Signs of an abusive relationship

Working out whether you’re in an abusive relationship isn’t always easy. Learning the signs of an abusive relationship can give some perspective. Thinking that abusive behaviour is your fault is a common feeling, but it’s important to know that you’re never to blame for another person’s behaviour.

This can help if:

  • Your partner tries to control your behaviour
  • Your partner gets jealous easily
  • Your partner insults you in public or private
  • Your partner makes you feel confused or like you are going 'crazy'
  • Your partner threatens violence against you, your pets, or people you love
  • Your partner makes you feel scared

What is an abusive relationship?

Abuse is experienced in heaps of different ways and isn’t just limited to physical violence. An abusive relationship can include sexual, emotional and physical abuse, and can also involve control of finances. 

Key signs of an abusive relationship

Possessiveness:

  • Checking on you all the time to see where you are, what you're doing and who you're with.
  • Trying to control where you go and who you can see and getting angry if you don't do what they say.

Jealousy:

  • Accusing you without good reason of being unfaithful or flirting.
  • Isolating you from family and friends, often by rude behaviour.

Put downs:

  • Putting you down, either publicly or privately, by attacking your intelligence, looks, mental health or capabilities.
  • Constantly comparing you unfavourably with others.
  • Blaming you for all the problems in the relationship, and for the times they are out of control or violent.

Threats:

  • Yelling, sulking and deliberately breaking things that you value.
  • Threatening to use violence against you, your family, friends or even a pet.
  • Saying things like 'no one else will want you'.

Physical and sexual violence:

  • Pushing, shoving, hitting, grabbing, making you have sex or do things you don't want to do
  • Harming you, your pets or your family members

Things you might feel in an abusive relationship?

'My partner isn’t violent all the time - they love me'

A violent relationship may not be violent all the time and the person who is violent may seem very loving at other times and sorry for their behaviour. This can make it hard to stay angry and upset with them. However, the chance of their violent behaviour continuing is quite high. Abusers are often very charming and sweet with other people, especially if they are trying to manipulate other people’s view of them.

'Things will get better - they don't mean it'

After a violent event, it's common for both of you to try and make it ok by making excuses, apologising, or promising to change. Sometimes the violent person may even blame you – saying things like 'it wouldn't have happened if you didn’t…'. Things might settle down for a little while but it’s often only a matter of time before the build-up to violence starts again.

'It's so confusing - I'm sure it's a one-off'

If you are experiencing violence in a relationship, things can feel very confusing, especially if it's your first relationship. You might not be sure what behaviour to expect. Abusers often work on your sense of what is real to make you feel confused or even that you are going crazy. Statistically though, if someone is violent once they are far more likely to be violent a second time.

'Maybe it's my fault'

You might begin to think that the violence is your fault. The abuser will probably tell you that it is. The truth is that no matter what you do, another person’s behaviour is never your fault.

'I'm scared of what will happen if I leave them'

In an abusive relationship, it’s not unusual to be afraid of leaving the person you are with. This can be for a number of reasons, such as fearing for your own safety, or being fearful of what the person might do to themselves.

You might also be afraid of not being able to make it on your own. But it’s important to remember that you’re not on your own and there are people who can help you every step of the way.

What to do if this sounds like you

No one deserves to be in a relationship where they don’t feel safe. If you are in a relationship that you think might be abusive, find out more about what you can do. It can be hard to know where to find the right support you need. ReachOut NextStep is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options based on what you want help with. Try ReachOut NextStep to learn about the support options available for you.

What can I do now?

  • Seek help from local support services.
  • Find people who love and support you and listen to them.
  • Trust your instincts. If it doesn't feel right it probably isn't. 
Last reviewed: 09 March, 2016
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