How to Recognize a Potentially Abusive Relationship

I like to write about how to recognize potential abuse in relationships because I remember how long it took me to realize I was being abused. Emotional abuse is especially hard to recognize. When my marriage got difficult, I kept thinking I was doing something wrong, or there was a problem in me. Oh how I wish I had seen the red flags that were all around me. Here are some tips for identifying those red flags:

A. Ask yourself how your partner treats you:

  1. Does he* call you names? (stupid, b**ch, dumb wh*r*)?
  2. Does he always have to be right? Does he have to win every argument? If you disagree, does he call you names, scream at you, stop talking to you?
  3. Is he extremely jealous of you and how you spend your time? Does he sulk when you spend time with friends or your family? Does he want to spend every minute with you? This isn’t sweet, it is controlling and scary.
  4. Does he try to control every part of your life? From what you wear, to where you go on dates, to what and when you eat? Does he start a fight or sulk if he doesn’t get his way?
  5. Does he push you into committing to the relationship faster than you are ready to? In this day of uncommitted men, this may seem refreshing, but really, it is just another sign of him wanting to control you.
  6.  Does he accept you the way you are, or does he want you to change things about yourself, so he can “love you more”? Like, lose weight, change your hair color, wear sexy clothes, or stop wearing sexy clothes? Again, more control….
  7.  Does he EVER hurt you physically? A little slap here, a little shove there? Does he break things when he is mad? Or, does he threaten to do anything like this?


          WARNING: Don’t be fooled by his promises to change. Tweet This

Let’s say you’ve had a talk one time, and you’ve said, “I love you, but if you hit me again, I’m gone.” He tearfully apologizes and promises it will never happen again. Two weeks later, you have another bruise because he pushed you into a doorknob really hard. Accept the truth: nothing has changed. And it probably will only get worse in the future, not better.

B. How does your partner treat others?

  1. Does he think he is the center of the universe? Does he blame others for everything bad that happens to him? Does he never accept ownership for his mistakes? He is probably going to be an abuser.
  2. How does he treat his parents? If he is dismissive and disrespectful to them, he will probably not treat his (and your) children well in the future.
  3. Does he treat waiters or waitresses, taxi drivers, maids or anyone else in the service industry terribly? This is a sign that he has a superiority complex that divides the world into people who are “worthy” and “unworthy”. And soon you will be one of the “unworthy” ones.
  4. Does he think it is fun or funny to torment young children or pets? This is a VERY dangerous sign!

C. How does he handle drugs or alcohol?

  1. Does he get nastier when he does drugs or alcohol? Is he unwilling to get treatment for any addictions? A person who chooses to stay in a drug- or alcohol-infused state of rage is dangerous, selfish and in need of rehabilitation.

D. How do YOU feel when you are around him?

  1. Do you feel that you need to “walk on eggshells” when you are near him? This isn’t a good sign. You should be your most relaxed self around the person you love. You should never feel like you need to “watch what you say or do” so you won’t “set him off”.
  2. If you are afraid of him, this is your best sign that he is or will be abusive. Even if you love him and miss him, you should never dread him returning home from an absence.

5. What have we learned?

Question: How did your partner rate on the above questions? If you answer yes to only one them, your partner may not be abusive; he may simply be immature. Ask yourself if you want to be with a person who is that immature? But if you answer yes to two or more, you see a pattern emerging, or you see things getting worse, it is probably time to end the relationship. Before you do, I recommend speaking to a domestic violence advocate at the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224), and reading my blog on creating a safety plan before you try to break it off.

If you leave an abusive partner, and he continues to stalk you, contact a domestic violence advocate about steps to take to remain safe. Stalking is a very dangerous sign. You may need a restraining order.

It is wise to evaluate your relationship in its early stages, and leave it before it gets so dangerous that you can’t get out. One thing that is true about abusive relationships, they will only get worse, not better over time.

Proverbs 22:3 says it well:

A prudent <person> sees danger and takes refuge, 
but the simple keep going and suffer for it. Tweet This

There are millions of people today who are currently suffering because they were unable or unwilling to “take refuge” when they “saw danger” in their relationship. I pray you will not be one of them in the future.

May God bless you all today,



*Note: abusers and their victims might be either male or female.


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I find it worrying when you said that a sign that a person is in an abusive relationship is when the partner controls what the other wears, where to go on dates, and what to eat. Reading about this made me feel concerned for my cousin, who told me over the phone yesterday how her boyfriend was only letting her wear dresses while they are together. With this in mind, I will look for a lawyer immediately so that I can have him gather evidence of this rowdy behavior to file a case against him in the future. This, in turn, will help my cousin be separated from him in case that he hurts her badly too.

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