Counselling, Men's Health, Mindfulness, Relationship, Sexual Therapy, Therapy, Women's Health

Break the Cycle of Abuse. What are Signs of Abuse?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - abuse - signs - narcissist

What is Abuse?

Abusive relationships are not always easy to spot. While it’s hard to believe anyone would ever consider remaining in an abusive relationship, the reality is that it happens every day in our society. Abuse in a relationship usually does not begin straight away, in fact, a lot of abusers typically start with love bombing and idealising their partner at the beginning of the relationship. The abuse instead develops and becomes more pronounced over time often ending up in domestic violence.

Here are different types of abuse that are just a doorway to physical abuse:

Psychological Abuse

► Gaslighting – Manipulating you into doubting your own sanity
► Playing mind games with you
► Twisting things around so nothing is their fault and you’re the cause of their outburst

► Accusing you of doing things
► Constantly lying
► Threatening to kick you out of the house and leave you with nothing
► Threatening to harm you, the kids, or pets

Emotional Abuse

► Insulting you
► Constantly putting you down
► Intimidating you
► Embarrassing you in front of other people
► Talking down to you
► Not listening or respecting your feelings

Verbal Abuse

► Constantly yelling, shouting, and swearing at you
► Continuously looking for reasons to argue
► Interrupting you all the time
► Talking over you
► Constantly puts you down
► Using loud, threatening language & tones to cause fear
► Calling you names
► Constantly mocking you

Financial Abuse

► Withholding money, benefits, or assets from you
► Opening up a joint account but you don’t have access
► Forcing you to leave your job or to get fired
► Shamming you for how you spend money
► Denying assistance to manage family financial affairs
► Not allowing you to further your education
► Putting all the bills and credit cards in your name
► Preventing you from using a car

Religious Abuse

► Denial and/or misuse of religious beliefs
► Practices to force victims into subordinate roles
► Misusing religion or spiritual traditions to justify physical violence or other abuse ► Not allowing you to practice you own religion
► Insulting your religion and or spiritual beliefs
► Using your religion to shame you

Social Abuse

► Enforced social isolation – preventing someone from accessing services, educational and social opportunities, and seeing friends
► Instigating and controlling relocations
► Living outside a social circle
► Controls employment opportunities
► Not allowing you to have friends or meet other people
► Not allowing you to network
► Not allowing you to attend events

Unfortunately, those types of abuse are often overlooked not only by the courts but also by the victims who often think it is a normal pattern in a relationship to have. A lot of victims come from abusive families and abuse seems familiar and normal to them. When the perpetrator sees that they can get away with this type of behaviour more extreme types of abuse may occur as well.

Physical Abuse

► Kicking, punching, biting, slapping, grabbing, chocking, or pulling your hair
► Standing over you or getting “In your face”
► Blocking a door and not allowing you to leave
► Grabbing you and threatening to harm you
► Threatening you with a weapon
► Burning or threatening to burn you

Sexual Abuse

► Rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault
► Inappropriate touch anywhere on the body
► Non- consensual masturbation of either or both persons
► Non- consensual sexual penetration or attempted penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth
► Any sexual activity that the person lacks the capacity to consent to
► Inappropriate looking, sexual teasing, or sexual harassment
► Sexual photography or forced use of pornography or witnessing of sexual acts ► Indecent exposure

Family of Origin

Our past is very important because our brains are most malleable when we are younger. Even though we might be able to recognise signs of abuse, some people can be prone to remain in toxic situations because that is what they have known all their life. As mentioned in my blog post ‘Attachment Styles Matter’ we have different ways of creating bonds with other people. A person who was abused as a child not only can harbor a lot of anger or internalised guilt and shame but is also prone to repeat the abuse and pass the burden on to their children.

This phenomenon is called Repetition Compulsion. If for example, a child had an absent father who was cheating on their mother it could go in different directions later on in life. When the child becomes an adult they could look for a partner who resembles their father and is distant to replay events and make them right. But very often because of the similarity in personality traits the story repeats itself. Or the person in this story could also internalise their parent’s traits and become the distant and avoidant partner themselves. Regardless of the outcome, the person is replaying their childhood patterns later on in life.

Examples of Childhood Abuse


  • Verbally abusing the child – criticising; yelling, etc.
  • Neglecting: not talking to the child, not picking them up from paces, leaving them alone
  • Creating an inappropriate environment; emotionally enmeshed bond with a child; creating romanticised and sexualised situations involving a child
  • Child parenting the parent
  • Parents ridiculing child’s thoughts or feelings
  • Not giving the child privacy
  • Socially humiliating the child
  • Being possessive or emotionally distant
  • Making sexualised comments or showing nudity at home

``Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent`` ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

How to Break the Cycle?

