According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on average, nearly 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute. This equates to over 10 million men and women being abused by their partners in a single year.
While these types of relationships may be relatively common, they are not an acceptable type of relationship. However, because abuse can take many different forms, it can be difficult to spot an abusive relationship — especially in the beginning. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a number of common signs to keep an eye out for as you are starting a new relationship or even if you’ve been in a relationship for years.
10 Signs of an Abusive Relationship
So, without further ado, here are some of the most common signs of an abusive relationship.
1. Controlling Behavior
Abuse is all about power dynamics and control. If you are noticing that your partner is trying to limit how often you are leaving the house, where you are going, and who you are seeing, as well as controlling your finances or constantly checking in on your online activity, they are trying to control you.
This behavior may start off as smaller, more “innocent” gestures, such as always wanting to spend time with you or calling and texting you when you are not with them. However, this controlling behavior can escalate quickly and dramatically.
Here are some examples of controlling behaviors to keep an eye out for:
- Reading all of your text messages or social media messages.
- Showing up unannounced (an uninvited) to your work or when you are out with friends or family.
- Not allowing you to talk or hang out with some (or all) of your friends.
- Taking away your car keys or checking your GPS to see if you’ve gone anywhere they don’t approve of.
- Being upset if you do not consult them before making decisions.
2. Extreme Jealousy
Jealousy is a common sign of lack of trust and insecurity — but oftentimes an abuser will spin it as a “sign of love.” This jealousy can be over your interactions with friends, family, or anyone else and oftentimes the abuser will accuse their victim of flirting or leading other people on.
3. “Good Cop, Bad Cop”
Let’s just be clear here. There should be no good cop, bad cop in your intimate relationships. This is an incredibly unhealthy dynamic that juxtaposes the abuser’s extremely charming side with an explosive angry side. This juxtaposition is often correlated with partners who physically abuse their partners.
4. Isolating You From Others
This is a widely used tactic that abusers use to keep the friends and family of their victims from knowing that they are being abused. Essentially, through manipulation and subtle suggestions, an abuser will discourage their victims from contacting and spending time with their loved ones so that the abuse can go unnoticed.
Unfortunately, this manipulation is not always in overtly obvious ways. Sometimes abusers will use more “gentle” methods to discourage their victims from seeing their families or friends. For example, they may say things like “please stay at home with me” or “don’t you want to stay with me?” when you are trying to go out to see others.
5. Rushed Involvement
A lot of times abusers will rush into relationships so that they can more easily (and quickly) gain control over their victims without them noticing any of the red flags.
If you’re feeling rushed into a relationship, take some time to consider why your partner may be in such a hurry. Additionally, you need to recognize if the speed in which the relationship is progressing is comfortable for you or not.
The reality is, if your partner is unwilling to accept that you need more time or you would like to enter the relationship more slowly, then it is a warning sign of abuse and that relationship is not going to be healthy.
6. Verbal Abuse
If your partner is using verbal abuse, such as insults and name-calling, it shows a lack of respect for you. Constant insults can also lower your self-esteem which can lead to an unhealthy cycle of self-deprecating behavior that is continuously perpetuated by your partner’s devaluing of you.
There is never a time when your partner (or you) should be using insults or name-calling with each other.
7. Breaking Property
Property damage is a way for your partner to cause fear and show their control over you. While there are times of course when your partner may accidentally break something and not mean anything by it — like dropping a glass into the sink where it shatters — intentionally breaking your property as a means to limit your independence or threaten you is a clear sign of abuse.
8. Threatening Violence
If your partner is making threats toward you this can be an incredibly dangerous sign of potential physical violence in the future. Threats can come in a number of different forms, but some actions to keep an eye out for are:
- Verbally threatening to injure or kill you, even if said while joking.
- Showing you a weapon or pointing a weapon at you.
- Threatening to injure or kill any of your family members or loved ones.
- Threatening to injure or kill themselves.
- Threatening to injure or kill a pet, or even actually injuring a pet.
Even if the threats never actually come to physical violence, they are still a form of abuse and constant or even intermittent threats can cause increased levels of anxiety or paranoia.
9. Coercing You into Sexual Intimacy
No matter how often (or un-often) you and your partner are being sexually intimate, you should never feel pressured or guilted into performing sexual activities with them.
Any kind of sexual pressure — whether emotional or physical — can be a very clear sign of abuse because it demonstrates that your partner does not respect your wishes or hear your desires (or lack thereof). Anytime your partner is forcing you to perform sexual acts is an instance of emotional (and sometimes also physical) abuse and can also be considered sexual assault.
10. Physical Violence
This is the sign that most people think of when they think of abusive relationships or warning signs of abuse. If your partner is physically hurting you, it shows you that they are not respectful of your personal space or your well-being.
Oftentimes physical abuse will start off with smaller acts — such as threats, pinching, or grabbing — and then will escalate over time as the abuser sees that they can get away with these previous acts.
So, it is extremely important that even if you are thinking that what you are experiencing is not “as bad” as someone else has it, you understand that this is an incredibly clear sign of an abusive relationship and you should consider seeking help.
While a lot of times with relationships, therapists will recommend couples therapy or relationship therapy, if you suspect that you are in an abusive relationship it is best to seek individual support. You can talk to a therapist or reach out to a national hotline or a domestic violence center like Weave Inc. Just know that you do not have to experience this alone. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow to talk to a therapist or even to find out more actions that you can take or simply get answers to some questions.