conversation would have even happened even if the pastor had the tools.
      The pastor did point out that he didn’t try to comfort me and he did say that maybe a longer engagement would be adviseable. That’s really more than most and my experience with most pastors (most people for that matter) is that there is a huge pull to avoid any conflict whatsoever!
      After a few months of marriage when things got scary and I felt I had nowhere to turn, in desperation I called the pastor who did our pre-marital and left a tearfilled message on his voicemail asking for help. He never returned my calls… a year later when things got really bad, he finally spoke with me, agreed with me, but felt that addressing this would take him away from the tending to the people God had given him charge over (translated, “you’re not members and therefore not my problem”). He did not fail to mention that he had warned me!

      1. 2 years single for every year married?! That means I will probably be dead before I could get married again! That seems like a silly and arbitrary rule.

      2. KD- I am currently looking for a small outboard motor for my drift boat. These motors, even some of the used ones if purchased from a dealer, come with at least a 90 day warranty. Wouldn’t it be interesting if you had been given such a warranty – “if it isn’t what you thought, if it doesn’t work for you, bring it back for a full refund.” Of course I am being a bit facetious, but only a bit. If your “dearly beloved” turned sour on you that soon, it would seem to me that you should at least have as many rights as me when I finally go buy a motor.

        He reminded you that he warned you. Hmmm. Does that mean “I have washed my hands of you. Your warranty has expired. Now you are responsible for all repair costs.”

      3. Yikes- two years for every year married? That would mean I could get remarried in 24 years? Because around year 20 I wouldn’t be healed enough?

        I’m going to hypothesize that if he actually had real, trustworth criteria rather than arbitrary numbers to look at (because I think timeline’s are dependent on so many factors that every situation is unique) then maybe he could have been some real help. As it is, it seems he took your case like a computer would- insert a situation and spit out some numbers. It seems to me counsling must go deeper than that to be effective and to protect victims.

        As for his failure to follow up, that is shameful. I praise God for pastors like Jeff C who see needs beyond the four walls of “his” church.

      4. Jeff,
        It took me a minute to figure out where you were going with that, but LOVE the analogy! I want a refund! LOL! But I really have been blessed with so much MORE than that! I DON’T want those years back! I love them and what they are teaching me. (That does sound a little sick, I know)
        I’m still learning and working through this process, but I do need to own what is mine, I was not kidnapped, I chose and still do often choose out of my own deficiencies. Not saying abuse is ever justified, but if I don’t learn to own and surrender those parts of me that got me here, how can I break the pattern and grow into who God created me to be?
        I’m still believing God for a miracle! How amazing would it be to see my “Paul” testify to the amazing redeeming power of Christ!

      5. That was very callous of your pastor! As tempting as it may be to say at times, “I told you so…” is rarely helpful.

        Two years for every year married? Sounds almost like he just did not want to marry previously married people. Let’s see, if I wanted to divorce and get remarried, I would have to wait 74 years before he would marry me! I am 56 (almost 57) so that would mean I would have to be 131! Wow! Good thing I am very happy in my current state!

      6. KD – “the pastor used a formula of two years single for every year married”. Man! That sounds like a formula for calculating a prison sentence. Once you complete your term, possibly with some time off for good behavior, then you can re-enter life. That’s a Colossians 2 tradition of man if I’ve ever heard one. Serve your sentence, do your penance, and when enough time has passed…. I keep saying that I am no longer surprised at the stupid things I hear, but about then, here comes another one.

  5. In regard to pre-marriage counseling please see this earlier post which calls for a radical change in the content and approach Abuse and Pre-Marriage Counseling: We Must Change Our Approach

    I have to admit, I really like Memphis’ label of lunatic for the guy who did her pre-marital counseling, and lunacy for the content. It is lunacy. I have NEVER felt any inner compulsion to do pre-marriage counseling until about 2 years ago when I wised up to abuse. Oh, I did it – throw a book at them, meet for a session or two – then move on. I thought it was just me and my defective personality. It wasn’t. It was my inner me saying “Jeff, this is good for absolutely nothing.”

    Yes, any pre-marital counseling that is worth its salt will discuss abuse and even ask questions designed to flush out an abuser. It will tell engaged people that if one of them habitually and unrepentantly and abusively violates the marriage vows, the other spouse can dump them like a hot rock. It will assign them books to read on abuse so they know what it looks like. And it might even torpedo the wedding plans. Oh my, we mustn’t do that! Why not?

