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What Are the Signs in an Abusive Relationship?

Updated on December 9, 2012

Domestic Abuse and Domestic Violence


Domestic abuse.  Domestic violence.  What’s the difference?  Domestic abuse is known as spousal abuse.  In domestic abuse, one of the partners will dominate the relationship through control and use of power.  When physical violence is used to control and dominate the other person and the relationship, is known as domestic violence.  

Domestic abuse goes unreported, unnoticed and can even be denied by the abused.  There are several forms of abuse, which include physical, emotional, psychological and financial.  Regardless of the type of abuse, all these are linked to each other as side effects of the others.  In the end, all forms of abuse leave deep scars that take a long time to heal.

There is no specific profile for an abuser.  An abuser can be either male or female.  An abuser can be of any financial status level, religious background, ethnic background, and of any sexual orientation.  Abusers and domestic violence are non-discriminatory.  In this article, “he” can be used interchangeably with “she” and is not being used in any discriminatory fashion. 

The abuser is the one in the relationship who uses physical force, guilt, shame, and threats to keep control over his partner.  The abuser may go as far as threatening others that the abused loves, such as children or other family members, in order to keep a level of fear in the abused as the underlying foundation of his control over her.  The abuser does not abuse out of loss of control of his behaviour but rather through his own choice. 

Let's Look at You


For someone who is already in an abusive relationship, the first step to getting help out of the situation is to recognize the symptoms of an abusive relationship.  For someone who is not in one, then recognizing these symptoms will help prevent one from entering into such a relationship. 

There are many signs of an abusive relationship.  In all relationships, there are two people involved.  There is you and your partner.  As such, let’s discuss emotions and feelings that relate to you. 

The easiest sign to recognize is fear.  Are you afraid of your partner?  Do you walk on egg shells when your partner is around?  Are you afraid of doing/saying the wrong thing?  Are you afraid to speak up for yourself?  Do you do things to avoid a confrontation with your partner?  Do you feel that you cannot do anything right for your partner?  Do you feel that you “deserve” to be hurt or mistreated?  Do you believe that your relationship is “normal” and that you are the crazy one to think that it is not? Do you feel mentally or emotionally numb or frozen?  Are you afraid of your partner’s anger?  Do you fear for your well being?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then the relationship you are in is unhealthy. 

Let's Look at Your Partner


On the other hand, let’s discuss your partner’s behaviours.  Your partner’s behaviour can be categorized into three categories.  The first category relates to belittling behaviours.  Does your partner yell at you?  Does your partner humiliate you in front of friends, family or strangers?  Does your partner negatively over-criticize you?  Does your partner put you down?  Are you embarrassed by his treatment when you are with family and friends?  Are you embarrassed for your family and friends because of his treatment of you?  Does he treat you as a sex object or toy?  Does he treat you like a possession?  Does he ignore your opinions?  Does he put down your accomplishments?  Does he blame you for the way that he behaves? 

The second category relates to controlling behaviour on the part of your partner.  Does he check up on you constantly throughout the day?  Does he ask for a detailed account of your whereabouts?  Does he isolate you from your family and friends?  Does he control who you speak to and see?  Does he limit your access to money?  Do you need to ask to use the phone?  Do you need to ask to drive the car?  Is he obsessive and jealous over you?  Does he allow you privacy?

The last category relates to your partners violent and abusive behaviour.  Does he threaten to hurt or kill you?  Does he threaten to hurt or kill your children?  Does he threaten to hurt or kill himself?  Does he have an unpredictable temper?  Does he have a bad temper? Does he have a violent temper?  Does he threaten to take your children away?  Does he threaten to destroy your property?  Does he destroy your belongings?  Does he force you to have sex? 

I've Answered, Now What??

The questions that have been posed can be used as a checklist for any indicative signs of being in an abusive relationship. An abusive relationship is an unhealthy relationship. In other words, this relationship will not benefit you in any way; rather, it is dangerous to your physical, emotional and financial health. RUN -- don’t walk -- away from this relationship.


