Dear Abby: 15 signs that your partner is an abuser

If your mate acts intensely jealous, tries to isolate you from family or constantly says cruel things, pay attention to the signals and get out.

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DEAR ABBY: I am afraid for my daughter. She has been married less than a year to a very controlling man. He doesn’t ask her to do anything, he demands that she do what he wants. She cannot go out to eat or to a movie or anyplace like that unless he is with her. She works a 40-hour-a-week job, and in addition she must do all the work inside the house plus mow the lawn while he plays games on his computer. Don’t you have a list of things to look for to tell someone when it is time to get out while the getting is good? — VERY WORRIED MOTHER

DEAR MOTHER: I certainly do, and you have a right to be worried. It has been a while since I shared this important information about abusive behaviors. Read on:

  1. PUSHES FOR QUICK INVOLVEMENT — Comes on strong, claiming, “I’ve never felt loved like this by anyone.” An abuser pressures the new partner for an exclusive commitment almost immediately.
  2. JEALOUS — Excessively possessive; calls constantly or visits unexpectedly; prevents you from going to work because “you might meet someone”; checks the mileage on your car.
  3. CONTROLLING — If you are late, interrogates you intensively about whom you talked to and where you were; keeps all the money; insists you ask permission to go anywhere or do anything.
  4. UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS — Expects you to be the perfect mate and meet his or her every need.
  5. ISOLATION — Tries to isolate you from family and friends; accuses people who are your supporters of “causing trouble.” The abuser may deprive you of a phone or car, or try to prevent you from holding a job.
  6. BLAMES OTHERS FOR PROBLEMS OR MISTAKES — It’s always someone else’s fault if something goes wrong.
  7. MAKES OTHERS RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS OR HER FEELINGS — The abuser says, “You make me angry” instead of “I am angry,” or says, “You’re hurting me by not doing what I tell you.”
  8. HYPERSENSITIVITY — Is easily insulted, claiming hurt feelings when he or she is really mad. Rants about the injustice of things that are just a part of life.
  9. CRUELTY TO ANIMALS OR CHILDREN — Kills or punishes animals brutally. Also may expect children to do things that are far beyond their ability (whips a 3-year-old for wetting a diaper) or may tease them until they cry. Sixty-five percent of abusers who beat their partners will also abuse children.
  10. “PLAYFUL” USE OF FORCE DURING SEX — Enjoys throwing you down or holding you down against your will during sex; finds the idea of rape exciting.
  11. VERBAL ABUSE — Constantly criticizes or says blatantly cruel things; degrades, curses, calls you ugly names. This may also involve sleep deprivation or waking you with relentless verbal abuse.
  12. RIGID EXPECTATIONS — Demands that you serve, obey and remain at home.
  13. SUDDEN MOOD SWINGS — Switches from sweet to violent in minutes.
  14. PAST BATTERING — Admits to hitting a mate in the past, but says the person “made” him (or her) do it.
  15. THREATS OF VIOLENCE — Says things like, “I’ll break your neck” or “I’ll kill you,” and then dismisses them with, “Everybody talks that way,” or “I didn’t really mean it.”

Readers, anyone at risk of spousal or partner abuse should contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 or

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order “How to Be Popular.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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