  1. Acknowledge the you are in an abusive relationship
  2.  Understand why you chose an abusive partner
  3. Understand why you have put up with the abuse
  4.  Understand your pattern.
  5.  Confront your partner on their abusive behaviour
  6.  Pay attention to your feelings
  7.  Take your power back by stating and enforcing your boundaries
  8. Continue to speak up

How to Recognise that You are in an Abusive Relationship?

  • Start an Abuse Journal

Write down incidents of abuse, reasons for picking a certain partner, staying in an abusive relationship

  • Create 3 lists containing qualities of your current, and 2 past partners (if applicable)


  • Let Your Body Tell You

Check-in with your body. If it feels any sensations as you are reading this post? Can you find and name the sensations?
Connect them to emotions.
Write about an incident in your childhood that was accompanied by a similar sensation.

Do you have those sensations while with your partner?

  • Answer the questions

Does your partner treat you like a child, correcting you because your behaviour is inadequate for them?
Do you feel like you always need to get permission to go out, contact someone or do something?
Do you have to account for any money you spend? Or do they criticise you for spending money when they have no issues with spending on themselves?
Do they ridicule your opinions, thoughts, and behaviours?
Do you find yourself questioning your sense of self, your decisions, and perception?
Do you ‘walk on eggshells’ around your partner?
Did you stop seeing your friends because of the way your partner treats you in front of them or because your partner does not want to see them?
Do your partner expresses toxic jealousy and accuses you of having an affair or flirting even though you do not consider yourself at fault objectively?
Does your partner seem impossible to please?
Does your partner threaten to leave?
Does your partner criticise the way you look, the way you want to run your life, or your decisions?
Is your partner physically violent around you? For example throwing or destroying things, kicking or slamming doors.
Does your partner put you down in front of others using sarcasm or literal offenses?
Does your partner become enraged with the slightest provocation and has frequent mood changes?
Does your partner find it impossible to admit their faults and apologise?
Does your partner try to persuade you to have sex when you do not have the desire to do it?
Does your partner threaten to find a new partner who will engage in sexual activities with them?
Does your partner make threats of violence?
Does your partner use silent treatment, disapproval, and isolation?
Does your partner criticise your characteristics and personality, or is degrading you, humiliating, discounting, and gaslighting you?
Does your partner what to know where you are, what you are doing, and with whom you are at all times and if they do not have that information they react with anger towards you or other forms of abuse?

Remember that you are looking for patterns and not for individual incidents. If you can see those situations happening consistently you might be experiencing abuse. If you answered ‘YES’ to even a few of those questions you might be experiencing abuse in your relationship.

Recognise If You are Abusing Your Partner:

Answer the questions

  • Do you believe you have the right to make most of the decisions in the relationship?
  • Do you insist that your partner do as you say?
  • Do you perceive yourself as superior in the relationship? Do you believe that you are entitled to better treatment for that reason?
  • Do you secretly despise your partner because you feel they are weak, inadequate, stupid, or a pushover?
  • Do you deliberately get involved with a partner who will allow you to maintain dominance in the relationship?
  • Do you withhold affection from your partner or use silent treatment if they do not do what you want?
  • Do you threaten to leave the house or the relationship whenever you do not get your way?
  • Do you think that your partner and other people are too sensitive and that is why they get their feelings hurt so often by the things you do or say?
  • Do you think that your partner should just learn to laugh at themselves instead of taking offense when you tease them?
  • Have you insisted that your partner drops most of their friends or activities?
  • Have you stated or done something just to make your partner doubt their perception or judgment?
  • Do you believe your partner should have sex with you whenever you are in the mood and engage in any sexual activity that you want to explore?
  • Have you ever threatened to find someone new who will fulfill your sexual needs if your partner doesn’t comply?
  • Does your mood shift frequently from loving to angry and discontent? And you are not able to say why the shift happen but you are sure it must have been because of something that your partner has done?
  • Do you believe that your partner should put everything aside to tend to your needs?
  • Do you believe that your partner should spend all their free time with you and when they don’t you accuse them of being unloving?
  • Do you telephone your partner at work to check if they are there and if they do not answer you become enraged?
  • Do you want your partner to account for every minute of their day and if they do not do that you assume they are hiding something?
  • Did you ever listen in on your partner’s phone conversations? 
  • Do you make visits to your partner’s workplace or to a location that they said they would be just to check if your partner is there?
  • Do you insist on being in control of the money which is brought in by both of you?
  • Have you imposed a budget on your partner or does your partner need to ask you for the allowance?
  • Do you expect your partner to always have the same opinion as you or like the same activities?
  • Have you ever destroyed something valuable to your partner deliberately?
  • Have you ever threatened to hurt your partner or their children, family, or friends?
  • Have you ever destroyed any objects when your partner is around in an attempt to scare them?
  • Have you ever stopped your partner from leaving the room, or pushed them? 


