10 Warning Signs of Physical Abuse

Physical abuse almost never begins on the first date, the second date, or even the 10th.  

Below are 10 warning signs of abusive behavior, as well as resources to get yourself out of an abusive situation.  If you recognize any of the signs from the list below, recognize that you are in serious danger.  Abusers only escalate their level of abuse -- it only gets worse.

Despite what an abuser tells you, there are so many people who love you, care deeply for you and who want nothing more than to help you.  You have to be the one to want and to ask for the help, no one can do that for you.  There's a lot of shame and fear of judgement as the victim of an abusive relationship, (be it verbal or physical) but the people who care about you are not going to judge.  The people who care about you just want you to be safe and protected.

Most counselors agree that you never really feel fully ready to leave an abusive  relationship, but when you feel ready-enough, you will.  That said, each day you stay in an abusive relationship is a dangerous one.  Please remember that circumstances do not make an abuser abuse.  Abusive people will and do abuse anyone who stays with them long enough for the cycle of abuse to begin.  It's not about you, or anything you did wrong, and there is nothing you can do to stop an abuser from abusing.  

Only abusers can stop themselves and the sad truth is that they very rarely go into recovery programs or counseling, because most abusers don't see themselves as the problem, they see you as the problem.  As you'll read more about below, abusers don't take accountability for their actions.

If you don't know whether the person you're with is a potential abuser or not, err on the side of NOT giving the benefit of the doubt.  Healthy partners don't catalyze you to wonder if they're abusing you.


1.  Moving Really Fast:

Talks of marriage within the first few weeks, moving in together right away, pressure to take the relationship to the next level, etc.  These advancements will be expressed as grand romantic gestures initially, but the romance can quickly turn to control.

2. Equating Jealousy with Love:

Abusers become excessively upset and/or inquisitive about perceived flirting, co-worker connections, perceived romantic competition through your social media connections, etc.  Abusers explain and associate these feelings with love, "It's only because I feel so strongly about you that I get upset."

3.  Questioning, Accusations:

Asking how your day went turns to asking who you spoke with, when you left work, who you're texting, etc.  Questions also circulate around why you want to go out with certain friends, why you're wearing what you're wearing and how long you'll be (usually very specifically, like to the minute). Accusations begin to form literally from thin air, "Why are you flirting with him {the waiter} like that?"

4.  Disguised Demands:

Abusers will 'request' that you maintain a tight connection with them, like texting them when you get somewhere, responding immediately to phone calls and emails (regardless of whether you're working, at a dinner, etc.) and for you to be home at certain times, leave work at certain times, etc.  If these veiled demands are not met, heavy drama typically ensues.

5.  Lack of Boundaries with Time and Privacy:

Abusers will randomly show up at your home or the coffee shop near your work, 'requesting' that you meet them there.  Abusers do not believe in boundaries when it comes to phones, emails and your time in general. "Let me just see your phone, why won't you let me see it.  Why are you being so sketchy??"  is  a typical abuser script and a major warning sign.  Discussions that happen right before work or right before you need to be somewhere -- as well as insisting that you finish the discussion regardless of lateness or penalty incurred to you -- are also highly typical.

6.  Controlling Behavior:

Strongly encouraging you to dress a certain way, making you unfollow, block people, or take down your social media accounts, preventing you from working, asking for all your passwords, asking to see your credit card or bank statements, overseeing your finances and/or controlling the finances, changing your passwords, taking your keys, taking your phone, taking your purse, putting apps on your phones so your location is always known, going through your contact lists and deleting certain people or numbers, etc.

7.  Isolating:

Abusers isolate you from others to gain and maintain control.  Abusers will begin to speak negatively about your friends and/or family in a way that seems intended to protect you.  Again, taking away your phone, purse, money, keys and/or locking you out of a shared space or even your own home are all ways of isolating you so that you feel powerless and that you need your abuser.

8. Blaming You/ No Personal Accountability:

Abusers blame their feelings and subsequent behaviors on the victim of the abuse (or pre-abuse), never taking accountability for their own actions.  They behave erratically and then say things like, "You know it upsets me when you do ___," and "Why would you do that when you know it makes me so mad," and, "You control how I feel, you know that."

9. Verbal Abuse:

Verbal abuse is almost always present before someone is physically abusive.

10.  Damaging and Destroying Your Belongings or Any Property:

Breaking your phone, throwing objects across the room, punching walls, ruining sentimental pictures or objects, damaging your clothing, making a complete mess of your home on purpose, all of these are strong signs you could be with a physically abusive person.

There is so much support for abusive relationships of all kinds and at all stages, start connecting to help here or here.  You can also learn more about abuse from this incredibly useful book by Lundy Bancroft, "Why Does He Do That?"  

You can also call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799- SAFE (7233).  You are not alone.  If you hear domestic violence or what you suspect to be abuse happening to a neighbor, call 911.