Thursday Thought — Is the Abuser Jekyll or Hyde

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Matthew 7:15-18

Sometimes victims liken their abusers to the character, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, of Robert Stevenson’s book titled Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  And understandably so. One moment abusers can be nice and even enjoyable to be around — a regular Dr. Jekyll.  The next moment…Bam…Mr. Hyde returns.

The confusion that the flip flopping between nice guy and bad guy creates is emotionally exhausting and psychologically damaging to victims.  We are constantly having to wonder who will he be today?  And maybe we even ask ourselves, “What can I do to make the good side last longer? Pray more? Submit more?  After all he has a good side, right?”

Wrong! An abuser isn’t simply a good side or a bad side. The good that an abuser exhibits, like the bad, is a carefully calculated attempt to manipulate and control.

We need to dis-attach from the idea that “making the good side last longer” is the goal. If we believe that the “good side” is a tactic of control, then cultivating the fruit of Mr. Good guy, without uprooting the self-centeredness, entitlement, and desire for control will only produce a polite abuser, a new Hyde as it were.

The good that an abuser exhibits is a facade, a mask, a carefully calculated attempt to manipulate and control.

So, who is the abuser, really?

Jekyll and Hyde

(We  would like to thank the Rev Chris Moles for help with the wording of this post.)

21 thoughts on “Thursday Thought — Is the Abuser Jekyll or Hyde”

  1. I always thought that if I prayed more or submitted more, that his ‘good side’ would come out. Surely it would, because that’s what all those marriage books said, right?

    I’m so thankful for this website, and the books I’ve been reading from the suggest book list on this website, that have helped set my thinking straight! It takes a long time to recover from years of incorrect thinking. I’m just glad I’m on a better path now than I was even just a few months ago.

    1. I couldn’t have said it any better! I believed it must be me, and I was never good enough to keep the good guy. It has taken 3 years of finding this site, Al-Anon, and many other resources to think outside the cookie cutter box, and see things as they really are.

  2. My experience is that when people believe in the “good” side, I get hurt more.And my children get hurt more. When people,accept his claims of being righteous and a victim, it doesn’t result in a polite abuser, it gives him power.It results in an even more evil and dangerous “Mr Hyde”.The danger is real.All of the people who do this to us are Christians, I’ve not yet found a non Christian who takes the abuser’s side.

    1. All of the people who do this to us are Christians, I’ve not yet found a non Christian who takes the abuser’s side.

      For myself, I had some non-Christian family members take the abuser’s side. But in quite a few cases, these non-Christians have come round to my side in the end. They took the abuser’s side initially (when the s— hit the fan) but now, years later, they have mellowed quite a lot and see that the abuser is a rotten person.

    2. My narc husband was a charmer to all my family and they bathed in his phony attention. For 20 years I didn’t tell my family what my narc husband was doing to me I thought “what a terrible witness that would be.” I didn’t want to bring shame on the name of Jesus and then they wouldn’t want Christ. But somewhere my thinking shifted. Instead I began thinking, “why would they want a Jesus who subjected women to this kind of treatment?!” (After all, I am not in a concentration camp where captivity is permanent and beyond being able to escape.) When I finally spoke up and revealed my true situation to one family member, she wished I had already left. She understood how I kept it a secret, because when she was in college she dated a guy that was abusive and what a downward spiral that was for her. When taking medication to cope was the solution offered her, it was her turning point. If this was to be her way of life she wanted no part of it! She ended the relationship, switched schools, and is a very accomplished young woman.

      A narc’s ‘good’ deeds are nothing but hooks, pulling us back in over and over again to keep us with them.

      Author Leslie Vernick (one of the few Christian counselors to speak out on emotional abuse being equal with physical abuse) has said in the realm of finances in an abusive relationship ‘even if there is no financial abuse, golden chains are chains none the less.’ Wow! SO true!

      1. Anonymous100,
        I just spoke to a woman who believes that her staying with her abusive husband was the right thing to do because she had 2 daughters to raise and then 20 years of helping take care of her parents. She says that she could not have done that without the help of this wicked man. His money was more to the point. I thought how sad that this “Christian” woman had so little trust in her Savior as to feel that way. Truly golden chains are still chains.

  3. How very timely this post is again for me… this happens alot with this blog. I am dealing with exactly this at the moment… a sweet Dr Jekyll … trying to manipulate me not to leave. He knows he has pushed me too far. Dr Hyde is so horrid… one minute he is abusing me in some sort of way and the next minute he is this sweet syrupy niceness… it actually makes me feel sick in the stomach. I have been literally feeling this for the last few weeks. Physically sick.

      1. Oh really Barb?? Oh dear I did wonder what was going on. I have been feeling so sick over recent weeks. Not wanting to eat and just feeling very sick in the stomach. Certain things trigger this feeling. Even talking about it or reading about it can trigger it. Abuse is so wicked… God gave me Ps 112 recently and I was greatly encouraged… even though I still feel sick.. He has promised to bring me to safety as it speaks of in that Psalm… thanks Barb x

  4. I have used the Dr Jeykll and Mr Hyde comparison throughout the years. Thank you for helping me to see they were both the same person using different tactics.

  5. I’m having a hard time believing that the nice side is a calculated manipulation. Can’t they feel happy at times or just take a break from the stress? We all have good times and bad. I think a lot of this is true but most must be in a much more abusive situation.

    1. Katherine, I used to think the same thing. I thought X’s abuse was from stress and the nice guy was the real him. I worked extra hard to keep the nice him “in control.” The clue I missed what that his worst behavior was only in front of me. He had plenty of control in the presence of people whose opinions he valued (he wants them to think highly of him). Katherine, is your husband one way in front of ONLY you and the nice guy ALWAYS in front of others? Mine was the nice guy when we were alone, but it was ONLY when there was no one around who’d repeat his cruelty, that he’d unleash on me. If he can control it around others, he can and should control it around you even when he’s stressed. You aren’t his stress management system.

