Is it an Abusive Relationship?

Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Not sure if your relationship is unhealthy, or actually abusive?

There can be more kinds of abuse than people realise when it comes to who we try to love.

The different kinds of abusive relationships

The classic image of an abused partner is someone with bruises and injuries.

Physical violence is certainly a terrifying kind of abuse. The UK has recently seen a 5-year high in cases of domestic violence related murders, in statistics gathered by the BBC from 43 police forces.

But there are other kinds of abuse which can be very harmful. What are the different kinds of abusive relationships and the signs to look for?

Physical abuse

Anybody who intentionally hurts you is physically abusing you, regardless of how much pain they inflict or if it leaves evidence.

This includes:

  • hitting, pinching, slapping, scratching
  • burning you
  • throwing things at you
  • pushing
  • hair pulling
  • denying you medication you need
  • refusing to let you eat
  • making you take drugs and alcohol that make you sick
  • leaving you outside without proper clothes.

Sexual abuse

Any kind of sexual activity you are coerced into against your will is sexual abuse.

This can look like a partner:

  • forcing you to have sex you don’t want or unprotected sex
  • or do sexual acts you have said no to
  • using aggression or hurting you without your permission during sex
  • making you have sex with someone else when you don't want to
  • forcing you to reveal your body to other people
  • humiliating you sexually in front of others.

Emotional abuse

This can be tricky to spot if it is always under the guise of ‘jokes’ or ‘just being honest’.

Emotional abuse means your sense of self and your esteem are purposely eroded by the other person.

This can look like:

  • always making fun of you
  • calling you names
  • putting you down
  • endlessly criticising you
  • insinuating that you are no good and hopeless, such as making you feel like a bad parent.

Psychological abuse

This can be the most subtle and difficult to spot but can have serious long-term affects.

Whereas emotional abuse is an obvious put down of who you are and makes you feel unworthy, psychological abuse tends to leave you walking on eggshells and feeling afraid.

It can look like someone:

  • threatening you, however subtly, to get their way
  • or outright threatening to hurt or even kill you
  • initimidating you if you challenge them
  • suggesting they will in any any way hurt your pet or child if you don’t do what they want
  • controlling your every move, spying on you, following you
  • threatening to kill themselves if you don't do what they say
  • making you question what you saw and heard
  • separating you from your support system such as friends and family, so that you are increasingly under their control.

Financial abuse

This is a sort of abuse gaining new attention. It means you partner is controlling or manipulating you through finances.

This is usually done by making you totally dependent on them for any money, such as refusing to let you educate yourself or take a job.

It can also look like:

  • refusing to give you enough money to live on
  • making you do things you don’t want to get money from them
  • or forcing you to give them all the money you do make.

I am not sure what kind of abuse it is

Often forms of abuse overlap. Someone can use psychological abuse, for example, in order to take your money, which is economic abuse. Or they can sexually abuse you after physically abusing you.

It doesn’t matter what the label is. If your partner is controlling and hurting you, it’s abuse, and it’s time to seek support.

What should I do if I think my partner is abusing me?

The NHS guide to getting help for domestic violence and abuse is a good resource that details places to contact. It includes free helplines that won't show up on your phone bill, and which put you in touch with understanding volunteers who won't at all judge you but are there to assist and listen.

Can’t I just figure this out myself?

Abusive relationships can be highly addictive. Deprived of love and positive attention, we become addicted to the small moments of these our partner does offer. This is why so many people sadly stay in abusive relationships until they are broken, or, worse. And why it really is important to seek whatever support you can.

Ready to take the big step of talking to a counsellor about your abusive relationship? Find a counsellor now at a price that suits your budget, and make that first step toward taking care of yourself.

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