Skip to content

Recognizing Signs of Abuse

Identifying abusive tactics when a relationship feels unhealthy or unsafe can feel confusing and overwhelming. Warning signs can become apparent at any time in a relationship: first few dates, a longer-term commitment, or if they are married.

The red flags below are indicators that a relationship is or may become abusive. Independently, these may not be strong indicators. However, when several of these occur in combination, they can be predictive of domestic abuse, which Emerge defines as a pattern of coercive behavior that may include the use or threat of violence and intimidation for the purpose of gaining power and control over another person.  Domestic abuse can be physical, psychological, sexual or economic.

Telling a partner how to style their hair, what to wear, insisting to accompany a partner to appointments, becoming excessively angry if their partner is late or unavailable

Having unrealistic expectations of capabilities, delivering overly harsh punishments.

Speaking disrespectfully to a partner, being rude to wait staff, thinking they are or acting superior to others, belittling others, being outwardly disrespectful to others of different social background, religion, race, etc.

Having a history of violence in past relationships is predictive of violence in future relationships.

Monopolizing a partner’s time, sabotaging partner’s relationships with family/friends, calling/texting to check up on partner.

Having explosive mood swings (going from happy to sad to angry to excited in a short period of time), ranting and raving over minor things, not thinking through the consequences of actions.

Showing excessive possessiveness, dropping by unexpectedly, having friends “keep an eye” on partner, accusing partner of flirting with others, making excuses for jealous behavior by saying it is “out of love.”

Avoiding taking responsibility for actions, blaming others for problems and feelings, denying or minimizing hurtful and/or violent behavior, making a partner feel responsible for the abuse that is happening

Pushing a partner to commit to a relationship quickly, rushing partner to move in, get married, or have children before the partner is ready.

Saying things like: “I’ll kill myself if you leave me,” or, “if I can’t have you, no one will.” Dismissing threats with comments like: “I was just joking/I didn’t mean it.”

Expecting their partner to be perfect and to meet all of their needs, or to conform to rigid gender roles, or feeling that their needs come before their partner’s needs.

Having a different set of rules and expectations for their partner and their self.

Guilt-tripping partner into having sex, showing little concern over whether partner wants or does not want sex.