Abusive people start out suave, perfect, and even too good to be true. That last one is very important. They “love bomb” their victim to reel them in. They are very manipulative and controlling people.
Love Bombing is Red Flag #1
They will “fall in love” really fast. Shower you with praise and compliments. Give you a lot of gifts. And they will give you a lot of attention, even bombarding you with phone calls and texts. They will want your undivided attention and may even get upset if your focus isn’t on them. It will look more like pouting and not wanting to leave when you need them to. They will try to convince you that you are soulmates and want to move really fast into the relationship and will want an instant commitment. They will not respect and will push any boundaries you try to set. These are extremely needy people and you may feel overwhelmed by their intensity.
Healthy relationships do not start out this way. Healthy relationships are developed over time. In a healthy relationship, they will respect your boundaries, other commitments, and ideas. To get to a healthy relationship there is a development process: Dating/Friends. Falling in love or realizing this isn’t the one for you. A decision about a commitment and exclusive relationship.
Seemingly Innocent, but Disparaging Statements is Red Flag #2
They will make statements that kind of have a sweet spin on them, but are more forms of manipulation. They will make statements like “no one will ever love you the way I do.” They may try to get you to make changes about your appearance by saying things like “I like your hair better this way.” They may have an opinion one way or another on make-up use and will express it innocently to attempt to manipulate you to look how they want you to look.
I’ve personally seen the make-up scenario go either way. My abuser made me feel like I needed it to be pretty. A friend of mine’s abuser convinced her not to wear it or “beautify herself” in any way as a way in his mind to prevent other men from looking at her. Neither scenario are a healthy situation.
The “Whirlwind” is Red Flag #3
When it comes to an abusive person or narcissist, healthy communication that is required in a healthy relationship is impossible. I call this the “Whirlwind” because when it’s over everything is all twisted and turned around and you’re wondering, “WHAT just happened?”
When you try and communicate about relationship issues or flaws with an abuser, it will blow up. There will likely be screaming and verbal abuse. They will turn it all on you and until you “apologize” and choose to end this whirlwind argument, it will only amplify.
You cannot have healthy communication in an unhealthy relationship. You cannot “be correct” in an argument with a narcissist. Even if you agree with a point the abuser makes, it is not about “correctness” it is about emotional manipulation and they will then argue against their own point you just agreed with.
Recognizing flaws is about stepping outside of yourself and looking at the problem from an outside view. It helps to ask yourself, “If someone else whom I highly respect pointed this out, would I listen and accept it?” Abusers and narcissists cannot do this with themselves. They will not take the steps to recognize a conviction in their lives.
I could be colorblind and say “The grass is blue.” The abuser would then argue with me that it is actually green. I would then step outside myself and realize that I am colorblind and agree that the grass is actually green. But then the abuser would revise their argument to something of the effect that “no, perspective is reality,” so now the grass is blue. You cannot “win” an argument with someone who is only arguing to manipulate.
Passive-Aggressive Abuse & Covert Narcissism
While some abuse is loud and obvious, other abuse is passive-aggressive and covert. Examples of passive aggression include:
Pouting, frequent sighing, complaining
Misplacing important materials
The silent treatment
A passive-aggressive abuser will do the things listed above in order to manipulate and control a situation. For example, instead of simply asking or aggressively demanding you to do something for them, they may sigh, procrastinate, or complain until you just do it for them.
As victims, we become conditioned to “walk on eggshells” and just do what is “necessary” to avoid confrontation with the abuser.
Covert narcissism is when a narcissist does not display the grandiose sense of self-importance, but rather may appear shy or modest. Signs of covert narcissism include a reserved or self-effacing attitude, humility or tendency to put themselves down, smugness or quiet superiority, passive-aggressive behavior as mentioned above, the envy of others, a lack of empathy, and only stepping in and helping others for the sake of recognition.
Covert narcissists are more susceptible to feelings of depression, anxiety, and emptiness. Narcissists suffer from extreme mental or even physiological illness but go untreated because they refuse to recognize and understand anything is wrong with themselves. As victims, we think we can fix or change them. This is simply not true.
We have to remember that we can only control ourselves and our reactions. We cannot control the actions of another, and we cannot fix or change them. Only God can change someone else, particularly someone who rejects or refuses to recognize a problem within themselves in order to seek help and make personal changes.