Copyright 2009

Category: Domestic Violence


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    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 7 years ago from Canada

      Resilient -- No need to thank me, but I am happy that you are taking the steps towards healing. It will take time and just remember: for every tear shed, you will shed one pound of pain. Keep in touch. :)

    • Resilient profile image

      Resilient 7 years ago from USA

      Thank you for your kind words. It hurts but I understand and get it. I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. Without knowing me you seem to care...its appreciated. I will take the right steps to heal.

      Until later (after some healing took place)

      Thank you again.

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 7 years ago from Canada

      Resilient -- First, do not be ashamed of what happened. There is no shame to bear on your part. Second, do not be embarrassed. Domestic violence runs rampant and it is society's Victorian beliefs that has taught us to keep silent, feel responsible as the cause and to stay when our lives are in jeopardy. Third, what has happened has to happen for the healing to begin. One cannot heal if one has contact of any nature with the offender. You're child will require counselling, but becareful. As in all walks of life, there are those who are skilled and those who are trying to fix themselves through others. For you, you must find the strength and the courage to speak with a counsellor. There is a counsellor out there for you who will sit and just let you say nothing until you are ready to speak. These counsellors are gifted. They have been through what you have and they have walked the talk -- they have healed themselves before healing others.

      Until you heal yourself, your child will remain at risk of being exposed to violence again. If you cannot do this for yourself, then do it to protect your child. The distance that has been forced between you and your partner is a good thing for both of you. It will provide him the time to think of what happened, to seek counselling and time to change. The distance provides a "safe bubble" for everyone to speak, to vent, to cry, to become angry, to discover and to change. This bubble is very important because if we don't feel safe, we cannot take the steps to heal and to change.

      You require communication, but the communication has to begin within yourself. Be honest and truthful with yourself. See who you are. Take the best parts of you and nurture that. Take the less desirable parts and change. This will not happen overnight. It takes months, years and even a lifetime to do. But persist. One small change until it's completed and then go to the next. You child will see you change and become strong with you.

      Please, find a counsellor or even a group to begin with. You don't have to speak the first time. When you are ready, you will know. But go because you will see that you are not alone in this world. We are everywhere and when you need support, the support will appear.

    • Resilient profile image

      Resilient 7 years ago from USA

      Thank you for the quick response Beth100. I apologize for failing to mention we left (my child and I). A mandatory arrest has been made. The judge ordered a stay away order of protection and included everything you can think of even after pleading with the officers not to place an order of protection. There was no need for that. He won't come after me I just know it. This was a big mistake on his part and on my part too since I didn't do everything I could to prevent from this altercation to turn physically violent. Minus his anger issues, he is the man I want to end up spending the rest of my life with. He is a prince on all other means. We are in no danger any longer. However, I can't stop the missing him (not the angry him). My physical wounds are healing the bruises are slowly disappearing. But the missing him won't heal.

      I wish there is a way to fix his anger issues. I'm sure he is deeply hurting for what he did. I'm sure he is honestly dreadfully remorseful. I wish there is a way to heal. I wish there is a way to save the good part of this relationship. If it cannot be saved I wish we could start fresh after the healing takes place and his anger issues under watch and repair.

      I signed up here because I'm afraid to speak in person to anyone about what took place. I'm ashamed and embarrassed of what happened especially because my child witnessed the entire scene. I wish I could take it all back but there is no time machine (at least not yet). I admit my child and I need a therapist ASAP. I will find one for my child but for me I really am not up for talking to one in person. It is too much for me to handle. That is why I came online to see if there are nay groups for healing and repairing from a mess like this. I know he loves us dearly and so do we but now we must live without him for an entire year because of the stay away order. I can't see us healing from this with the order being the wall between us. I am a strong believer in communication without it situations and problems cannot be resolved. Again, I know I need help and am hoping to find it online rather than in person.

