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What Does An Abusive Relationship Look Like?

Warning Signs and Red Flags

It’s not always easy to tell at the beginning of a relationship if it will become abusive. 

Abusers may seem completely happy or perfect in the early stages of a relationship. But as time goes on, possessive and controlling behaviors can start to appear. And they intensify as the relationship grows.

Domestic violence doesn’t always look the same, because every relationship is different. But a common factor across many abusive relationships is the use of power and control. Abusers try to control their partners and have power over them.

If you’re beginning to sense your partner is becoming abusive, there are a few behaviors you can look out for. Watch out for these red flags. If you’re experiencing one or more of them, call or text with an advocate to talk about what’s going on.

Does your partner ever….

  • Tell you that you can never do anything right?
  • Embarrass you with put-downs?
  • Get jealous when you spend time with friends?
  • Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
  • Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
  • Push you, slap you, choke you or hit you?
  • Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
  • Control the money in the relationship? Take your money or Social Security check? Make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
  • Make all the decisions?
  • Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away your children?
  • Prevent you from working or attending school?
  • Act like the abuse is no big deal, deny the abuse or tell you it’s your own fault?
  • Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
  • Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
  • Attempt to force you to drop criminal charges?
  • Pressure you to have sex when you don't want to?
  • Pressure you to use drugs or alcohol?
  • Threaten to commit suicide, or threaten to kill you?

If you answered ‘yes’ to even one of these questions, you may be in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. In this section, you’ll find more information on the types of abuse, why people abuse, and why it’s so difficult to leave. Don’t hesitate to call us at 1.800.770.1650 if anything you read raises a red flag about your own relationship or that of someone you know.

Power and Control Wheel
Domestic violence can be understood better using our Power and Control Wheel. 

Why Do People Abuse?
Abuse is a learned behavior and personal choice.

Why Do People Stay in Abusive Relationships?
If you’ve never been in an abusive relationship, it’s hard to understand why it’s so difficult to leave.

Members of the LGBTQIA communities often experience abuse in ways that are specific and unique to these communities.

Abuse and Immigrants
Everyone has the right to live a life free of abuse.  Immigrants in the US may have specific concerns about getting help.

What is a Healthy Relationship?
What does a “healthy” relationship look like? In a relationship, who decides what is healthy and what isn’t?