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Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship

Do you ever wonder if your relationship is abusive? If you even ask yourself this question it’s probably troubling enough, but know that you are not alone. One in three women in the U.S. is physically assaulted by a partner at least once in her lifetime. Every nine seconds a woman is beaten or attacked. Every day three women are murdered by their husband or boyfriend. Domestic violence is a horrible epidemic that takes place quietly behind closed doors. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not confined to a single race, ethnicity, to the poor or uneducated. The problem spans a wide, diverse demographic.

Abuse comes in many forms: physical or verbal, psychological, and emotional. Most often an imbalance of power exists in the relationship, with one person victimizing the other. Less common is the phenomenon of mutual abuse with both partners as participants. Domestic violence is rarely limited to a single occurrence. There are reports of daily, weekly or less frequent abuse.

Over time some people get used to certain kinds of abuse and get numb to its effect. Others who’ve grown up in abusive homes, often believe it’s an inevitable part of relationships, something to endure. Below is a list of warning signs of abuse or  potential abuse.

Warning Signs of Abuse

  • Controlling behaviors
  •  Physical abuse or the threat of harm
  •  Intimidation, yelling, screaming
  •   Attempts to isolate the victim from friends or family
  •   Demanding or coercing sex when one partner is not interested
  •   Persistent put-downs that diminish self-worth
  •   Intense jealousy
  •   Discouraging any independence

If you find yourself in any of these situations, here are some steps to take:

  • Begin by shifting the focus to yourself. Create a vision for what you want and need in your life.
  • Give up trying to “fix” your partner. Remember, you are the only person you can control.
  • Know that every person deserves to feel safe and respected in a relationship. The abuse is NOT your fault.
  • Don’t allow yourself to become isolated. Talk about it with friends or join a support group. Additional support helps you to feel empowered to explore your options, including making the choice to leave the relationship.
  • Become aware of community resources for people in abusive relationships. Identify a “safe place” you can go in an emergency if your partner is violent or threatens you physically.
  • Seek professional counseling to help you sort out the personal and relationship issues you are facing.



Jerry is a patient, warm-hearted therapist dedicated to guiding couples to breakthroughs. He has counseled individuals and couples for over 40 years, in a variety of settings. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology at Saybrook Institute in San Francisco and a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology at Antioch New England University. Jerry co-authored Relationship Transformation: How to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Mary Ellen Goggin — and they were married by chapter 3. Jerry brings a great depth and breadth of expertise to his work, and distills nuanced theories into actionable simplicity. He loves The New Yorker, dew-laden fairways, and dusty delta blues. His revolution: changing the world, one couple at a time. Read more about the retreats