Signs Of An Abusive Relationship: Emotionally, Verbally, Mentally

Suffering and Healing | |
Updated On: August 17, 2023
signs of an abusive relationship

The thing with toxic relationships is that the signs of an abusive relationship don’t actually hit you until it’s too late. They cloak themselves under the garb of love and care but creep into your relationship and then completely alter it.

In fact, many survivors of abusive relationships have expressed surprise at finding themselves in such a relationship. So, what are the warning signs to look for to know that you are in an abusive relationship?

“You can have a pet zebra and put that zebra into a small cage every day and tell the zebra that you love it, but no matter how you and the zebra love each other, the fact remains that the zebra should be let out of that cage and should belong to someone who can treat it better, the way it should be treated, someone who can make it happy.” ― C. JoyBell

Abusive Relationships

Many survivors who open up about their relationship abuse regret they failed in identifying its early signs. Consider the scenario: you are blinded by love for your partner and living in denial of the toxic behavior.

Or, your partner is manipulating and making you feel incompetent in fulfilling your marital responsibilities. Or, your definition of an abusive relationship is limited to extreme forms, i.e., domestic violence, marital rape, etc. Amid a lot of uncertainties, there are chances that you don’t realize that you are getting dragged deeper into an abusive relationship.

These are nothing but the signs of an abusive relationship. To end this crazy cycle of pain and hurt, our relationship counselors have analyzed some crucial, warning signs that signal the danger of possible abuse forms. Let us have a look.

Related Reading: He would abuse and then apologise – I got trapped into this vicious cycle

Signs Of An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

If your partner shows any of these behaviors, it may be signs of an emotionally abusive relationship. To help you further, we have classified the range of abusive patterns under different categories or degrees:

  • Quick to commit: This is one of the earliest signs you are in an abusive relationship. If your partner is quick to commit to the relationship, it can be a warning sign. That desperate attempt to woo you initially might feel as if he/she is romantic at heart, but you must not rush into this commitment wave. Instead, take your time to understand the reasons why the partner is so much in love with you. If they understand you, giving the desired time to weigh the pros and cons of a relationship will not be an issue. But if you feel pressured to become a part of an exclusive relationship from the very beginning, there is a good chance that your partner has a tendency to be abusive
  • Constant jealousy: Jealousy is a crucial warning sign for a victim to identify the relationship abuse. If your partner is constantly jealous of your other male/female friends, keeps calling or turns up where they are unexpected, this is proof that they are possessive of you. Most often, you tend to write off this insecurity as their genuine love and concern. But remember, this is the beginning of asserting control over your personal lifestyle and preferences. If jealousy stays for longer periods in a relationship, then this poses trust issues in a relationship, making it emotionally toxic
signs of an emotionally abusive relationship
You might be an an emotionally abusive relationship if you feel targeted and emotionally drained

Signs Of A Mentally Abusive Relationship

When you are in a mentally abusive relationship, your abuser is able to exercise control and autonomy over your feelings and emotions without you even realizing it. It tortures you, lowers your self-esteem and renders you completely helpless. Here are some of the signs of an abusive relationship that can leave you psychologically crippled.:

  • Isolation from friends and family: Isolation is the worst form of psychological abuse, where the abuser feels that commitment has entitled them to ownership of you. This is one of the prime characteristics of an abusive man or a woman. This starts with mild responses like criticizing your friends and cousins about their attitudes. This pattern continues until you start believing that their criticisms are true. The initial goal is to strain or eliminate the existing support system so that the victim feels that the abuser is the only person in the world who cares about them. If your partner tries to sever your existing ties with your friends and even your family, then they are definitely a controlling spouse. In extreme cases, they may even try to confiscate your phone or stop you from holding a good job. These symptoms are definitely alarming signs that help define an abusive relationship
  • Avoiding communication: This is another psychological tactic where the abuser shuns any form of communication with the victim. The silent treatment makes the one at the receiving end continuously about what they may have done to trigger this behavior. At times, the self-doubt continues for prolonged periods, making the victim feel guilty about a mistake they may not have committed at all. When confronted, the abuser blames others for their mistakes. Most often, they find fault in the victim’s behavior to justify this silence. Blocking communication feels like silence before a raging storm. Psychologically, this communication gap can be more devastating than any other form of abuse and leave scars on your relationship for life. This is one of the telltale signs that he will abuse you more in the future or that she will get more abusive as time goes by
  • Makes you feel lacking in skills and potential: To have better control in the relationship and hide their insecurities, an abuser tries to highlight your shortcomings and makes you feel incompetent. Even if you are talented and financially independent, they will try to make fun of your abilities or ridicule them in public. This is one of the most degrading signs in a psychologically abusive relationship. The series of constant attacks on your talents will eventually rip your confidence and hamper your potential in the long run. As a result, you feel depressed and see no hope in life, except being stuck in an abusive relationship
  • There is constant criticism: Criticism is hurtful and demoralizing for abuse victims. Living with criticism not only triggers negative feelings but also creates a lot of tension in the relationship. If you face the constant strain of a verbally abusive relationship and criticism about everything, including looks and weaknesses, it is time to acknowledge it as a symptom of psychological abuse. At times, your partner points out your vulnerabilities in the past and degrades you constantly in the present. Such sarcastic comments also inflict silent suffering on a continuous basis. Ideally, it is expected that partners understand each other’s points of view, but such instances widen the rift between the couple and intensify the abuse
  • You find yourself asking for permission to do everything: Romantic relationships are partnerships of equals. It is not a superior-subordinate relationship where seeking permission from one’s partner is a prerequisite. Mutual discussions on a decision in one thing but securing their approval is on a different plane altogether. The first scenario features a healthy couple free from any insecurity, but the latter points to an unbalanced couple dynamic. So, if your partner makes it customary for you to take their permission to do every little thing or go anywhere, then it’s time to reassess your future with them. It’s a good sign that this is going to turn into a psychologically abusive relationship

