How To Never Get Involved with an Abuser Again


None of us wants to be involved in another abusive relationship, or be involved in one for the first time. How can we prevent it? I regularly hear from people who want to know the difference between narcissists, psychopaths, and sociopaths and how to tell them apart. They want to know what to look for in order to prevent another abusive relationship, or their first one.

I propose another solution, one that is simpler and much more effective and doesn’t require us to become some sort of experts in diagnosing mental health disorders.

The solution has two parts:

1. The first is to look at what all of them have in common, instead of how they differ.
2. The second is to look at the things the rest of us have in common, and to protect those things. By doing this, you will protect yourself from abusive relationships.

There are two traits all abusers share (no matter what their particular diagnosis), which will become apparent. To identify if someone you’re getting involved with has these two traits, you don’t need any knowledge about what disorder they have. I’ve already written about these things many times and in many places on this website, but I think it will be helpful to have all of it in one place, with links to just a couple of articles you must read if you want to protect yourself.

The two traits all abusive people have in common:

They lack empathy


They are manipulative

The details will follow below.

Unfortunately, it will take time to get to know a person before these traits become apparent. The good news is that there is no need to have your involvement with such a person be anywhere near as long or as traumatic as it was before. It can be as short and as painless as possible.

It’s up to you, though, to trust your perceptions and to be able to disengage.

First, it’s necessary to follow a couple of ground rules if you want to keep abusers out of your life.

Ground rule number one:

The truth is in the way a person acts, not in what they say.

To put it another way, actions speak louder than words. For example, if you question whether your partner loves you or not because they don’t act as if they do, you have your answer.

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Ground rule number two:

“The single most important empowerment tool is to accept no excuses for hurtful, harmful, or inappropriate behavior.”

(Dr. George Simon)

If you find that a person acts in ways that lack empathy or is manipulative and you excuse it or let them explain it away, then all bets are off. You’ll be right back to where you were before.

Now, on to the first trait: A lack of empathy.

If a person lacks empathy, it’s not possible to have an emotional connection—and therefore an actual relationship—with them. In addition, you will suffer trauma if you’re involved with a person who lacks empathy. A lack of empathy is what enables abuse and what causes the trauma in these relationships. Before going on to anything else, if you want the knowledge you need to protect yourself in the future please read the article, “EMPATHY: WHAT IT IS AND WHY YOU NEED IT.”

How can you tell if someone lacks empathy? Look for the following signs.

25 px blank spaceSIGNS OF A LACK OF EMPATHY25 px blank space

  • Self-centeredness.
  • Does not respect your personal boundaries.
  • In the beginning, he or she may seem to have plenty of empathy for you, but not much for others. Watch out–-you’re next.
  • Indifference to the suffering of others.
  • Sexism and womanizing.
  • Believes he or she is always right.
  • Judgmental.
  • Refusal to acknowledge that you have justification to be upset about something he or she did.
  • Expects you to accommodate his schedule, without regard for yours.
  • Neglecting or ignoring you if you’re sick.
  • Doesn’t comfort you when you need it.
  • Feels he knows you better than you know yourself. When you tell him how you feel, he might tell you that’s not really how you feel. This is a sign that he or she does not see you as having a mind of your own. When someone denies your reality and tries to substitute another in its place, head for the nearest exit.
  • Arrogance.
  • When they apologize, they don’t act like they mean it. You do not see genuine remorse, understanding about why what they did hurt you, or purposeful, deliberate efforts on their part to repair the damage they may have done or efforts to do better in the future. Instead, it just seems like a couple of empty words spoken to placate you.
  • Inability to imagine how their words and actions may affect you.
  • Cheats, and then blames it on you.
  • Needs space (more than a day or two) and doesn’t care that it hurts you.
  • Isn’t interested in finding ways to soothe your worries.
  • Ogles or flirts with others in front of you, and then accuses you of being smothering, insecure or mistrusting when you ask him or her about it.
  • Becomes angry when you cry or get emotional.
  • Looks at you with a blank face when you cry.
  • Makes you feel out of control emotionally.
  • You feel he just can’t seem to understand you, no matter how much you explain or defend yourself.
  • You feel he or she doesn’t know you, even though they’ve had ample opportunity.
  • You sense a lack of emotional connection.
  • There is drama and intensity, and when you look beneath it you find a lack of genuine emotional intimacy.
  • Treats his or your pets badly. For example, he may say he loves his dog, but he lets him run loose, neglects visiting the vet when the dog is sick or injured, or leaves it out in the cold.
  • Tells you you’re too needy or too emotional.
  • Is hurtfully blunt and casually critical, and when you become upset he tells you he is “just being honest.” Honesty without kindness is cruelty.
  • Talks at length on a topic that clearly bores you, without noticing it.
  • Doesn’t ask you how your day was or how your doctor’s appointment went.
  • Forgets your birthday or other important occasions.
  • Brings up a sensitive topic even after you’ve asked him to stop.
  • Looks down on people for what he sees as their bad decisions, without taking into account how their life circumstances may differ from his.
  • Expects instant forgiveness.
  • Censors and restricts your emotions.
  • Invalidates your thoughts, feelings, ideas and concerns.
  • Fights dirty, using your most personal, painful past experiences to hurt you.
  • Wants you to give up pursuing a goal that’s important to you.

