am I hurting my partner

Ask Yourself, “Am I Hurting My Partner?”

Even the best of relationships have their ups and downs. You hate it when your boyfriend leaves dirty dishes in the sink… for the third night in a row. Your wife keeps scheduling all the holiday visits with her in-laws and you just wanted to see your family this Christmas. You can’t pry your husband away from the football game even when you had plans to go out.

In any relationship there are arguments both big and small that can cause hurt feelings. What distinguishes the arguments in a healthy relationship from those in an unhealthy relationship is how they’re handled, how each partner responds to them and how both partners communicate about them.

Have you ever thought that you may be behaving in a way that could be physically or mentally harmful to your partner? These behaviors are often difficult to recognize if you’re the one doing them — but acknowledging that you may be hurting your partner is the first step in moving toward a healthier relationship.

Check in with yourself: How do you act toward your partner?

Do you…

  • Get angry or insecure about your partner’s relationships with others (friends, family, coworkers) and feel possessive?
  • Frequently call and text to check up on your partner, or have them check in with you?
  • Check up on your partner in different ways? (Ex. Reading their personal emails, checking their texts)
  • Feel like your partner needs to ask your permission to go out, get a job, go to school or spend time with others?
  • Get angry when your partner doesn’t act the way you want them to or do what you want them to?
  • Blame your anger on drugs, alcohol, or your partner’s actions?
  • Find it very difficult to control your anger and calm down?
  • Express your anger by threatening to hurt your partner, or actually physically doing so?
  • Express your anger verbally through raising your voice, name calling or using put-downs?
  • Forbid your partner from spending money, or require that they have an allowance and keep receipts of their spending?
  • Force or attempt to force your partner to be intimate with you?
  • Blow up in anger at small incidents or “mistakes” your partner makes?

How does your partner react?

Do they…

  • Seem nervous around you?
  • Seem afraid of you?
  • Cringe or move away from you when you’re angry?
  • Cry because of something you don’t let them do, or something you made them do?
  • Seem scared or unable to contradict you or speak up about something?
  • Restrict their own interaction with friends, coworkers or family in order to avoid displeasing you?

If any of these behaviors sound familiar to how you act or how your partner reacts, it could be a red flag that you may be hurting them. This can be a difficult and unnerving realization to come to.

So — what now? At the hotline we take calls from everyone, from concerned friends and family, to those questioning unhealthy behaviors in their relationship (whether they’re on the giving or receiving end of the actions). Call us at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to confidentially talk to one of our advocates. We’ll discuss these behaviors with you, learn about what’s going on and take it from there.

By acknowledging now that your behaviors might be questionable and taking responsibility for them, you’re a step ahead in beginning to correct them.

7 replies
  1. GRITS_SC says:

    What happens when you can’t figure out who is doing the abusing? I’ve been in a relationship for 10 years. We have a 6 year old child and I do love him. We’ve known each other for years and I can’t tell you how much he has changed from the person he was. Some of them are wonderful. He is a loving father and is usually very kind to everyone. But in the past few years his temper has gotten bad. He’s always had a short fuse, but he was never unable to control himself and never stepped over any invisible boundaries. He’s turned to belittling me and doesn’t care whose watching. In fact he seems to enjoy an audience. He says awful things, never believes I am telling the truth, and always seems to think I am “attacking him”. I have been in a bad relationship before but this is different. It’s like our relationship is bi-polar. One second it’s great, the next
    second he tells me how he can’t stand me and wishes I would leave. I feel like I am always walking on eggshells and I’m afraid. I was anorexic from 11-15 and it took me a long time to heal mentally. I was the day kid and in a desperate attempt to lose weight and fit in I stopped eating altogether. It was made much worse by a traumatic event that happened to me at 13. My current husband helped pull me through it, though he didn’t know it at the time. Now it’s like I’m falling back there into the personal hell of my mind. I feel I’m desperately clinging to the staircase leading down to insanity and my husband is at the top reaching for me, but his mood determines whether or not he pulls away.
    Unfortunately I don’t know if he can overcome his tendency to be verbally and emotionally abusive. He accuses me of the same things and I don’t know if I do it or not. I know I ask him to stop before he goes off and he keeps saying mean things so he can “get the last word”. I am so upset bc I never considered myself easy to push around. I’m very spirited in a sense and don’t sit back quietly when I’m being attacked. I do sometimes retaliate, but to me it seems it takes a lot more to make me say hurtful things that it does for him. I have been researching the signs of verbal/emotional abuse for a few months, but I don’t know if I am just experiencing another victim mindset in thinking I may not always help the situation by retaliating. Sure, I’m not perfect. I have a hard time sitting by quietly when I’m disrespected. But I never say things that are meant to insult him. Rather it seems when I try to point out his mistakes is when I am doing the abusing, but am I really? I don’t know if I have been abusive as well, but I feel like if I have it was out do self defense. I know that’s wrong but it’s how I feel. So can anyone give me any advice? I don’t want to be miserable, but the idea of giving us up is very painful. When things are good they are amazing. It’s like a vicious cycle: one poisons the second, the second feels the poison work and poisons the first, but because they are suffering from the poison their fight is mostly pointless. Then we both give each other an antidote in the forms of promises, tears, and asking forgiveness. When we are well, it starts all over. Nice euphemism huh? Any advice would help me more than you know. I don’t have many people to talk to, but that’s mostly my fault. I have a really hard time trusting people because the ones I have chosen to trust in the past have really hurt me. But I refuse to live like this, even if it means breaking up. I just don’t want to be another statistic

