Warning signs of an abusive personality

signs of an abusive relationship
signs of an abusive relationship

Finding yourself in an abusive relationship can happen to anybody, despite race, gender, size or even strength, and most often the level of abuse can build so slowly that it’s not always recognised as the dangerous behaviour that it is until it’s too late.

So learning what the warning signs of an abusive personality are may help us keep ourselves, family and friends safe.

12 Warning signs of an abusive partner

1. History of past battering

Be it their parent when they were a child or they themselves were the abuser in past relationships, this can be of significant importance in helping to decide if your partner may be a risk to you.

As children from abusive homes are 30% more likely to become abusers themselves, and those who can admit to hitting others often blame their victim and only with trained help and real effort can these lifestyles be turned around.

Threats can soon become actions
Threats can soon become actions

2. Breaking objects

Lashing out at mundane objects may at first seem like the lesser of two evils, it is in fact a clear sign of a lack of control that could easily escalate to violence on those closest to the person,

It can also be seen as scare tactic, an unspoken implied threat against you, meant to keep you on edge of what they may be capable of.

3. Threats of Violence

This one clearly stands on its own merit, and should never be underestimated when used against you.

An abusive personality will often use the threat of violence to get their own way, “So help me if you don’t…” Other threats can include blackmail to get what they want. “I’ll tell unless you do…” All used to try to control you, sabotaging your self-esteem along the way. Making it easier for when the threats turn to actions.

4. Controlling behaviour

A well-known sign of an abusive partner is there need to control aspects of the others life, this can start out ‘small’ growing over time, helping to create an atmosphere of total isolation that you may not even realise until it is too late.

Signs of control can be insisting that all your spare time is spent with them (sometimes even encouraging you to quit your job) doing what they want, an abusive personality will make an effort to control the money and how shared items are used, they can go through your email and phone messages in an effort to keep tabs and will call many times in one day just to check in and see where you are up to etc…

5. Unreasonable jealousy

Showing signs of jealousy is not always a sign of an abusive partner but unreasonable jealously is. Being jealous of time spent with friends and family is just one example of unreasonable jealously, an abusive personality will see you as their property and will grow angry if they perceive you flirting or communicating with other men or women. (justified or not) May always need to know where you are going and who you will see, a sure sign of their growing need to control you.

verbal abuse
verbal abuse

6. Verbally abusive

Name calling and emotional cutting remarks are a form of abuse in their own right, and using a joking tone to cover a hurtful remark doesn’t make it any easier for those close to the abusive personality to understand why they are being targeted.

This form of abuse is always hidden and can often take place in front of others as they belittle your feelings, concerns, family and friends all in an effort to undermine your self-confidence giving them the upper hand in the relationship.

7. Use of force during arguments

This can be anything from physical intimidation (standing over you) to actually laying hands on you, be it to shake, push you or even to keep you from leaving by locking or blocking the doorway.

This type of behaviour is again a clear sign of an abusive personality and will escalate in time to more types of violence.

8. Throwing blame

When confronted with their actions abusers will most likely blame their behaviour on somebody else, “If you hadn’t made me so mad…” or even lying altogether, but very rarely taking responsibility for what they say or do. This can even extend to how they describe their previous partners, blaming the relationship problems on them and casting themselves in the best possible light.

9. Cruelty to animals and even children

Someone with an abusive personality may be extreme in what they expect children and small animals to do, punishing them almost brutally for even the most minor infraction. And more often than not an abuser will refuse to have much to do with either one, wanting both pets and animals out of their way most of the time.

It’s important to note here that over 50% of abusers who beat their partners will also beat their children,

10. Substance abuse

Often someone with an abusive personality can have a problem with alcohol or illegal drugs. This can add to the danger of the situation raising the likelihood of violence and emotional abuse to those around them as the drugs and alcohol can take away inhabitations they may have and get in the way of clear thinking. All of which can make a bad situation escalate quickly.

11. Rushes to commit

An early warning sign of an abusive partner is how quickly they see and seek commitment, even if it’s not there yet.

