How to Spot an Abusive Man

Today on Soul Fit, we are going to talk about how to spot an abusive man. And ladies, let me say this: Abuse is not always physical. Physical abuse leaves scars to prove its existence, but wounds caused from emotional abuse create invisible scars. Both cause tremendous damage. Read the rest or watch here:

mason jarMen who are abusive prey on women with some type of vulnerability that makes them an easy target. None of us are immune to being vulnerable at some point in our lives, so the more we recognize these patterns that predict abusive tendencies, the more educated we can become and the more we can protect ourselves.

Men who are abusive pull out all the charm in the beginning until they have conquered their prey. Then by the time the real man is unleashed, it’s not pretty story. Once they have their victim held captive, they do an about face leaving their victim wondering what they did wrong. She is usually convinced he is still the charming dotting loving man she feel in love with but what she doesn’t realize is that his charm was deceitful. It was just a front, a lure to hook her into their control.

I’m not saying all men who are charming are abusive, but most men who are abusive are initially charming. That is part of the bait and conceal tactic they use to lure their victims into their realm of control and power.

Since so many women are drawn to men who use charm, I want to bring some clarity and help you understand an important distinction between charm and charisma. Charm and charisma both look the same on the surface, but charm has nothing underneath.

Proverbs 26:24-25 says, “A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart.”

You see, charm is deceptive and superficial. It’s all for show. But charisma, on the other hand, is different. Charisma is derived from the Hebrew word, charis, which means grace and loving kindness. It’s a spiritual quality given for the purpose of gaining influence. Charm is also used to gain influence, but influence for a selfish motive.

Charisma is backed up with character and integrity. It’s impossible to tell the difference without a deeper investigation.

There is no speed test to determine whether or not someone has character. The only way to tell the difference between charm and charisma is to evaluate a guys actions and reactions, especially when things don’t go their way. And that takes time to examine.

Charm can be an admirable quality, but unless character is underneath that charm, deceit will bite you like a snake.

Eve fell for the first snake.

So here’s my top 10 list for spotting a man with abusive tendencies:

  • They come on strong, full speed ahead
  • They move quickly for instant intimacy and an exclusive relationship.
  • Like a snake charmer they use flattery to captivate you. Compliments about your beauty abound. You are perfect for me. I’ve waited for you all my life. No one understand me like you do. I’ve dreamed of a woman like you.
  • They wine and dine you
  • They lavish you with gifts that seem too quick. Gifts that are appropriate for a more mature relationship
  • They plan romantic get-aways
  • They want you all to themselves. At first this may seem romantic, but it’s a deceitful part of the plan to move you away from outside influences.
  • They are critical of your friends and family, moving quickly to isolate you so you become completely dependent on their approval. It’s just a power play so they can keep you all to themselves and increase their dominance and influence
  • They are controlling. This one is hard to observe when it’s just you and him together, because until he has captured you under his spell, he will hide all control tendencies. He is in conquering mode. He won’t try to control you until he is convinced that you are under his spell. That’s why it’s so important to observe his interactions with others he knows. Watch how they respond to him. Are they warm, friendly and affectionate? Or are they reserved, disengaged, afraid, aloof or disbelieving? If he only wants to do things with you and him and refuses to introduce you to his friends, you will have no way to judge how he engages with others. Remember, he works best at concealing his agenda to conquer you when he can isolate you.
  • And the last tip is this: They seem too good to be true.
  • Well, ladies, when someone is too good to be true, guess what? He’s probably not for real. My best advice: Guard your heart, take it slow, check him out thoroughly and trust you gut. And above all, pray for wisdom! For more to read on this issue, check out the articles at And stay tuned on this video journey as we explore ways to improve our soul health and avoid the toxic love rut. Thanks for watching. See you next time on Soul Fit.


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35 Responses to How to Spot an Abusive Man

  1. Bobby at #

    I have identified some of these traits of a controlling man from previous relationships. Whereas, I have not been wined and dined because I am fiercely independent and successful, I was desperately in need of affection and attention. I realized that when you are lonely and feeling vulnerable you are more likely to become a victim.

  2. Christy Johnson at #

    You nailed it Bobbie. The need for affection and attention makes us vulnerable!

