Learn more about domestic violence. 

Are you in an abusive relationship?

The following traits are common in abusive persons:

A ‘bad temper’ – an abusive person does not seem to be able to control his/her temper. The reaction to a situation appears much more intense than the situation warrants. They may hit things such as beating their fists on the table or throwing a chair or other object toward you. Breaking something that you own is a form of “punishment” for doing something “wrong”. This is a way for the abuser to de-value you. The abuser may destroy your property and tell you that the item is no longer needed because you are with him/her.

Jealousy – an abusive person does not want to be abandoned. He/she will accuse you of doing many things that you have not done. He/she may question you about whom you have spoken to or seen during the day, accuse you of flirting, or be jealous of time you spend away from him/her. He/she may call you frequently during the day or drop by unexpectedly. He/she will try to isolate you from friends, family and co-workers. The abuser will say the jealousy is a sign of love, but it is a way to control.

Isolation -The abuser may try to curtail your social interaction. He/she may prevent you from spending time with your friends or family and demand that you only go places ‘together’. He/she may accuse your family of being too involved in your life. He/she may say that your friends are trying to break up your relationship. He/she may want you to be without a phone, a car, or stop you from working or going to school. 

Fast Courtship – Many abuse survivors dated or knew their abuser for less than six months before they were engaged or living together. The abuser will often claim ‘love at first sight’, or that you are ‘the only one that understands’ him/her. The abuser may tell you that he/she has never loved anyone as much as you, despite knowing you for a short time. He/she needs someone desperately and will pressure you to commit to him/her or make love before you feel ready. He/she may try to make you feel guilty for not making a commitment.

Extreme views of male/female roles – the abuser has very rigid views about what a man or a woman should be. Frequently, abusive men will put down women through sexist jokes, watch a lot of porn or make derogatory remarks about you or other women (e.g. ugly, stupid, fat, slut, crazy). The controlling personality is constantly trying to “help” you fix your “problems”. You never seem to be “good enough” for the abuser. You are expected to be the perfect partner providing everything for him/her (emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually). When you don’t “measure up”, he/she will blame you for your “shortcomings”. A man may expect a woman to serve him, stay at home, obey him in all things, often quoting scripture as “proof” that this is the way things were meant to be. A woman may expect the man to provide for her completely, expect him to be completely responsible for her well-being, and mock him as being ‘not a real man’ if he shows any weakness or emotion. 

Control - Controlling behavior is often explained as concern. Concern for your safety or your health. You may be accused of not using your time well or making stupid or naive decisions. Your abuser may be upset if you are not back home in time even if you explained you would be later than usual. You may be given the third degree on where you were, what you were doing and whom you were with. The abuser may not allow you to make your own person decisions about the house, what to wear, going to church, spending money and may even make you ask permission to do these things. Conversely, he/she may ‘allow’ you to make your own decisions and then put you down for “always making the wrong decisions”. 

Antisocial behavior – the abusive person does not like to socialize. Many times he/she covers this up by drinking a lot. That appears to be the only way they can interact. They can be reckless as well participating in behaviors that can be dangerous (e.g. indiscriminate sexual behavior, drunk driving, illegal drug use). 

Abuse issues of the past – many abusers were abused themselves. This sets up a cycle of abuse that is sometimes difficult to break. The abuser may treat animals cruelly without concern for their pain or suffering. There is a strong correlation between animal cruelty and domestic violence. The abusive behavior may spill over toward children. The children may be expected to do things beyond their maturity level or physical ability (punishing a small child for wetting the bed or throwing up on the floor). Abusers may tease children until they cry or punish children way beyond what could be deemed appropriate. He/she may have just as rigid ideas about children (e.g. children must be seen and not heard). 

Not taking responsibility – the abuser blames everyone else for his/her problems. Losing a job is the boss’s fault, the government’s fault or some employee who had it “out for them”. If he/she makes a mistake, it invariably is your fault. He/she may blame you for their mood (e.g. “you made me mad” or “you made me hit you”). They talk as if others are out to get them or are trying to take you away from them. They may give you the responsibility for their feelings (e.g. “only you can make me feel good about myself”, “I can’t do this without you”). This creates a losing situation because the abuser does not take responsibility for how they feel, so you are the one to blame when things go wrong, or you weren’t there to make him/her feel better about a situation. Consequently, since the abuser will not take responsibility for his/her own feelings, couple’s counseling does not work. The abuser sees no use in counseling and frequently will accuse you of plotting with the counselor against him/her. 

Sexual coercion – The abuser may pressure you into sexual acts that you do not want to do. He/she may want to act out fantasies where you are helpless or a victim. Some male abusers admit to getting excited with rape fantasies. He/she will not show concern about whether you are interested in sex. Insisting he/she “needs” sex and not caring whether you are tired or sick. These are forms of control and manipulation. Often the abuser will show no signs of intimacy unless it involves intercourse. 

Escalating behaviors – During an argument, the abuser may physically restrain you from leaving the room, lash out at you with his/her hand or another object, pin you against a wall or get in your face, screaming at you. Any form of force used during an argument can be a sign that actual violence is a strong possibility.