Often they are in a hurry to speed the relationship to the next level quickly. This can be an offer of marriage, eagerness for a baby or the act of moving in together. Any one of these can be enough for them to feel they have gained complete control over you, allowing the abuse to escalate to a new level.

12. Hypersensitive

The hypersensitive person tends to take everything as an attack, often lashing out over unpredictable things, and is always ready for a fight. This will of course interfere when it comes to talking about relationship issues openly. As due to a low self-esteem they take everything personally and will quickly throw the blame often onto their partner.

An abusive personality can seem too good to be true at first, charming as they explain that any “controlling nature” is just them taking good care of you because they love you so much, but as time moves on their actions may get more severe, more demanding as they seek more control over your actions and life, and before you may even realise you can find yourself in an abusive relationship.

If someone you know or even your own partner has three or more of these warning signs (or one really exaggerated) then you may be dealing with a potential abuser.

Leaving an abusive relationship can be hard (especially if you still love them) and it can be dangerous, as leaving can trigger the next step in violence even if none has occurred yet so it’s best to be prepared if that is what you decided to do.

How to escape a bad marriage

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Comments 32 comments

abbykorinnelee profile image

abbykorinnelee 4 years ago from Ripon Wisconsin

Read a book on how to identify if you are in a verbally abusive relationship; everyone should read it, you would be very unlikely to fall into the trap of a relationship with them if you knew what to avoid when you see the personality characteristics...they are obvious but only once you are educated to them.

ImKarn23 profile image

ImKarn23 4 years ago

History of past battery - check..

Controlling behavior - check..

Unreasonable jealous, Verbally abusive, Throwing blame, Substance abuse(alcohol, coke), and Hypersensitive!

Check, check, check, check, and check..

Which is why - i finally 'checked' out!

(and - we weren't married OR even living together...)

EXCELLENT hub...sharing forward..

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lovedoctor926 4 years ago

Excellent hub! Let's say you've been going out with someone for a long time and the person in my case a guy is on his best behavior and while you are dating, you never spot these signs, but as soon as you get married, then you start seeing a different side of him. I've heard and read stories about this. I mean, nobody should have to put up with this behavior and filing for divorce when you haven't even been married for a year.

ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 4 years ago

Nighthag , having seen this "up close ", I understand the need for so much more communication about abuse , what I cannot understand is how regularly it still goes on , why , with all the info , education , resourses ! Yet the cycle remains ! Awesome hub !

tinamariemiller profile image

tinamariemiller 4 years ago from Peoria, AZ

Excellent hub! Voted up.

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heatherdos 4 years ago

You got it!

always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

I have been there and done that. Very informative hub. Thank you.

nighthag profile image

nighthag 4 years ago from Australia Author


sounds like a good book, I would be interested in the title if you recall it.

I have always been a big believer in forewarned is forearmed so that our chances are raised when it comes to dealing with situations such as this ...

thanks for taking the time to read I appreachiate it

nighthag profile image

nighthag 4 years ago from Australia Author


I am sorry to hear of your past relationship but I am very happy to hear that you have moved forward without it or him. Well done!

thank you so much for taking the time to read and for sharing on... thanks

nighthag profile image

nighthag 4 years ago from Australia Author


nobody ever expects prince charming to become the villain of the story, but it does happen that they can keep hidden this side of their personality until they have you completely trusting them. and then and only then do they reveal who and what they are capable of being. I am sorry that this was your story, but I applude your bravery in freeing yourself from an unhappy future...

nighthag profile image

nighthag 4 years ago from Australia Author


nothing hurts more than to see someone you love in a situation such as this, (it is in fact one of the reasons I have written this) and sometimes they don't even realise that what is happening is indeed abuse. but hopefully the more the message gets out and the louder its given we may help the change along a bit faster..

nighthag profile image

nighthag 4 years ago from Australia Author


thank you so much for taking the time to read and the vote up!

nighthag profile image

nighthag 4 years ago from Australia Author


thank you ... that is appreaciated

nighthag profile image

nighthag 4 years ago from Australia Author

Always exploring

I have family living in this situation at the moment and its breaking my heart for them.

