In the Mind of the Abuser

As I have been spending some time trying to heal from the results of being in an abusive marriage, I have found some really incredible websites that have been so very helpful in gaining perspective. One is this site:

There I found something that really described my ex-husband almost to the letter:

In the Mind of the Abuser

Abusive people typically think they are unique, really so different from other people that they don’t have to follow the same rules everyone else does. But rather than being unique, abusers have a lot in common with one another, including their patterns of thinking and behaving. The following are some of their characteristics.

Excuse Making

Instead of accepting responsibility for his actions, the abuser tries to justify his behavior with excuses. For example: “My parents never loved me” or “My parents beat me” or “I had a bad day, and when I walked in and saw this mess, I lost my temper” or “I couldn’t let her talk to me that way. There was nothing else I could do.”


The abuser shifts responsibility for his actions away from himself and onto others, a shift that allows him to justify his abuse because the other person supposedly “caused” his behavior. For example: “If you would stay out of it while I am disciplining the kids, I could do it without hitting them.” Or he may say, “She pushes my buttons.” Statements like this are victim blaming. If he really had buttons she could push, she would push the one that says, “vacuum” instead the one that says, “hit me”.


In a variation on the tactic of blaming, the abuser redefines the situation so that the problem is not with him but with others or with the outside world in general. For example, the abuser doesn’t come home for dinner at 6 p.m. as he said he would; he comes home at 4 a.m. He says, “You’re an awful cook anyway. Why should I come home to eat that stuff? I bet the kids wouldn’t even eat it.”

Success Fantasies

The abuser believes he would be rich, famous, or extremely successful if only other people weren’t “holding me back.” He uses this belief to justify his abuse. The abuser also puts other people down verbally as a way of making himself look superior.


The abuser controls the situation by lying to control the information available. The abuser also may use lying to keep other people, including his victim, off-balance psychologically. For example, he tries to appear truthful when he’s lying, he tries to look deceitful even when he’s telling the truth, and sometimes he reveals himself in an obvious lie.


Abusive people often assume they know what others are thinking or feeling. Their assumption allows them to justify their behavior because they “know” what the other person would think or do in a given situation. For example, “I knew you’d be mad because I went out for a beer after work, so I figured I might as well stay out and enjoy myself.”

Above the Rules

As mentioned earlier, an abuser generally believes he is better than other people and so does not have to follow the rules that ordinary people do. That attitude is typical of convicted criminals, too. Each inmate in a jail typically believes that while all the other inmates are criminals, he himself is not. An abuser shows “above-the-rules” thinking when he says, for example, ‘I don’t need batterer intervention. I’m different than those other men. Nobody has the right to question what I do in my family.”

Making Fools of Others

The abuser combines tactics to manipulate others. The tactics include lying, upsetting the other person just to watch his or her reactions, and encouraging a fight between or among others. Or, he may try to charm the person he wants to manipulate, pretending a lot of interest or concern for that person in order to get on her or his good side.


The abuser usually keeps his abusive behavior separate from the rest of his life. The separation is physical; for example, he will beat up family members but not people outside his home. The separation is psychological; for example, the abuser attends church Sunday morning and beats his wife Sunday night. He sees no inconsistency in his behavior and feels justified in it.


The abuser ducks responsibility for his actions by trying to make them seem less important than they are. For example, “I didn’t hit you that hard” or ‘I only hit one of the kids. I could have hit them all.”


Thinking and speaking vaguely lets the abuser avoid responsibility. For example, “I’m late because I had some things to do on the way home.”


Abusive people are not actually angrier than other people. However, they deliberately appear to be angry in order to control situations and people.

Power Plays

The abuser uses various tactics to power trip others. For instance, he walks out of the room when the victim is talking, or out-shouts the victim, or organizes other family members or associates to “gang up” on the victim in shunning or criticizing her.

Playing Victim

Occasionally the abuser will pretend to be helpless or will act persecuted in order to manipulate others into helping him. Here, the abuser thinks that if he doesn’t get what he wants, he is the victim; and he uses the disguise of victim to get back at or make fools of others. Abusers will often claim to be the victim in order to avoid being held accountable by law enforcement. He may assert she was the one who was violent. He will display what are clearly defensive wounds, such as bite marks or scratch marks, and claim she “attacked” him. Or he will declare that the physical marks on her were caused when he was trying to keep her from hurting herself.

