Am I Being Abused? Find Out the Signs

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Question:  I'm having a really hard time making new friends because whenever I meet someone that I like my boyfriend gets jealous, calls them horrible names and tells me that he doesn't want me to be friends with them.  In order to keep things peaceful between us, I've stopped having any social life at all.  Am I being abused when he does this?  Sometimes he yells at me and gets very angry, but he never hits me.

  He says it's just that he loves me so much and he knows that these people aren't good for me, but this doesn't exactly feel like love to me.  I'm so confused!  Should I be worried about his behavior?

Answer:  Sometimes it's hard to know if we are being abused, especially if it hasn't crossed the line into physical abuse.  If it makes you feel bad, though, that's one very good sign that you are being emotionally abused.  Love shouldn't make you feel bad.

Other signs that you may be being abused, according to, include the following:

  • He wants to know what you are doing at every moment.
  • He gets jealous and accuses you of cheating on him even though you haven't done anything.
  • He keeps you away from your friends and family.
  • He tries to keep you from going to work or school.
  • He gets very angry when using alcohol or drugs.
  • He controls your finances.
  • He controls your use of medications that you need.
  • He makes decisions for you on personal things like what you will eat or wear.
  • He humiliates you in front of other people.
  • He destroys your property.
  • He makes threats to hurt you or your children or pets.
  • He hurts you physically.
  • He makes threats of hurting you physically.
  • He forces you to have sex with him.
  • He tries to make you get pregnant against your will.
  • He blames you for his violent behavior.
  • He threatens to hurt himself in order to control you through guilt.
  • He makes statements like, "If I can't have you, the no one can."

As you can see, even though your boyfriend hasn't hurt you physically, some of the warning signs of abuse are already present in your relationship.  You asked whether you should be concerned about his behavior.  Yes, there is definitely a reason to be concerned.  Even though he hasn't harmed you physically at this point, there is always the possibility that things will escalate.  And, even if it doesn't get worse, the emotional abuse itself is bad enough.  Over time, it can take a real toll on your mental health, causing you to experience chronic anxiety and depression.

Once you recognize that you are being abused, there is really only one way to stop it:  you must take action to end the relationship.

The first step in ending the relationship is telling someone what is happening.

  Even though you may feel guilt and shame holding you back, you will feel so much better once you open up and share what you have been going through.  And, you will now have an ally to support you in leaving the relationship.

Unfortunately, leaving an abusive relationship can sometimes become dangerous.  You should consider taking the following steps in order to prepare for when you leave:

(1)  When your abuser isn't around, call a domestic violence hotline or shelter and ask for advice.  Several hotline numbers and websites are listed below this article.

(2)  If you and your partner live together, pack an emergency bag which includes all the items you will need when you leave, such as important documents, money, keys and prescription medications.  Keep it in a safe, easily accessible place in case you need to leave quickly.

(3)  Have a plan in place for where you will go and how you will get there when you leave.

Finally, you should know that it is not your fault that you are being abused.  No one deserves to be treated badly.

Domestic Violence Hotlines:

For Women:

For Men:


Mayo Clinic Staff.  "Domestic violence against women: Recognize patterns, seek help." Mayo Clinic.  Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.  April 12, 2014.

Smith, Melinda and Jeanne Segal.  "Domestic Violence and Abuse:  Signs of Abuse and Abusive Relationships."  Updated:  April 2015.  

"Violence Against Women:  Am I Being Abused?"  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Updated:  May 18, 2011.  

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