    2. This is the 64,000 dollar question! How much is it pre-planned and calculated? How much is it just ‘him having a bad day’?

      Yes, all people have good and bad days. But an abuser has distorted thinking by which he says to himself “It’s okay to do X, or Y or Z to my partner. I give myself permission to do it, because it’s not wrong.” The substratum of this thinking is present in the abuser all the time (the underlying mindset of entitlement). You and I have bad days, and sometimes we may mistreat others, but we don’t have a running commentary of beliefs and attitudes going in our head telling us that it’s okay to do stuff like that, and we know it’s especially not okay to do it to the ones we love. But abusers don’t think the way we do. They think they are entitled to exercise power and control over the ones they ‘love’. And their definition of ‘love’ is an intense desire to exert power and control.

      Lundy Bancroft has worked with hundreds of abusers, and in his video presentation Domestic Violence in Popular Culture (Pt 3) he says:—

      Abusers know how to make things appear the opposite of what they really are, and they’re almost never out of control. Unless they’ve got really, really serious — really serious — mental health problems, they’re not out of control. They make remarkably calculated decisions and you’ll see some examples of that as we look at some of these different pieces [in the video clips] about how they are manipulative and calculated. Again, that’s the opposite of the image we tend to have of these abusers — a tormented, out of control individual. The reality is he’s someone who has to have a lot of method to the madness, tends to know a lot about what he’s all about, and he’s got plans. He’s doing some thinking about how to make this all work.

  6. New here and new to these thoughts. Since comments are allowed on old posts I’ll reply here, where the heading struck a nerve.

    I was told a few years ago I was undergoing emotional abuse, but it took until now with the escalation of it and a turning point in October to start researching. I can see it is true, but it is so subtle, not obvious as so many have gone through – no yelling at me (though in the past he yelled at the boys; girls are spoiled rotten from birth) or hitting. The church and outside world think he is so wonderful, kind, generous, and helpful. At home he usually appears that way, too, especially to the younger children, who don’t realize they are being spoiled and bought (he stopped yelling at the boys and now sees value in winning them to him). The older ones see the truth, and have pulled away (though he blames it on me). It is the subtleness of the emotional abuse that makes it hard to believe it really is so, but all the nasty e-mails don’t lie.

    He also leaves in obvious places books that make a point, or a scripture (like today’s I John 2:8-11) or a quote posted where everyone can see, to make clear what he really thinks. Of course, when I try to say how it comes across to me, he always says that is not what he meant. It’s in black and white! How can it not mean what the words say? He never has an answer, just that I take everything the wrong way.

    It is a long 25 year story. I just need to start somewhere. Before I get too carried away, I will stop. I really hope I can gain some understanding of Mr. Nice Guy in Person (I suppose, from the article, a controlled, manipulative Mr. Rant?), and Mr. Rant on Paper, and figure out how to cope with the future. Some things make sense, and some are so confusing. If anyone reads this, thanks for listening.

    1. Hi Searching. Welcome to the blog. We hope you will find hope and comfort here. If you get a chance to listen to Jeff’s sermons on abuse, you might find them very helpful. Listening to these sermons blessed me so much.

    2. Searching,
      I read and am listening. It is difficult coming out of the fog. If you can, I suggest you read Barbara Roberts book. It helped me through a very rough patch. Praying for you and your children. I know, with God’s help, you will get through this.

    3. Hi Searching. I understand. I have a Mr Nice Guy husband. Your husband has a lot in common to mine. I too, was told I was emotionally abused but it took me a long time before I started reading about it. I was in shock for months as I realized the truth.
      Thinking of you. I have found this blog a blessing indeed. There is much to search and much helpful information here.
      Just remember you are not alone

  7. It seems silly now that I couldn’t always remember whether it was Jekyll or Hyde that was the cruel & evil one. Now I’ll always know…Hyde is the one who hides his despicible self when it’s in his / her best interest. Hope I’m not the last to see what is in plain sight.

    Thank you to everyone that has invested in creating & maintaining a site offering so much to those able to seek help and hope. I’m not sure if you’ve addressed it yet, but there’s several other psychiatric / mental disorders that mimic traits seen in the narcissist; a couple common ones are manic-depressive and passive-aggressive diagnoses. Is there info you might share concerning how or if that needs to be addressed differently.

    1. Thankful,

      Welcome to the blog! I changed your screen name as it may have revealed your identity. If you would like me to change it to something else you may contact me at

      We encourage new commenters to read our New Users’ page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog. And hopefully you ticked the box so you get notification of responses to your comment. If not, you can leave another comment and tick the box.

      You asked if there is any material on other mental issues. We do have a FAQ page Is my abuser’s mental illness causing him to be abusive? You may find some of the links helpful. You mentioned manic-depressive, so one link in particular you may find helpful: Treating his bi-polar didn’t fix his abusiveness – a story from a survivor

      Again, Welcome to the blog!

    2. Hi Thankful, just a small point —
      To my knowledge the term ‘passive aggressive’ is not listed as a diagnosable disorder in the DSM5 (the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychological Association).

      And you may be interested to know that ‘passive aggressive’ is a much-misused term. See this page on our blog: Is my abuser passive-aggressive?

  8. TWBTC wrote:

    Wrong! An abuser isn’t simply a good side or a bad side. The good that an abuser exhibits, like the bad, is a carefully calculated attempt to manipulate and control.

    None of my abusers were overt Jekyll / Hyde combinations. The few attempts I recognized as using good for manipulation and / or control were with other people, seldom me.

    I had never really considered all their good side stuff was carefully calculated.

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