thank you for taking the time to read this your opinion is greatly valued

faithbuilder23 profile image

faithbuilder23 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

Great hub!!! The information is very helpful for those is an abusive relationship. Voted up!!!!

abbykorinnelee profile image

abbykorinnelee 4 years ago from Ripon Wisconsin

"The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize it and How to Respond" by Patricia Evans. Available in local bookstores, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for sure. I have it on one of my hubs as available through amazon. It helped me a year after my divorce, still trying to get him to come back and thinking it was my fault, I blamed his PTSD, I blamed myself and I tried to change things I was doing. A year after we were divorced...almost two after he walked out, I realized, like a smack in the face after reading it, that was my relationship...with him, the boyfriend before him, with a family member....its really good in my opinion, though a little repetitive and I don't believe they change or that you should stay and waste learning how to respond...lol...but! it is an excellent book for those that aren't sure what verbal abuse is.

acaetnna profile image

acaetnna 4 years ago from Guildford

OMG such a completely informative hub. Thank you.

nighthag profile image

nighthag 4 years ago from Australia Author


I have wanted to write this hub for a while now, I hope that it may help inform about what an abusive personaility is capable of.


thank you for the title of what sounds like a really good enlightening read, I am glad to hear of your growing personal strength and freedom, it can sometimes be hard to know that what we are living with is indeed abuse, thank you for sharing a snippet of your story here...


knowledge is indeed power and in a situation like abuse every bit of information is helpful. thank you for stopping in

phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 4 years ago from United Kingdom

It's easy to see how people can fall into this trap. I've met my share of men like this. They offer you the world on a silver platter but forget to mention there is a price. Funnily enough, this is the very tactic that sends me running in the opposite direction.

Well-written and informative hub. Voted up, useful and interesting.

nighthag profile image

nighthag 4 years ago from Australia Author


So many of us are vulnerable to the charming stranger promises of a better life, but your right the price is way too high,

We need to share the knowledge and our instincts with others as forewarned is forearmed

Thanks so much for the votes up and the visit :)

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Ausseye 3 years ago

Hi NightCold:

A world of hidden pain is never an easy picture and unfortunately not all that uncommon. It seems that 12-15% of sociopaths and psychopaths that you so well described are causing a great deal of pain for many more in the rest of the populations. There is a site called, LoveFraud , totally devoted to people that have found themselves victims of such harm, a support site and very well informed. Lifeline, domestic violence mandating and many social active actions are all devoted to victims of such relationships, alas too many experiences of the darker side. The link is attached below, all you need to do is paste it into the address bar:


If only the site wasn’t needed, the same for Lifeline, humanity might just break out the champagne! Felt your effort worthy and the site grand.

nighthag profile image

nighthag 3 years ago from Australia Author


thank you for taking the time to read this, perhaps if more of us are aware of these types of people we can safeguard our friends and family a bit more.

thanks for the link to the support site lovefraud I will be sure to check it out soon

thanks again for your very thoughtful comment

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 3 years ago from North Carolina

What an informative and useful hub, Nighthag. I recognize many of these signs in my young nephew, whom I'm raising. His father was an abuser, but my nephew was removed from the home at not even a year old...

UP/U/I/ and sharing.

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SandCastles 3 years ago

A valuable hub for sure. These red flags can mean someone is abusive.

Jersey girl 3 years ago

I am recovering from a terrible ordeal, it's taken me over 40 years to meet who I thought was my soul mate and best friend - but after a 24 hour drinking spree last week ( he should have been at work for the latter part of it) he became nasty, paranoid and ended up hurting me and attempting to attack my son. The sad thing is - had my son/neighbours not become involved, I would probably still be with him. Despite my teenage son being totally devastated - he has actually saved me in so many ways and I had to make the decision to walk away. This was a regular occurrence involving alcohol, but never on this level

Knowing I'm not alone really helps

nighthag profile image

nighthag 3 years ago from Australia Author


It's always been amazing to me how much children and infants learn from the world we present them, and in cases of abuse it's violence and pain they learn,

I'm sorry to hear of you nephews troubles, maybe a form of counselling might go a long way in helping him learn to control these behaviours before they control him...

