Power and control are the major factors in abuse: one partner has more power and control over the other.  You are likely familiar with obvious forms of abuse, but do you recognize the following as signs of an abusive relationship? Everyone’s relationship is different; this is by no means a comprehensive list that describes all situations.


  • The “silent treatment”
  • Feeling like you’re walking on eggshells
  • Becoming pregnant to force you to stay in a relationship
  • Making promises that are not kept
  • Building you up, putting you down
  • Teasing, bullying, name calling
  • Playing mind games, “gaslighting,” making you think you’re going crazy
  • Making you question what you heard, saw, found
  • Humiliation
  • Placing blame, shame, guilt on you for something he did
  • You feel scared, anxious, have panic attacks

Using Male Privilege

  • Requiring you to perform most/all household functions without help
  • Making decisions without your input
  • Defines the relationship roles without your input
  • You feel demeaned
  • Sex or sexual acts are forced upon you


  • Being married while dating you
  • Maintaining sexual relations outside the relationship without your consent or knowledge
  • Behaving in a questionable manner with another person while minimizing it
  • Becoming angry or blaming you for being paranoid when you bring up suspicions of cheating
  • Denying suspicious behavior or actions occurred
  • Stating you “always,” or “never” do something
  • Using sex to manipulate you
  • Being a “boomerang,” meaning typically coming back to you when other relationships don’t work out
  • Using you only for sex
  • Disregarding your requests, needs, or your decision to end the relationship

Using Children

  • Using children to relay messages
  • Using children as a tool for manipulation
  • Using visitation as a means to control you or manipulate you


  • Not wanting to meet your friends or family
  • Not allowing you to meet his friends or family
  • Not sharing information about his job, past, family, friends
  • Becoming upset if you want to spend time away from him or her
  • Becoming jealous of your time spent at work, with friends or family, or on other activities

Career and Money

  • Prevents you from taking or keeping a job
  • Shows up at your workplace and creates problems
  • Your partner takes your paycheck or controls the money
  • Forcing you to ask for money or only giving you an allowance
  • Keeping you in the dark about family finances or income
  • Incurring large amounts of debt without your knowledge or approval
  • Gambling large amounts of money
  • Keeping secret accounts or credit cards


  • Threatening to leave during each argument
  • Threatening to commit suicide
  • Threatening to hurt a child, pet, friend, family member, or you
  • Threatening to report to child welfare
  • Demanding you drop charges
  • Doing illegal things, making you keep them secret
  • Threats to abort a fetus


  • Threatening looks, gestures, body language, actions
  • Destroying property, objects
  • Hurting a pet or child to intimidate you
  • Threatening you with a gun, knife, or other lethal object.

Next: Defining the abusive partner.

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