In the last five posts, we have covered physical and verbal abuse patterns, but this is, in concise form, how to spot an abuser before you marry one.

“My boyfriend gets furious when I won’t dump all my friends and spend all my time with him. I was so thrilled to have a devoted boyfriend, that I ignored all he warning signs of abuse. I convinced myself that he loved me and that things would get better with time. I was wrong – completely wrong.”1

It cannot be emphasised enough that red flags and warning signs are minimised and justified at your own peril!

Typically, the troubling behaviour intensifies the longer you are together, especially after marriage when he feels that he now owns you.

What are some of the warning signs to look out for? The most telling sign is fear.


  • Constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up.
  • Can’t trust him.

Feeling belittled

  • Feeling like you can’t do anything right.
  • Feeling put down, humiliated, embarrassed.
  • Your opinions, needs, and accomplishments are ignored.

Feeling controlled

  • Things usually have to go his way.
  • He expects physical intimacy before marriage.
  • He checks up on you.

Feeling isolated

  • Overly jealous.
  • He views others as a threat.

Feeling threatened

  • Access to car, money, phone, or family is sometimes blocked.
  • He restricts your freedom of movement by grabbing your arm or blocking your path.

Feeling blamed

  • You feel guilt for his unhappiness or anger.2

What does an abuser look like?


  • Smothers you with gifts and praise.
  • Pushes for an exclusive relationship using phrases like, “I couldn’t live without you.”


  • Views others as a threat.
  • Accuses you of flirting.


  • Easily detects vulnerability and uses it as a weapon to control, belittle, demean.


  • Checks on where you are or where you have been.
  • Uses verses to coerce you into things that you are doubtful of (for example, while dating:  “You should start practicing being submissive now.”).


  • Doesn’t take responsibility for poor choices.
  • Never at fault.


  • The whole world revolves around him and his needs.
  • Secretly invigorated by the fact that you live in fear of his next outburst.


  • Mood swings.


  • Verbally assaults others.


  • Isolation from family and friends forces you into total submission.


  • Slightest offense sends him ranting.
  • Everyone is “out to get him.”


  • Harms children and animals.

Insincerely repentant

  • Will swear to “never do that again.”3

Should I break up?

No one is ready for marriage until they find their completeness in God alone. A dissatisfied single will be an emotional leech, depending on his/her new spouse for happiness.

God didn’t tell Adam “It’s not good for man to be single.” He said “It’s not good for man to be alone.” Man needs companionship and until you’re ready for marriage, potential companions with whom you can fellowship and share life, male and female, are all around you.

No spouse is a thousand times better than an abusive spouse.

As stated in the first post, every week in Australia one woman dies at the hand of her abusive husband/partner.

When an abuser loses control, he will likely go into a rage. Therefore you need a plan if you are going to break up with one. Tell someone you can trust and get help. Click here for a full range of domestic violence resources.

And don’t believe the lie that it’s not abuse until he hits you.

Three essentials to a thriving relationship


Both individuals contribute honesty, caring, respect, responsibility, and repentance. Mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice (2 Corinthians 6:11-13; I Corinthians 7:3-4; I Peter 3:1-2, 7).


Both give and both receive. There is not a double standard whereby one person gets all the goodies while the other sacrificially does most of the work (2 Corinthians 8:13-14).


You are allowed to make choices, to give input, and to express your feelings without fear of being badgered, manipulated, or punished. You are not afraid to be yourself or feel pressured into being something you’re not.

We’ve all witnessed the results in world history, religious groups, and families where members have to do and say and be what the person in charge tells them.

Naturally, I don’t mean freedom to do what you want regardless of what the other person feels. All healthy relationships need freedom to disagree, to respectfully challenge someone’s decisions, and to be the person God made them to be.4

Having your freedom of movement, choices, friends, and expressions restricted by your husband is unhealthy and unbiblical… and you don’t wanna go there. Who you marry is your choice and God will give you the strength to do the right thing.

You can access domestic violence resources here.


1 told amid a flood of tears to Laura Petherbridge
4 adapted from The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick, WaterBrook Press, division of Random House, available on

this is part 6 of 6 in the series
How to Spot an Abuser

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About Joy Harris

Joy studied elementary education before going on to teach at the primary school level as well as homeschooling for twenty-six years. Joy has touched the lives of thousands through her ministry in state Religious Education, Sunday Schools, and Holiday Bible Clubs as well as through her speaking at various seminars and retreats. Joy is also a gifted musician and has collaborated on multiple recording projects as well as maintaining a private teaching studio for over thirty years. Joy is retired and lives in Cairns, Australia. Joy has seven children, twenty-one grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. You can contact Joy at


  1. laura 12 February, 2014 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Thanks Joy, I love the info

  2. TheSpiceIsLife 14 February, 2014 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    I object to the use of the male pronoun in this article. Women can be abusive too.

    • Joy Harris 15 February, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      Thank you for posting your concern and I totally agree with you that women can be very abusive, especially verbally.

      I addressed this issue in post 2, “Defining Domestic Violence”, and meant it to cover the whole series.

      Reasons I use ‘he’:
      1 – one woman every week dies at the hand of her violent husband/partner, according to
      2 – 95% of victims are women, according to the USA National Domestic Violence Hotline
      3 – “1 in 2 female murder victims are killed by their male partners, often during an ongoing abusive relationship” -
      3 – men have superior strength
      4 – men are more often in a position of authority
      5 – it’s easier to use one pronoun/noun instead of 2

      No offense meant.

  3. Kez 4 March, 2014 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    Interestingly (to me anyway) and speaking to the prevalence of these situations, in most (presumably all) of the women’s toilets on my University campus here in Australia, there is just one advertisement plastered to the inside of each cubical door: That of a hotline and counselling service for women in domestic violence situations.

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