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.

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