Could You Be in an Abusive Marriage?

20 Warning signs that you may be in a toxic relationship


There are many red flags and warning signs that indicate you may be in an abusive marriage, but unfortunately they’re easy to miss unless a person is familiar with the tactics and traits of domestic abusers. Many signs of potential abuse are extremely covert and disguised as devotion or caring, such as possessive jealousy in the guise of “it’s because I love you so much,” or “I’ve never felt this way about anyone before.” Other signs are baffling due to gaslighting and circular talk, causing a target’s head to swim with confusion. You may believe him when he claims the two of you merely have a “communication problem,” or you may suffer from a depleted sense of self-worth because you think all the issues in your relationship are entirely (or mainly) your fault.

Recognizing the warning signs of abuse is the crucial first step toward healing and regaining your sense of self. When you realize you’re in an abusive marriage, you can then take steps to educate yourself, make a necessary safety plan, seek outside support, and even find professional help.

Remember that abuse is a habitual pattern. When someone consistently hurts, demeans, betrays, or criticizes another, it’s abuse. If your partner has engaged in behaviors once or twice during your relationship, and authentically apologized without repeating the same behavior again and again, that isn’t chronic abuse. That’s being human, making mistakes, and making amends. However, if any of these behaviors are engaged in “often” or “occasionally,” you’re likely noticing a pattern.

  • Your spouse nearly always blames you when things go wrong in your relationship, regardless of the situation or circumstance.

  • Your partner calls you names or makes you feel stupid/worthless in other ways.

  • You wonder if you’re crazy or if there’s something wrong with you, because the way you remember a certain event, argument, or issue is vastly different from how he remembers it.

  • You avoid doing certain things, going out with friends, dressing the way you prefer, or going on social media because you’re afraid of making your partner angry.

  • It feels like you can’t say anything right, because he twists your words and convinces himself that you have bad intentions or are deliberately trying to hurt him.

  • Your spouse demeans, belittles, or mocks you, or treats you like a child instead of an equal partner.

  • Your finances are controlled by your partner, and you don’t have much say in how money is spent, invested, or saved.

  • Unrealistic expectations or demands are placed on you, and anger is sure to follow if you don’t comply.

  • You feel obligated to have sex with him, even when you don’t want to.


  • Your spouse often yells, slams doors, or makes other gestures of rage and potential violence.

  • Even though you’re in a committed relationship, you feel deeply alone and without a friend to confide in.

  • When you share things with him, particularly of a very personal or deep nature, they’re eventually used against you. You may even have given up sharing anything about yourself, for fear of retaliation.

  • When your partner gets angry he’s prone to throwing things and destroying property—but, if you think about it, it’s only your property he destroys, not his own.

  • Your partner makes threats when he gets upset—such as threats of leaving you, taking the children, killing himself, hurting you or your pets, withdrawing financial support, etc.

  • If you apologize for something you did—no matter how small—one apology isn’t enough; you have to grovel, apologize over and over, before he’ll let the issue drop (but then, even years later, the issue will inevitably resurface, and he’ll forget that you ever apologized in the first place). Or, you’re forced to apologize for things you never did (including things he’s guilty of doing).

  • If you voice a difference of opinion or don’t agree with something your spouse says or does, there’s a hefty price to pay.

  • You feel like you’re walking on eggshells or can’t be yourself within what should be the comfort of your own home.

  • You’ve forgotten yourself—things you used to enjoy no longer interest you, your social life is on the decline, you’ve lost touch with friends and family, or you simply don’t feel like yourself any longer.

  • Your partner has a “Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde” personality. One day (or minute) he can be charming, sweet, sensitive, and caring, and then next he turns into someone you never imagined—someone scary.


Sadly, this is a very brief and abbreviated summary of behaviors. There are many other signs of abuse I could mention, but the list would be too long. However, you now have a starting point, and things to consider. If you answered “often” or “occasionally” to any of these statements, you may be in an abusive relationship.

Keep in mind that individuals who use abuse to control and manipulate others are experts. They can be very cunning, crafty, covert, and sly—so it can be difficult to recognize abuse when it’s present in a relationship. The more you read, the more you learn, the more you pray and seek help, the stronger you’ll become in fighting this malignant relationship destroyer.

If you need immediate help, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.SAFE (7233).

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