An abuser is someone who has a pattern of behavior with a significant other that is controlling, manipulative, threatening, demeaning, and intimidating. The key is that it's a pattern, not a one-time or ever-so-often event. At some point, everyone in their life might be insensitive and demonstrate some of the above-mentioned behaviors, but that might make their behavior abusive. It's the pattern of these behaviors that makes the individual abusive.
It's important to look at the motive behind the behaviors to determine who is truly an abuser. We all might display some controlling behaviors, but usually our motives are pure: to protect a child, prevent hurt feelings, etc. But an abuser's motive? Show their partner who rules the roost.
They make requests and suggestions that are much more than what is heard at surface level. Usually there is a threat underlying their words..."Do what I say...or else!" This makes the request more like a demand. The victim will understand that consequences will follow if the "request" isn't met. To the abuser, if it isn't met, the victim is actively defying them. The victim has two choices: either accommodate or frustrate the command...there is no in between. Disobeying them means they will face punishment.
An abuser has a sense of entitlement when the request is made. This sense of entitlement, perhaps more than anything else, drives the abusive mentality. It's a narcissistic trait, for sure. Narcissists think they deserve what they want, when they want, where they want it, and how they want. They don't think they should have to earn respect and compliance, and when they don't receive it, they think they are entitled to be enraged, which of course leads to abusive actions.
What's interesting in my study of the abusive personality is that abusers often think of themselves as the victim! They feel like they are being constantly inconvenienced, and because of this, they are quick to blame who they perceive to be inconveniencing them. From blame comes anger and rage. Then the abuser will rationalize their abusive actions. And this only gets worse with time. The threshold gets lower and lower for how much "defiance" or "inconvenience" they will take, until they will find anything to rage about. This is when the victim says they feel they are "walking on eggshells."
While abusers are not limited to men, it's more likely that they are abusers if for no other reason than their comparative physical size and strength advantage over women. Women abusers are more likely to emotionally abuse men. A lot of female-on-male abuse just doesn't get reported, perhaps because of the stigma associated with a male coming forward to say he is being abused.
Next week, I'll take a look at some of the characteristics of children who grow up in abusive families. Hopefully it'll give you some good material for your WIPs.
The above information was taken in part from the website of Steve Becker, LCSW.