There are often signs of an imbalance of power in a relationship that are overlooked and can lead to more serious abuse. Verbal and emotional abuse are very often minimized by people, i.e. “My partner is not abusive…they don’t hit me.” If any of these indicators are present in a relationship, it is crucial that each partner gets help before it gets worse.

This list identifies a series of behaviors typically demonstrated by abusive people.  All of these forms of abuse (psychological, economic, and physical) come from the abuser’s desire for power and control. These may help you recognize if you or someone you know is in a violent relationship. The more that you answer “yes” to these possibilities, the greater likelihood of a problem. Unhealthy relationships cover a spectrum of miss use of power and control. These questions are designed to establish a pattern of behavior. Meaning that the questions may represent warnings signs if it happened once, but may not necessarily cause you alarm to call it violence, whereas other markers might be immediately identified as harmful and cause you to act on your feelings.

Warning Signs

  1. When there are disagreements between the two of you, does this person always have to “win” the argument?  Does this person fail to respect your needs and views when there is a disagreement? Always claiming to be right (insisting statements are “the truth”) telling you what to do, making big decisions, using “logic.
  2. Does this person often make you feel guilty about the relationship, often by placing you in “no win” (i.e., “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”) situations?
  3. Does this person often berate you or put you down (even in front of others) in order to feel superior?
  4. Does this person criticize you by calling you names, mock your race, swear at you, exoticify your appearance, or make humiliating remarks or gestures toward you?
  5. Does this person threaten to tell you secrets to people you wouldn’t tell this information to?  (i.e. “out” you to your family, post nude pictures of you in places you don’t want them visible)
  6. Does this person resent you having friends of your own?
  7. Does this person use money as a means of control in your relationship? Do they make you feel bad for having less money than they do? Do they make you feel beholden to them for their financial assistance?
  8. Does this person make you feel incompetent to make your own decisions? Do they question your mental health/ability, or make you feel bad for any perceived mental health disorders or ability issues?
  9. Does this person become extremely upset when you do things without their permission, or when you reject their presumed authority?
  10. Does this person break your possessions as a means of controlling your behavior?
  11. Is this person abusive to animals/pets?
  12. Does this person try to control your friendships (e.g., place restrictions on whom you can see and when you can see them)?
  13. Does this person threaten to harm your friends if you continue seeing them or if they try to help you?
  14. Does this person monitor you phone calls, check your texts, misuse your social media outlets (i.e. facebook twitter) as a way of knowing what you are doing?
  15. Does this person threaten violence toward you or toward self (i.e., suicide threats) in order to make you stay in the relationship?
  16. Does this person exhibit an obsession with pornography?
  17. Does this person seem to pay close attention to how you are dressed? Do they act displeased when what you are wearing doesn’t fit their wishes?
  18. Does this person check your phone logs? Control your car keys? Check-up on you at work? Keep you from going to work?
  19. Does this person take pride in your achievements, or does this person view your accomplishments as threatening?  Does this person seem to feel better when you fail?
  20. Does this person believe in the “adversarial” or game-like system of sexual conquest?  Does this person boast of sexual intimacy as a victory or achievement, or define members of the opposite sex as sexual property?
  21. Has this person ever forced, pressured, or manipulated you into having sex when it was against your wishes?
  22. Does this person exhibit unpredictable mood swings? Getting easily upset by small annoyances and lash out verbally or physically as a means of coping with the situation?
  23. Does this person keep weapons? Do they “play” with them in your presence to make you uncomfortable?
  24. Does this person deny responsibility for faults by shifting the responsibility to someone/something else or explaining the behavior as necessary and unavoidable? Makes excuses when confronted.
  25. Does this person say untrue things, leaving out parts of the truth, or pretending to agree when they don’t?
  26. Has this person ever hit you, pushed you, thrown objects at you, or otherwise displayed violent outbursts directed toward you?
  27. Does this person use their physical size to intimidate you? (ie: stand in your way, impede you)
  28. Has this person ever been violent toward former dating partners?
  29. Does this person become verbally or physically abusive when under the influence of alcohol? Alcohol and drug use reduce a person’s self-control, and are often used as an excuse for abusive behavior, but are not the cause of violence.
  30. Does this person have a history of getting into frequent fights with others?

If after looking over this list you answered “yes” to more questions than you are comfortable with, it is possible that the relationship you were evaluating is not a healthy one. If you would like to learn more or talk about ways to improve this relationship, we have advocates available to provide confidential crisis intervention and emotional support through the Women and Gender Advocacy Center. We provide information about academic, legal, medical, emotional, and student conduct resources to survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking. We also offer support to secondary survivors, such as intimate partners, friends, family, and you.