Relationship Violence

What is Relationship Violence?

Relationship violence is a pattern of behavior in an intimate relationship that is used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation. This control of power can take place between a man and woman or same sex partners. Whether you refer to an experience as dating violence, domestic violence, intimate partner violence or relationship violence, essentially these terms mean that one partner has gained more power over time through the use of controlling tactics.
Often survivors of relationship violence feel alone. Unfortunately, relationship violence is a common experience.

Cycles of Violent Relationships

Relationship violence is a pattern of behavior which occurs over time, during which one partner intentionally acts to maintain power and control over their current or former partner. Relationship violence is defined by a person’s fear of their partner, and there is usually a gradual escalation of power. Abuse can include either physical or verbal abuse. Often, types of abuse overlap and include isolation from friends and family. The tactic of isolation or coercing a partner to end their friendships can be devastating, as it can make the process of trying to leave an
abusive relationship incredibly difficult. Survivors often feel trapped in a relationship for a large variety of reasons: shame, fear, stigma, loving one’s partner, not having a network of support and/or knowledge of resources and options.

Red Flags & Warning Signals

What is a healthy relationship? A healthy relationship is one in which all partners feel safe to be themselves. An unhealthy or abusive relationship is one in which one partner has established power and control but utilizing a variety of disempowering strategies. However, there are often warning signs or red flags before an escalation of control or violence in a relationship. These red flags can be a one-time incident or a pattern of behavior over time. It is important that you follow your gut instinct about whether or not someone might be exhibiting warning signs.

Quick Involvement

  • Demanding that a relationship be considered “serious” before both partners are ready
  • Claiming “love” very quickly
  • Moving in together quickly
  • Expressing desperate need for a relationship or partner
  • Use of language like “forever” “always” “couldn’t live without you” “if I can’t have you, no one else can”

Unrealistic Expectations

  • Being dependent upon partner for own needs
  • Expecting partner to be perfect
  • Expecting partner to pay for things including going out, rent etc.
  • Expecting partner to use drugs and alcohol when not wanted
  • Expecting partner to lie on their behalf
  • Expecting partner to fit the mold of gender-based stereotypes (i.e. a masculine man or a feminine woman)


  • Claiming that others are always doing wrong to him/her/hir.
  • Blaming almost anything that goes wrong on the partner.
  • “I wouldn’t be like this if you would stop being so stupid.”
  • “I wouldn’t have gotten so out of control if you hadn’t upset me.”

Controlling Behavior

  • Expecting obedience
  • Not letting partner make decisions or disregarding partner’s decisions
  • Claiming concern for partner’s safety as an excuse to limit mobility/physical freedom
  • Getting angry when partner is late, unprepared, or otherwise does not meet abuser’s expectation
  • Taking control of money or other assets out of partner’s hands (economic abuse)

Breaking or Striking Objects

  • Breaking partner’s possessions or own possessions that partner cares about, such as gifts
  • Striking tables, walls, furniture to show physical strength and intimidate partner
  • Throwing objects at or near partner

Any Use of Force or Threats of Force

  • Holding partner down
  • Physically restraining partner
  • Pushing or shoving partner
  • Keeping partner in one room against their will
  • Threatening to use force


  • Working to cut partner off from resources and friends
  • Playing mind games by saying things like, “We only fight after you talk to your parents”
  • Making demeaning remarks about friends, or about the way partner acts around friends
  • Belittling or insulting partner’s supportive family and friends, either to their faces or privately.
  • Controlling partner’s access to phone, internet, or transportation
  • Limiting partner’s professional, academic, or social activities (i.e. forcing partner to quit job/school, not allowing partner to leave home without permission)