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15 Signs Of An Abusive Relationship (With Examples)

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

When you know what to look for, it’s simple to identify the telltale signs of an abusive relationship.

15 Signs Of An Abusive Relationship (With Examples)

In order to help you analyze your relationship, this guide will outline 15 signs that you are in an abusive relationship. 

Keep in mind that not all of the signals are needed to pinpoint this behavior.  Perhaps just one sign will reveal all there is to know about your relationship.


An abusive relationship is characterized by extreme possessiveness.

The abusive partner believes they are in control of you and can make decisions for you.

Your partner can also try to keep you away from your friends and family out of possessiveness. You are easier to manipulate and more reliant on him when you are alone.

Some abusive partners do, in fact, perceive your friendships as a danger to them.

Possession is another factor in abusive relationships that prevents them from understanding or accepting a breakup.

Their mindset is twisted in this way: in their mind, they own you, so how can you break up with them?


Another clear indicator of an abusive relationship is entitlement. Abusers do not necessarily view the world with a sense of entitlement. They do, however, for their lovers.

Abusive entitlement has several layers:

Physical Entitlement

You are viewed by them as an unpaid maid. You might be expected to take care of the kids, clean the kitchen, and do the laundry.

Of course, the most important bit is that you look after them.

Emotional Entitlement

You should be pleased for them if they achieved significant success at work. The universe revolves around them, so it doesn’t matter if you have all the reasons in the world to be depressed right now.

If they seek emotional connection, you should stop all you’re doing to comfort them when they’re sad. And if you don’t comprehend their needs that they haven’t even articulated, they may become hostile.

However, no matter how much you give them, they will never improve. And for them, it will never be enough.

Sexual Entitlement

You should be prepared to have sex whenever they decide. However, they won’t lift a finger if they don’t feel like it.

If you don’t experience an orgasm, some abusers could become angry. They may care more about their own perception of themselves as excellent lovers than they do about you, which is more commonly the case.

Controlling Behavior

Abusive partners feel they have the right to dictate their partner’s thoughts, words, and actions.

They expect their word to be the last word in a conflict, and they become especially irate when you defy them.

Abusers can claim to be “giving” their partners certain freedoms. And they believe they have the right to someday take away the liberties they offer.

They Do Not Accept Your Boundaries

Many abusive partners believe they have the exclusive right to be angry, and they seek complete control.

They’ll try to suppress your anger as soon as they can if you do get mad. And they might use your rage against you to disparage you as being too sensitive, unreasonable, or “full of spite.”

You may experience emotional numbness and depression as a result of this. These emotions might be used by your abusive partner to degrade you more or to make you feel insane.

You Cannot Criticize Them

Abusers don’t want to hear criticism because they believe they are above it.

Even if your complaint is justified, they typically perceive it as pestering or provocative.

Abusive relationships won’t escalate past a certain point in many cases. However, when you criticize them, there may be verbal and emotional abuse that follows, frequently with the threat of violence.


A key indicator of an abusive relationship is disrespect. In actuality, disrespect is what lies at the heart of an abusive relationship.

Abuse in any form is disrespectful and can take many different forms. You never mistreat a person you respect, and you lose respect for someone you mistreat.

Because they dehumanize and objectify you, many abusers carry on with their mistreatment and disrespect guilt-free.

They can continue to abuse you while sleeping soundly and living guilt-free lives thanks to their dehumanization and depersonalization.


Very few abusers use intimidation, physical violence, and verbal abuse as their exclusive methods of controlling their relationships. After all, the abuser needs some enjoyable moments to keep you around.

Because of this, the majority of abusers are trained in the use of power and mental tricks. Additionally, their manipulations get more skilled the smarter and more educated they are.

Some common manipulations include:

  • Mood swings
  • Denying what they’ve said or done
  • Guilt tripping
  • Shifting blame
  • Turning you against friends and family
  • Spreading rumors
  • Accusing you of being an abuser

Superiority Complex

Abusers are not the only ones who feel superior to their spouses; many other people also think of themselves as being “above” them.

15 Signs Of An Abusive Relationship (With Examples) (2)

However, it’s another sign of an abusive relationship when it manifests as a sense of superiority in many different facets of life.

In fact, the abusive partner frequently believes that you are inferior to them in terms of intelligence, skill, and, occasionally, even compassion.


