Men to Avoid – Warning Sign #7: Past and Present Violence

Dr. Noelle Nelson, a psychologist and author of several books, believes that most men are good guys. But she also recognizes that some men attempt to assert power over you and control you. Nelson outlines men to avoid in her book, Dangerous Relationships: How to Identify and Respond to the Seven Warning Signs of a Troubled Relationship. Here, in a new series, we offer a synopsis of her advice.

Warning Sign #7: Past and Present Violence

To abusers, violence is an acceptable response to stress and frustration, and is part of the larger pattern of power and control over others. The use of force or any display of physical violence toward a partner in a relationship is the single most reliable predictor of a violent domestic or dating relationship. (Related – Ahimsa: The Practice of Non-Violence)

Physical violence can be direct or indirect. Direct violence is hand-on force, such as shoving, hitting, pinning down, pulling or pushing a body part, and kicking. Indirect violence includes throwing objects, tearing up a room, locking someone into a room, or depriving someone of sleep, food, water, or some other essential.

Partners of abusers often collude with the abuser in whitewashing the violence because the horror of what’s happening to them is too great to bear. The partner wants the fairytale back, those wonderful few months at the beginning of a relationship when it all felt so magical. So the partner will deny and discount the violence, hoping to make it all go away, and will never really address the source of the violence or deal with it realistically. The partner will seek to rationalize behaviour and come up with “reasons” to make the unacceptable acceptable – for example, rationalizing the abuser’s throwing things at them as an understandable response to a stressful day at work.

Past violence is the best predictor of future violence. Just as callousness toward the suffering of others will eventually become callousness toward the partner, so too will violence toward others eventually become violence toward the partner.