  6. I got married (now single and four kids later) when I was nineteen. I am 32 now. It was quick and I didn’t have time to even think about it. Something in me didn’t want to marry him. The red flags were screaming at me but I just couldn’t hear. I became born again the same year that I married him. In fact, I was very sad on the day I ‘signed the papers.’ And unfortunately, I just wasn’t able to honor that “no” that was inside of me. Pre-marital counselling wasn’t even in the picture. I just went along with it. I definitely experienced the “emotional whiplash” that Dr. Simon writes about. During the marriage, I would ask myself, “who is this person I am living with,” he was not at all what I imagined. Sadly, for some reason I attributed his “character” to his handsome face, his talent as an artist and the things he did outwardly. Thankfully, I now know my worth.

  7. I’ve posted about it before, but in our pre marriage counseling, the pastor (who was my husband’s pastor) caught a red flag and I wish he would have helped me. To this day, I still don’t know what it was. Husband had said something and the pastor stopped abruptly, turned to me and said “are you ok with what he just said to you?” I said “what did he say?” I was so used to his belittling comments that I didn’t even catch it. He said “if it didn’t bother you, I’m not going to make an issue out of it.” I really, really wish he would have talked to me privately. Maybe I wouldn’t have done anything with the information, but maybe I would have. He was given a golden opportunity to save me, and he didn’t even try.

    1. JM — I had a very similar situation. Before we were married, I was working as a musician at a church. And I was running around making copies and getting things ready for a Christmas program. Everything was all a-flutter. And my (then) abusive fiancee was helping me. And the pastor quipped, “It’s funny seeing you follow Megan around!” And the fiancee said, “It won’t be long before SHE will follow ME around.” It was said with nastiness and coldness . . . like he was just waiting for us to get married so he could oppress me. The pastor turned and looked at me and said, “Scary, isn’t it?” And I ignored it. 😦 But, I so wish the pastor had said more. But, he was a youngish fellow and probably wasn’t really sure of what he was sensing, either.

      1. Oh, how those hindsight-insights cut us, eh? If only…. if only…. how many years of misery might we have saved ourselves… and how many bystanders watched passively because they were thrown off balance and fumbling with cognitive dissonance themselves — when if they had smelled the rat they may have been able to effect an intervention to rescue us from the slaughter.

      2. But, you know, Barb? I wouldn’t let anything like that ever slip under the radar now. If I were to see that type of behavior, I would say something. I wouldn’t care what anyone thinks. It would just have to be said. And, perhaps, more than once.

      3. Me too, Megan. Of course, now I know what it is. I didn’t really at the time. I saw one thing that made me uncomfortable but I didn’t know it was a problem. I thought it was just me and my personality preferences so I didn’t say anything. 😦

      4. I think this can all be solved by a 236 page questionnaire being filled out by anyone who even wants to be my friend.

  8. I find that George Simon’s work is like fine wine. There are so many good ideas in it that it needs to be carefully sipped and savored to appreciate it fully. I can only absorb so much of his wisdom in one sitting, and each time I revisit it the learning sinks in deeper. Even if it recapitulates something I’ve read before in his work, I get more out of it. Thank you, Dr Simon, for writing this post for us.
    I’d like to encourage people to read Dr Simon’s books. I can testify from personal experience that hearing these things over and over again helps them sink in.

    I also want to say how I appreciate the nuances and subtleties in Dr Simon’s perspective. Rather than painting a two-dimensional world for us where there are two types of people (abusers and non-abusers), he is talking about a range of personality characteristics which can “increase the risk that a person will behave irresponsibly with and possibly even mistreat their relationship partners.”

    It is these small but discernible signs that we can look for when getting to know a new person.

    This is not to discount the incredibly well-feigned delightfulness of abusers when they are in their charming-grooming mode, enticing a prospective partner; nor am I saying that victims are to be buried under a truckload of blame for becoming entangled with an abuser. But it gives me hope that I can learn to identify early warning signs that a person may become abusive.

    I think this article is more helpful than many other lists of ‘red flags’ I’ve read because it pinpoints personality characteristics rather than discrete behaviors. It is list I can use for any kind of relationship: church, work, daily life, extended family. It’s useful right across the board, not just for potential romantic/marriage partners.

