132+ Signs You May Be in an Abusive Relationship


As you step into the world of relationships, it’s important to be able to recognise the warning signs of dating abuse. Below is a list of more than 132 signs that you may be in an abusive relationship. These aren’t guidelines, and experiencing one or two doesn’t mean your partner is abusive. They’re simply common signs we’ve observed through our work supporting victims of intimate partner violence.

Read this with an open heart and remember that if you experience any of these, there is support available to help you.

  1. Controlling Behavior: If your partner tries to control what you wear, who you talk to, or where you go, it’s a big red flag. This kind of control is a form of abuse, not protection or love.
  2. Jealousy and Accusations: A little jealousy can be normal, but if it turns into constant accusations, questioning your loyalty without reason, or getting angry when you spend time with friends or family, it’s unhealthy.
  3. Isolation: If your partner insists on keeping you all to themselves, cutting you off from your friends and family, it’s a sign of abuse. It’s a tactic to keep you dependent and alone.
  4. Frequent Criticism: Everyone deserves to be uplifted, not put down. If your partner often criticizes you, your dreams, or your abilities, it’s not just mean – it’s abusive.
  5. Threats or Intimidation: If you feel scared to disagree or say no because of how your partner might react, it’s a warning sign. Love should never feel threatening or fearful.
  6. Unpredictable Temper: If your partner has sudden, intense mood swings that leave you walking on eggshells, it’s not a healthy environment. You should feel safe and stable in a relationship.
  7. Guilting: If your partner often makes you feel guilty or responsible for their actions, especially if they’re hurtful, it’s a form of manipulation.
  8. Physical Harm: This is the most obvious and dangerous sign. Any form of hitting, pushing, or physical harm is absolutely unacceptable.
  9. Pressure or Force: Being pressured or forced into things you’re not comfortable with, especially physical intimacy, is a serious red flag.
  10. Constant Check-ins or Monitoring: If your partner demands to know where you are all the time or checks your phone frequently, it’s a sign of possessiveness, not care.
  11. Blaming You for Everything: If your partner blames you for all the problems in the relationship or their personal life, it’s a form of emotional abuse. Healthy relationships involve taking responsibility, not shifting blame.
  12. Forced Social Media Sharing: If they demand passwords to your social accounts or require you to share messages and photos against your will, it’s a violation of your privacy and trust.
  13. Over-Dependency: If your partner relies on you excessively for emotional support, decision-making, or blames you for their emotional state, it can be a sign of an unhealthy dynamic.
  14. Undermining Your Goals: A partner who consistently discourages your aspirations or education is not looking out for your best interests.
  15. Excessive Criticism of Your Friends and Family: If your partner constantly finds faults in your friends and family and discourages you from seeing them, it’s a tactic to isolate you.
  16. Using Love as Justification for Harmful Actions: Phrases like “I do this because I love you” or “This is for your own good” used to justify harmful behavior are manipulative and abusive.
  17. Withholding Affection as Punishment: If your partner withholds affection, ignores you, or gives you the ‘silent treatment’ as a form of punishment, it’s emotional manipulation.
  18. Public Embarrassment: Deliberately embarrassing you in public, making rude comments, or demeaning you in front of others is a form of abuse.
  19. Financial Control: Taking control of your finances, not allowing you to spend money, or forcing you to account for every penny spent is a tactic used in abusive relationships.
  20. Threats to Harm Themselves: If your partner threatens self-harm in the context of arguments or if you talk about leaving, it’s a serious form of emotional blackmail and manipulation.
  21. Invasion of Privacy: Going through your personal belongings, phone, or emails without permission shows a lack of respect for your personal space and privacy.
  22. Gaslighting: This is when your partner manipulates you into questioning your own sanity or perception of reality, like denying things they’ve said or done.
  23. Extreme Insecurity: While some insecurity is normal, extreme levels can lead to possessiveness and jealous behaviors.
  24. Consistent Lying: Frequent dishonesty and lying can erode trust and is a sign of a disrespectful and potentially abusive relationship.
  25. Disrespecting Boundaries: Not respecting your physical, emotional, or digital boundaries is a sign of a lack of respect and understanding in a relationship.