This brings us to the next must-read article: INVALIDATION: I REFUSE TO HAVE THIS DISCUSSION. If you can’t recognize invalidation, you’ll miss a MAJOR (and very common) sign that a person lacks empathy.

Now let’s move on to the second trait: manipulative.

Anyone can fall for manipulation. We’ve all done it already. What we want to do is to prevent it from happening again. Covert (hidden) emotional manipulation occurs when a person who wants to control you uses deceptive and underhanded tactics to change your thinking, behavior and perceptions. Emotional manipulation operates under the level of your conscious awareness. If you aren’t conscious of it, how will you know it’s happening? Look for the following signs.

If you are in a relationship and notice a few of the following 20 signs, there is a high probability you are being manipulated:

  • Your joy at finding love has turned into the fear of losing it. Your feelings have gone from happiness and euphoria to anxiety, sadness and even desperation.
  • Your mood depends entirely on the state of the relationship.
  • You are unhappy in your relationship a lot of the time… yet you dread losing it because you’re blissfully happy every now and then.
  • You feel like you’re sabotaging the best thing that ever happened to you, but you’re not sure how.
  • Your relationship feels very complex, although you’re not sure why. When talking to your friends about it, you might find yourself saying “It’s hard to explain. It’s just really…complicated.”
  • You obsess about the relationship. You endlessly analyze every aspect of it as you desperately try to “figure it out.” You talk about it constantly, to whomever will listen. None of this gets you anywhere.
  • You never feel sure of where you stand with your partner, which leaves you in a perpetual state of uncertainty and anxiety.
  • You frequently ask your partner if something’s wrong. It really does feel as if something’s wrong, but you’re not sure what it is.
  • You always seem to be on the defensive. You frequently find yourself feeling misunderstood, so you feel the need to explain and defend yourself often.
  • You seem to have developed a problem with trust, jealousy or insecurity, which your partner points out to you on a regular basis.
  • You feel that you just don’t know how to make your partner happy. You try hard but nothing seems to work, at least not for long.
  • Expressing negative thoughts and emotions feels restricted or even forbidden, so you try to keep those things hidden. You feel frustrated a lot, though, because important things go unsaid.
  • You feel inadequate. You don’t feel as good about yourself as you did before the relationship. You feel less confident, less secure, less intelligent, less sane, less trusting, or in any way “less than” what you were before.
  • You always feel you’re falling short of your partner’s expectations.
  • You find yourself apologizing a lot.
  • You often feel guilty. You continually try to repair the damage you believe you’ve caused. You blame yourself for your partner pulling away from you. You can’t understand why you keep sabotaging the relationship.
  • You carefully control your words, actions and emotions around your partner to keep him or her from withdrawing their affection again. Your suppressed feelings build inside of you, and sometimes you erupt like a volcano. You’ve never acted this way before. You can’t seem to help it, and it only makes things worse.
  • You do things you aren’t really comfortable with or that go against your values, limits or boundaries, in order to make your partner happy and keep the relationship intact.

That’s all you need to know to tell if you’re involved with a manipulator. If you would like to catch it before you start experiencing these warning signs, learn the tactics all manipulators use. I wrote a book that’s highly regarded by many people who’ve read it. 30 Covert Emotional Manipulation Tactics: How Manipulators Take Control In Personal Relationships. As a bonus, you’ll be helping to support my work. Thank you.

At the beginning of this article, I wrote that you don’t need to have any knowledge about what disorder a person might have. The most important thing is to have some basic knowledge about yourself.

We all have some basic things in common:

Our emotional needs


Our basic rights in relationships.

