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Psychology

"You're just too sensitive". Moving abroad and bumping into an abuser: marker phrases, psychologist tips and useful tips and tricks

07.02.2023

There is a myth among Russian-speaking women that Europeans are very different from the men of the former CIS countries. They are more polite, well-groomed, trim and decent. In fact, for many girls, being of European descent is already a quality mark in itself.

But we have to tell you: Abusers, narcissists and psychopaths can be found all over the world and it is in your best interest to find out who you are dealing with on the first date.

A romantic encounter, a candlelit dinner, eyes wide open in love - that's how almost every woman imagines her relationship with the man of her dreams. And absolutely everyone knows it, including abusers who have no trouble imitating the hero from their victim's dreams. However, there are certain patterns of behaviour that will tell you in advance what you can expect from the man who has so charmed you with his attentions.

Listen and obey

The first thing to remember is that abusive behaviour is always about breaking your boundaries, physical or psychological.

If a stranger insists that you do something that contradicts your plans or beliefs and doesn't listen to your objections, that's a reason to be wary.

This is especially difficult for women who have recently arrived in a new country. Maybe that's the way it is here. Maybe if I refuse to go and look at the stars at three in the morning or split the bill, he will be offended. Maybe I should be more open to new opportunities. But new opportunities come smoothly and don't come crashing down on you like a mad tractor. Any pressure from a new acquaintance is, in any case, not a good sign.


Marker phrases:

You imagined it, I didn't mean it.

You're too sensitive.

You're silly, but I love you like that too.


Why is he doing this?

First of all, he's testing you. Are you giving in to pressure easily enough? How quickly are you willing to give up your principles or change your mind? Is there a chance to break you down further or is it worth finding a more submissive victim?

It also creates an adrenaline bond.

It is easier for us to connect with people and trust them if we have had some kind of intense experience, real stress, with them. Whether the stress was positive or negative is of no importance to our psyche.

An attempt by others to break your boundaries is already a stressful situation. And if in doing so you end up agreeing to some unfamiliar action, it's already a double dose of adrenaline. This is how an unfamiliar person suddenly becomes family and close to you, because they were there while you were experiencing the thrill of the situation that they themselves created for you.

The right to be appraised

Compliments are always nice and appropriate. Even if you consider yourself to be independent of others' opinions, they still warm your soul and lift your spirits. But the would-be abuser uses even such innocent tricks as a weapon.

You should be wary if:

  • You are literally showered with compliments. You are smart, and beautiful, and stylish, and amazing, and the only one, and there isn’t anyone better in the world. Has he told you that you are different from other women?

If a man has known you for a few days, he doesn't have the slightest reason to extol your qualities in a way he hasn't had a chance to. It's more like a rehearsed lovebombing rant that gets read like a rap on every new first date.

  • You're being rocked on an emotional swing, simultaneously praising and devaluing. "That dress really suits you! You're so brave to wear it, another girl wouldn't dare." "Do you like arugula? I think it smells like bedbugs. But everyone's taste is different, of course."

If you get the compliment-insult-compliment sandwich, it's another reason to think hard about whether it's worth continuing a relationship in which the person is already trying to hook you with a rusty hook when they first meet.

  • Misogyny. It's not even a red flag, it's a siren call.

If a man under the guise of discussion insults the female gender in general or some group in particular, but kindly remarks "this does not apply to those present" or "well you certainly are not", rest assured that this applies specifically and specifically to you.

And if a man can't contain his rage and hatred for women even on the first date, it's only going to get worse.


Marker phrases:

Let's look at your behaviour.

You need to work on yourself.

Are you offended? It's just a joke.


The other half at a glance

It's a favourite device in films: two people look at each other, a spark passes and they chat as if they'd known each other in a previous life. The filmmakers can be understood - screen time is expensive, you can't show half an hour of footage of a few months during which the intimacy of two hearts slowly grows out of fleeting interest. Nevertheless, many women choose to trust the magic of cinematography.