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 7 years ago from Canada

      Resilient - Possessiveness comes masked in different forms. Controlling who your friends are, who can interact with, when you can out, who can talk with, control of finances are all different methods of possessiveness. By asking that you "give up" all male friendships is a form of possession, control and a method of isolating you.

      Is there hope after there has been physical and emotional abuse? I would suggest that you seek assistance to see why you are wanting to stay with someone who is an abuser. There is always a reason for this need -- and until this is resolved, no healthy relationship with anyone will come. Your partner will have to do the same -- seek assistance in learning why his anger turned to physical violence. Once again, there is a reason for this and he will not have a healthy relationship with anyone until he resolves these issues.

      If you are in danger of being physically hurt, please physically leave. You can always work out the rest of the relationship after but not if you're beaten, maimed or killed. Take care of yourself first; then resolve the relationship.

    • Resilient profile image

      Resilient 7 years ago from USA

      What if there is no possessiveness, however, there is much anger about the differences of being raised in opposite worlds. Both parties have much devotion, caring and yes true love to one another. The guy guy insists the girl must give up all guy friendships especially those who are married out of respect not of jealousy. The girl goes ahead with it since her love for this man is strong. After a big dispute turned physical, is there hope for a healthy relationship after her lover beats his lover?

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 7 years ago from Canada

      Laura -- Congratulations on your courageous decision!! It is wonderful that you have left your abuser, and have taken your children to a safe place. Surround yourself with support as there is strength in numbers and during moments of weakness, they will lend you their strength to see the truth. You are not alone -- not now, not ever. You have given everyone valuable adivice. Thank you. Believe in yourself, too Laura, and stay strong. May your first steps be in the direction of peace, safety and happiness. Peace and light Laura.

    • profile image

      laura 7 years ago

      i have just left an abusive relationship it was horrible i was so scared for my safety and the safety of my children am doing better now going to a help group with people in the same situation. thank you for advise on your web page it has made me see that it is not just me it happens to a lot of people. a bit of advise for people in the situation remember to stay strong and believe in yourself you can do it

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 7 years ago from Canada

      B4bee -- You are in a very dangerous and percarious situation. I do not know where you live, but in Canada, there are support services to help women and their children to leave their home of violence. These are women shelters and they provide protection through law enforcement officers as well as hidden/secret locations. The women shelters provide for you -- shelter, clothing, food, legal advice, counselling and any basic needs that your child will require. You cannot remain in your situation and it is dangerous for your child too. The child custody had been granted, but there are avenues to overturn the original ruling. Seek legal counsel. If you cannot afford that, call your local legal aid. First, seek protection at a women's shelter. Second, seek legal aid. Third, breathe. I wish you strength, courage and determination to leave your situation. Peace and light.

    • profile image

      B4bee 7 years ago

      I find this very helpful to recognize domestic violence. A couple of very strong categories is belittle, and violence/abuse behaviors...but some control behavior. I am fighting to put a stop from contiune abuses toward me. I am very afraid of him what he will do harm me if I do not want him be part of my life. He will do stalking me until he get his ways. We have a child together and the court do not see it and not helping. I feel I had to remain quite to avoid court. I left him 1 1/2 year ago but he contiune invading my place to fill his empty self esteems to satisfy his needs. Often, he demands his way to enforce me to complice his wishes. I have battle myself many time to avoid him by shut out the blinds and lock the doors. Yet, I always fear of him what he will do to harm me. I feel that it was only thing when the day had come to pass. I would start a new life especially when we are sharing 50/50 custody of our child and it will remain that way until child turn 18.