    1. Good Gravies!!!! Dr Simons work is so helpful, and before I found this blog I had never heard of him? WOW? what a difference this will all make for people. Especially victoms that unfortunately because of their vulnerability are swooped up by yet another abuser without a chance of getting to the opening in the past fog.

      I have to say, and I normally am very shy on this subject, (pfffft!) from my experience in the church especially, even though they try to condemn divorcees they do however seem to prefer them to be remarried. The theme is because they do not want this saucy little harlot tramping around un wed….also i have seen them encourage re-marriage especially WHEN the man is somebody embedded in their church society. Actually I have seen that alot!! Its like remarriage cleans up their quotas, ties up the loose ends, BUT only if that includes one of their own guys…..then, well, then out of sheer convenience they apply a different set of standards on the matter. …because within the church most times there is no room or time given to supporting the victom, during or after nobody cares about her plight or emotional, financial needs, its just about her NEW status that is unsightly for them, so the male divorcee that is given a JOB within the church (who more times than not is another wolf in sheeps clothing) well? its like serendipity for them to join these two people together!! Sadly a traumatized, newly single Mom that is not out of the fog is going to cling cover they promise to her, then she finds herself trapped again, especially because I have seen women remarry another abuser unwittingly of course, and then they think “”I cannot possibly leave him? This could not happen to me twice? Maybe it is me?”” which if her new spouse knows about her past more than likely he will use that against her by telling her “”Sure I am just like the last guy right? Have you ever thought that YOU are the problem not us?”” Nobody really believed her the first time, so why would they believe her now?

      They truly were a bunch of lunatic hypocrites!!! Everyone most likely on this blog could go to church and sit and listen and spot a woman or victom trapped into this kind of Holy Hell.

      1. Memphis – I think we should all contribute and write a book on abusers in the church and the church’s, as you say, lunacy (I use the term “church” here very broadly. I am not speaking of Christ’s true people who will at least recognize truth when they see it). And I suggest that the title of that book be, as you have already used the term, Holy Hell. Now you think of a good subtitle.

  9. ….there is just SO MANY ways to go with that subtitle? should I leave out Latte sucking brownie eating? Lunatic hypocrites within….?

    Seriously thought something like Church Revealing The Truth About Perpetrators of Abuse…How The Church Is Responsible For Perpetuating Family Abuse. Spousal Abuse Within The Church….. The Pastoral Justification Of Abuse, or Spousal And Child Abuse? ( Abuse and The Snare Of Christian Counsel ….Why The Church Advocates Family Abuse……Abuse, Marriage and The Death Sentence Of The Church……Abuse And. The Willful Negligence Of The Church…..What The Church Has Become For Victims of Abuse…. –I like that one….but as you see I am not good at this? Who Is Defiling The Marriage Vow? Why The Church Ignores Victims Of Abuse…..Abusers In The Church….Why The Church Condones Spousal Abuse In Jesus Name?

    I like… Abusers, Marriage and The Death Sentence Of The Church…

    Since the Church refuses to call a spade a spade, I think it would be important to call them what they are ABUSERS, people have a tendency to use the word “”Abuse”” and apply to other things, NOT the actual abuser!!

    1. I will add one to your collection, Memphis. Here’s one: “In The Name of Jesus, Amen” only put a large red slash through the Amen and write in scrawly letters underneath and off to the side, “Abuse”, because it seems from most stories, that they use Jesus as an excuse not to intervene, by saying, “Well, it must be God’s will for you, or He would stop it”, or “Well, if you die in it, at least you will be with the Lord”, or “If you die, it was God’s will for it to end that way”, etc., etc., etc.

      1. Good suggestions, Anon and Memphis. And I like the large red slash. I read somewhere if a book cover has the color red on it somewhere, that increases the sales of the book.

    2. I think there could be a vareity of subtitles, notwithstanding the fact that books like A Cry For Justice and Not Under Bondage cover them very well anyway.

      For the disengaged/unaware leader: Abuse: Why It Hides In Your Church
      For the average church-goer: Why Christian Families Are Breaking Down
      For the victim looking for answers: In the Name of Jesus, Amen [as suggested by Anon]
      For the victim who is unaware: When God allows Divorce

      I think that victims and average churchgoers who have come across victims (perhaps without knowing it), don’t respond as well if the word “abuse” or “violence” appears on the cover of a book. I could be wrong, it’s just an observation.