  26. Disrespectful Language: Regular use of derogatory or belittling language towards you, even if claimed as “joking,” is a serious red flag.
  27. Ignoring Your Emotional Needs: Consistently disregarding your feelings, needs, or concerns, and focusing solely on their own, is a sign of emotional neglect and abuse.
  28. Forcing Decisions: Making significant decisions that affect both of you without your input or consent shows a lack of respect for your partnership and autonomy.
  29. Excessive Sarcasm or Mockery: Constant sarcasm or making fun of you, especially in areas where you are sensitive, is not playful teasing; it’s a form of emotional abuse.
  30. Sudden and Extreme Emotional Withdrawal: If your partner suddenly becomes cold and withdraws affection or communication as a form of punishment or manipulation, it’s an abusive tactic.
  31. Unwarranted Jealousy Towards Children or Pets: Showing irrational jealousy towards the time and attention you give to others, including children or pets, can be a warning sign.
  32. Tracking Your Movements: If your partner insists on tracking your location through your phone or other means without your consent, it’s a serious invasion of privacy.
  33. Limiting Your Access to Work or Education: Trying to restrict or control your access to work opportunities, education, or professional development is a form of economic abuse.
  34. Pressuring You to Change Your Appearance: Insisting that you change your appearance — whether it’s your clothes, hair, or body — to suit their preferences is a form of control.
  35. Disregarding Your Accomplishments: Consistently ignoring or downplaying your achievements and successes can be a tactic to undermine your self-worth.
  36. Unwanted Sexual Advances: Pressuring you for sexual activities, making unwanted sexual comments, or not respecting your sexual boundaries is a form of sexual abuse.
  37. Invalidating Your Feelings or Experiences: Regularly dismissing your feelings, experiences, or opinions as invalid or overreacting is a form of emotional abuse.
  38. Excessive Apologies Without Change: Frequently apologizing for hurtful behavior but not making any effort to change is a common cycle in abusive relationships.
  39. Overbearing Behavior Under the Guise of Concern: Excessive checking up on you, needing constant updates, or saying it’s just because they care, but it feels suffocating and controlling.
  40. Making You Feel Guilty for Time Spent Apart: Inducing guilt for spending time at work, with friends, family, or pursuing hobbies, suggesting that you’re neglecting the relationship.
  41. Using Children or Pets as Leverage: Manipulating you by using children or pets, threatening to harm them or take them away if you don’t comply with their demands.
  42. Reputation Damage: Spreading rumors or telling lies about you to friends, family, or colleagues to isolate you or damage your reputation.
  43. Forcing Isolation from Support Systems: Actively trying to distance you from support systems like friends, family, or support groups.
  44. Constantly Shifting Expectations: Keeping you off-balance by frequently changing what they expect from you, so you feel like you can never do anything right.
  45. Using Gifts or Favors to Excuse Bad Behavior: Using gifts or doing favors to make up for abusive behavior or to persuade you to forgive them.
  46. Excessive Criticism of Your Ambitions: Belittling your ambitions, career, or educational goals as unimportant or unrealistic is a tactic to undermine your self-esteem and independence.
  47. Withholding Basic Needs as Punishment: Refusing to provide or making it difficult for you to access basic needs like food, sleep, or medical care as a form of control.
  48. Demanding Constant Availability: Expecting you to always be available to meet their needs or respond to their communications, without regard for your own commitments or needs.
  49. Refusal to Acknowledge Your Achievements: Consistently ignoring or belittling your achievements, whether personal or professional, to keep you feeling less accomplished.
  50. Forbidding You from Working or Studying: Attempting to stop you from working or pursuing education in order to increase your dependency on them.
  51. Public Humiliation as a Control Tactic: Deliberately embarrassing you in public or in front of friends and family to undermine your self-confidence and keep you subservient.
  52. Excessive Monitoring of Your Activities: Monitoring your activities, online and offline, to an extent that invades your privacy and autonomy.
  53. Manipulating You with Ultimatums: Regularly giving ultimatums for small issues or disagreements, forcing you to choose between the relationship and other important aspects of your life.