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 7 years ago from Canada

      FirstStepsFitness - Education is the key -- and I'm a firm believer in this. It is more common than we realize and I am always grateful when a fellow survivor provides wonderful support. Thank you. :)

    • FirstStepsFitness profile image

      FirstStepsFitness 7 years ago

      Welcome to HubPages ! Great Hub it's good to get the word out so many can recognize domestic violence when they are in it . I am a survivor too :)

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 7 years ago from Canada

      Maria -- The first step is recognizing that you are in an abusive relationship, and it appears that you have taken this first step. The second, is to decide if you want to stay in it or leave it. If you decide to leave, then seek help and counsel to ensure that you are safe during this time when you are ending the relationship and for the period after you have ended it. Counselling and support groups will help you stay strong and to see clearly so that you do not go back into this abusive relationship or to enter a new abusive relationship. There is no relationship that is worth putting your very life in danger. I wish you courage and strength so that you may end this and find a much more healthier relationship with another person who will love you and respect who you are. Peace and light Maria.

    • profile image

      maria1837 7 years ago

      I'm glad your wrote this blog. I am in a relationship that I feel is abusive. he explodes for anything. I hv to be so careful what I say. He controls when he sees me, talks to me but when I don't answer my phone, it's an issue. I love him but am wondering if this is worth the aggravation. He's makes me think it is all my fault and not his.

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 8 years ago from Canada

      Gr8legs -- Every word you wrote is the truth. There is much more depth to violence than what I have written, and what I have written is only a small but very important part of the cycle. You found your courage and it took great strength for you to leave your co-dependent relationship. As they say, as long as you are "not healthy", you will only find and maintain "unhealthy" relationships. We choose our friends and our partners because they fit what we are programmed to believe is good for us. Until we accept and understand why we choose the ones we do, we will continue to do so. Congratulations on finding the truth of who you are and for working on a daily basis to be truthful to yourself. Thank you for sharing an important part of your life with me, and with all the readers who come by. Light and peace.

    • Gr8legs profile image

      Gr8legs 8 years ago

      Hi Beth. This is a great hub, well written and concise, with LOTS of VERY useful information.

      The subject of abuse is far more complex than can be covered in hubs like this. As good as it is, the space available to the hubber is a severely limiting factor. One of the areas not covered in this hub is why people become abusers. Children learn about relationships from their parents through a process of social learning, and especially observational learning. Thus, the abused often become abusers. This cycle of abuse has been well documented amongst paedophiles, but also extends to other forms of abuse.

      In my own case, I separated from my wife last year and throughout my life I have had occasional outbursts of a temper-rage. During my marriage this would flare up once, or perhaps twice a year. My ex called it "The Monster". These outbursts were never violent; I have never been violent towards a woman, I abhor violence against women and likewise those who would visit violence upon them. I would flare up, shout and remove myself from the situation to calm down. I always felt very remorseful and would be extremely down on myself after a flare-up. I would always undergo a period of mild depression for a couple of hours following such an event.

      Thus, I would try my utmost to avoid them.

      My former partner came from an abusive household (alcoholic mother, controlling father), but I never saw her as an abuser. During the last year of our marriage, my temper outbursts became more frequent, sometimes once or twice a week. Following the separation, I wrote to her apologising for these and stating that I had come to the realisation that this was a form of abusive behaviour - verbal violence.

      Then came the epiphany. Following further research into abuse and abusive behaviour, along with counselling I had undertaken to help me to deal with this aspect of my make-up, it emerged that the temper-rage was, in fact a protective mechanism - a residual expedient with a final warning of “You’d better back off, or I’m going to explode”, a kind of emotional ‘nuclear deterrent’.

      The reason for the increased incidence of my temper was, it emerged, resultant from the emotional abuse to which I was being subjected. Thus, the more she abused me, the more she invoked my protective mechanism and the more often my temper would flare up. Since the separation I have only become angry once; ten days after I moved out I returned to the house to collect some personal belongings and she succeeded in triggering my temper.