If you have answered ‘YES’ to any of those questions you are guilty of exhibiting abusive behaviour. But this does not mean that you are a bad person or that you should be referred to as an abuser. Now that you are aware that those behaviours are toxic and abusive you need to make an effort to stop them. If you’ve answered ‘YES’ to 5 or more of those questions it means you are exhibiting an abusive pattern of behaviours.

Frequent Personality Types Found in a Abusive Partner

ABUSIVE Personality:

  • They can be charming, and put on a nice forefront
  • They need to dominate
  • They are blaming others for their misfortune, mistakes, etc
  • They use different types of abuse
  • They feel the need to retaliate even for an imaginary fault
  • They have no consideration for others

You are not able to change them,  the only solution is to walk away from this type of personality.


Answer those questions.

Do you believe that you have special talents and abilities which no one else possesses?
Do you feel you are entitled to special treatment or recognition?
Do you secretly feel that you are better than most people?
Do you easily become bored with people when they are talking about themselves?
Do you think that your feelings and opinions are more important than those of others?
Does it hurt you deeply if your talents or accomplishments are not recognised?
Have you been often accused of being self-centered or selfish?
Have you been often accused of being egotistical?
Do you often fly off the handle at the slightest sign of disrespect without really knowing why?
Do you lose respect for others if you find out that they are less successful, intelligent, etc.?
Do you find it hard to identify with others’ feelings?
Do you find that you are often envious of others’ accomplishments?
Do you often tend to focus on what you don’t have rather than what you do have?
Do you often feel that you are being overlooked?
Do you find it easy to just walk away from the relationship if someone is hurting?
Is one of your goals being very rich, accomplished, and finding a perfect love? Do you feel like a failure because you haven’t reached your goals?
Do you find that you don’t need other people but you are rarely self-sufficient?
Are your relationships short-lived and do you find that the person no longer serves your purposes?

If you answered ‘Yes’ to more than 5 of those questions you might be at risk of having this type of personality.

How to overcome it:

  • Look for cues and ask your partner to give you cues for your destructive behaviours.
  • Start listening more to your partner, acknowledge when you are feeling bored and try to reengage.
  • Focus on the needs of others.
  • Ask your partner in what ways were you abusive and hurtful. Try to put yourself in their place.
  • Apologise and promise to change your behaviour.
  • Practice gratitude every day. Write a journal or just remember 5 things to be grateful for each day.
  • Take long walks and try to appreciate the surroundings.

This type of personality can be addressed with therapy. Those individuals often do not comprehend how deeply they hurt other people, their grandiose beliefs are taking up all their empathetic mind space. That’s why very often people with narcissistic personalities will not come to therapy.

BIPOLAR or BORDERLINE personality:

  • Intense and frequent mood swings
  • Compulsive and out-of-the-line behaviours
  • Maniac and depressive states
  • Acting promiscuous
  • Impulsivity and intense emotions

This is a mental health condition that can be treated with therapy and medications.


  • Putting each other down for past mistakes
  • Blame each other for problems
  • Deliberately making each other jealous
  • Using silent treatment/withholding
  • You often compete
  • Use each other’s insecurities
  • You alienate yourselves from friends/family
  • You are not sure who is the primary abuser



When your partner deliberately tries to undermine you, put you down, or even destroy your life.


Do you often secretly hope that bad things will happen to your partner?
Do you get a deep sense of satisfaction when bad things happen to your partner?
Do you sometimes deliberately cause bad things to happen to your partner?
Do you deliberately sabotage your partner’s path to success?
Do you deliberately cause your partner to doubt themselves or question their perception?

If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of those questions you are guilty of a malevolent abuse.

Differences between Men and Women

Men are taught to repress sad emotions but not angry ones. For women, this goes the opposite direction, they are thought to repress anger but not crying and sadness.
That is why women would often internalise anger and become self-destructive while men would be angry at the world and externalise their anger with verbalisation or violence.
This could explain why more men are abusing while externalising the blame and there are more female victims of abuse. Females would be more prone to believe that they are at fault even if realistically they have done nothing wrong.

Final Thoughts

There could be any number of reasons for you to stay in an abusive relationship. Maybe your partner is trying to make a change and you decided to go to a specialist? Maybe despite the abusive patterns, you both are very compatible?

However, sometimes it is worth it to separate yourself from the toxicity even if you are planning to remain with your partner. You can also work on your issues even if you are not living together. This way your children will not need to see the daily abusive situations. Even if they are not experiencing abuse themselves you are installing those patterns in the new generation. Kids can see and will repeat your behaviours in the future.

If your self-esteem is too low and you can’t bring yourself to leave, contact a specialist to help you out.

Those exercises are based on a book by Beverly Engel “The Emotionally Abusive Relationship”

For abusive relationships couples therapy is not suggested. Individual sessions are in order along with anger management group or therapy for the abusive partner.

Related Posts