When you’re in a healthy relationship, both individuals support each other by sharing the good times and helping each other through the tough ones. When someone matters deeply to you, and those feelings of trust and respect are returned, it enables you to face the world with confidence.
Building and maintaining a healthy relationship takes a commitment from both sides. But it’s worth it, because in a good relationship, you feel good about your partner and good about yourself.
Not all relationships work out, no matter how much we might want them to. When a relationship becomes violent or destructive, it can be both physically and emotionally dangerous for the people involved.
Key Signs of an Abusive Relationship
While everyone’s experience of an unhealthy or abusive relationship will be different, there are some common patterns of controlling behavior and abuse that can surface before the relationship becomes physically violent. These include:
Possessiveness. This could mean that your partner is checking on you all the time to see where you are, what you’re doing and who you’re with; or trying to control where you can go and who you can see.
Jealousy. This includes accusing you—without good reason—of being unfaithful or flirting, or isolating you from your family and friends, often by exhibiting rude behavior.
Put-downs. These can happen either privately or publicly by attacking how smart you are, your looks or capabilities. In an abusive situation, your partner might also constantly compare you unfavorably to other people, or blame you for all the problems in the relationship.
Gaslighting. This is a common tactic used by abusers to manipulate you and to make you question your reality. They are confident liars and slowly start showing this side of themselves to you, isolating you from loved ones and tearing into your sense of identity and all you care about. If you’ve ever been made to feel like you were losing your mind, it’s likely you were with a gaslighter.
Threats. An abuser might use threats against you, for example, that they will use violence against you, your family or friends, or even a pet. They might tell you that no one else will ever want to date you. Yelling, sulking, and breaking things are also signs of abuse.
What to Do If You Are Being Abused
It’s not OK to be physically threatened or scared into things that make you uncomfortable or unhappy just because you are in a relationship.
It’s not OK to be put down and pushed around—shoved, hit, slapped, kicked or punched. No one deserves to be treated this way. No one should use violence—or the threat of violence—to make you do what you don’t want to do.
It’s not OK for someone to use the excuse that they are tired, stressed, overworked or under financial pressure as a reason for their violent behavior.
If you’re living with your partner and are feeling unsafe, find other accommodations with friends or family, or if that’s not possible, an emergency shelter.
Breaking the Cycle of Violence
A violent relationship may not be violent all the time. Sometimes, violent people treat their partners very well. They can be loving and sorry for their violent behavior. This can make it hard to see what’s really happening. There is a strong chance that the violence will get worse, and the relationship more abusive over time.
After a violent event, it’s common for both of you to try and make things better by making excuses, apologizing, or promising to change. But there is no excuse for this behavior, and just saying sorry is not good enough. Sometimes the violent person will blame the victim by saying things like “it wouldn’t happen if you did what I said.” Things might settle down for a while, but usually it’s only a matter of time before the build-up to violence starts again.
If you’re experiencing violence in a relationship, things can feel very confusing, especially if it’s your first relationship. You might try to make excuses, think of the violence as a one-time incident, or blame the abuse on the fact that the abuser was drunk or stressed. You might not be sure what behavior to expect from them. It’s possible to begin thinking that the violence is your fault, or perhaps you start to try to fit in with whatever the abuser wants, even if it makes you uncomfortable. You could also be feeling scared that they will hurt you if you try to leave.
Ending any kind of relationship is hard to do, but it can be particularly difficult to leave a violent relationship. When you’re frightened and your self-esteem is low, it can be hard to find the strength to leave or break-up. Sometimes it’s easier to hope that things will change for the better, but too often they don’t.
The first step in changing things is to understand that what’s been happening to you is wrong. Even if your partner says they care about you, it’s not OK to be treated like this and you deserve better.
Where to Get Help
Listen to your feelings and trust them. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Talk to someone who cares about you. Talk to your mom or dad, a family member, a friend or someone in your community like your doctor, your teacher or your local religious leader. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. You are not responsible for somebody else’s violent behavior. Your first responsibility is to yourself.
To develop a safe plan to leave, check out loveisrespect.org’s comprehensive safety planning guide. The sources listed below can also help you get safe.
Many free helplines are available if you think you’re being abused, or are worried for a friend you suspect could be being abused. Check out our Crisis Support Resources to find crisis helplines and services offered both nationally and within the state of Oregon.
Some national helplines you can reach out to:
National Domestic Violence Hotline – Advocates available 24/7
- Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
- For hearing-impaired, call 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
- Call 1-855-4-VICTIM (1-855-484-2846)
Lines for Life is an Oregon-based organization working in the prevention, intervention, and advocacy for suicide, substance abuse, and mental illness. They also host a helpline that is open 24/7/365 where you can speak to highly-trained crisis intervention specialists. Lines for Life Suicide Lifeline and YouthLine after hours is answered by the same adult volunteers and staff that take calls for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
SUICIDE LIFELINE – For those going through a crisis and those concerned for them
Call 1-800-273-8255 (24/7/365)
Text 273TALK to 839863 (8 a.m. to 11 p.m. PST daily)
ALCOHOL & DRUG HELPLINE – For individuals and family members seeking crisis intervention, treatment referral, and chemical-dependency information
Call 1-800-923-4357 (24/7/365)
Text RecoveryNow to 839863 (8 a.m. to 11 p.m. PST daily)
MILITARY HELPLINE – Support for service members, veterans, and their families
Call 1-888-457-4838 (24/7/365)
Text MIL1 to 839863 (8 a.m. to 11 p.m. PST daily)
YOUTHLINE – Support for youth in crisis or when needing help
Text teen2teen to 839863
Email at YouthL@LinesforLife.org
Chat online here
Teens are available to chat with you from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. PST daily, all other times are with adults It’s free and it’s confidential. If there are concerns that you or someone else is in imminent danger, they’ll let you know they’re concerned and ask for your name and address. They will continue to support you but will contact local police and EMS if they believe you won’t be able to keep yourself safe. That being said, Lines for Life aims to be as least invasive as possible and works to support you first and foremost.
Boys Town Your Life Your Voice offers crisis support and resources for handling tough situations.
The Crisis Text Line offers free, confidential crisis support via text 24/7. Whether you’re feeling suicidal or having a hard time managing strong emotions, a trained volunteer will connect with you and provide support.
- Text HOME to 741741 (24/7/365)
You can also reach out to an abuse coalition in your state, which can help connect you to more local resources. Check out the Domestic Violence Coalitions website for more information on state coalitions.
Womenslaw.org has information regarding legal matters and abuse per state that might be helpful looking at before leaving the abusive relationship.