    • HotlineAdmin_MK says:


      I know it is not easy experiencing abuse and not having someone with whom you can talk to about this. Thank you for opening up and being honest about what you are experiencing and feeling. I want you to know that what you are experiencing is emotional abuse from your partner. Emotional abuse takes on many different forms from bad mouthing you, to even placing the blame on you making you feel responsible for the abuse that you did not create. I know you are confused about who is abusing who, but from what you have explained it is apparent that your partner is the one abusing you. Your euphemism is a reflection of what happens in abusive relationships, but you are not poisoning him, he is the one constantly doing this to you, and trying to make it appear as if it is your fault. Abuse is a choice so your partner is choosing to treat you this way. You do not deserve to be treated this way. You don’t deserve to live a life feeling like you are walking on eggshells. That is not what a healthy relationship looks like. I know you are looking for advice as to what you can do, I want to encourage you to call us so that we can talk to you about what options may be available for you. We are here 24/7 and are completely confidential and anonymous. Please give us a call at 1-800-799-7233. I am glad you are taking a stand for yourself and refuse to live like this, because you deserve to be treated better. Please call us when you are able to.

      Hotline Advocate MK

      • GRITS_SC says:

        Thank you so much! I am happy to report after carefully considering the appropriate to approach him about his behavior I told him it is no longer acceptable and he began all the normal arguments, attempting to repeat the cycle, and he finally left to go “clear his head” (aka I don’t want to talk about this). I saw it would be best for him to leave as it was beginning to escalate so I told him if he came back and we did not agree to work together we would need to consider if being together was really best for everyone, especially our child. I am pleased to announce that he came home and we talked in a way we haven’t ever been able to. It was like some barrier had finally begun to crumble just a bit, but it’s a start! Apparently he went and spoke to a friend who wisely told him that the problems I claimed to be having with him were obviously an issue for me even if he didn’t see it himself,
        and if he knew what was good for him we should try counseling before deciding to end it. Maybe it was hearing it from someone else or maybe it all finally sunk in, I don’t know, but for the first time in a long time I feel genuine hope. Thank you, even the chance that you can help us is enough to keep us optimistic! We look forward to talking with you!

  2. Kevin says:

    I grew up in a very abusive home, where my dad would actually set my brothers and I down and make us watch him and my mom fight, which always led to him hitting her. We all grew up and couldn’t move out fast enough, but each one of us have anger issues adn myself an my youngest brother have turned that on our wives. I tried early on in my 20’s to speak to my wife about my childhood and the abuse that I endured, but she never could handle hearing it and I began to resent her for that. A while back I found that she had been secretly talking to another man that she had gone to highschool with and an argument ensued. It ended when I had slapped her face. I have always been afraid that I would turn out just like my father and then I realized I had been that person for years already. I had never felt comfortable talking to anyone else about my physical and sexual abuse as a kid. Over the last several months I have been working with counselors on my anger issues and trying to understand why I was behaving in such a manner. I am hoping that my wife and I can work things out and that I can once again have her trust that I will be the person that she deserves me to be. I would really like to attend a batter group session, but am having trouble finding one here in the Hanford, CA area.

    • HotlineAdmin_SG says:


      Thank you so much for sharing with our blog community. Recognizing abusive behaviors is never easy but it sounds like you are committed to finding help. We know that in order for someone to change their behaviors, they have to be willing to change their perspective. Abuse happens because one person feels like they deserve power and control over their partner and uses different tactics to get it, including (but not limited to) physical violence. It sounds like you have taken many steps already to change and I encourage you to continue on that path. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is completely anonymous and confidential and advocates are available 24/7 to help you brainstorm new strategies to change your behaviors and can also help you find a battering intervention and prevention program in your area.

      Give us a call, 1800-799-7233.

      Until then,


  3. SpecialK says:

    I am curious what happened to GRITS_SC? I read this blog on Friday morning, after my fiancé shoved me four times the night before, and left when I dialed 911. I wrote him a long email thanking him for all the good things he had done for me during our time together, but that I couldn’t be with him anymore. I included links to this site and told him that I was also going to reach out here, so I could look into why I yell when I get scared and angry, because I don’t like that about myself. But I never called him names, said things to insult him, broke or took his things or ever laid hands on him. He started 2 months into our relationship with breaking my things and throwing small items out the window. It increased over time, with him wrestling me, throwing my phone in to the street, pushing and then shoving. I asked him to leave my apartment, but he refused because he had been paying me rent, without being on my lease. It ended poorly. He refused to leave and I had to call the cops. They arrested him and now he’s evicted. I will miss him for the rest of my life. But even if we were to meet in 40 years, when things are long gone, I can never trust him to be alone with him. He was the most amazing man I had ever been with. Why do people have such mis-wiring?

    • HotlineAdmin_RG says:

      Hi SpecialK,

      Thank you for sharing your story with our online community. It sounds like you had to go through a lot of upset and difficulty to get your abusive partner to leave your apartment. You are obviously a very strong and brave person. It is completely normal to feel loss after ending a relationship even if it was abusive because of the love present. Finding closure after abuse can be difficult and we are always here to support you in your healing process. Please call us 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or chat online at Monday through Friday, 9am-7pm CST. We would be happy to talk with you can we can provide local resources that might be helpful.

      Take care,
      Hotline Advocate RG

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