Am I in an Abusive Relationship?

The abusive relationship is characterised by inequality. When one partner consistently controls, dominates or intimidates the other, by means of manipulative, punishing or forceful behaviour, abuse is occurring.

All couples have power struggles and disagreements at times, but when there is a pattern of control that results in one partner winning on most issues, at the expense of the other’s rights, beliefs and desires, that is abuse.

Here's is a checklist to help you clarify your situation:

Does Your Partner...

  • Frequently use put-downs, call you names or belittle the things you do?
  • Demand an unrealistic amount of your time, energy, attention or affection and get angry if you do not oblige?
  • Insist on having the decision-making power on most issues?
  • Expect you to be around constantly, and resent any time you spend pursuing your own interests or seeing other people?
  • Keep control of the money and give you an inadequate allowance?
  • Treat you with hostile silence and cold contempt for long periods?
  • Use punishing behaviour to manipulate you into ‘doing as you’re told’?
  • Deliberately make you feel guilty or inadequate by using blame and criticism?
  • Harass you or use standover tactics to get you to comply?
  • Fly into sudden irrational tempers for little or no reason then blame these outbursts on you?
  • Frighten you by smashing up possessions?
  • Threaten to harm you or the people you love?
  • Restrain you, slap, shove or shake you, pull your hair, kick or punch you?
  • Show excessive jealousy and accuse you unjustly of flirting or having affairs?
  • Force or coerce you into having sex or participating in sexual practices that you do not feel comfortable with?
  • Constantly refuse to take responsibility for destructive behaviour?
  • Deny events happened as they did or use other mind games?
  • Refuse to give you emotional support, even when you have a major crisis to deal with like a death in the family?
  • Humiliate you in front of others or make jokes at your expense?
  • Pretend to be kind and caring toward you in front of others but treat you totally differently when you are alone together?
  • Undermine your relationship with your children?
  • Deprive you of sleep by arguing late into the night?
  • Used improved behaviour when you are considering leaving but resume abusive behaviour when the danger has passed?
If you have answered ‘yes’ to some or many of these questions, you may be feeling distressed. You may be shocked, angry or terrified of the implications for your future now you are facing the truth. You may also feel a sense of relief that suddenly you can begin to identify the source of your pain more accurately. For further information visit the Women's Refuge website:

© Copyright Kay Douglas. Kay Douglas is a registered psychotherapist, counsellor and life coach. She is also the author of four self-help books: Invisible Wounds, Challenged by Childhood, Living Life Out Loud and Power Games (co-authored with Dr Kim McGregor). She is in private practice in Auckland, New Zealand. For more information please visit

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