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Should I Stay or Should I Go? Part II

How to recognize unhealthy relationships and get out
By Karin S. Ryan, Psy.D. & Heather B. Trangsrud, Ph.D.

What is abuse?

Abuse (according to the Webster dictionary) is:
  • A corrupt practice or custom
  • Improper or excessive use or treatment
  • A deceitful act
  • Language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily
  • Physical maltreatment

Other terms:

  • Domestic violence
  • Intimate partner violence
Physical Abuse

Definition: Abuse that results in physical injury or an atmosphere of threat, fear, and violence.

Physical Abuse Examples: 

  • Hitting/punching
  • Pushing/shoving
  • Biting
  • Kicking
  • Choking
  • Physically restraining
  • Pulling hair
  • Ripping clothing
  • Locking you in or out of home, room, or location
  • Throwing objects, punching the wall, or threatening with weapons
  • Abandoning you
  • Preventing you from activities or leaving the environment
  • Forcing violent rituals
  • Keeping you from getting medical attention...
Sexual Abuse

Definition: Any form of coerced sexual contact or exploitation.


  • Anti-gender jokes
  • Sexualizing comments
  • Acting like partner belongs to him/her for sex
  • Accuses you of being sexual with others
  • Controls your dress
  • Negative comments about body
  • Criticizing sexual past or sexual performance
  • Touches you when not want to be touched
  • More examples:
  • Forces you to watch/mimic porn or makes you strip
  • Calls you derogatory names
  • Withholds or makes you beg for sexual affection
  • Has affairs
  • Forces you to have sex with him/herself or others
  • Makes you perform sex acts you don't want to or when ill
  • Rape...
Emotional Abuse

Definition: Abuse or mistreatment that includes verbal insults/threats, intimidation, blaming, name-calling, put downs, and etc.


  • Ignores your feelings or makes fun of them
  • Withholds approval as punishment
  • Criticizes you or calls you names
  • Nothing is ever good enough
  • Yelling and screaming
  • Insults your friends or family
  • Puts you down in front of others
  • Censors mail/email/texts
  • Refuses to share money/responsibilities
  • Other examples:
  • Destroys/gives away your belongings
  • Isolates you from friends and family
  • Threatens/mistreats children or pets
  • Controls you through lies
  • Blames you for their actions
  • Denies/minimizes their abusive behavior
  • Threatens to "out" you
  • Threatens you with violence...

Other terms:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Psychological abuse.

© All staff articles are used by permission of the respective author(s). Copyright belongs to the University Life Café. No part of this may be used without authorization.

How to recognize unhealthy relationships and get out PART II (pdf)