Thanks so much for the votes up I am glad this was of use

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 3 years ago from North Carolina

Nighthag-When J came to my home in the summer of '09 he began to exhibit these behaviors 'after the honeymoon period' of settling in was over. Even before he arrived at my home, while my father was still raising him, we had him in therapy.

What complicates the personality disorder is the neurological damage he sustained when he was born, the abandonment he endured at a few months old when his parents (my youngest brother and his partner), left him alone in his playpen while they went to play Bingo! After the social service dept removed him from their home my parents were first Foster parents and then adopted him. He arrived at my home after my father died and the assigned guardian, (another relative), was unable to deal with J's many, many problems.

I'll give you his latest meltdown: Saturday, May 4th, Prom night. He was a bundle of nerves all day long. I gave him an over the counter benadryl to help him relax, which helped, but the rage is always under the surface and ready to spew out at whomever happens to be closest; in this case it was myself and my friend. It didn't matter if we were helping him or not.

When we were on our way, (J does not drive), I had not gone a mile when I asked if he had the tickets-holy cats! You would have thought I had stabbed him in his chest.

Besides attending therapy, which has NEVER helped because he can't seem to learn from his patterns of behavior, he is on medication. Ooops, I mean he is supposed to take medication. HOWEVER, he is not compliant. Not only does he 'forget', even though the meds are on the kitchen table in a weekly pill holder, there is a part of him, (this narcissistic and arrogant 'voice'), that has him convinced he doesn't need it...why? because that would mean he is 'crazy'.

It has been extremely helpful that I have worked wth the mentally ill population for as long as I have-heard it and saw it all. I call him on his excuses, attempt to guide him towards a functional life, and have learned to let go of guilt and over control.

This June he will be graduating. My siblings never thought he would get this far; my friend, who house shares with me, and helps me when I need help with J, has tipped his hat to me for having the commitment to get him through high school. Against my other relatives encouragement to "walk away", I was determined not to 'abandon' him once again without finishing the job I had started. I am probably the only one he really has...my parents are dead and his parents are caught in their own mental health issues.

I'm not saying all of this to 'brag', but to let you know, via details of his life history, that re: your suggestion-YES, therapy is a must do. When someone is this messed up, he really needs a group home or an inpatient hospitalization, however, the mental health funding is really scant.

Thank you for responding to my comment and I hope you have a very calm week ahead of you. :)

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SandCastles 3 years ago

I'm so impressed Denise that you have the strength to call a spade a spade even when the person is your younger brother (when you said he was an abuser). My aunt would never acknowledge my father's abuse (her brother) and would tell me to just 'focus on the positive', which is hard when someone is smashing you into a wall. I hope your nephew appreciates all that you've done for him.

nighthag profile image

nighthag 3 years ago from Australia Author

Jersey girl

I am so very sorry to hear of your recent troubles, it's a common thing that we often don't feel worthy of better treatment, that we are willing to take being abused so as not to be alone.

Be proud of yourself for taking the stand to change it, walking away is the right thing to do even if its the hardest thing you have ever done

Reach out for help if you need it, as you say you are not alone and there are many resources available to help

nighthag profile image

nighthag 3 years ago from Australia Author


You certainly seem to have a handle on what you are doing to help your nephew

It has always fascinated and amazed me how people can be so callous in their treatment of each other and the precious lives they create.

Bless you for the love and care that you are giving everyday to this troubled boy, if only others understood the damage that abuse and neglect can cause

epbooks profile image

epbooks 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

Very interesting hub. I know some people who have gone through this and didn't initially recognize the signs. This should be given to everyone starting out in a relationship (especially teens who may be entering their first serious relationship)! Voted up.

nighthag profile image

nighthag 3 years ago from Australia Author


I agree that we need to be teaching our children more about the dangers that some relationships can bring,

I'm glad you found this interesting ...thanks for the votes up!!

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