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  • Writer's pictureEvolve Therapy

Am I in an abusive relationship?

The relationship started out really well. Your partner may have been extremely loving and kind. In fact, most abusive and violent relationships start out this way.

Every abusive relationship is different, but in general abusive and violent relationships share a typical cycle. Much of the time there isn’t violence or abuse, because the relationship may be in a different part of the cycle. Domestic abuse also known as intimate partner violence occurs across all social, economic and racial strata. It can happen to anyone.

In general, the cycle of abuse/violence goes like this:

Phase 1: Tension Building — Victims report that they are walking on eggshells so as not to upset their partner. The victim feels that a violent or verbal attack is impending. The abusive or violent partner may act in quite controlling ways by restricting access to friends or family. There is a sense of tension and the victim must be careful not to encourage the abusive partner to explode.

Phase 2: Explosion/Abuse/Battering — This looks different in every case. Examples of the behaviors are physical violence, choking, hitting, screaming, driving recklessly, put downs, or threatens you or themselves. The victim cannot prevent this behavior from happening no matter what is done. Victims often describe helplessness and report depressive feelings.

Phase 3: Honeymoon — This is a period of relief. The abuser is calm and feels regret for their behavior. They can be loving and kind to the victim. Promises are made that this won’t ever happen again. Unfortunately, this stage is temporary.

Without intervention the cycle will continue and will progress to higher and more dangerous levels. It may take weeks or months to repeat, but without a doubt tension building will begin again.

These are some warning signs that you may be in abusive or violent relationship if your partner does any of the following:

  • Doesn’t hold a job or go to work

  • Abuses siblings, other family members, children or pets

  • Puts people down, including your family and friends, or calls them names

  • Is always angry at someone or something

  • Tries to isolate you and controls who you see or where you go

  • Nags you or forces you to be sexual when you don’t want to

  • Cheats on you or has lots of partners

  • Is physically rough with you (push, pull, yank, squeeze, restrain)

  • Takes your money or takes advantage of you in other ways

  • Accuses you of flirting or coming on to others, or accuses you of cheating on them

  • Doesn’t listen to you or show interest in your opinions or feelings

  • Things always have to be done their way

  • Ignores you, give you the silent treatment, or hangs up on you

  • Lies to you, don’t show up for dates, maybe even disappear for days

  • Checks out or makes lewd comments about others in your presence

  • Blame all arguments and problems on you

  • Refuses to use a condom or other type of birth control

  • Steals money from you or maxes out the credit cards in your name

  • Pressures you to send explicit videos of yourself

  • Steals or insists on being given your passwords

  • Uses technology to spy on you

  • Tells you how to dress or act

  • Threatens suicide if you break up with them

  • Experiences extreme mood swings

  • Tells you to shut up or tell you you’re dumb, stupid, fat, or calls you some other name (directly or indirectly)

  • Compares you to former partners or excessively bad mouths former partners

Unfortunately, couples counseling won’t help these abusive and violent relationships until the abuser learns anger management skills, changes expectations and learn to communicate in healthy ways.

If you recognize your relationship in some of these behaviors get help Call: National Domestic Violence Hotline 24 hours a day. You can call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or go to They will be able to help you with the next steps.

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