  3. Elizabeth at #

    Wow!! This has my name written all over it including Bobby’s feedback. I am successful in my career but I’m noticing a lot of those characteristics in my current and previous relationship.

    I think God is telling me that my goal for this Lenten season is to get soul healthy. Thank you Christy for the Love Junkies book and your inspirational website.

  4. Christy Johnson at #

    You are so welcome Elizabeth. Praying for God to bring more revelation as you continue to seek HIm!

  5. Laura at #

    I have been trying to make sense of the demise of my relationship with my fiance who I believe was emotionally abusive. What makes it even harder is that he is a “Christian” who is very smart, charming and wonderful to the outside world. Only a few friends and my family believe that he is controlling and verbally abusive. I keep reading articles like this over and over to remind myself what he is really like to ease my sadness. The worst part is that he uses scripture to make me feel guilty for not coming back. If I was really a Christian I would forgive him. He has a blog where he blasts me indirectly for not resolving things as Jesus would have me resolve them and on and on…Anyways, thank you for encouragement from a Godly perspective. This has been tough.

    • Gretel at #

      Wow Laura! I’m experiencing something very similar if not the exact same.

      To make problems worse we have a son together and he’s been in my oldest son’s life since he was one.

      He blames me for “breaking” our family. When in reality he has been emotionally abusive, he uses the financial cheating strategy as well. I’m praying that God gives me strength and wisdom to finally walk away from him. I’ll pray for you as well

      • Michelle at #

        Gretel, I was in an abusive marriage for many years and I’d like to share a couple things that really helped me to make the right decision to leave. First of all, look only to God for your direction about staying or leaving, and constantly seek His wisdom ! Don’t expect or seek to receive your partner’s permission or approval for your choice to end the relationship. His bad character is the reason you’re making those choices in the first place.
        Also, if you feel clearheaded and peaceful after seeking God’s answers but then confused after being around your partner , remember this: confusion doesn’t come from God, that’s the opposite of God. That’s another sign that your partner and the relationship are toxic. It may be better for you to communicate with him only in writing (which is harder when there are kids involved, but not impossible).

        Finally, be confident once you make your decision and be careful who else you confide in and seek confirmation from. No one else knows what he’s really like and no one else knows what God is encouraging you to do. Seek out others who’ve been in similar situations and who share your Christian values. Life can be so much better, and you can have an amazing future at any age! I divorced my ex at 53 after a 30-year marriage and have had zero regrets.

    • Tracy at #

      Hi Laura! Stand strong! I highly suggest the Bible app. The icon is a brown Bible. There are devotions in their that are packed with Bible scriptures that will help you to hold strong to your decision to flee from a toxic relationship.

      • Tracy at #

        there not their

  6. Tina at #

    Most people like your fiance (ex and keep it that way!) are silver tounged and have no qualms about using it to their best interest. A true blue man that is secure in his faith,heart and beliefs would offer alternative ways to make it work (i.e couples counseling). Just because someone can talk louder, faster, and spout more Scripture, facts or statistics than you or anyone else does not mean that they are right. Setting boundaries is hard to do at first but with each one it gets easier and
    and easier. Setting boundaries is actually healthy and allows you to open your mind , heart and Spirit to your highest good. If we are continually in a state of a confusion, especially if it’s set off by anothers words and actions, then you are closed off from seeing or hearing the truth either through Scripture, a trusted friend , elder or professional counselor. I am not a Bible scholar by any means, however, the words of Jesus comes to mind, Do not throw your pearls before swine. Hang tough and allow the way to be opened up by turning your EX!, your self, and the situation over to the will and care of GOD., AND listening to the inner voice of your own wisdom, also known as intuition or your gut instincts. One last thought, to live in the past = depression, to live in the future = anxiety, to live in the moment = happiness and contentment. Take care, wishing you boundless blessings.

    • Olamide at #

      Wow… This really lifted my spirit… I’ve been living in the past thinking of things I could have done better, thereby making me stagnant and depress as each day goes by…. Now I want to live in the moment

    • Faye at #

      Oh Tina, this is SO good. Thank you for sharing this

  7. Christy Johnson at #

    Ohhh, Tina! I love this quote. It needs to be a picture quote!! Did you write this or did someone else say it?

    To live in the past = depression.
    To live in the future = anxiety.
    To live in the moment = happiness and contentment.

