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The Warning Signs of Relationship Abuse

This blog is based on my personal experience and not my professional experience as a counselor. My purpose in sharing something so intimate is to save lives by creating awareness and letting people know that domestic violence can happen to anyone, including a well educated, strong minded, socially connected, family oriented, and trained counselor like me. I am Christy Sims, a mother, a professional counselor, a realtor, and a survivor. What happened to me can best be termed separation violence because the violence happened likely due to the ending of the relationship. Actually, 75% of all calls to law enforcement happen after a person has decided to leave an abusive relationship, so it is important to seek guidance and plan carefully once you have decided to leave. I was not in what I and most think is the typical cycle of physical abuse, so I did not feel that I was in danger for my life. I was wrong.

I met my abuser before I was a mental health counselor, I had already become attached to him prior to even studying human behavior, and in the beginning he was extremely charming, romantic, and charismatic. It was not until I started working on my Master’s and began interning at a male substance abuse treatment center did I began to see the signs of abuse, and even then I dismissed them initially because he masked them so well, and I was already attached to him. All of the signs in the list below did not apply to me. The most prevalent were extreme jealousy, insecurity, possessiveness, controlling behavior, isolation, quick involvement, mood swings, and passive put downs.  Oh, and the last two straws for me were him making comments about what I wore to work, and showing up at my job. I kept my professional and personal life very separate because I was a counselor and my work was confidential, and his breaking that boundary line was all that I could take. I don’t know if it would have made a difference, but I probably should have ended the relationship immediately and cut all ties, instead of just backing away.  But, I had broken up with him several times before and it never went smoothly, he would always charm his way back into my life. Also, I cared about him and his feelings and I felt that I had to handle him delicately. My plan was to end the relationship in the kindest and most gracious way possible…but he never gave me a chance.

The Types of Abuse and the Warning Signs

The following is a list of warning signs for potentially abusive relationships. They are presented as guidelines and cues to pay attention to, not as judgments on the worth of the other person.

Question relationships with partners who:

  • Abuse alcohol or other drugs.
  • Have a history of trouble with the law, get into fights, or break and destroy property.
  • Don’t work or go to school.
  • Blame you for how they treat you, or for anything bad that happens.
  • Abuse siblings, other family members, children or pets.
  • Put down people, including your family and friends, or call them names.
  • Are always angry at someone or something.
  • Try to isolate you and control whom you see or where you go.
  • Nag you or force you to be sexual when you don’t want to be.
  • Cheat on you or have lots of partners.
  • Checking your cell phone and email without permission
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Controlling behavior
  • Are physically rough with you (push, shove, pull, yank, squeeze, restrain).
  • Take your money or take advantage of you in other ways.
  • Accuse you of flirting or “coming on” to others or accuse you of cheating on them.
  • Don’t listen to you or show interest in your opinions or feelings.. .things always have to be done their way.
  • Ignore you, give you the silent treatment, or hang up on you.
  • Lie to you, don’t show up for dates, maybe even disappear for days.
  • Make vulgar comments about others in your presence
  • Blame all arguments and problems on you.
  • Tell you how to dress or act.
  • Threaten to kill themselves if you break up with them, or tell you that they cannot live without you.
  • Experience extreme mood swings. . .tell you you’re the greatest one minute and rip you apart the next minute.
  • Tell you to shut up or tell you you’re dumb, stupid, fat, or call you some other name (directly or indirectly).
  • Compare you to former partners.

Some other cues that might indicate an abusive relationship might include:

  • You feel afraid to break up with them.
  • You feel tied down, feel like you have to check-in.
  • You feel afraid to make decisions or bring up certain subjects so that the other person won’t get mad.
  • You tell yourself that if you just try harder and love your partner enough that everything will be just fine.
  • You find yourself crying a lot, being depressed or unhappy.
  • You find yourself worrying and obsessing about how to please your partner and keep them happy.
  • You find the physical or emotional abuse getting worse over time.

Adapted from the Domestic Abuse Project (

As we know better, we do better.


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