What is an Abusive Relationship?

Pretty young woman seated on floor with depressed expression. White background.Abusive relationships are not limited to children and lower income adults.  Relationships that are rooted in abuse are more common than one might think. They are in places where no one would even think to look.  There are signs, but if you are not expecting any signs of abuse to be there, you will miss all the warning signs and red flags.

There are also different forms of abuse.  There is physical abuse, where a stronger person hurts a weaker person.  There is psychological abuse which cause fear, negative self-image, and feelings of helplessness.  All forms of abuse are rooted in the need to control another person.  Control is the ultimate outcome.

Forms of physical abuse include, but are not limited to;

  • Invading body space and standing over the other person in a threatening manner.
  • ‘Mock’ physical abuse, such as raising a hand as if to strike, ‘just missing’ and sudden movements.
  • ‘Accidentally’ causing distress or harm by way of touching, pushing, bumping and tripping.
  • Aggressively and directly harming by way of punching, gripping, cutting and burning.

Forms of weakened resistance that will lead to psychological abuse include, but are not limited to;

  • Nit-picking, criticizing them for every little thing.
  • Exhausting demands that require long hours of work.
  • Criticizing the person’s character, indicating they are wholly incompetent.
  • Guilt trips, blaming them for things which go wrong.
  • Random acts of violence that leave the abused person constantly in uncertainty and fear.
  • Occasional acts of kindness that prove they are ‘not all bad’.
  • Threatening to throw them (and the children) out on the streets.
  • Repeatedly dragging up ‘things done wrong’ in the past.
  • Saying that if the abuser leaves the person will be devastated, lose their job or otherwise harmed.
  • Threatening extreme acts if the abused leaves (and blaming them for it), such as ‘suing for everything’, killing the abuser or committing suicide themselves.

The weakened person falls into a position of learned helplessness where they see no hope of change and no opportunity to leave.


Forms of psychological abuse include, but are not limited to;

  • Criticizing actions and decisions.
  • Telling them they are stupid and lack intelligence.
  • Telling them they are unattractive.
  • Calling them names, comparing them with people in low social positions.
  • Criticizing them in front of others.

The first thing you need to do if you suspect that you are in an abusive situation is to educate yourself on what abuse really means and what it looks like.  Look at the types and examples that I provided in the beginning of this blog and if you feel that any of them relate to you, then you need to research it further.  Keep in mind that if you are in an abusive situation, it is not your fault.  The abuser is at fault.  You have done nothing to deserve any form of abuse, even if you have made terrible mistakes.

The second thing you need to do is to find a safe place to stay if you are in physical danger.  Women’s shelters are an excellent place to start.  Your friends and family are another source of safety.  Get somewhere safe and rest.  You will need time to heal.

The third thing to do is to figure out how to rebuild your life.  See a therapist or join a support group.  Support groups are a wealth of information and will be able to provide resources you may not have known about.

The fourth thing you need to do is to try to understand why you were abused, from the abuser’s point of view.  I know this sounds strange, but sometimes, empathy gives you a deeper understanding as to why that person was like that and it will give you a sense of peace.  Once you are truly able to understand that the abuse you received had nothing to do with you, you will be able to easily forgive and move on.

Abuse, in any form, is unacceptable.  You have a right to stand up to it and fight back.  You are a person and you matter.