The abusive partners almost always have a “valid” reason for their abusive behavior.

And they frequently involve your perceived flaws as well as your “strategies”:

  • “She/he pushed me too far.”
  • “She/he knows how to get under my skin.”
  • “She/he’s a terrible person.”
  • “There’s only so much more I can take.”

Demanding Public Perfection

Some abusers wish to flaunt their partner in order to enhance their own image.

These people will want you to present yourself beautifully, dress impeccably, and act perfectly.

Even if you manage to live up to their high standards, they are more in love with the impression you give them than with you as a person.

And if you make any mistake that “makes them look bad,” they will brutally attack you later.

Denies And Minimizes

You are likely in an abusive relationship if your partner downplays or disputes what transpired following the abusive incident.

Less than 10% of abusers have borderline personality disorder, which causes them to isolate their consciousness.

However, the majority of other abusers deliberately lie.

Wants To Maintain Good Public Image

Not all abusers act in this way, but many do so in an effort to project a positive image to the public and give the impression that they are honorable and decent individuals.

It’s difficult for you to even find support because everyone thinks your partner is a lovely person.

They use their positive public image as another tactic to keep you in an abusive relationship.

Escalating Intensity

According to research, domestic violence typically gets worse over time.

Typically, arguments between couples begin with insults or hurtful statements, followed by yelling, threatening breakups, or threats of violence. Finally, they begin beating one another.

Mutual Escalations

To think of abuse as a problem involving solely men would be a huge mistake.

According to research, hostility between couples is common. And when only one partner is abusive, it is frequently claimed that they are responding out of retaliation for the other.

The majority of people like to view violence in morally binary terms, with innocent, helpless victims and evil offenders.

However, the majority of abusers only act violently when they believe they are being attacked.

Seeing Everything As A Personal Attack

Abusers see abuse from their partner even though there was none.

Imagine, for instance, that you are out to dinner with some friends when they bring up a restaurant they recently visited and how costly it was.

Your partner motions for you to give it a shot. You respond, “I don’t know, it sounds expensive,” or something similar.

Because he “couldn’t afford the place,” the abuser would interpret it as an embarrassing, public assault on his manhood.

To Summarize

Any observer from the outside who understands what to look for can easily spot the telltale indications of an abusive relationship.

You can improve your relationship troubleshooting skills with the help of this article.

You should be aware that things rarely improve if you discover that you are in an abusive relationship. You could be better off breaking up with the person.

Read More about Narcissist Abuse and Domestic Violence

Emergency Numbers

Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest organization fighting sexual violence: (800) 656-HOPE / (800) 810-7440 (TTY)

988 Mental Health Emergency Hotline: Calling 988 will connect you to a crisis counselor regardless of where you are in the United States.

911 Emergency

The National Runaway Safeline: 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)

Self Abuse Finally Ends (S.A.F.E)

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Trauma & Child Abuse Resource Center

Domestic Violence Shelters & Resources

Futures Without Violence

National Center for Victims of Crime

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Prevent Child Abuse America

Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine: 1-800-950-NAMI, or text “HELPLINE” to 62640. Both services are available between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday–Friday

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); www.suicidepreventionlifeline.orgOr, just dial 988

Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: www.suicide.org

Crisis Text Line: Text REASON to 741741 (free, confidential and 24/7). In English and Spanish

Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)

Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228

American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222

National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency: 1-800-622-2255

LGBTQ Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

National Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262)

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678678. Standard text messaging rates apply. Available 24/7/365. (Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning—LGBTQ—young people under 25.)

The SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline connects LGBT older people and caretakers with friendly responders. 1-877-360-LGBT (5428)

The Trans Lifeline is staffed by transgender people for transgender people:
1-877-565-8860 (United States)
1-877-330-6366 (Canada)

Veterans Crisis Line: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net

International Suicide Prevention Directory: findahelpline.com

The StrongHearts Native Helpline is a confidential and anonymous culturally appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native Americans, available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. Call 1-844-762-8483.

‘Find a Therapist’ Online Directories


UK & Republic of Ireland

  • Emergency: 112 or 999
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate)
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92 (UK minicom)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI – local rate)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 91 (ROI minicom)
  • YourLifeCounts.org: https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help/

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