With the knowledge of your needs and rights, all you need to do to determine if you’re in an unhealthy relationship is to determine if your emotional needs are going unmet and if your basic rights are being violated. This must be examined on a regular basis. Your needs and rights will always be met at the beginning of any relationship, but in an unhealthy relationship, that will change. If you don’t purposely examine these things on a regular basis, you could end up so confused by manipulation that you won’t even realize they’re missing.  Many of us started out in life with family who disregarded our emotional needs and trampled our basic rights. As a result, it feels almost normal for people to behave like that. It’s not. We’re born with emotional needs, and the reason we have relationships is to have them met. That’s what relationships are all about. If they’re not being met, misery, confusion and trauma result. Only you know if your emotional needs are being met, and only your perceptions about it matter.

You were born with normal human emotional needs AND you have the right to be in mutually fulfilling relationships that meet these needs:

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The need to be loved.

The need to be valued.

The need to be trusted.

The need to feel worthy.

The need to be accepted.

The need to be listened to.

The need to be supported.

The need to be respected.

The need to be understood.

The need to be appreciated.

The need to be acknowledged.

The need to feel capable and competent.

The need to feel clear (and not confused).

The need to be safe, both physically and emotionally.

The need to be known.

You have these basic rights in your relationships:

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You have the right to say no.

You have the right to make mistakes.

You have the right to change your mind.

You have the right to ask for what you want.

You have the right to express your opinions.

You have the right to be listened to respectfully.

You have the right to change your life situation.

You have the right to choose how you live your life.

You have the right to decide what your priorities are.

You have the right to have your boundaries respected.

You have the right to choose who you share your body with.

You have the right to choose who you spend your time with.

You have the right to set limits on how you will be treated by others.

You have the right to experience your feelings and to express them, if you want to.

You have the right to walk away from relationships that you determine are not good for you.

You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect by everyone you come into contact with.

You have the right to your own needs and feelings, and to have them be as important as anyone else’s.

You also have the right to have these basic human rights, and you have the right to stand up for them.

If you follow the guidelines above,

there is no way you can remain involved in an abusive relationship. You’ll see the signs at the earliest moment possible, before you’re too entangled and confused to leave. You don’t need anyone’s agreement, and you’ll never get it from the person who lacks empathy and is manipulating and mistreating you. If you have doubts about someone, trust your own perceptions! Doubt is your friend. Self-doubt is your enemy. Trust yourself. Self-trust is self-confidence.

Doubt is your friend. Self-doubt is your enemy. Trust yourself. Self-trust is self-confidence.

♥ Thank you for reading. Comments are closed.


“The BEST Manual on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim again – I know the subject too well. I am going to recommend it to the facilitators in the divorce support group I am attending.”

”Worth your time! Well written, clear, and concise. I so appreciate the wisdom I found in this writing. I feel empowered once more!”

“I would like to thank the author for an eye opening experience! This book has clarified more for me than I have ever understood in my entire lifetime.. It doesn’t matter what type of relationship you are in, it can be straight couples, gay couples, relationships between family members, co-workers , any kind of relationship, you must read this book. It will be as if a lightswitch is turned on in your brain and your soul is sitting up and paying attention. To the author, again thank you for opening my eyes.”

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27 thoughts on “How To Never Get Involved with an Abuser Again”

  1. TruthBTold

    Such sadness when I read this. A man once told me that this was Trauma based mind control. The feedback that I’m getting now is the manipulation that you mention about our pain just being our “perception”. There is no empathy or sorrow in that statement. I hope your writing prevents another woman from going through or gives comfort through validation.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Thank you. I hope so, too. I didn’t know any of these things before. Don’t be sad that you didn’t know it before; be happy that you know it now. So many of us learn it the hard way. My own motto is “better late than never.” I’m fine with it. And I may as well be, since I can’t change it.

    2. Terry

      oh my first marriage was to a man that thought that woman were only for sex and he acted the part 100%. I had no value, I was not a person, he was and still is in love with a man that works for him an alcoholic. Now the story of alcohol was as strong in him as his narcissist personality.