If you see someone for the first time in your life - and suddenly realise that you want to talk to them long and hard about things that are important and precious to you, slow down and listen: is he saying anything at all? Other than "yeah," "I see," and "how great you are!"?

By encouraging the victim to talk about himself as much as possible, the abuser is gleaning information that will be very useful to him later on - pain points, interests, beliefs.

At first, all of this will be used to create an image of a "soul mate" - a close and dear person who fully shares all of your thoughts and feelings. And later - for tough manipulation and breaking boundaries.

Save me

Usually on a first date, a person behaves a little better than usual. He tries to present his winning points, talks about his achievements. This is, in principle, normal behaviour: not only on a date, but also at a job interview or at a new friend's party, we try to put ourselves in the best possible light. But abusers often prefer a different tactic.

Suddenly the person tells you about his failures. He almost died under a surgeon's knife while undergoing a minor operation. His car got dented while it was parked, he had to take a tram here. He's had minor and major setbacks, fate has come crashing down on him one by one. That's the way it is.

Why does he do that?

It creates a special intimacy between you. It's as if the person appears to you unprotected and so open. He confides in you, tells you things you wouldn't tell the first person. He felt you would listen, that you wouldn't betray his trust by judging him! You don't know that he tells these stories on every date to every girl. Now you too can be honest with him and trust him (even though you really have no real reason to trust this man).

It's also likely that you'll want to help him, feel sorry for him, maybe save him. This establishes an even stronger bond, because now he will become your project, your goal. You will certainly want to follow through, to make him "human" - which means that your relationship will continue until you realize what is really going on. Alas, if you don't get the point of the game from the start, you can play it for years.


Marker phrases:

I'll get divorced soon, you just have to wait.

I don't want you to get attached to me.

I'm ruining every relationship.


I'm so unlucky in love

One of potential abusers' favourite themes. Many, many women have come his way (or few, depends on the plot here), but none have been normal.

He was desperate to find love in this cold and cruel world, because each of his next lovers was crazier than the last. One burned his socks, the other kicked him out of the house, the third put ground glass in his soup.

Is there anywhere else to shelter his tortured heart? Who knows...

In principle, you could say it's a variation of the previous item, but with added bonuses.

Firstly, you're invited to start proving from the get-go that you're better than all those furies that have been tormenting your new acquaintance's soul.

Second, he gets carte blanche for any of your wrong (from his point of view) behavior to roll their eyes and say, "You're just like my ex," immersing you in a sense of guilt - you remember how badly he was treated by that woman!

Thirdly, it's also an excuse for his own emotional coldness: no wonder he can't express his feelings, he gets rude or lets you get closer, then disappears from sight - he was so hurt, so wounded by those others. Now, his icy heart will have to warm up in the warmth for a long time, but then, when he finally thaws out, he will let his true feelings and everything will be fine (spoiler: no).

Marry me now

"What kind of red flag is that? - A lot of people will exclaim. - It's all I've ever wanted!". Well, that's certainly a laughable wish, except that on a first date, hearing such a proposal is at the very least strange. It's more of a manipulation or an attempt to put pressure on the date than a long-awaited confession, isn't it?

The same goes for rash declarations of sudden love at first sight and forever. If the person hasn't had a chance to get to know you, if they haven't had a chance to find out if you're even right for each other, then what kind of love can we talk about? Perhaps your new acquaintance is indeed looking for a wife, but as a function, not as a person.

Worse, such a hurry suggests that the man is afraid to show or show himself, rightly believing that over the long haul your desire to stay with him will decrease significantly, and therefore, it is necessary to strike while the iron is hot.

Unfortunately, many women, knowing themselves to be worthy individuals, accept such manipulation as a natural reaction of a man to their great looks and rich inner world. It is simply that the man at first sight comprehended all their wonderful essence and fell prey to their charms. Alas, science has yet to prove the existence of psychic abilities, but even if they were real, what chance do you have of being the winner of the second season of 'Battle of the Psychics'?


