How can you tell if you’re in an abusive relationship?

How can you tell if you’re in a healthy relationship? What are the warning signs that things aren’t right? We spoke to JJ from Solace Woman’s Aid to better understand and dispel the myths surrounding abuse.

What does your organisation do?

For more than 40 years we’ve supported women, children and young people in London to build safe and strong lives, free from abuse. We know that escaping violence can be the hardest thing to do. That’s why we’re here.

What is an abusive relationship?

Perhaps you think you have experienced abuse, but you’re not sure. There are many myths about abuse. What myths do is create a negative stereotype of survivors. They are harmful, and often place the blame on the woman and not the perpetrator. Myths also reinforce that domestic abuse is a private matter, and this can make women feel more isolated, and unable to leave an abusive relationship.

Here are some common myths and why they are wrong:

“It’ can’t be that bad, or else she would leave…”

Actually, abusive relationships are very complicated. Women may stay in an abusive relationship for a number of reasons including: fear, children, security, further abuse, and if she is unaware of her rights and options. When a woman does decide to leave, this is when she is most at risk.

“I fight back, so I must be just as bad as he/she is!”

Abuse is a power and control issue. Women who fight back may be defending themselves or their children, and many do not, for fear of further abuse.

“He/she hasn’t hit me, so it’s not abuse”

Abuse is not just physical violence – it can also include emotional, sexual, psychological and financial abuse. Many survivors say that the emotional and psychological abuse they experience can be the most difficult to overcome.

“It’s just a family argument!”

Abuse is never just a family argument. As mentioned above, abuse comes in many forms. If a woman is in fear and feels threatened by her perpetrator, and he is in control, and has all the power, this is not a family argument.

How many women are affected by abusive relationships? 

From March 2016 to March 2017, an estimate 1.2 million female victims and 713,000 male victims experienced domestic abuse. On average two women a week are killed as a result of domestic violence by their partner or ex-partner, and around 3 women a week commit suicide as a result of domestic violence. 

What are the common ways an abuser can act?

If you recognise several of the following behaviours or characteristics, you may be experiencing a form of abuse:

  • Daily life revolves around what he/she needs or wants
  • He/she believes they are the head of the household
  • He/she treats you more like a servant than a partner or family member
  • If he/she helps around the house, they think they should be thanked (or they never help around the house)
  • When he/she wants something, they want it immediately (including sex)
  • He/she talks about him/herself all the time
  • He/she rarely (or never) asks about you or how you’re feeling
  • Things were okay until the baby came, then you had to spend less time with him/her and their behaviour changed
  • He/she is easily bored, especially with things that interest you
  • If he/she has a problem, everyone has to drop everything to help him/her
  • He/she believes they are smarter than most other people
  • He/she is extremely critical of people, even children
  • He/she makes it clear (or implies) that they are better than you
  • He/she  is easily offended or feels “dissed” at minor things
  • When something goes wrong, it’s never his/her fault
  • He/she makes fun of you and calls you demeaning names
  • He/she makes fun of the kids when they make a mistake
  • He/she can never apologize or say he/she was wrong about anything
  • He/she thinks anyone who disagrees with him/her is wrong
  • Even when you’re really upset (like somebody close to you dies), he/she expects their daily routine will continue
  • If something nice happens for you (e.g., you pass your driving test) he/she can’t be happy for me

Do you feel unsafe?

There are many reasons why you might feel unsafe, and it’s important to know that you’re not alone. 1 in 5 teenagers have been physically abused by their boyfriends or girlfriends, and one in three teenage girls has experienced some form of sexual violence from a partner.

If you are worried about your safety or concerned that you or a friend may be in danger, you can speak to someone on Solace’s Advice Line. Call 0808 802 5565 or follow this link to Get Help


Are you worried about your partner’s behaviour? Do you feel anxious or unsure? It can sometimes be difficult to spot signs of abuse in your relationship, and know what to do about it.

But what if you could find out how healthy your relationship is? Check out our tool below 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

  • Solace Women's Aid find creative and innovative ways to support thousands of women, children and young people each year from prevention and crisis to recovery and independence.
  • Women's aid protects women from domestic violence. Call their 24-hour helpline on 0808 2000 247.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


Updated on 26-Jul-2018