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It’s not always obvious that you’re in an abusive relationship. Learn some of the key signs to look for. It’s common for someone who is being abused to believe that it’s their own fault and that they somehow ‘deserve’ the abuse. It’s important to know that you’re never to blame for the way an abusive person treats you.

This can help if:

  • your partner tries to control your behaviour
  • your partner threatens to harm you, your pets or people you love
  • you’re scared of your partner.
Girl facing away from upset boyfriend

Key signs of an abusive relationship

An abusive relationship isn’t just limited to physical violence. It can include sexual, emotional and physical abuse, and may involve control of your finances. Here are some signs to look for.

Possessiveness

  • They check on you all the time to see where you are, what you're doing and who you're with.
  • They try to control where you go and who you see, and get angry if you don't do what they say.

Jealousy

  • They accuse you of being unfaithful or of flirting.
  • They isolate you from family and friends, often by behaving rudely to them.

Put-downs

  • They put you down, either publicly or privately, by attacking your intelligence, looks, mental health or capabilities.
  • They constantly compare you unfavourably to others.
  • They blame you for all the problems in your relationship, and for their violent outbursts.
  • They say things like, 'No one else will want you.'

Threats

  • They yell or sulk, and deliberately break things that you value.
  • They threaten to use violence against you, your family, friends or a pet.

Physical and sexual violence

  • They push, shove, hit or grab you, or make you have sex or do things you don't want to do.
  • They harm 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'

Your violent partner may act loving towards you at other times and may truly feel sorry for their horrible behaviour. So, it might be hard to stay angry and upset with them. However, there is quite a high chance that their violent behaviour will continue. Abusers can be super-charming people, especially if they’re trying to make you or others see them in a good light.

'Things will get better – they didn't mean it'

After a violent episode, it's common for both you and your abuser to try and downplay what happened with excuses, apologies or promises to change. Things might settle down for a bit, but it’s often only a matter of time before it happens again. Abusive behaviour is very difficult to change, and usually requires professional help.

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

If you’re experiencing abuse, things can feel really confusing, especially if it's your first relationship. You might not be sure what to expect next. Abusers often try to influence your sense of what’s real, to make you feel confused or even that you’re going crazy. (This is known as ‘gas-lighting’.) Statistically, though, if someone behaves violently once, they’re very likely to do it again.

'Maybe it's my fault'

You may begin to think that you’re to blame for your partner’s abusive behaviour. An abuser may excuse their behaviour by saying something like, 'It wouldn't have happened if you hadn’t…' The truth is that no matter what you do, another person’s abusive behaviour is never your fault.

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

It’s not unusual to feel afraid of leaving the person who’s abusing you. You might feel unsafe, or scared of what the person might do to you or themselves. You might also feel that you aren’t capable of making it on your own. It’s important to remember that there are people who can help you every step of the way.

What can I do now?