Am I in an Abusive Relationship?

Updated: Feb 5

Relationship abuse can happen to any person regardless of gender, age, sexuality, race, ethnicity, family history, or socioeconomic status. There are many myths about abusive relationships that lead people to minimize or even deny that they are experiencing or have experienced abuse in their relationships.

Here are some common misconceptions about abusive relationships:

Abuse must be physical: Truth: Many people believe that there must be physical abuse in order for a relationship to be considered abusive. Although it is common to believe that physical abuse causes the most harm, studies repeatedly indicate that the impact of psychological abuse is just as harmful. This is because psychological abuse effects our sense of self worth. When we are repeatedly told something negative about ourselves (e.g., "Nobody else will ever want to be with you," or "You're no good," or "You're crazy"), we begin to believe that these statements are true. When asked to talk about one of their worst experiences in the relationship, abuse survivors often will recall a time when their partner shamed or humiliated them.

Only men are abusive: Truth: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 7 men in the United States have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, and 29 percent of heterosexual men have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner.

Abusers are low income and uneducated: Truth: Countless celebrities, politicians, doctors, lawyers, and professors have been found guilty of domestic violence.

Abusive people can't control their anger: Truth: Most abusers are in control of their anger and abusive behaviors. They make calculated decisions about who they target, when, and why. For example, an abuser is more likely to batter his wife in the privacy of their home than a store clerk in public. Abusive behavior is not an anger control issue as much as it is a belief issue. We all become angry. We don't all cause harm to others when we become angry. This is because many people have the belief system that it is not okay to hurt other people, no matter how angry we are. Abusers use abusive behaviors to feel like they are in control of a situation, not because they cannot control their anger.

Abusive behavior is provoked by the victim: Truth: No matter what a person says or does to another person, abusive behavior is never justified or excusable.

Abusive behavior must be frequent in order to count as an abusive relationship: Truth: Relationships are still considered abusive, even when the abuse occurs infrequently. Abuse is abuse.

Statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence state the following:

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.

  • On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines receive approximately 21,000 calls, an average of close to 15 calls every minute.

  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.

  • The presence of a gun in the home during a domestic violence incident increases the risk of homicide by at least 500%.

  • 72% of all murder-suicides involved an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these crimes are female.

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The Cycle of Abuse

Relationship abuse often becomes more frequent and intense over a period of time. Relationship abuse also tends to have a cyclic pattern (See diagram below). One tricky aspect of abusive people is that they can be equally charming. Abusers can be very good at manipulating, begging for forgiveness, apologizing, and making convincing, yet empty promises to change for the better. In the beginning stage of relationships that become abusive, the abuser will often offer constant attention, compliments, gifts, calls, emails, and affection. The abuser will often begin to express jealousy or frustration when the partner wants to spend time with friends or family or make other plans and the abuser will often use guilt tactics to keep the partner isolated from others.

So, how do I know if I'm in an abusive relationship?

Abusive relationships come in many shapes and sizes. Some are obvious, while others come as a huge shock to others. It is also important to know about the various forms of abuse. The following are some examples of different forms of abuse:

Financial Control

  • Making threats to cut you off financially

  • Limiting your access to bank accounts and/or cash or credit/debit cards

  • Not allowing you to work or earn income

  • Refusing to give you money

Sexual Abuse

  • Inappropriate and unwanted touching

  • Nonconsensual sex

  • Threats to be unfaithful

  • Witholding money or affection to get sex

  • Unwanted physical aggression during sex

Emotional/Verbal Abuse

  • Name-calling, put downs, belittling

  • Public shaming, public humiliation

  • Harsh criticism and demeaning jokes

  • Refusing love, attention, and touch

  • Silent treatment

  • Threats to harm you or your family if you leave the relationship

Physical Abuse

  • Hitting, punching, slapping, shoving

  • Pulling hair

  • Pushing

  • Kicking

  • Holding tightly

  • Strangling

  • Kidnapping


  • Following or stalking

  • Refusing to leave when asked

  • Public humiliation

  • Constant checking up on (e.g. calls, texts, emails, drive-bys)

  • Demanding to look through partner's phone, email, belongings

  • Hiding your car keys, phone, etc.

It is no secret that millions of people have experienced some form of relationship abuse throughout their lives. Abusive relationships can sneak up on anyone and be very tricky to navigate. Many people who become involved in abusive relationships once had the mentality that "That will never happen to me.. I'm too strong.." As a result of this, many survivors of domestic violence remain silent and do not reach out for help due to fear of judgment, humiliation, retaliation, or lack of resources and social and/or family support. If you are in an abusive relationship, please know that you are not alone and there is 24 hour support available to you.

If you need help: Call The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) Or, online go to

Lincoln County Resources​

My Sister's Place (Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Support)

Contact 541-574-9424 for address

24-Hour Hope Line: 541-994-5959 or TOLL-FREE 800-841-8325


Additional Resources

This website contains information about domestic/dating violence and where/how to get help for adolescent females.

The Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence website contains articles, research, statistics, related links, and tools for partner violence and information on dating violence and workplace issues.

This website has information about the Duluth prevention model, including their wheel gallery illustrating the use of power and control in abusive relationships.