Writing in So Why Does He Do That?, Lundy Bancroft says, “I believe that every man who has recurring problems with angry or controlling behaviours is abusive.” And he goes on to explain, “I have chosen to use the word ‘abusers’ to men who use a wide range of controlling, devaluing, or intimidating behaviours.

He points out that controlling men fall on a spectrum of behaviours, from those who exhibit only a few abusive traits to those who exhibit almost all of them. “Any man who has recurring problems with disrespecting, controlling, insulting, or devaluing his partner,” he writes, “whether or not his behaviour involves more explicit verbal abuse, physical aggression, or sexual mistreatment, can have a serious impact on a woman’s life and can lead her to feel confused, depressed, anxious or afraid”.



Note the word controlling. This is a classic trait of the abuser – a thread that runs through case after case. “Disrespect for women is rampant in abusive men,” writes Bancroft, “a great majority of them exhibiting a subtle, though often quite pervasive, sense of superiority or contempt towards females. However, some don’t show any obvious signs of problems with women until they are in a serious relationship.”

Demanding he treat you better

These men exhibit a range of responses to confrontation about their behaviour, from those who are willing to accept and strive to change, to those who won’t listen to the woman’s perspective at all. These abusers feel completely justified, and become highly retaliatory if she attempts to stand up for herself. “In fact,” Bancroft insists, “one of the best ways to tell how deep a man’s control problem goes is by seeing how he reacts when you start demanding that he treat you better.”

A control problem – this is a key factor in verbal abuse. This is not so much the abuser’s inability to control himself, as his determination to control his partner. It’s what fuels his verbal abuse.  “I’ve come to know what a controlling man is really saying,” Bancroft explains, “the meaning that is hidden behind his words. The abuser’s explosive anger can divert the attention from all the disrespect, irresponsibility, talking over his victim and all the other abusive and controlling behaviours that he exhibits even at times when he isn’t especially upset.”

That sense of superiority or contempt  that the abuser feels towards his partner can manifest itself in constant low level sarcasm or mockery masquerading as wittiness. This is one trait that may be used in company since it can be passed off as humour, other people enjoying the joke, little realising that how often the partner has been the butt of the abuser’s mockery. Mockery is just as powerful a put-down as anger – more so in fact.

It’s that sense of superiority that causes the abuser to justify his behaviour.  “In short,” explains Bancroft,  “an abuser’s core problem is that he has a distorted sense of right and wrong. He believes he has the right to control by any means.”



Abusers come from all walks of life. Even high achievers can be abusive. “Sometimes the more educated an abuser,” Banford points out, “the more knots he knows how to tie in a woman’s brain and the better he is at getting her to blame herself. The more powerful an abuser, the more powerful his abuse can be.”

Not mental illness

This is not mental illness. The great majority of Bancroft’s clients over the years have been psychologically ‘normal’. “Their minds work logically,” he points out, “They understand cause and effect; they don’t hallucinate. Their perceptions of most life circumstances are reasonably accurate.”

Sadly no one other than their partners (and sometimes the children) realises that there is anything wrong with these abusers. Their value system is unhealthy not their psychology. “A man whose destructive behaviours are confined primarily or entirely to intimate relationships is an abuser, not a psychiatric patient,” writes Bancroft.

Because of his need for control and his unwillingness to accept his partner as an equal, the verbal abuser is compelled to devalue the perceptions, experiences, values, accomplishments and plans of his victim. Consequently she may never have known what it is like to feel supported and validated in her relationship. A verbally abusive relationship constantly devalues the victim herself.

This hinders every attempt she makes to grow, to be whole, and to improve the relationship, causing instead emotional pain and mental confusion. She experiences confusion because she cannot gain any insight into the twisted logic of her abuser.

Control shows itself, not just in overt verbal abuse and mockery, but in a constant, low-level, pervasive variety of less obvious ways. The solving or resolution of this inner conflict is achieved only when she recognises that she is being abused.

When she realises that the abuser has no desire to understand her,
she has finally begun to understand him!


The survivors of abuse,” Bancroft explains, “have been my greatest educators. If we could hear their voices much more, and the voices of the abusers much less, the world would move rapidly to eliminate the chronic mistreatment that so many women currently face in their relationships.”

Note:- The controlling personality can be male or female – and may rely upon intimidation or emotional outbursts in order to control. Their traits may be seen only  ‘behind closed doors’ – or they may openly display their traits with family, acquaintances or colleagues. No one person is likely to have all of the following personality traits. However, a cluster of  these traits, frequently observed, may indicate that all is not well:


Personality traits:

Ability to put up a good front to impress others – may even be a high achiever

Witty, sarcastic, mocking or prone to emotional outbursts

Adept at intimidation

Convincing. Successful at getting other people to believe in their perception of a problem. Are adamant that people side with them rather than allowing people to feel or believe differently

They twist the facts round in order to blame, accusing the other person of the very thing that they have done

They start the abuse but when faced with a reaction to the abuse they accuse the other person of starting it “Everything was fine till you started!”

Convinced that they know more than others and are correct and right in almost all they say and do

They determine how, when, where we talk, and what they want to talk about

They announce, not discuss. They tell, not ask

They do not discuss openly beforehand. You get to deal with after-the-event information

Unilateral condition of, “I’m OK and justified, so I don’t need to hear your position or ideas

They have no concept of open sharing of ideas, feelings, or emotions. They have to direct the conversation. They have the last word always

They have to be right. They have to win. They have to look good

The ultimate goal is to have power over others

They manoeuvre people around for their own purposes

They think only of the end result without considering the feelings or needs of others in the process

They scorn everyone and everything that they disagree with. They do not allow for differences to be respected

They seldom express genuine appreciation or give praise. Again, they are thinking of their needs not the needs of others

They often go unchallenged by others because people seem to be put off by them, afraid of them

They seem to enjoy disturbing others. They like to agitate and disrupt for no apparent reason

Others get upset when in their presence. They cause others around them to feel a sense of guardedness, caution, and suspicion


Note:- One of the most socially acceptable methods of control can be abuse disguised as humour. See: