Warning Signs and Red Flags

I did not write this. It is a mashup from reputable pages on the web dedicated to helping people recognize abuse. Ignore gender pronouns. There is a lot of cross-over between verbal, emotional, financial and physical/sexual.

What I would like to offer from my personal experiences growing up under an abusive alcoholic narcissist and a more covertly abusive sweet sensitive type H: Abusers use many of the same tools, but each is unique in public presentation and the set of tools they use. There is no single portrait of an abuser. Often the portrait of the abuser we have in our heads keeps us from recognizing the one we may be dating or married to. Shy, humble men can be completely different creatures to their wives, mothers and sisters. They can use their public persona in the heat of battle - "I'm the nicest guy anyone knows, clearly you bring this out in me." In general, if your partner can quickly calm down or become congenial when he/she needs to - they were never 'out of control' to begin with - they were exerting it.

At times, I think, most of us are guilty of treating a partner in verbally/emotionally abusive ways. The following list can also be a good inventory for everyone here to DR, to look at the toxic, hurtful ways we have treated our spouse and to start making those changes personally. Sometimes we say and do these things out of frustration, sometimes selfishness, a bad day...the difference with abuse is that it is rarely met with an apology, there are patterns, or there is a significant amount of it that seems irrational and unprovoked.

The key question, I believe, is this - Is this person succeeding in making you feel less than yourself, certainly less than themselves, and are you increasingly nervous or afraid to voice yourself in any way out of fear of a negative reaction or 'punishment' of some sort? The feeling of being unbalanced or walking on eggshells in your gut can be one of the best indicators.

Here is another test - does the hurtful/abusive behavior your spouse treats you with and calmly defends himself for (if confronted) - would he/she use the same twisting logic and righteous attitudes in a room full of his or her peers? If the answer is no, they are not simply ignorant of their actions. This is an abuser who knowingly behaves a different way behind closed doors and is forcing a very strange universe unto you.


•Being called names by your spouse. Any negative form of name calling is unacceptable. If you feel that it is a put down, then it most likely is. There are names that are obvious and, without question abusive. Then there are the covert, veiled attempts to put a spouse down that are harder to identify. Verbal abusers love to use constructive criticism to beat a spouse down. If your spouse is constantly criticizing you, “for your own good,” be careful. This is the most insidious form of verbal abuse.
• Using words to shame. Critical, sarcastic, mocking words meant to put you down either alone or in front of other people.
• Yelling, swearing and screaming. I call this the “walking on eggs shells” syndrome because you are living with someone who goes verbally ballistic for very little cause.
• Using threats to intimidate. No threat should be taken likely, even if your spouse tells you they are only joking, especially if it causes you to change behaviors or to feel on guard in the relationship.
• Blaming the victim. Your spouse blows his/her top and then blames you for their actions and behavior. If you were only perfect they wouldn’t lose control!
• Your feelings are dismissed. Your spouse refuses to discuss issues that upset you. They avoid discussion of any topic where they might have to take responsibility for their actions or words.
• You often wonder why you feel so bad. You bury your feelings, walk on egg shells and work so hard at keeping the peace that every day becomes an emotional chore. You feel depressed and have even wondered if you are crazy.
• Manipulating your actions. The persistent and intense use of threatening words to get you to do something or act in a way you find uncomfortable.


•;Do they give disapproving, dismissive, contemptuous, or condescending looks, comments, and behavior?
•;Do they treat you as though you are inferior to them?
•Do they make you feel as though they are always right?
•Do they remind you of your shortcomings?
•Do they accuse you of something contrived in their own minds when you know it isn’t true?
•Do they blame you for their problems or unhappiness?
•Do they continually have “boundary violations” and disrespect your valid requests?
•Are they unable to laugh at themselves?
•Are they extremely sensitive when it comes to others making fun of them or making any kind of comment that seems to show a lack of respect?
•Do they have trouble apologizing?
•Do they use pouting, withdrawal or withholding attention or affection?
•Do they not want to meet the basic needs or use neglect or abandonment as punishment?
•Do they play the victim to deflect blame onto you instead of taking responsibility for their actions and attitudes?
•Do they not notice or care how you feel?
•Do they not show empathy or ask questions to gather information?
•Does anyone treat you not as a separate person but instead as an extension of themselves?
•Emotionally degrading you in private, but acting charming in public
•Do they not protect your personal boundaries and share information that you have not approved?
•Do they disrespect your requests and do what they think is best for you?
•Do they require continual contact and haven’t developed a healthy support network among their own peers?
•Threatening to leave
•Withholding approval, appreciation or affection as punishment
•Turning everyone against you. This is a sneaky trick that emotionally abusive partners use to gain advantage and leave you feeling helpless. Your partner may constantly crib about how difficult or dumb you are to everyone, including your friends, your family and even your kids. Your partner may even give biased examples just to convince everyone else and turn them against you so no one would take your side against theirs.
•Isolation and dependence. Initially, your partner may tell you they don’t like your friends or a particular family member. Soon, they may tell you to avoid that particular person. And before you realize it, your partner may carefully isolate you from everyone who was once close to you. And one fine day, you’d see that the only person you can go to for help or depend on is your partner.
•Monitors what you're doing all the time
•Unfairly accuses you of being unfaithful all the time
•Prevents or discourages you from seeing friends or family
•Prevents or discourages you from going to work or school
•Threatens to harm himself or herself when upset with you
•Mind games - This can mean scare tactics, emotional blackmail, unpredictable mood swings, random acts of cruelty, humiliation, ignoring your emotions, flirting with strangers, being condescending or demeaning of your feelings, lying or even theft.
•"Crazy Making" - an example - to steal a partner’s money then accuse them of paranoia if they ask where it is gone.
• Painting a picture of you as the abuser, convincing you that assertive and normal actions, or your personality, is somehow damaging them. You back down and lose your voice to avoid hurting them.


•Smashing things - this is intimidation, bullying.
•Breaking or striking objects - This behavior is used as punishment (breaking sentimental possessions) or to terrorize the victim into submission.
•Sometimes, your partner may resort to physical abuse like a slap, a painful pinch or even a threatening gesture just to scare you into submission when you oppose them for anything.
•Any force during an argument - This may involve an abuser holding down his the victim, physically restraining the victim from leaving, or pushing or shoving. Holding someone back in order to make demands, such as "You will listen to me!" is also a show of force.
• Playing/intimidating with knives, firearms or taking them out to intimidate, either subtly or overtly
•Hurts you (by hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, punching, slapping, kicking, or biting)
•Uses (or threatens to use) a weapon against you


•Using economic power to control you
•Controls how you spend your money, tracks every penny
•Increasing financial dependence on you without basis or agreement
•Forced family or career choices onto partner for control, limiting work hours or trying to create dependence
•No personal bank account, or actual joint control over account or money
•Maxing out your credit cards without your permission.
•Refusing to give you money, food, rent, medicine or clothing.
•Using funds from your children’s tuition or a joint savings account without your knowledge.
•Spending money on themselves but not allowing you to do the same


•Show up at your home or place of work unannounced or uninvited.
•Send you unwanted text messages, letters, emails and voicemails.
•Leave unwanted items, gifts or flowers.
•Constantly call you and hang up.
•Use social networking sites and technology to track you.
•Spread rumors about you via the internet or word of mouth.
•Make unwanted phone calls to you.
•Call your employer or professor.
•Wait at places you hang out.
•Use other people as resources to investigate your life. For example, looking at your facebook page through someone else’s page or befriending your friends in order to get more information about you.
•Damage your home, car or other property.


•Your partner emotionally manipulates you into sexual activities you don’t like. They may even emotionally arm twist you by saying things like “Other girls/guys do it! Why can’t you?”
•"Playful" use of force in sex - This behavior includes restraining partners against their will during sex, acting out fantasies in which the partner is helpless, initiating sex when the partner is asleep, or demanding sex when the partner is ill or tired. The abuser may show little concern for his partner's wishes and will use sulking and anger to manipulate compliance.
•Forces you to have sex against your will
•Controls your birth control or insists that you get pregnant

Last edited by Zelda09; 06/13/15 04:08 PM.

Mid 30's
Psych-abusive M with violent tantrums from XH
D 9/15; NC forever on

You can't DR your way out of abuse.