8 Signs Your Boyfriend or Girlfriend Is Abusive

How Dating a Bully Robs You of Self-Esteem

teen girl looking away from boyfriend
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If you are like most teenagers, you may not realize how common teen dating abuse really is. In fact, might believe that it only happens to someone else in someone else’s school far away from where you live. But the reality is that teen dating abuse happens everywhere, even in your school.

For instance, statistics say that one in three teens will be abused in her lifetime. Meanwhile, one in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

And odds are it could happen to you or your friend.

The obvious first step in preventing dating abuse in your life is being aware of the warning signs. Take a look at this checklist and see if your significant other shows any of these warning signs. And if he or she does show even just one of these signs, you need to think about getting out of the relationship. 

Is Disrespectful

If your intimate partner makes fun of you and calls you disrespectful names, you're in a relationship with a bully and an abuser. Other disrespectful bullying behaviors to look out for include:

  • criticizing you and undermining your perceptions
  • telling you how you should feel rather than accepting your true feelings
  • accusing you of being too sensitive or emotional when you try to discuss the bad behavior

Acts Superior and Entitled

Bullies talk down to others. They are condescending and rude. You might hear him say your opinions, and the opinions of others, are stupid or do not make sense.

In general, bullies and abusers communicate that you or others are inferior in some way. Simply put, these actions are part of his strategy to maintain power and control over you or others.

Relies On Intimidation

Intimidating behavior is a psychological and/or physical method of trying to establish and maintain power and control over you.

Your intimate partner might display:

  • physically threatening gestures like punching walls, abusing your pets or throwing furniture around
  • psychological abuse by threatening to embarrass you by revealing private information
  • use words that make you feel so unworthy that you think you don't deserve better treatment

Lacks Empathy

Abusive people often lack empathy. They do not show genuine emotion or concern for other people. For instance, they may show feelings, but they are not sincere. Instead, it seems more like a parroting of what is accepted in given situations. They also lack genuine remorse for any wrongdoing.

Struggles with Envy and Jealousy

A display of jealousy and envy is a red flag and often one of the first things you will notice. But do not mistake jealousy for love. This insecure behavior leads to control issues and represents a bully's fear of losing the relationship. If your intimate partner is extremely jealous, it is time to move on before things escalate.

Makes Unreasonable Demands

Bullies are often very unreasonable with others, especially those they consider to be lesser than them like a waiter or other service employees. Eventually, your partner will place unreasonable demands on you, too.

For example, your partner may:

  • demand you spend all your time together
  • try to control what you wear
  • accuse you of not being committed to the relationship if you don’t meet his demands or follow his rules

Ostracizes and Isolates You

Both bullying and abuse are all about control. These intimidators have rigid expectations and ostracize anyone who doesn't make the grade. As they turn their abuse on you, they may try to take control of your life by:

  • taking your cell phone to examine your texts, call logs and voicemail messages
  • criticizing your friends and family members
  • manipulating you into spending all your time with them and getting angry at your other friends

    Verbally Abuses Others

    Bullies and abusers often humiliate people in front of others. Their goal is to make you feel small and worthless while inflating their own power in the situation. If your boyfriend or girlfriend frequently engages in name-calling, it is time to get out of the relationship.

    A Word from Verywell

    Remember, abuse of any type is not part of a normal relationship. What's more, your partner's bullying and abusiveness are not your fault. These inappropriate behaviors are choices the bully makes and he alone is responsible for his behavior.

    If you think your sweetheart might be bullying you, find outside support and look for options on how to terminate the relationship. Talk to your parents or another trusted adult and take precautions before calling it quits. For instance, this is the one time when breaking up via text message or in public is appropriate. Abuse often escalates when a relationship is about to end. So make sure you stay safe when you make the final break.