Am I in an abusive relationship?

Do you feel afraid of your partner? Do you feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells around them? You may feel like something isn’t right with your relationship but can’t find the words to express exactly what it is. To help, The Mix talks you through the warning signs of an abusive relationship.

A young woman is on the phone. She is in an abusive relationship.

T/W: Discussion of abuse and abusive behaviours

First and foremost we wanna say that we’re really glad you’re reading this. It means you’ve taken the first, very hard step of really looking at your relationship and trying to work out if something isn’t right. Hopefully we’ll be able to help with that process.

There are all sorts of legal answers to the question: am I in an abusive relationship? But usually the most authentic answer comes right from your gut. “Ask yourself, ‘does your relationship feel right to you?’” says Jon Brown from the NSPCC. “You might not even feel confident in saying the word ‘no’ yet, just a feeling that something isn’t right or that you’re being made to do things you don’t want to do. And that’s more than enough.”

What is an abusive relationship?

What is an abusive relationship is an extremely complex question. You see, abuse doesn’t just have to be physical – like them hitting you – or sexual – like them forcing you to partake in any sexual activity when you haven’t given consent. Controlling behaviour is also abusive. Jon says the following are warning signs of an abusive relationship.

  • They pressure you into doing things you don’t want to do
  • They often have terrible mood swings (where they resort to verbal or physical violence) and/or get jealous very easily
  • They’re constantly putting you down
  • Whenever you try to see your family or friends, they make you feel guilty about it, or stop you seeing them entirely
  • They get worse when they’re drunk, high, or have taken other drugs
  • They’re constantly trying to control what you wear
  • You feel they’re controlling your money, or you having/getting a job
  • You’re walking on eggshells around them because you’re afraid of your partner

If any of these sound familiar, then this is abuse. These are all common abusive behaviours. Understandably, this may come as a shock. Remember, there are plenty of places to go for support outside friends and family.

For example, Refuge offers advice and support to victims of domestic violence, and you can call them on 0808 2000 247. Alternatively, our Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, you can text THEMIX to 85258.

Am I being sexually abused by my partner?

Just because it feels like we’re expected to have sex with our partner doesn’t mean we have to.

If your partner forces you into doing anything sexual that you don’t want to, then it’s abuse. Point blank. Unfortunately, this form of abuse is far more common than you think. Over 97% of calls to Rape Crisis centres are from victims who knew their attackers beforehand.

You might be pressured with physical abuse. For instance, they might hold you down and force you to do something, or they could emotionally manipulate you into taking naked photos. Maybe they threaten to break up with you if you don’t do as they say. Or tell everyone that you’re frigid. They might even tell you that you’d do it if you loved them. All of these behaviours are glaring red flags. 

It’s really important to note that you don’t have to specifically say ‘no’ out loud for it to be abuse, either. You may feel too scared to refuse, or too tense to talk. None of those scenarios excuses them from doing sexual things with you if you haven’t consented.

Rape Crisis offers support and advice to victims of rape and sexual assault, no matter how long ago the attack was. You can call them on 0808 802 99 99. 

I think I’m in an abusive relationship. Should I talk to them about it?

“If you’re ticking off all those potential warning signs of an abusive relationship we tend to say ‘leave the relationship’”, says Jon. “Although we realise this can be daunting and, in some cases, dangerous.”

If you think it’s safe, it’s worth having an honest conversation with your partner about their behaviour and how it makes you feel. Be prepared for them to dismiss you and say ‘you’re talking rubbish’. In which case there isn’t much hope things will improve. Plus, you should always have your guard up for any potentially manipulative behaviour. Trust your instincts.

We also recommend trying to speak to someone else first – either a friend, family member, or someone here at The Mix. They could provide some advice and ensure you feel supported. Not to mention, it’s always good to have someone ready at the other end of the phone in case things don’t go the way you planned.

Who should I talk to about an abusive relationship?

Anyone you trust, really. Childline is a good organisation to call. Or you could try talking to your GP, someone at school, or even your parents. The important thing is to find someone who really takes the time to listen to you and does something about what you’re telling them.

“Often young people try to navigate themselves out of unhealthy relationships because they feel ashamed. Unfortunately, this just ends with them feeling more trapped,” says Jon. “Hoping your partner will suddenly become the dream version of themselves is not really an option either; chances are things’ll get worse. That’s why talking to someone is definitely the best place to start.”

It’s hard to leave someone you’re in love with or ask yourself ‘am I in an abusive relationship’ – even if they’re definitely emotionally or physically abusing you. We totally get that. But you should know that opening up does help. And there are so many people out there willing to be there for you right now.

You could also use our relationship tool to understand your relationship dynamic, and what you can do if it’s not as healthy as it should be.

Exit to Google

Next Steps

  • Our Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, you can text THEMIX to 85258
  • Refuge offers advice and support to victims of domestic violence. 0808 2000 247
  • Rape Crisis offers support and advice to victims of rape and sexual assault, no matter how long ago the attack was. 0808 802 99 99
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.



By Holly Bourne

Updated on 28-Jun-2022