  2. Antonio

    In February I met a woman through facebook while commenting on a post by a friend we had in common, we kept commenting back and forth so I decided to ask her to be my friend in fb, so we could have a private conversation, she agreed immediately, and soon after she started using romantic words to refer to me, such as dear, honey, which soon afterwards turned into my love, my heaven, etc, etc. To make a long story short, she started to make very suggestive comments to me in our fb chats and even suggested to exchange mobile phone numbers to which I agreed, the conversations turned to sex little by little, starting with commenting to me that she was really sexually aroused by thinking about me, and that if we met in person we would be making love in a very deep and intimate way. Things got out of hand eventually, threatening to break up my marriage at one point, in which it became evident going further with this relationship had a very strong potential for being very painful to me for many reasons. End of the story, however, last month I noticed there were many posts in my fb page from a woman in Spain whom I had no recollection of having meeting her, so out of curiosity I sent her an application for friendship which she didn’t immediately replied to, and she did several weeks after sending such application. We became friends in facebook, and I started noting that she was planning for me to travel to her country whenever I had the chance, but I never had the intention of doing that out of basic economics. I kept in my mind my previous bad experience, and decided to stop looking for her in fb, actually she got mad at me a few days ago because I was chatting with her and another person, and showed some jealousy over this, which was just a plain conversation I was having with another friend who chatted with me. The next day she blocked me in fb and I waited a couple of days to see if she would unblock me, because I wanted to clear up the misunderstanding. She did not unblock me and I decided to stop waiting to be unblocked and so I blocked her for good. I kept in mind what had happened several months ago, so I put into practice some of the advice I have found in this site, psychopaths and love, and looked for an exit, and I blocked that person. I feel happy I didn’t fall for this person’s manipulative techniques. Thank you for publishing this information, it has saved me from making the same mistake over again. Greetings.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Greetings, Antonio. Blocking her was a good move. I think you’re right, you prevented a lot of trouble.


    help me please before me my family get hurt

    1. Adelyn Birch

      I’ll try, Amanda, if you tell me what the problem is. It sounds serious; you may need to use one of the hotlines below:

      International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies
      International Suicide Hotlines
      Línea Nacional sobre la violencia doméstica las 24 horas del día al 1-800-799-7233 , 1-800-787-3224 (TTY )
      National Domestic Violence Hotline (in the US): (800) 799-7233
      National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
      U.S. and International Resources for suicide prevention, post-attempt survivors and their families

    2. Terry

      my best guess if your family is hurt already. Abuse of any type hold on for generations — children learnt it from parents and they the children do the same to their own child abuse just goes on and on and on like runaway train which never stops

  4. Theresa

    This is exactly what I need, short and concise. the only thing I knew growing up was narcissists. Now I still have to second guess myself but I am becoming more sure of what I need to do. These lists will help. Thanks

    1. Adelyn Birch

      I’m glad you feel it will help, Theresa. I’ve used it a few times already, with great success. Things I would not have even seen before have become obvious. I hope it’ll do the same for you!

    2. Terry

      My first husband is a narcissist personality. I left him 24 years ago and have recently had to talk to the police as he is getting more aggressive. This last time walked up against my license plate( am from a different province) and up the driveway where my son and myself were watching the grandson play street hockey. This is not coo at all

      1. Adelyn Birch

        He hasn’t given up after 24 years? That says a lot about NPD. I’m sorry you have to continue to deal with it and live with fear of him. I hope the laws in your province help to protect you from him. Best wishes to you and your children.

  5. Dawn

    Oh my goodness— I have lived through these things in relationships over and over again. I am sick to my stomach after reading it & am going to forward it to my best friend as well.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Hi, Dawn. What I tried to do here was to simplify things and get down to the fundamental level of it all. I’m glad you believe it will make a difference for you. I hope it’ll help you break the pattern you’ve been in. A big part of making it work is not second-guessing yourself. You’ve learned a lot from those bad relationships, enough to have confidence in your own perceptions. Best of luck to you.