      I have done a lot of work on myself since the split and no longer get angry about anything. I have learned to recognise the signs and to deal with them before they escalate & blow up. My ex continues the abuse, controlling access to and even stopping my access to my children, turning friends against me by recounting my alleged abuse of her, refusal to take on certain financial obligation claiming they are my responsibility (e.g. mortgage repayments on the house she & my kids live in), despite the fact that her income is greater than mine and also via legal channels. She applied for and was granted a restraining order based on lies and gross distortions of half-truths - something I am fighting in the courts.

      She sees herself as the victim and believes this in all honesty. She will not communicate with me in any way, using the restraining order as a means of keeping me at bay. In all earnest, she believes that she is the one who has been abused.

      Snookiecollins, your point on counselling is absolutely right on the money. If you have been abused, you MUST seek counselling to help you to deal with it and to move on.

      One point that is rarely mentioned in discussions on this subject is the effect it has on the abuser. An unhealthy and abusive relationship is detrimental to the wellbeing of BOTH parties - the abused and the abuser.

      I do not despise my ex and I do not blame her. I see her as a victim of abuse, except it is not I who is the abuser, it is her parents. I would dearly like to help her to overcome this hurt she carries and that I see is draining her of her very essence. She used to be a bright, bubbly and vivacious woman. Now she is a bitter, vituperous shadow of her former self who is being drained and drowned by her own anger and vitriol.

      I do not pine for her. I do not love her (as one would a soulmate or loving partner), rather I pity her. I have moved on emotionally. I never thought that I would ever become a victim of abuse, but abuse is an insidious creature that inveigles its way into your life and your being so that you do not see it coming and sometimes you don't recognise it when it is there. It is only when the abuse is removed that the veil is lifted and you can finally see it for what it is. It is poison and it will poison you, if you allow it to.

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 8 years ago from Canada

      Dream On -- Hidden family secrets are the worst things to contend with. A person at the receiving end of abuse can come up with many reasons to justify never leaving as leaving requires courage, strength and support from family/friends. For some, they feel, or are, alone though there are services they can reach out to for support. It's taking the first step that is the most difficult. For those who have escaped their situation, they would never return to it again. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 8 years ago

      Your hub brings the issues that many people cover and try to hide.Unfortunately there are some people that never leave and their chidlren suffer now and in the future.Some think for finacial reasons they can not leave and lose what they have and will accept there own emotional fate.My heart goes out for the people who don't listen to reason and think they are still some how in love.

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 8 years ago from Canada

      MPG -- Yes, some people mix the emotions of love and fear. It is difficult to discern between the two when the partner confuses them with words and opposite actions. It also doesn't help when one is growing up and these two words are tagged to the wrong emotions. I haven't seen the movie Precious, though I have heard that it is an excellent movie. I may just go and watch that this weekend. Thank you for great response.

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      It is incredible what some people will do the ones they 'love' and I'm horrified every time I read or see something to do with domestic violence. I recently went to see the movie 'Precious' and was horrified as to what her parents did to you. I'm sure this hub will help many, well done beth100.

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 8 years ago from Canada

      MG -- There were fantastic hubs written that week, and every one of them is a must read. And yes, I am hoping that all who read will benefit. Thanks for your comments and for dropping by.

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 8 years ago from Texas

      Great Hub on DV, I don't know how I missed commenting when the HubMobsters were writing these. Of course there were quite a few great hubs that week and hopefully someone attempting to leave and or recovery from domestic violence will benefit from our writings. Again a great hub, thanks for sharing!

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 8 years ago from Canada

      Janiek13 -- Congratulations for leaving the relationship! I'm happy that you're safe. And yes, the emotional scars will remain forever. For me, it's a reminder of what to look for and what not to repeat.

    • janiek13 profile image

      Mary Krenz 8 years ago from Florida's Space Coast

      Except for the physical part, you hit the nail on the head. I am six months out of the relationship, but the emotional scars will be there forever.