Related Reading: 5 Signs Of Emotional Abuse You Should Watch Out For Warns Therapist

Signs Of A Physically Abusive Relationship

If you feel like your physical dignity is compromised, it is one of the major signs of an abusive relationship. Nobody should feel like they are physically restrained or coerced in any type of love or relationship.

  • Sexual Abuse: Just because you both are committed to each other or married doesn’t mean your partner is entitled to abuse you sexually, without your consent. ‘No’ means ‘No’ and if the partner tries to blame you for not satisfying their sexual urges or forces you without your consent, then it is nothing but sexual abuse. Usually, in such situations, the abuser uses sulking and emotional blackmail to manipulate your compliance. They may even take out the frustration of being turned down in the form of forced sexual relations or marital rape. If these symptoms are becoming a pattern in your life, then the time has come to acknowledge that you are in a physically abusive relationship
  • Threatening violence: When the abuser doesn’t get what they want, they resort to psychological threats. Sometimes these revolve around physically hurting you, abandoning you, hitting your children or killing you to show his anger. Displaying weapons and slyly threatening you about dire consequences is also an abuser’s way to show their superiority in the relationship. They may also threaten to commit suicide if things don’t go their way. The victim, already bruised due to constant abuse, avoids any altercation and tries hard to keep the peace by behaving just the way their partner wants them to. But all in vain, as a little mistake can trigger spurts of physical violence. The struggles seem unending here, and victims, even after knowing the intensity of abuse, fail to retaliate. Undoubtedly, these extreme sufferings are one of the clear-cut signs you are not going crazy but in an abusive relationship. Recognizing the abuse and taking an exit route is the only solution to get out of this ordeal
verbally Abusive relationship
Threatening violence is one of the signs of an abusive relationship

Signs Of A Financially Abusive Relationship

In any mature and loving relationship, both partners possess financial freedom. If you feel tied down or your partner dominates all financial decisions, you need to watch out for these signs below:

  • Interferes in your career choices: For a modern, independent person, their career is as important as their personal life. However, at times, this doesn’t go well with the partners of financially independent, career-driven women. Instead of being supportive of her career goals, he may try to get her to quit her job after marriage. He builds trust in her over a period of time that she doesn’t need to work and he is fully capable of handling the family’s expenses independently. Many times, the controlling spouse masks his financial insecurities by asking her to concentrate more on domestic responsibilities than on office work. If she is working, he tries to create situations where the victim has no other option than to give up her job. So, if a partner is preventing you from getting or keeping a job, then it is a sign of a financially abusive relationship. Remember, love liberates; it does not restrict you and your talents. So, if he loves you, he would never have a problem with you pursuing your job or talents
  • Uses money to control you: One of the key signs of an economically abusive relationship is that your partner tries to use their money to control you. It may be that your partner is in a better financial position, and tries to win your favor with their wealth. Or they may try to milk your financial independence to further their own goals. For instance, asking you to contribute all of your earnings toward repaying the home loan. You may be allocated a monthly expenses allowance for the upkeep of savings, like a kid, which is not right. Financial control may also manifest in the form of your spouse asking you for bill records and keeping all the extra money with them. According to our relationship experts, this is nothing but your economic exploitation. If the spouse is too finicky about finances, then this points to nothing but financial abuse

If You Are In An Abusive Relationship

If you are facing any of the above signs of abuse in your marriage or your relationship, then now is the time to act. Remember, it is never too late to transform the tale of your life. The change is in your hands; try to find out the intensity of relationship abuse you are in and get out of it. Whether it is a verbally abusive relationship or you are being physically abused for years, this is not something that you can stand for anymore.

‘Quit it’ route might look tough to implement in the beginning but trust us; this will liberate you from all the troubles and miseries of life. We all have the right to live in peace and harmony. Our relationship counsellors are always there to help you out in achieving clarity on your current situation. Do contact Bonobology’s panel of expert psychologists to chart out your next course of action.


1. What are the 6 types of abuse?

They are, physical, sexual, verbal, mental, financial or cultural.

2. What are three types of emotional abuse?

Humiliation, threatening someone and blame shifting are some types of emotional abuse.

3. What type of abuse is the hardest to detect?

Most signs of an abusive relationship are noticed by the victim when it is too late. Mentally abusive relationships are the hardest to detect. One does not even realize the trauma they are being exposed to.

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