  54. Forcing You to Partake in Illegal Activities: Pressuring you to engage in illegal activities or behaviors against your moral or ethical values.
  55. Using Your Personal Information Against You: Threatening to reveal or actually revealing sensitive personal information about you to others as a form of control or humiliation.
  56. Manipulation Through Guilt Over Your Past: Using your past mistakes or personal history against you as a form of manipulation and control.
  57. Punishing You for Successes: Reacting negatively to your successes or achievements as a way to keep you from feeling proud or accomplished.
  58. Forcing You to Prioritize Their Needs Over Yours: Consistently demanding that their needs, desires, or opinions take precedence over your own.
  59. Using Substance Abuse as an Excuse for Poor Behavior: Blaming alcohol, drugs, or other substances for their abusive behavior and refusing to take responsibility for their actions.
  60. Insisting on Accompanying You Everywhere: Insisting on being with you at all times, even where it’s inappropriate or unnecessary, as a means of control.
  61. Excessive Bad-Mouthing of Your Friends and Family: Constantly speaking negatively about your friends and family in an effort to drive a wedge between you and your support system.
  62. Using Cultural or Religious Beliefs to Justify Control or Abuse: Manipulating cultural, religious, or societal beliefs to justify controlling or abusive behavior.
  63. Refusing to Let You End the Relationship: Not accepting your decision to end the relationship and using emotional blackmail, threats, or physical force to keep you from leaving.
  64. Mocking Your Physical Appearance: Making derogatory comments about your body or appearance to erode your self-esteem.
  65. Threatening to Reveal Secrets or Personal Information: Using personal information or secrets to threaten or blackmail you into staying in the relationship or complying with their demands.
  66. Forcing You to Engage in Public Displays of Affection: Coercing you into public displays of affection to mark their territory or control how others see the relationship.
  67. Setting Unreasonable Rules for the Relationship: Imposing strict and unreasonable rules or guidelines for how you should behave in the relationship.
  68. Using Your Children as Pawns in Arguments: Involving or threatening to involve your children in disputes or using them as leverage in arguments.
  69. Repeatedly Breaking Promises and Lying: Consistently making promises and not keeping them, or lying about significant and minor issues.
  70. Intentionally Damaging Your Property: Destroying or threatening to destroy your belongings as a form of intimidation or punishment.
  71. Dismissing Your Career or Education: Showing disinterest in or belittling your professional or educational pursuits, suggesting they are unimportant or a waste of time.
  72. Forcing You to Change Your Lifestyle: Pressuring you to change your lifestyle, hobbies, or interests to suit their preferences, even if it makes you unhappy.
  73. Demanding Access to Your Financial Accounts: Insisting on access to your bank accounts, credit cards, or demanding detailed accounts of your spending.
  74. Frequent Threats of Break-up or Divorce: Regularly threatening to end the relationship as a means of control or to keep you anxious and off-balance.
  75. Making You Feel Responsible for Their Happiness: Suggesting that you are the sole source of their happiness or well-being, making you feel guilty for any negative emotions they experience.
  76. Using Technology to Monitor or Control You: Utilizing technology like GPS trackers, spyware, or social media to keep tabs on your whereabouts and interactions.
  77. Blaming You for Their Violent Outbursts: Asserting that their aggressive or violent behavior is your fault or provoked by something you did or didn’t do.
  78. Insisting That You Conform to Their Ideals: Pressuring you to conform to their ideal image of a partner in terms of behavior, appearance, or beliefs.
  79. Isolating You From Professional Help: Discouraging or preventing you from seeking professional help like therapy or counseling.
  80. Gaslighting About Your Health: Making you doubt your own perceptions about your health or insisting that you are imagining health problems.
  81. Forcing You to Partake in Risky Behaviors: Pressuring you to engage in risky behaviors that you are uncomfortable with, such as reckless driving or illegal activities.
  82. Using ‘Love’ to Justify Their Actions: Frequently justifying controlling or abusive behavior as a form of love, or saying it’s for your own good.
  83. Excessive Criticism of Your Parenting: If you have children, constantly criticizing your parenting skills or decisions as a means to undermine your confidence.
  84. Rewriting History: Denying or altering the truth about past events, especially arguments or incidents of abuse, to confuse you or make you doubt your memory.
