14 Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship

  1. Quick involvement
    Short, quick dating cycle prior to engagement or living together. Often the abuser will pressure the victim to commit to the relationship quickly and make the victim feel guilty for wanting to slow the pace or end the relationship.
  2. Jealousy
    The abuser will equate jealously with love, accuse the victim of flirting, spending too much time with others, being unfaithful, may call/text the victim frequently during the day, drop by unexpectedly, refuse to let the victim work, check the car mileage, or ask friends to watch the victim. It’s a sign of unhealthy possessiveness and a lack of trust.
  3. Controlling behavior
    Initially, may express concern for the victim (safety, friends, children or decision-making skills). Abusers control is progressive and may take over finances or prevent the victim from coming and going freely.
  4. Isolation
    Abuser will attempt to isolate the victim. May sever ties to outside support and resources. The batterer will accuse the victim’s friends and family of being “trouble makers.” The abuser may block the victim’s access to use of a vehicle, work, or telephone service in the home.
  5. Unrealistic expectations
    An abuser expects the victim to meet all of the abuser’s needs–emotionally and domestically.
  6. Blames others for problems and feelings
    Abuser will blame the victim for almost anything and will use feelings to manipulate the victim.
  7. Hypersensitivity
    An abusive person is easily insulted; perceives common setbacks as personal attacks.
  8. Cruelty to animals or children
    Punishes animals brutally or is insensitive to their pain. Abuser may expect children to perform beyond their capability (whipping a 2 yr. old for wetting a diaper or teasing a child until they cry).
  9. “Playful” use of force in sex
    Includes restraining partners against their will during sex, acting out fantasies in which the partner is helpless, initiating sex when the partner is asleep, or demanding sex when the partner is ill or tired. Shows little concern for his partner’s wishes and uses sulking and anger to manipulate.
  10. Verbal abuse
    Says things that are cruel and hurtful, cursing or degrading the victim, or putting down the victim’s accomplishments. Accuses victim of things that are false; belittles her, shares her private moments and secrets with others against her wishes, insist on always being right.
  11. Rigid sex roles
    A male abuser will see women as inferior to men, responsible for menial tasks, stupid, and unable to be a whole person without a relationship.
  12. Dual personality “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”
    Explosive frightening behavior and moodiness, shifts quickly to congeniality, are typical of people who beat their partners.
  13. Past battering
    An abuser will beat any partner if the individual is involved with the abuser long enough for the cycle of abuse to begin. Circumstances do not make a person an abusive personality.
  14. Threats of violence or force during an argument and breaking things
    Any threat of physical force meant to control the partner. May involve holding down his victim, physically restraining them from leaving, or pushing or shoving. Breaking sentimental possessions is also used as punishment or to terrorize the victim into submission.

This is not a comprehensive list but a means to identify symptoms that may lead to danger. Take some time to evaluate if your relationship is healthy and encourages your gifts and talents to flourish. Recognizing these signs before the stress from abuse causes illness, depression, or death. No one wants to live in fear and anxiety from being in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship.


By Sally Betters, Certified Life Coach