29 April, 2021

The signs of an abusive relationship aren’t always obvious.

Some people might live in an unhealthy or abusive relationship and not realise they’re experiencing domestic abuse. This is because some types of domestic abuse – such as emotional and psychological abuse – can be more subtle than others.

Knowing the signs of an abusive relationship can help you know when to seek support for yourself and keep an eye out for the people around you.

In this blog post, we’ll look at:

  • Signs your relationship is unhealthy or abusive
  • Signs your relationship might become physically abusive
  • Signs someone you know might be in an abusive relationship
  • Where to get help if you or someone you know is living with abuse.


Signs You’re in an Abusive Relationship

Some signs of an abusive relationship are harder to spot than others. It’s important to remember that not all domestic and family abuse is physical, and all forms of abuse can be just as dangerous and damaging to a victim.

If you recognise any of these signs, you might be in an abusive relationship.

  • Your partner makes you feel guilty for spending time with friends or family
  • Your partner always wants to know where you are and who you’re with
  • Your partner comments on what you should and shouldn’t wear
  • Your partner reads your texts or emails without your permission
  • Your partner puts you down or criticises you
  • Your partner yells or swears at you
  • Your partner constantly accuses you of cheating
  • Your partner ignores your needs
  • You don’t feel safe raising issues with your partner
  • You feel like you have to tiptoe or ‘walk on eggshells’ around your partner
  • You feel like you have to ignore your own needs to keep your partner happy or calm
  • Your partner blames you for all the problems in the relationship
  • Your partner makes fun of you in public or private, even “as a joke”
  • Your partner threatens harm to you, your children or your pets
  • Your partner discourages you from having relationships and hobbies outside the home
  • You feel scared of what your partner will do if you leave them
  • You feel like you can’t be yourself around your partner
  • You don’t feel safe around your partner.


Warning Signs of a Physically Abusive Relationship

These are some early signs of a physically abusive relationship. If you recognise these signs in your relationship, it might indicate that your partner may become physically violent in the future.

It’s important to remember that these are abusive behaviours and are all forms of domestic and family abuse. Even if your partner doesn’t use physical violence, these behaviours are still not acceptable.

  • They’re excessively jealous and/or possessive
  • They want to know where you are at all times
  • They constantly check in on you via text or call when you’re apart
  • They control who you can and can’t contact or see
  • They control how you dress and/or groom yourself
  • They withhold money and/or dictate how you can spend money
  • They blame you for all the problems in the relationship
  • They believe in rigid gender roles (e.g. man who expects woman to cook and clean)
  • They yell and/or use disrespectful language (e.g. swearing, insults)
  • They put you down and belittle you
  • They constantly criticise how you do things
  • They make fun of you around others “as a joke”
  • They pressure you into sex or sexual acts
  • They throw things or punch walls when angry
  • They threaten to hurt you, your children or your pets
  • They make you feel unsafe.


Signs Someone Might be in an Abusive Relationship

Are you worried someone you know might be in a violent or abusive relationship? These are some common signs that might indicate someone is experiencing domestic and family violence or abuse.

  • They’ve started to abruptly cancel plans
  • They’re less social than they used to be
  • They’re less active on social media than they used to be
  • They’re less responsive to texts/calls than they used to be
  • They’re noticeably less confident and happy
  • They never have money to go out for coffee/a meal/drinks
  • They seem distracted or preoccupied
  • They avoid talking about their partner and/or relationship
  • They often look tired or like they’ve just been crying
  • Their partner is constantly checking in on them via text or calls when they’re apart
  • They’ve started dressing and/or grooming themselves differently
  • They seem nervous or act different around their partner
  • Their behaviour and/or body language changes around their partner
  • Their partner puts them down in front of you, even “as a joke”
  • They have unexplained bruises, cuts, or injuries
  • They wear long clothes in warm weather (potentially hiding bruises/cuts/injuries).

We offer some advice if you think your friend is in an abusive relationship in this blog post.


Get Support

If you or someone you know is living with any type of domestic and family violence or abuse, help is available.

You can call us on 1300 364 277 for guidance finding the right support for you, or learn about our Domestic and Family Violence Prevention service here.


1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732

DVConnect Womensline: 1800 811 811

DVConnect Mensline: 1800 600 636

Sexual Assault Helpline: 1800 010 120

Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800

Lifeline: 13 11 14

If you believe you or your children are in immediate danger, please call 000.