Abusive men all share some common traits, but they come in different types depending on what traits are strongest in them.
Traits of All Abusive Men
Before delving into the different types of abusive men’s psychology, it’s worth reiterating that all abusive men share a few common traits.
At the core, the abusive man:
- Lowers her self esteem
- Controls her
- Disrespects her
- Undermines her independence
But the specifics of an abusive relationship can change because different abusers have different levels for each trait.
Lundy Bancroft, author of Why Does He That and with decades of experience counseling abusive men, introduces seven archetypes of abusers:
1. Demand Man
The demand man believes that his woman is on earth to serve him.
His needs and wants take precedence over most anything else. About your own needs, for sure, and often even above the children’s needs.
If you are in a relationship with an abusive mam of this type, you are basically his servant.
Except he doesn’t pay you, he is always unhappy because his standards are too high to meet, and he treats you like dirt.
These are his main beliefs:
- It’s your job to do things for me
- If I fail at something, I’ll still get angry at you
- If I’m unsatisfied with anything, it’s your fault
- You can’t demand anything of me but I can demand everything of you
- Be grateful for whatever scrap I give you
- Don’t ever criticize me
- In spite of it all, I am a loving person and you’re a lucky woman
The demand man can be less controlling than others… As long as you meet all his needs.
2. Mr. Right
Mr. Right takes most of his pride of knowing it all.
He believe he has superior knowledge and intelligence compared to you.
He is the ultimate authority on… Pretty much everything. Including your life.
He knows what’s the best course of action for you and he has an easy answer for any of your problems -you’re just stupid not to see it-.
If you keep arguing with him indeed, you are stupid and you are disrespecting him.
A big area of his expertise of course are your shortcomings.
3. The Master Debater
Abusive men don’t always beat their women or yell. That’s the TV representation of abusive men.
There are many layers of abusive.
The master debater for example does not scream and does not intimidate you -not physically at least-.
He is usually very skilled in verbal production and in influencing people.
If a man always gets under your skin and you find yourself boiling over without any apparent reason, chances are you are dealing with the verbal and mental power moves of a master debater.
Then when you blow up and become emotional or aggressive, that’s his proof that you are the abusive one.
Women with a master debater are the most likely to blame themselves because his tactics are the most underhanded of them all.
If Jordan Peterson were an abusive man, he would be extremely effective at it:
Note: just to be clear I am NOT saying Peterson is abusive.
What I am saying is that his verbal skills and debating techniques could be used by abusive men to get under your skin.
And he definitely gets under Newman’s skin here, so it was a good example..
4. The Military General
The military general is all about controlling, which he takes to a whole new level.
He wants to know everything you do in your life and most anything requires his approval.
Some of them, but not all, take the same uber-controlling attitude on the whole family. Some others are only controlling of their wives.
My former neighbor used to be a military general with his wife, for whom she built a chastity belt (I’m not joking).
And I have known a daughter of a military general with the whole family. And it pained me to see how deeply she suffered psychologically.
The Scarface character is a military general towards his sister with overlaps with the criminal abuser (N.7 on this list):
5. Sensitive Guy
The sensitive guy uses guilt to control you.
When we talked about emotional caretaking in signs of an abuser, this is the type of guy who demands it the most. He will not scream if your dinner is late, but he will go berserk if you don’t sacrifice yourself for him.
Sensitive abusers tend to know some of the psycho-analysis and psychologist lingo, which they will use to play up their pain and to find faults in you.
He blames you for his pain, but when you are hurt, of course, he ignores it or minimizes it.
With time, he can get threatening and intimidating.
The Good Girl has a great example of a sensitive abuser:
Similar to the sensitive guy, but he plays up his pains. For example, he will hide his behavior behind childhood abuse, previous women taking advantage of him or life generally being harsh on him.
6. The Player
The abusive player tend to look good and to be a sexy man.
In the beginning he can be head over heels for you and you might feel like a lucky woman. How could this guy possibly be single?
As time goes by though his interest becomes only sexual.
He spends less time with you and does not want any restriction on his freedom. Many abusive player indeed see women only as sexual objects he uses to feel good about himself.
Pimps can sometimes be a crossover between players and abusive men.
This character in the movie The Pick Up Artist is a good example (it’s the one who pulls a gun of course):
Pitching Women Against Each Other
Chronic infidelity is abusive per se.
But the abusive player also manipulates your feelings.
For example he lies about other women and try to pitch one woman against another. He will say they are spreading rumors because they are jealous, or that they are trying to drive a wedge between you two.
Or he might make you jealous of women that have no interest on him just to make you jealous.
7. Criminal Abuser
Some abusers are not aggressive only with their partners but with everyone.
These are the ones who are likely to have other criminal offenses on their record.
Because of fearless attitude, he can make women feel protected. But don’t fall for that. It’s like living with a grizzly because he will keep other grizzlies away.
Indeed, this type of abusive men are the most likely to get threatening and physically aggressive.
Here are his central tenets:
- Aggressiveness is good
- Anything mannish is good
- Anything gay-looking is for fa**ots
- Compassion and conflict resolution are terrible
An emotional connection with this type of abusive man is virtually impossible.
How could you build an emotional connection with a character like Jake Lamotta as portrayed in Raging Bull (video below)?
If there were a scale of the worst types of abusers to live with, well… It would probably be “all of them”.
But if one were forced to pick one, it would probably be the sadistic abuser.
The sadistic abuser, similar to the criminal abuser, leverages physical power and threatens you with physical violence.
But on top of being physically abusive, he also takes pleasure out of inflicting pain.
These are also the guys who can be very dangerous for retaliation after a break up. If you are engaged with a sadistic abuser, you must plan your breakup in advance.
Personally -and this is just my opinion here- I would even advise you don’t just rely on the legal system but move away and make it impossible for him to know your whereabouts.
Abusers Are Weak
Patricia Evans, the author of Controlling People, says that abusive men are actually dependent on their women.
And I believe that being the case.
Some abusers are controlling because they are fraid of losing the bond and connection with you.
For some of them, controlling is the only way of keeping the relationship.
Controlling to controlling and abusive men is their way of “working on the relationship”.
However, that cannot justify violence and threats.
And that doesn’t change that any relationship with an abusive man is a toxic relationship.
If you have experienced dating an abuser, chances are you can look at one the types and above think “oh, that was him”.
But of course, there can also be crossovers and overlaps, where one abusive man shows the characteristics of several types.
In summary, you must distance yourself.
This is an article on how to safely end an abusive relationship.
- Bancroft L. Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men (2003)
Jones A. When Love Goes Wrong: What to Do When You Can’t Do Anything Right (1993)