  85. Demanding Constant Reassurances of Your Love: Requiring constant reassurances of your love and commitment, which can be emotionally draining and manipulative.
  86. Sabotaging Your Professional or Academic Opportunities: Intentionally acting in ways that hinder your career or educational progress, such as causing scenes at your workplace or school.
  87. Forcing You to Ignore Your Own Needs or Health: Pressuring you to neglect your own basic needs, health requirements, or self-care practices for their benefit.
  88. Belittling Your Beliefs or Values: Routinely mocking or showing disrespect towards your personal beliefs, values, or cultural practices.
  89. Withholding Important Information: Deliberately keeping you in the dark about important matters that affect you or the relationship.
  90. Insisting on Unreasonable Standards of Perfection: Setting unattainable standards for you to live up to and then criticizing you for failing to meet them.
  91. Regularly Invalidating Your Achievements or Struggles: Consistently downplaying your achievements or struggles, suggesting that they are insignificant or unworthy of attention.
  92. Demanding You Cut Ties with Supportive Friends or Mentors: Forcing you to end or limit contact with friends, mentors, or colleagues who provide you with support and empowerment.
  93. Using Past Traumas Against You: Bringing up past traumas or sensitive topics to hurt or manipulate you.
  94. Exerting Control Over Your Personal Choices: Dictating your choices in personal matters, like clothing, hairstyle, food preferences, or hobbies.
  95. Inducing Shame or Guilt About Your Independence: Making you feel guilty for wanting independence, time alone, or personal space.
  96. Criticizing Your Parenting in Front of Your Children: If applicable, openly criticizing your parenting decisions or authority in front of your children to undermine your role and authority as a parent.
  97. Repeated Breach of Trust: Continuously breaking promises or betraying your trust in ways that damage the relationship’s foundation.
  98. Forcing You to Justify Normal Behavior: Making you feel like you have to constantly justify normal activities like going to work, meeting friends, or spending money.
  99. Persistent Disrespect Towards Your Boundaries: Continually disrespecting boundaries you have set, whether they are emotional, physical, or digital.
  100. Using Silent Treatment as Punishment: Regularly using the silent treatment or refusing to communicate as a means of punishment or control.
  101. Dictating Your Sleep Schedule: Controlling when you go to bed or wake up, regardless of your personal needs or schedule.
  102. Limiting Your Access to Transportation: Restricting your use of the family car, public transportation, or other means of travel to keep you dependent on them.
  103. Excessive Sarcasm About Your Personal Interests: Using sarcasm or mocking your hobbies, interests, or passions in a way that feels demeaning.
  104. Pressuring You to Change Religious or Spiritual Beliefs: Forcing you to conform to their religious or spiritual beliefs, or to abandon your own.
  105. Using Pet Names as a Form of Control: Employing endearing terms in a way that feels belittling or demeaning rather than affectionate.
  106. Restricting Access to Personal Documents: Keeping or hiding your personal documents like passports, birth certificates, or IDs to limit your freedom.
  107. Exerting Control Over Your Diet: Dictating what you should eat or drink, or criticizing your dietary choices to control or belittle you.
  108. Disrespecting Your Professional Judgement or Expertise: Routinely doubting or belittling your professional skills and judgement in your area of expertise.
  109. Making You Doubt Your Worth or Abilities: Constantly making you question your worth, talents, or abilities through subtle or overt criticism.
  110. Demanding You Follow Their Schedule: Expecting you to adhere strictly to their daily or weekly schedule, disregarding your own needs or commitments.
  111. Forcing You to Share Personal Struggles Publicly: Pressuring you to share personal or intimate details about yourself or your struggles in public or social settings.
  112. Using Your Physical Health Issues Against You: Weaponizing your physical health issues or disabilities as a means of control or humiliation.
  113. Demanding Control Over Your Leisure Time: Insisting on deciding how you spend your leisure time, whether it’s watching certain shows, participating in specific activities, or socializing with certain people.
  114. Criticizing Your Financial Decisions: Constantly scrutinizing and criticizing your financial decisions, regardless of their impact on the relationship.