Marker phrases:

I'm sorry you feel that way.

I'm just being honest with you.

Our next meeting is entirely up to you.

It's for your own good.


What else is there to look out for?

- Incomplete previous relationships - even and especially if the person themselves tells you about them.

- Greed. It seems like a minor vice, it's even called "thriftiness". But it's actually the first sign of impending financial abuse.

- Jealousy. Especially on a first date, when the person may have no qualms about you at all.

- Sudden irritability. Even if it is not directed at you and you think that you, on the contrary, are able to calm him down.

- Offensiveness. These reactions on a first date shouldn't happen at all. If this happens, the person is clearly tampering with you.

- Any attempt to indoctrinate you into feeling guilty and "wrong" - for the way you dress, the way you talk, your food choices, your taste in music.

- "Objective view".

If you're telling a story about some conflict - and your interlocutor suddenly takes your opponent's side and starts explaining to you where you're wrong, you can be sure: this is what you'll always get from him instead of support.

- Surprisingly submissive and compliant. If a person agrees with you in everything and submits to you in everything, this is clearly an unhealthy symptom. Chances are good that he will expect the same behavior from you later on.

- Muddy stories with crazy characters and plot twists. If you feel like you're listening to a retelling of a hardcore arthouse, the best solution is to leave without waiting for the story to end, otherwise the next heroine will be yourself.

Julia Morozova, psychologist:

"Unfortunately, the percentage of abusers in society is much higher than commonly thought - and it doesn't really depend on whether you meet online or at a friendly party.

Often abusers are people whose childhood was also violent, they are "wounded children" who were humiliated and devalued. When they grow up, they start to use the same violence against the weaker ones.

The conventional wisdom is that only those women whose families have also experienced abusive relationships can fall into similar relationships.

Of course, those who have experienced abuse as children are more likely to fall into the trap of abuse. Our brains are built in such a way that they like everything familiar, even if that familiar thing harms us. But anyone can fall into an abusive relationship. Especially when one falls in love or finds oneself in a dependent position.

In addition, it can take a long time for a person to become physically or emotionally abusive. It can start with an "innocent" recommendation not to see friends or not to go to school. This can then escalate from a slap on the wrist during an argument to a beating.

The abuser often fails to deal with the affects he has in response to the interaction with the victim. He has an underdeveloped self-image and is unfamiliar with himself. Like a 3-4 year old child, he is ready to bite and hit on the head with a spatula just to get his own. He feels he is being provoked and is only defending himself.

The abuser likes to use phrases like: 'You brought this on yourself', 'You drove me crazy', 'How else can we talk to you'.

Their reality is distorted, with the World trying to hurt and inconvenience him. And the only way they can defend himself is by being violent and venting his aggression on the victim.

It must be clearly understood that the abuser will not change or become different.

They may have been seriously traumatised at an early age, but you certainly can't undo the damage that was done now. The only way is through long-term therapy, sometimes with medication.

How do you recognise an abusive relationship early on?

Listen to how you feel, trust yourself. If you get the feeling that you are scared of hurting him, don't say anything you don't like, pay attention! If you are devalued or humiliated, you are probably communicating with an abusive person.

Pay attention to his relationship with his parents. If the person talks about his parents calmly, treats them warmly and has a good relationship with them, chances are that he will be able to build a trustworthy bond with you as well. The silence on the subject of parents, the endless complaints and grievances, the shame of parents is a red flag.

A good sign is if the person has been in individual therapy for at least six months on their own accord.

For those who meet online, a tip is to call the new acquaintance by video link in order to get a first impression that is more extensive than correspondence.

As I said, abusive behaviour cannot be changed.

If you see signs of abusive behaviour but keep in touch, you may find psychotherapy helpful.

By Irina Iakovleva