    • Olamide at #

      Yeah… The quote is meant for me

      • Zainab at #

        The quote is truly for me

        • Robyn at #

          You totally described my current husband! He was so charming! He fixed things in my house, bought me flowers all the time, took me on a cruise, bought my son a computer to take to college, bought me a horse….and the list goes on and on…. there was a nagging feeling that it all felt like control, I talked to a counselor at church about it because I knew I was vulnerable and possibly confused having lost my husband / best friend in an accident only a year earlier. The counselor told me to listen to what my family and friends were saying about him. They all loved him! He was doing things for them too! 2 years later we got married….. and the control and verbal abuse started. But the bad thing is, no one else sees it. My family still thinks he is great…they don’t hear how he talks when it’s just him and I. My kids know he doesn’t do the things for them that he used to when we were dating, but they don’t see the abuse either. I was at an all time low a couple of years ago. I felt like I didn’t deserve the air I breath. I started seeing a social worker that has helped me to recognize the abuse. I didn’t even realize I was being abused! I thought he was a nice guy, and I was a horrible person! I’m still not at a place where I can recognize the abuse for what it is when it happens. My reaction to his mean words are still always, oh no, I messed up again, how can I smooth this over, how can I fix this.? … when it should be , don’t speak to me that way! I deserve to be treated with respect! I come around to the latter eventually….. most of the time. But it should be a reaction, and it isn’t yet. Still a lot of work to do! …..And you have given me tools to reach those goals!! I’m so glad I’ve found your book! Thank you so much for that, and your videos and emails!

          • Kaye at #

            Sounds like me
            Only reason no one else knows because I don’t want them to be disappointed

  8. Gayle at #

    I married a verbally abusive man. It was exactly as you have stated. Everything was MY fault according to him. He really made my self esteem suffer and it took many years to feel normal again . We were married only two years but it seemed an eternity.

  9. James at #

    Does this count for a woman who does these things? A lot of what you describe can be me , as a love junkie, but even more sounds like my current girlfriend… We feel in love quickly and she said it first. She seems so sweet most the time, but can be passive aggressive, she said she loved me very early and told me she prayed for a man to help heal her from her demons of child sexual abuse. I don’t know any of her friends and she has never met mine. I did get to meet some of her family when I was working on her house, but under the guise of me being a contractor that had recently asked her out (she’s hid our relationship from her family for 3 months). I have a domestic violence on my record (though honestly did not actually hit or hurt the girl who filed charges, we had only dated 3 months), which her family found out about, and note she hides or relationship again… I have always been open and honest with her (and everyone really) about my past, but she feels judged by her family.. Don’t want to go on and on but this article seemed to strike me after reading it because I know I’m a love junkie, and so does she..

    • Christy Johnson at #

      Of course the same principles can apply to women. Toxic relationships know no gender. It’s all because unhealed wounds of our past make us vulnerable to others with unresolved issues and then we continue the dance of hurting each other until we allow Christ full control. My book, Love Junkies, 7 Steps for Breaking the Toxic Relationship Cycle, is written for women, but my husband and I have taught the principles that I wrote about in the book to singles groups of both men and women. Maybe someday I’ll write a book for men. Until then, maybe you and your girlfriend could read it together and discuss. It’s available on Amazon or my website on the store page. Blessings!

    • Sharon at #

      Gayle, I also married a verbally & emotionally abusive man. I wish I had this information years ago. You are lucky to have broken free of it. I stayed for my children (it’s a long story involving abusive in-laws as well). I have been married for 25 years now, and now that the kids are all grown, I am having a hard time finding a reason to stay. I’ve learned to accommodate him over the years to survive. But I am sooo tired now, I feel as though I’m just waiting to die. I have had the divorce conversation with him several times over the years… he refuses to grant me a divorce. I don’t know how to break free. I am here to hopefully learn how to find my peace and freedom.

      Christy… any specific book you can recommend for my situation would be appreciated.

  10. Lydia at #

    Wow I wish I had this list before. He was always there, made sure that I cancel other engagements with my family, friends name it, until I broke free. Then the insults, non commitments started. Anyway I am free now…

    • Christy Johnson at #

      So glad you broke away. At first all the attention seems like flattery and interest, but it’s camouflaged control!