      1. I agree, however that needs to change….doing the “Lets make it sound better for the masses” is in fact what is going on NOW…..how has that been working for victIms?

        I also agree the church, and churchgoers do not respond well to ABUSE, and VIOLENCE….wether being on the front of a book OR right in front of them.

        BUT!!! I also see why for example Lundy Bancroft titled the book “Why does he do that” because like myself for years spent time trying to figure how to fix being abused and I also attached many different labels on it. Since I did not recognize what abuse was, that it actually was ABUSE, I most likely would of over looked that book thinking it was not for me. I recognize alot of victims are reluctant to say ABUSE also, because unless you understand what it is, that word is only applied to “Other” situations, not you own.
        I guess that Abuse in the church is on such a massive scale that my thinking is they need to be uncomfortable enough to actually be confronted in a way that they wake up!!! I was thinking about the responsibility of Church leaders, they are the ones creating the Holy Hell and they are the ones looking the other way, they ultimately are the ones on the hook for their chosen ignorance….just my thinking.

        BUT!!! (again) For the state of the church as it positions itself to ignore ABUSE and VIOLENCE tip toe ING around their tainted tulips has not gotten them to respond any better either? I think its time to kick tail and take names, if you get my drift.

  10. haha and I was thinking Holy Hell sends a picture that concludes the evidence of the actual abuse and violence we see everyday in today churches…when I picture a Holy Hell, that would be the sustaining life that the church gives the abuser..I do not think anybody could depict that as a Marshmallow roast. a blanky and a cup of Cocoa…I try to get warm fuzzies from it? but I dont?…and this is what church leaders have made of abuse and violence, oh? they will admit it exists but completely DENY it exists anywhere near them..and NO matter what if its happening to somebody else then of course it “”REALLY CANNOT BE THAT BAD”…..for too long this has been. being swept under the rug, ignored, like the pink polka dotted elephant standing in the pulpits.(pls do not tell me that you guys have not seen them? lol)….bottom line, its killing innocent people.

    Like the people on this blog, they are speaking out, and standing along side victims(notice how I spell that right now?) The words are harsh, they are ugly, because abuse and violence ARE ugly and exist everywhere within the walls of the places we think are sanctuarys.

    I agree with you though, I am just thinking outloud, or? er? sorta out loud?

    1. Well, when you write this book, Memphis, please be sure to add the part about how women die in abuse everyday, just maybe not physically. Does no one care about what happens to the souls of these women, as they battle a battle everyday and every bit as fierce as war itself? Leaders will make a stand on women fighting in an actual war between nations, but then leave them alone to fight the biggest war of their lives.

      1. Anon . . . . Your comment made me swallow hard. I am quoting you (“by Anon”) on our fundraiser FB page . . .

      2. I think every post on this blog should be compiled into a book……ditto on the response that Meg C left.

      3. Well actually Memphis, parts of them have been! That’s a joke. Maybe I can share the story with you one day.

    2. You know what? At this point I would readily pick up a book titled “Holy Hell: When the Church Gets it Wrong.” It could be about any and all kinds of abuse you find in churches and what that does to people. How the way churches think fosters abuse and what kinds of doctrines/theologies virtually ensure it will happen. A lot of ground could be covered in such a book, though, and it would likely go way beyond spousal abuse, though that would definitely be covered in there.

      It would probably be quite a tome.

      1. I agree Barnabas. There’s a lot of talent floating around out there in our readers. I seek books, logos, T-shirts spreading the news.

  11. […] Another reason Phillips would reject a suitor out of hand is, of course, that he is not a Christian. It’s thus not a stretch at all to say that Phillips, at least when it comes to courtship, places his views on women working outside the home on the same level as Christianity itself. For a review of Phillips’ other basic requirements for marriageable men, see my previous critique of The Blessed Marriage. The most important takeaways are that his views are, as usual, inextricably tied to his heretical notion of male “coverings” for women and men as mediating “high priests” of their homes; and that he never mentions basic disqualifiers for suitors, such as the signs of a potential batterer or abuser as listed here and here. […]

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