It can be hard to know if your relationship is headed down the wrong path. While it’s not always possible to prevent relationship violence, there are steps you can take to try to protect yourself.
If you think your partner might be controlling or abusive, you can:
- Trust your feelings – If something doesn’t seem right, take it seriously.
- Find out about the warning signs of someone who might become controlling or violent.
- Get help – Talk to people who are experts in relationship violence.
Remember, controlling or violent relationships usually get worse over time. If your partner might be controlling or abusive, it’s better to get help now than to wait.
What is relationship violence?
Relationship violence is when one person in a relationship is abusive or controlling toward the other person – especially when they disagree about something.
Relationship violence is sometimes called dating, domestic, or intimate partner violence. In some relationships, both partners act in unhealthy or unsafe ways.
When many people think about relationship violence, they think about physical violence, like hitting or pushing. But people can use other methods to control their partners, like threats or insults.
Relationship violence can include:
- Physical violence, like pushing, hitting, or throwing things
- Sexual violence, like forcing or trying to force someone to do something sexual
- Threats of physical or sexual violence, which may include threatening to hurt another person or a pet
- Emotional abuse, like embarrassing the other partner or keeping that person away from family and friends
If you feel controlled by or afraid of your partner – even if you haven’t been hurt physically – trust your gut. There are people who can help you figure out what to do next.
How do I know if my relationship is healthy?
In a healthy relationship, both people:
- Make decisions
- Are honest about their feelings and needs
- Can disagree with the other person without fear
- Feel supported and respected
- Have friends and activities that don’t always involve the other partner
- Believe that there are more good times than bad in the relationship
Healthy relationships have problems, too. But in a healthy relationship, both partners take responsibility for their actions and work together to make decisions and sort out the problems.
How do I know if my relationship might become violent?
Relationship violence can start slowly and be hard to recognize at first.
For example, when people first start dating, it’s common to want to spend a lot of time together. It may be hard to tell if you are spending less time with other people just for now or if your partner is trying to control your time.
It might help to ask yourself these questions:
- Does my partner respect me?
- Does my partner blame me for everything that goes wrong?
- Does my partner make most of the decisions in our relationship?
- Am I ever afraid to tell my partner something?
- Do I ever feel forced to do something I don’t want to do?
- Have I ever done anything sexual with my partner when I didn’t want to?
- Does my partner promise to change and then keep doing the same things?
Get more information about signs of abusive relationships.
What are the health effects of relationship violence?
Some health effects are clear, like physical injuries. But the stress of relationship violence can lead to other serious problems like:
- Eating disorders
- Mental health problems – like panic attacks, trouble sleeping, and flashbacks (re-living the violence in your mind)
- Trouble trusting people and building other relationships
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – a type of anxiety disorder
What if I’m not sure my relationship is violent?
It’s okay if you are not sure – you can still get help. Domestic violence agencies have counselors who are experts at helping people with questions about their relationships. You don’t even have to give your name.
Domestic violence agencies provide:
- Emotional support
- Safety planning
- A safe place to stay in an emergency
- Legal help
- Help with housing
If you have questions about your relationship, call 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233). If you are in danger right now, call 911. Find out more about getting help.