  11. Rachael at #

    Needed to hear this! I prayed for confirmation on something and this answered my prayer.

  12. This is my soon to be
    x husband he was so amazing in the beginning then turned into a monster .. I gave up everything for him my home my friends my job then it started the verbal abuse the physical abuse I just wanted to die .. Now I’m trying to rebuild everything I have lost .. most of all I’m trying to get myself back together .. some days it’s so hard to get out of the bed , I’m so angry at myself for not seeing what everyone saw ..

  13. Omolade at #

    Wow. Five years later and this resonates and is truly helpful. Thank you Tina and Christy Johnson.
    God bless you.

    • Christy Johnson at #

      So glad it was helpful. What stood out to you the most Omolade?

      • KJV at #

        There are so many articles about flags that appear in unhealthy relationships. I wish someone would focus on what makes a healthy relationship and identifying the beauty of such a relationship. Healthy relationships to mold our own after seem to be fewer and further between. Can we please focus on positivity to explain what is healthy and what isn’t?

        • Christy Johnson at #

          Looking for evidence of character, not what comes out of their mouth, but by how they CONSISTENTLY act, especially in the face of conflict or disagreement.
          Below is a great list of character qualities to look for. Is he:







          Ready for a Relationship










          Strong in Faith

















    • KCA at #

      So glad I found this resource (2020) . I def have a broker picker outer. I feel like I’ve been caught up in a situation for the past 9 years. Married someone in my early 20’s and have so much regret about it. It was his second marriage. All the red flags were there and I just driving straight thru them. I feel terrible. I never met his friends. If you knew me you would be shocked about the dumb decisions I made in this relationship. From beginning the end it was chaos , confusion and craziness. Im glad God doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. We have three amazing, beautiful, gorgeous ( did I mention amazing?) kids together. About 87 more days until the divorce is final . I’m taking this picker outer to JESUS because its trippy right now. Lord, I need you desperately 🙏🏾😭

  14. Sue at #

    Why is it that he always feels that he’s NOT my priority? And that my such a Mamabear…now wouldn’t any Mom protect their cubs? And why do I have to choose? Why can’t he get along with my children? He always has to start a fight with them and start drama and then blame it on them. So then we get in an argument. It’s an ongoing thing…for the past 6 years we have been dating. And why can’t he divorce his ex wife and live with me and show me the respect? Isn’t that the right thing to do? Or am I just blind?

    • KJV at #

      So many red flags in this comment!

      1. If he’s starting fights with your children, he’s immature.

      2. Once he starts the fights and later blames them on your children, he’s emotionally immature and unwilling/unable to recognize his contribution and responsibility in the relationship.

      3. If he’s still living with her and they’re still married, she is not his ex but rather his wife.

      4. Yes, open your eyes…. You are wearing rose colored glasses.


  15. Mamabear at #

    Wow! This is spot on! It leaves me saying, ‘if I knew then…….’ 24 years into my marriage I have only recognized the extent of the emotional and spiritual abuse as it’s been aimed to our 15 year old daughters. I’ve definately become a stronger woman but I recognize the effects as I do not have any quality friend relationships because I’ve never been allowed, and I’ve missed so many important family events. Unfortunately, I feel trapped , but God!!!

  16. Raqui Beuviere at #

    Thank you so much 0,Christy! I wished I had seen this six months ago. I was already going through the divorce process when I met a guy on oK cupid. I thought he was the man I always wanted. He was a tall, handsome Asian male, everything I could dream about. Because I was under stress and was very lonely. I fell for him really quick. He even used the ” L” word fast. Logically I thought it was too fast when he didn’t know me like that. But despite that. I continued. He used my divorce process to keep things going. I liked the attention he gave me. My ex husband had walked out of the marriage four months after we were married and we had been off and on for about thirty years. It was four or five years after that I had a brain bleed stroke and I was determined to get on with my life. At first this new guy was exactly how you said. Me being older than he was it felt nice but then he started to become bossy and controlling pretending he was a godly man. We broke up before Christmas and still continued to say I was another man’s wife and demanded proof of the divorce from the finalized paperwork. I got that and he didn’t do anything he promised. I felt stupid and foolish what’s even worse is he came back because he just had to . Only he came back to say really hurtful things and he made me view things wrongly thinking they’re all the same but that’s my bad. I should have known better.

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