By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have been in a toxic relationship. but if you don’t know the signs you’re in an abusive relationship, you’re more likely to end up in one.

People of all ages, nationalities and sexual orientations can find themselves in an unhealthy relationship, confused how they got there, or perhaps even unsure the relationship is unhealthy. 

While physical abuse is obvious, mental and emotional abuse can be subtle and is often overlooked. What’s more is that it can be pretty hard to notice things are wrong if you suffer from low self-esteem or a low sense of self-worth.

Sadly, abusive behavior can seem ‘normal’ to those who don’t know their own value.


5 signs you’re in an abusive relationship


1. Your Partner is always undermining you


One of the signs you’re in an abusive relationship is if you’re constantly being undermined by your partner.


When you try to speak with your partner, do they refuse to hear your side? Do they deny everything you say to the point of questioning your sanity? Does it make you question your own sanity? Having disagreements is normal, but a partner who refuses to have an open conversation is problematic – especially one who gaslights you on the regular!


2. Your Partner Isolates you from others


If you feel like your partner routinely isolates you from others, this could be one of the signs you’re in an abusive relationship.


If you feel you need the love, support an energy of close friends and family, but your partner isolates you from them, this is a sign of abuse. It could be subtle, pretending to be sick or in a funk to get you to stay home with them instead; or it could be more obvious, as in “forbidding” you to see certain people.


3. Your partner routinely Puts you down


If your partner is always putting you down, it’s one of the signs you’re in an abusive relationship.


Saying something you know will be hurtful is a form of verbal abuse. You’re intentionally causing the other person pain. Though it may be said in jest, abusers often play off humor as a cover for cruelty. 

If your partner is constantly putting you down or intentionally pushing your buttons, this is not only disrespectful, it’s abusive.


4. They always play the guilt card


If guilt trips are the most common trips you take with your partner, this is one of the signs you’re in an abusive relationship.


A lot of abuse comes in the form of manipulation, and guilt is one of the easiest ways to manipulate someone’s emotions to control their behavior. If you feel you’re being manipulated through guilt to the point where you’re ready to give up any power you have in the relationship, this is a major warning sign you’re in an abusive relationship. For example, it’s natural and healthy for a person to need time alone but does it seem like your partner guilts you into spending most of your time alone with them?


5. They’re always trying to Control your behavior


If you feel like your partner is always trying to control your behavior this is definitely one of the signs you’re in an abusive relationship.


This could be a broad range of things, from controlling how you dress to what you say and where you go. Again, it may be subtle. Maybe they buy you clothes often and tease you about your sense of style, or lack there of. Maybe they tease you and say you sound “silly“ not knowing what you’re talking about regarding politics. This is disrespectful and abusive.


recovering from an abusive relationship

  1. Learn how to spot controlling behavior so you can be clear about what is happening to you.
  2. Become your own greatest strength and support by learning to trust your instincts, thoughts, and feelings.
  3. Surround yourself with those who love and respect you and want the best for you.

Relationships take work. But they shouldn’t be abusive. If you’re struggling in an abusive relationship and don’t know how to handle it, find an awesome therapist you like and trust to help you navigate your way out. They can help you see the reality of the situation clearly,  and teach strategies to extract yourself from the relationship.


James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.