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Am I an abusive person?

Violence and Abuse Prevention Alliance (VAPA) offers help and information

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health

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Many people are victims of abuse and many men and women can find themselves becoming abusive too. Most domestic violence incidents go unreported, yet domestic violence of any type can have extremely damaging side effects in the long run.

Most people are aware of the obvious signs of abuse such as punching, kicking, preventing partners from having contact with their family etc. However, abuse usually starts off in a much more subtle way and you may be exhibiting abusive behaviour without realising it.

All abusive situations are unique, but if you are worried about your own/your partner’s behaviour simple consider these questions. Be as honest with yourself as possible.

Some of the behaviours, feelings and actions may NOT apply to you, however many may well confirm your own suspicions about your behaviour.

Here are some things to ask yourself when thinking of your own behaviour, or the behaviour of your partner:


  • Have I scared an individual(s) with my behaviour?
  • Have I taken advantage of or exploited the trust of another person(s)?
  • Have I repeatedly bullied or belittled an individual(s) either in private or in front of others?
  • Have I attempted to control the behaviours or social interactions of another person(s)?
  • Have I repeatedly monitored the behaviour or whereabouts of another person(s)?
  • Have I repeatedly broken promises to change my behaviour?


  • Do I think that I cannot control my own behaviour?
  • Do I deny or minimize the seriousness of my behaviour?
  • Do I think that an individual(s) disrespects me when they don’t act the way that I want them to?
  • Do I think other people or substances (drugs, alcohol, medication etc.) are to blame for my own behaviour?
  • Do I think that hurting myself or others is the best/only course of action?
  • Do I think that having personally experienced violence or abuse that I can do the same to others or that this excuses my behaviour?
  • Do I have very strict views on how people should act or behave?


  • Do I feel more relaxed or get a 'high' after I have been angry, abusive or violent?
  • Do I feel unable to cope with unpleasant thoughts or feelings?
  • Do I feel more in control after I have put an individual(s) down or physically hurt them?
  • Do I feel disrespected when an individual(s) does not do what I ask?
  • Do I feel excessively jealous when an individual(s) is speaking to or spending time with others?
Abusive husband consoling upset wife.
Being abusive is a choice. No matter who or what the abuser may blame, they are the ones that have the choice to say no.

Early Warning Signs

There are usually some important indicators (warning signs) before abusive behaviour starts.

Below are a few examples of common early warning signs. Many of these warning signs will occur together.

Time spent together

Spending a lot of time together is quite natural during the early stages of a relationship. However, if your partner is insistent on being with you all of the time, this could be an indication of potentially controlling behaviour.


Many people mistake jealousy and possessiveness early in the relationship as signs of love. However, becoming excessively jealous over whom you speak to or spend time with may be an indication of future controlling behaviour.

Extremes of behaviour

Being very loving and then extremely cold towards you without warning, or for no apparent reason, may represent a difficulty in coping with or accepting certain situations. Unpredictable behaviour, particularly at extreme levels, may prove problematic at a later stage especially if your partner has aggressive tendencies.


Many people have quite conservative views on how others should or ought to behave. However, it is important that very strict or ridged codes of conduct are not forced onto you. Your partner's values/ideals may result in you altering the way you dress or how you act in certain situations. It may also increase the risk of abusive behaviour if you don't adhere to your partner's strict ideals.


If your partner has the tendency to be excessively critical of and aggressive towards others (particularly those close to them or you), this may reflect a pattern. Similar criticisms or the use of violence may be directed at you at a later stage.

Drugs/alcohol or outside stress

Drugs, alcohol or increased stress are not the causes of abusive or aggressive actions against a partner. Being abusive is a choice. If your partner regularly blames their behaviour on these or other factors, they are not taking responsibility for their own actions.

Controlling and abusive behaviours will increase in severity and frequency over time. You may be in the relationship for a while, have joint financial responsibilities or children with your partner before realising that you are in a dangerous and serious situation.

Abusive relationships or situations vary considerably. So, it's best to seek professional advice about your individual case.

The Violence and Abuse Prevention Alliance (VAPA) has help and services information on their website..

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Published January 9th, 2013
Last updated October 27th, 2015
Tags abuse safety anger
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