Should we be surprised that a man who abuses women – emotionally, mentally or physically – would also exhibit the same destructive behavior toward the men they know?
Yes, men abuse other men as well as women. Abusive, often narcissistic men don’t limit their maladaptive behavior to one gender. Their desire to control others and cause damage to others knows no bounds. I am a heterosexual male and a survivor of abusive relationships. For years, I did not realize the negative consequences of the abuse I had suffered at the hands and minds of women with whom I had been involved with romantically. Admitting to myself that I had established a pattern of entering relationships with women who harmed me emotionally, mentally and physically was a difficult, and probably life-saving, revelation.
But, that was only the beginning.
In time, I discovered that being an abuse magnet did not end with women. Some of my male friends – including the person I considered my very best friend – were using me to further their own destructive agenda. As men, it’s not easy to admit that we’re being abused by anyone, female or male. But many of us are. No matter how harsh this truth is, we must face the fact that men will abuse men – especially within a Bromance. Once we wake up to this reality, it’s not hard to recognize.
Before the list, remember that you are worthy of healthy, uplifting, strong relationships with your male friends. True Bromances are great and you deserve respect and happiness from them. No matter what you think you are receiving from an abusive relationship, it’s not worth the cost. Get out now and establish No Contact with your abuser.
- They Take Charge of Your Life. Essentially, this is about having a one person entourage: you. He decides when you’ll be going to the gym together, when you’ll go get a beer, what videos games you’ll play. He may have more money than you. This often sets up the “Golden Rule” dynamic between men: He who has the gold makes the rules. Soon, he’ll be telling you what to do with your time even when you’re not hanging out.
- They have temper outbursts. It may be short, disguised as humor, or outright rage. If your friend suddenly starts swearing, punching things, kicking doors or exhibiting any sudden outbursts of severe anger or violence – not necessarily directed at you – he is revealing issues and behavior that will eventually be aimed at you as your friendship deepens.
- They use violent or demeaning language. If your friend uses terrible words and language when speaking about other people (women, LGBT, minorities, etc.) it points to more than just ignorance. It signifies hate – for others and himself. This kind of verbal abuse will eventually find its way to you. And hate of this kind is diabolical. It’s an acceptable, verbal cancer on relationships and your emotional well-being.
- They have a sexist attitude. Does your friend confide in you that women or gay men are in any way less worthy or valuable as “us guys?” Does he subtly give signs that he expects you to agree with this perspective? If he thinks he has privilege over others, he will take privilege over you in short order.
- They insult you. Is your friend beginning to put you down for your opinions or laugh at what you believe in? Does he degrade your education, work, political outlook, religion, or even the TV shows you watch? Remember, out of massive insecurity, he has to control every life aspect of people around him. He will think nothing of belittling you into seeing things his way.
- They establish dependency. Does he make you dependent on him financially, socially, professionally, recreationally, etc.? Your Bromance friend is trying to convince you that you can’t get along in the world without his help.
- They ridicule you. Does he make fun of you, especially in public? If he is using you as the butt of his jokes or revealing private or embarrassing things about you, it’s not in fun. That’s called bullying. And bullying isn’t just a problem for kids. It continues long into adulthood. Abusers were bullies as kids. That part of them never grew up.
- They distance you from certain relations. Does he devalue outside relationships that he did not initiate? Part of his control will be to surround you with ‘his’ people. He doesn’t want you to have the autonomy to make your own friendships or romantic ties. He will go to great lengths to make sure your own relationships suffer.
- They have an abusive background. Was your friend abuses or neglected as a child or did he witness his mother or siblings being hit as a child? If not dealt with, they may continue that curse through every major relationship for remainder of their life.
- They blame other people. Does your friend blame other people, other religions, other political ideologies, etc. for everything that is wrong in their life and the world? If they aren’t willing to take responsibility, the blame will once again be laid on you.
- Substance abuse: Does his behavior change – and get worse – when they drink or take other mind altering substances? Does this include becoming verbally or physically abusive? Obviously, this is a huge problem for them. But when it’s combined with the other signs listed here, it becomes a big problem for you. And if you’re being abused, it’s not your problem to deal with.
- They track you. Does your friend frequently and casually ask where you are, what you’re doing and where you’re going? They will tell you, “I’m just looking out for you, bud.” But they’re not. They’re looking for you, not out for you. This is born from insecurity and a lack of trust. They may even call or drop by unexpectedly to “see what’s up.” That’s what texting is for. It’s not part of a Bromance. It’s stalking.
- They are self-centered. Does everything revolve around your friend with no consideration for you, for anyone or for simple morals and ethics? They expect you to meet their needs with no responsibility or gratitude on their part. They put the responsibility for their happiness and moods squarely on you. And if they believe the rules don’t apply to them, then you’re probably dealing with a narcissist. Note: There is no safe way to have a relationship with a narcissist. Get out. Get far away. Stay away forever.
- They cheat. Does your friend cheat on his wife or girlfriend? Is he bragging about it? This demonstrates a lot of deep character flaws. If you’re sticking around, then you’re complicit in the terrible pain he’s causing. And he wants you to stick around to validate his behavior.
- They defame you. Does your friend use social networking to tear down others? Be aware, they will do the same thing to you when you finally end the relationship. They will contact your other friends, your business associates, your family, your pastor . . . anyone who knows you. They’ll send emails, texts, and messages on Facebook. Sometimes they’ll call and leave messages. Oddly, this is their way of trying to draw you back into the relationship. It’s like they’re reaching out of your friendship’s grave.
- They make threats. Does your friend make threats against others or you? This is an extraordinarily powerful danger sign. It doesn’t have to be physical threats. It can be threats to embarrass you, ruin you financially or professionally, or wreck your other relationships. This can happen during the Bromance, but is especially evident after you cut things off.
And one other thing . . . They may want more than friendship. Does your friend want to become physical with you? Keep in mind, he is coming from a place that is not clear to even him. His desires to control, manipulate, and express his idea of a “Bromance,” may include an unwanted physical relationship with you, however fleeting. If you’re a straight man and want to know how women feel when men are hitting on them, especially in the most coercive, subtle ways, then wait until a man hits on you when you’ve been clear that’s not what you want. It is the most indescribably awkward moment of your life. But, if this is part of your Bromance friend’s agenda, he’ll eventually make his move. There’s no way to be ready for it. Except to recognize you should have been long gone by then.
All relationships, including Bromances, have many variations. The warning signs I’ve described here apply to all genders and gender preferences. Few of us have considered the fact that we might be adult, male victims of an abusive relationship. It took me too long to recognize it happened to me. Don’t wait. There is no shame in this, just healing.