  115. Undermining Your Role as a Parent or Guardian: If applicable, consistently undermining your authority or decisions as a parent or guardian.
  116. Making Light of Your Medical Conditions: Dismissing or making jokes about any medical conditions or physical challenges you may have.
  117. Insisting on Attending Your Medical Appointments: Demanding to be present at your medical or therapy sessions without your desire or consent.
  118. Discrediting Your Memories or Experiences: Regularly telling you that your recollection of events is wrong or that you’re imagining things, a form of gaslighting.
  119. Forcing You to Engage in Competitions or Challenges: Pressuring you into competitions or challenges, especially in areas where you feel insecure, to prove your worth or loyalty.
  120. Overriding Your Decisions About Your Body: Making decisions about your body, such as how you should groom, dress, or whether to have medical procedures.
  121. Demanding Access to Your Medical Records: Insisting on access to your medical records or information without your consent.
  122. Using Your Fears Against You: Exploiting your fears, whether they’re irrational or based on past traumas, to control or manipulate you.
  123. Sabotaging Your Birth Control Methods: Intentionally sabotaging or manipulating birth control methods to exert control over your reproductive choices.
  124. Forcing You to Justify Normal Activities: Making you feel that you must justify normal activities like going to the gym, attending classes, or visiting family.
  125. Pressuring You to Take Legal or Financial Risks: Pressuring you to engage in legal or financial activities that are risky or against your better judgment.
  126. Dictating Your Social Media Use: Controlling how you use social media, whom you can interact with, or what you can post.
  127. Restricting Your Access to Basic Amenities: Limiting your access to basic amenities like the internet, phone, or even food and water as a form of control.
  128. Criticizing Your Language or Communication Style: Regularly criticizing the way you speak, your language skills, or your communication style to belittle you.
  129. Using Gifts as a Means of Control: Giving gifts with strings attached or using gifts as a means to make you feel indebted.
  130. Belittling Your Cultural Background or Identity: Mocking or disrespecting your cultural background, ethnicity, or identity.
  131. Regularly Dismissing or Ignoring Your Complaints: Consistently disregarding your concerns or complaints about the relationship or their behavior.
  132. Using Intimidation to Win Arguments: Resorting to intimidating tactics like raising their voice excessively or using aggressive body language during disagreements.
  133. Demanding You Change Your Career or Job: Pressuring you to change your job or career path to better suit their preferences or insecurities.
  134. Dictating How You Should Spend Your Free Time: Insisting on controlling how you spend your leisure time, often requiring you to spend all of it with them or in activities they approve.
  135. Forcing You to Partake in Their Hobbies Only: Insisting that you engage only in their hobbies and interests, while disregarding or belittling yours.
  136. Regularly Checking Your Phone or Online Activities: Habitually checking your phone, email, or social media without your permission, under the guise of concern or curiosity.
  137. Dictating What You Can Read or Watch: Controlling what books you read, movies you watch, or the type of media you consume.
  138. Mocking Your Professional or Academic Achievements: Belittling your professional or academic achievements, either in private or in front of others.
  139. Insisting on Unreasonable Household Rules: Imposing strict and unreasonable household rules or chores specifically designed for you, often with penalties for non-compliance.
  140. Repeatedly Bringing Up Past Mistakes: Continually bringing up your past mistakes or failures as a way to shame or control you.
  141. Forcing You to Interact With People You’re Uncomfortable With: Pressuring you to spend time with people who make you uncomfortable, including their friends or family members.
  142. Regularly Making Unfulfilled Promises: Consistently making promises about changing their behavior or the relationship dynamic but failing to follow through.
  143. Insisting on Inappropriate Levels of Disclosure: Requiring you to disclose more personal information or details than you are comfortable with, especially early in the relationship.
  144. Using Your Personal Struggles to Gain Sympathy: Exaggerating or fabricating personal struggles or traumas to gain your sympathy and manipulate you.
  145. Regularly Questioning Your Intelligence or Common Sense: Frequently questioning your intelligence, judgment, or common sense, especially in decisions involving both of you.
  146. Imposing Their Preferences on Your Personal Style: Dictating how you should style your hair, do your makeup, or what kind of clothes you should wear.