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 8 years ago from Canada

      Fastfreta -- All women, and men, should become aware of the signs. So often, we think that only women are the abused. However, men are just as vulnerable as women. Thank you for your positive comments.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 8 years ago from Southern California

      Beautiful, very well written. I especially like the tips on how to tell if your partner is an abuser. I think all women should read this hub, whether they think they are in an abusive relationship or not. It's really a little frightening. Very, very good.

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 8 years ago from Canada

      CC_18 -- Awareness is a key to prevention, which is what I believe in. Thank you for your supportive comment.

    • CC_18 profile image

      CC_18 8 years ago from Scotland

      This is really good and helpful for people. also for people who do not know much about this. xXx

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 8 years ago from Canada

      Hey Cags, I try to make a difference in one person's life every day. It's important to me to give back since I have been given so much. I'm honored that you're a fan (and I'm glad to be one of yours!)

    • Cagsil profile image

      Cagsil 8 years ago from USA or America

      Hey Beth, I was hubbing around my fans Hubs and I ran across this one. I'm glad to see that someone is trying to help others, especially about a confusing subject like the differences between abuses. I enjoyed reading your work. Thank you so much. Glad to be your fan.

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 8 years ago from Canada

      SnookieCollins -- I am proud of you too!!! You are right about the after effects. The memories linger and at times, the nightmare seems to continue in the mind. We are fortunate that in today's society it is no longer a "no no" to speak about what happened or to seek therapy/counselling. Find your voice and take your power back.

      Thank you Snookie for your wonderful comments.

    • snookiecollins profile image

      snookiecollins 8 years ago from SmallTown, USA

      yep... Been there - DONE with that!

      We may have more in common than we realized Beth...

      As a fellow survivor, I am PROUD of you!

      Not all of us make it out...(alive even)

      And a sidenote here, Even IF a person is able to leave and break it off for good. -- THE Memories are STILL always going to be there. So please anyone in that situation, continue with your counseling/therapy to deal with the "after-effects"...

      MUCH Love & Blessings to ALL victims and survivors who are dealing with this issue.

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 8 years ago from Canada

      Steven -- That's one of the happier endings I have heard. I'm happy for her and for you. For a person to have that kind of strength and courage to walk away could never fail at anything they set their mind to. The hardest task is to face the truth and walk.

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 8 years ago

      Thanks beth. yeah she did. in fact, after she divorced my father, he said that she would never make it without him, but she ended up proving him wrong. finding a better job than him and now she's engaged to a guy that treats her better.

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 8 years ago from Canada

      Kimberly -- This was one of the harder hubs I have written simply because of the emotions that still bubble up. However, I'm relieved to have been able to put pen to paper and complete this task. I'll be looking forward to reading yours! Good luck with it!

      Godlittlechild -- My goal with this is to provide the information to anyone who may already be involved in an abusive relationship, but even more importantly, to provide information to help those who are not in one to avoid becoming involved in one. I'm hoping that this article blankets both ends of the spectrum. Thank you.

      Steven -- Thanks, again, for your support. I hope that your mom found the courage, strength and support to walk away from it before it became violent. She certainly raised a good man.

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 8 years ago

      wow, thats a very informative. to be honest, my mom was in a abusive relationship for a while when she was married to my dad, and she had all those signs happen when they were together. good call on this one

    • Godslittlechild profile image

      Godslittlechild 8 years ago

      I'm sure this hub will help people in that situation when they read it and help family members recognize when someone needs help as well. Great hub, great information!

    • profile image

      lyricsingray 8 years ago

      Great job on writing this it's not easy - I'm going to try and tackle mine tonight! Your Hub was really informative, thanks fellow HUBMOBSTER, kimberly

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 8 years ago from Canada

      I am, too, Dohn hoping that this will help someone become aware that they may be in an abusive relationship. It's very difficult to leave one once you are in one and even more difficult to see the truth in the relationship.

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      You were very thorough in asking your questions, Beth. I hope that this helps those who are in an abusive relationship but aren't aware of it.


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