Drama and Excitement

Abusive people often make the choice not to have close relationships with other people. They substitute drama and excitement for closeness. Abusive people find it exciting to watch others get angry, get into fights, or be in a state of general uproar. Often, they’ll use a combination of tactics described earlier to set up a dramatic and exciting situation.

Closed Channel

The abusive person does not tell much about himself and his real feelings. He is not open to new information about himself, either, such as insights into how others see him. He is secretive, close-minded, and self-righteous. He believes he is right in all situations.


The abuser typically is very possessive. Moreover, he believes that anything he wants should be his, and he can do as he pleases with anything that is his. That attitude applies to people as well as to possessions. It justifies his controlling behavior, physically hurting others, and taking things that belong to them.


The abuser usually thinks of himself as strong, superior, independent, self-sufficient, and very masculine. His picture of the ideal man often is the cowboy or adventurer type. When anyone says or does anything that doesn’t fit his glorified self-image, the abuser takes it as an insult.

6 thoughts on “In the Mind of the Abuser

    • bruisedwoman April 7, 2010 / 11:06 am

      I read your blog and my prayers are with you.

  1. bruised2 April 7, 2010 / 4:46 pm

    I seen this site and thought I would see what you have to say. I cried as I read through the blogs. Why is it when we are being abused we feel so alone and isolated yet the stories are so similiar. I never thought of the abusers mind being so similiar between men. That part just gutted me because almost word for word Ive been there and heard it all before. I stayed at home as a 23 year old mom of 2. I cooked, I cleaned…. I did everything but it wasnt good enough. One day I spent the entire day washing the walls of our home and cleaned floors and did dishes and laundry. He came home drunk told me I was a fat lazy slob who shouldnt be allowed children because I never cleaned and he beat me literally senseless. I was brushing my teeth for bed and dont remember much other than waking up on the floor with toothpaste stuck to my cheek and the toothbrush still hanging from my mouth.On my birthday of that year he went out and got drunk while our children had the flu. He was furious that I called him for help and instead of helping at all he again beat me til I lost conciousness. This time I had enough…. I spent the rest of my birthday packing mine and the kids belongings while he was out for the day. He came home to an empty house and I started a new year with a new life. Two years later we get along but from a distance. People dont change and will always excuse their behaviour I still get blamed for his finances and he still claims the abuse never happened. I will never forget and neither should anyone in the same situation move forward there is always hope just sometimes we have to look harder to find it but it will always be worth it. To go to bed at night knowing your kids wont hear mommy crying and to know you are all safe is worth any struggle in the world!

    • bruisedwoman April 7, 2010 / 7:33 pm

      You story is compelling. Thank you for sharing it and I’m glad that you read my blog. This is not a great subject, is it? Good luck with your recovery and stay healthy.

  2. bruised2 April 13, 2010 / 2:46 am

    You are right it definately is no a great subject but one that needs to be more openly discussed among women. I worried for the longest time about how can I survive financially. I may not be rich but Im happier today than I ever could have imagined being. I spent many nights imagining what it would be like to just pack up one day and leave but the next day would come and I would rationalize why it wasnt possible. My biggest step the day I finally left was picking up the phone and calling a family member. Once the words were out of my mouth the big move began. It was easier to go forward without feeling like I was hiding the truth. Healing took some time both emotionally and physically but I had a support system and many a shoulder to cry on. Something I never expected to have on those horrible nights hiding in a room with my back pressed up against the door and a phone in my hand. If I had only used that phone the first time it happened rather than pretending he would change. Hopefully your blog will continue to help women everywhere. Its been quite sometime since I have felt that kinda pain and never imagined reading someone elses story would bring it all back but it just reinforces to me that I did the right thing and we as women need to be each others shoulder to cry on and that support system to help someone run from violence.

    • bruisedwoman April 13, 2010 / 8:29 pm

      Thank you for sharing your story. I am glad that you found the strength to leave. I know that strength is what it took. And I still have weak moments when I worry. But I remember that God is with me and He will comfort me. I am glad that my story has helped you and I am glad that I writing it.
      Take care and stay in touch.

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