Sometimes abusive relationships are easy to identify; other times the abuse may take subtle forms. The examples shown here can help you identify traits of abusive and healthy relationships. In general, abusive relationships have a serious power imbalance, with the abuser controlling or attempting to control most aspects of life. Healthy relationships share responsibility and decision-making tasks and reflect respect for all the people in the relationship, including children.
- Talking and acting so that your partner feels safe and comfortable doing and saying things.
- Listening to your partner non-judgmentally.
- Being emotionally affirming and understanding.
- Valuing opinions.
Trust and Support
- Supporting your partner’s goals in life.
- Respecting your partner’s right to his or her own feelings, friends, activities and opinions.
Honesty and Accountability
- Accepting responsibility for self.
- Acknowledging past use of violence and / or emotionally abusive behavior, changing the behavior.
- Acknowledging infidelity, changing the behavior.
- Admitting being wrong when it is appropriate.
- Communicating openly and truthfully, acknowledging past abuse, seeking help for abusive relationship patterns.
- Sharing parental responsibilities.
- Being a positive, non-violent role model for children.
- Mutually agreeing on a fair distribution of work.
- Making family decisions together.
- Making your partner afraid by using looks, actions, gestures.
- Smashing or destroying things.
- Destroying or confiscating your partner’s property.
- Abusing pets as a display of power and control.
- Silent or overt raging.
- Displaying weapons or threatening their use.
- Making physical threats.
Using Emotional Abuse
- Putting your partner down.
- Making your partner feel bad about himself or herself.
- Calling your partner names.
- Playing mind games.
- Interrogating your partner.
- Harassing or intimidating your partner.
- “Checking up on” your partner’s activities or whereabouts.
- Humiliating your partner, weather through direct attacks or “jokes”.
- Making your partner feel guilty.
- Shaming your partner.
- Controlling what your partner does, who he or she sees and talks to, what he or she reads, where he or she goes.
- Limiting your partner’s outside involvement.
- Demanding your partner remain home when you are not with them.
- Cutting your partner off from prior friends, activities, and social interaction.
- Using jealousy to justify your actions.
(Jealousy is the primary symptom of abusive relationships; it is also a core component of Love Addiction.)
Minimizing, Denying and Blame Shifting
- Making light of the abuse and not taking your partner’s concerns about it seriously.
- Saying the abuse did not happen, or wasn’t that bad.
- Shifting responsibility for your abusive behavior to your partner. (i.e: I did it because you ______.)
- Saying your partner caused it.
- Making your partner feel guilty about the children.
- Using the children to relay messages.
- Using visitation to harass your partner.
- Threatening to take the children away.
Using Male Privilege
- Treating your partner like a servant.
- Making all the big decisions.
- Acting like the “master of the castle.”
- Being the one to define men’s and women’s or the relationship’s roles.
Using Economic Abuse
- Preventing your partner from getting or keeping a job.
- Making your partner ask for money.
- Giving your partner an allowance.
- Taking your partner’s money.
- Not letting your partner know about or have access to family income.