  147. Intruding on Your Private Conversations: Eavesdropping on your phone calls, reading your private messages, or interrupting your personal conversations without respect for privacy.
  148. Discrediting Your Feelings as Overreactions: Regularly telling you that you’re overreacting or being too sensitive, especially when you express discomfort or dissatisfaction.
  149. Exerting Control Over Your Dietary Choices: Making unsolicited comments about what and how much you eat, or trying to control your diet.
  150. Undermining Your Authority in Front of Others: Deliberately undermining your authority or credibility in front of others, including children, friends, or colleagues.
  151. Making Unilateral Decisions That Affect Both of You: Making significant decisions about things like finances, housing, or major purchases without your input or agreement.
  152. Consistently Interrupting or Talking Over You: Regularly interrupting you when you speak or talking over you in conversations, indicating a lack of respect for your voice and opinions.
  153. Using Your Past Against You: Bringing up your past mistakes, faults, or personal history to shame or control you.
  154. Insisting You Adopt Their Political or Social Views: Pressuring you to adopt their political, social, or ideological views, and criticizing you for having different opinions.
  155. Dictating Your Sleep or Exercise Routines: Trying to control when and how you exercise, or dictating your sleep patterns and routines.
  156. Isolating You From New Friends or Acquaintances: Discouraging or forbidding you from making new friends or building new relationships, especially if they perceive them as a threat.
  157. Mocking Your Accent or Language Skills: Making fun of your accent, language skills, or the way you express yourself.
  158. Forcing You to Engage in Activities You Dislike: Coercing you to participate in activities you find unpleasant, distressing, or against your values.
  159. Regularly Withholding Information as a Power Play: Deliberately withholding information you need or want as a form of control.
  160. Excessive Pessimism About Your Goals and Dreams: Constantly expressing pessimism or discouragement about your aspirations, goals, or dreams.
  161. Ridiculing Your Aspirations or Career Choices: Constantly making negative comments about your career choices or aspirations, suggesting they are not valuable or achievable.
  162. Forcing You to Share Personal or Intimate Details Publicly: Pressuring you to share personal or intimate details about yourself or your relationship in public settings.
  163. Deliberately Withholding Affection or Attention: Intentionally withholding affection, attention, or emotional support as a form of punishment or control.
  164. Using Your Cultural Background to Stereotype or Belittle You: Utilizing stereotypes related to your cultural or ethnic background to belittle or mock you.
  165. Insisting on Accompanying You to Personal Appointments: Demanding to accompany you to appointments that are personal or private, such as therapy sessions or medical check-ups.
  166. Belittling Your Hobbies or Interests: Constantly making derogatory remarks about your hobbies, interests, or the things you enjoy.
  167. Forcing You to Change Your Personal Values or Morals: Pressuring you to alter or abandon your core values, morals, or ethics to align with theirs.
  168. Dictating How You Should Express Your Emotions: Telling you how you should or shouldn’t express your emotions, or invalidating your emotional responses.
  169. Using Your Children to Manipulate You: If applicable, using your children as a means to manipulate or control your actions and decisions.
  170. Infringing on Your Alone Time: Not respecting your need for alone time, insisting that you should always want to spend all your time with them.
  171. Regularly Dismissing or Minimizing Your Health Concerns: Consistently dismissing or minimizing your health concerns, whether they are physical or mental.
  172. Dictating Your Religious or Spiritual Practices: Trying to control or dictate your religious or spiritual practices, or lack thereof.
  173. Using ‘Jokes’ to Disguise Insults or Criticism: Regularly making hurtful comments disguised as ‘jokes’ and then accusing you of being too sensitive if you get upset.
  174. Refusing to Compromise or Find Middle Ground: Showing an unwillingness to compromise or find a middle ground on issues, big or small.
  175. Undermining Your Confidence in Your Abilities: Regularly making comments or actions that undermine your confidence in your skills, intelligence, or capabilities.

These signs point to behaviors that can subtly undermine self-esteem, personal autonomy, and emotional well-being. In any relationship, mutual respect, understanding, and support are key. If you encounter these behaviors, consider their impact on your well-being and don’t hesitate to seek advice and support.

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