  6. Tara

    Pathological lying. Mind games. The abuser has odd moodshifts, in which they say bizarre things, even their eyes will change zero look deep into the eyes study these sudden mood shifts, & the direct correlation with the the abusers eyes. I was 17 he was 29; for the first time in my life, the his man seemed so protective of me &not realizing it at the time, my birthfater was completely self centered, emotionally sadistic & absent.. I know now why I as so smitten with my 29yr old boyfriend. I felt that he would protect , & with his rampant possessiveness, there were times he did . Tho my phone parents were unavailable, we basically did whatever we wanted.. but deep inside I wanted them to step, hold me, love me enough to stay home & I keep us kids from attempting to eun our own lives. My ex husband is.thw 1st & last,(that I’m aware of, the eye cold blooded Please PSYCHOPATH, rhat is what can we encountered. We eloped to Cali, which was thousands of miles away -& the he momwnt we hit new Mexico, strange, confusing personalizes first began to emerge. I was independent, & the his wife as cake compared to the true terrorr that lie ahead,in the very near future. Another staple of the he psychopathic personality is the self pity; they carry, their well rehearsed sob story. an unfortunatechildhood neglectful childhood. What I didn’t know then, as they are so deluded,every single sad hurtful , negative life experience, they resent, harbor rage, & blame absolutely everything everybody but themselves. If you’ve never been sucked into their dark vortex of pity, rage, lost childhoods, the hwm I’ve seen firsthand the he sorrow they are able to conjureup in the woman that thinks she loves him. Thwy do & say disturbing things, I zero we ho had suffered, as most of us, In childhood, have honestly never experienced such deep sorrow for another personplus I refused to asky parent for as assistance bc I had chose this, – & I would embrace him, as I had my own eccentricities, but a cruel, deceptive sadisr, is not nor ever has been any part po my true psyche. One thing I heard explained above but not dire fly wordes which seems to be a trait amongst themas blatant as influenza. Mind games . A type of intentionally sadistically pleasurable crazy making confusion causing; Often insulting you your friends, & family members. So the h the overall intent to isolate you, with the intent NB of having uninterrupted control over your life. This is whT they hunger for to inflict pain & confusion on those that the they deem inferior to them; which are the majority of people, as their deep, dangerous zero buried insecurities; has morphed them into bravado, megalomaniacs, barely able to function in society without brwKing out in a sudden, completely shocking rage…

    1. Adelyn Birch

      That’s quite a description, Tara. I’m glad you’re away from him.

  7. Carlos martinez

    Excellent and well written, Priceless information.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Thank you, Carlos, and good luck to you!

  8. TINA

    Isn’t amazing how these empathy less people feel superior, and that the world revolves around them

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Since they don’t have empathy they can’t understand it, and they have no idea what they’re missing.

    2. Terry

      how true people without empathy yes they feel entitled they own the world in their minds

  9. vanessa

    I am SO glad to have found this website. This article about validation/invalidation really ‘hit home’ with me. As a survivor of a long term marriage to an abuser, I can say I was invalidated constantly, often over the smallest of trifles. It sunk my self esteem to the point of almost nothing and I often thought of suicide to end it all. After I did get divorced, I found myself invalidated by friends and family. They either didn’t listen, told me ‘to get over it and move on’ or tried to minimalize it as ‘not being that bad’, etc, hurt a lot. Only books, articles and websites like yours have helped me to understand, heal and keep going. Thank YOU for articles/comments! I need them all.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      You’re welcome, Vanessa, I’m so very glad it’s helping you understand and heal.

  10. Helen

    I have recently left abusive relationship. The man used to make me feel like i was going crazy and i think he enjoyed seeing me this way. The worst thing was that he came to the doctor with me because he wanted to “help”. I had a bad cut in my scalp that had been getting infected for weeks which i didnt realise, but he denied seeing it, which was impossible as we spent a lot of time together, still baffles me how he could pretend not to notice, help or say a word but then deny ever knowing. He protested too much and made out he didn’t know where to look when i asked him to see the injury. Very chilling and still cant understand this? The nurse took a dislike to him i noticed but i didnt get why it until recently. Sounds awful when reading it back but this happened somehow.

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Hi, Helen. When I told the psychopath I knew about an injury I had, his advice was “Why don’t you just forget about it?” It’s hard to understand because you wonder how he could do such a thing if he were the same kind of person you are (one with empathy and all the rest of it). There is just no care or concern from these cold-hearted people. It’s just that simple. I’m really glad to hear you’re not involved with this guy any longer. Best wishes to you.

  11. Adam

    Narssisistic wife n mother of my two children … will they ever change to the person who u know they can be .. she has destroyed everyone and thing put me in jail and is trying to do it again i cant get access to my children I have had to alienate myself from family and friends to stop their hurt and the pain card being played i have lost many jobs and and about to loose family home and in debt to the eyeballs .. but its all everyone elses fault .. she has destroyed the life i had and spent the first 3 years thinking that I was the problem.. people need to be taught about these oxygen theifs .. I had no idea call me stupid but i was blinded …

    1. Adelyn Birch

      Adam, I’m not calling you stupid, and either is anyone else here. I’m sorry to hear of the hell this woman has put you through! I understand that what you’re dealing with is overwhelming, and I hope you have some support. It’s horrible to be left without any, just when you need it most. Unfortunately, that’s the way it goes for many of us. The fallout is often extreme. Have faith that you will develop the strength and resilience you need to get through this, as you go through it. I wish you the best of luck, Adam.

      Sorry for the delay in my reply; your comment was diverted to the spam bin for some reason.

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