Abusive relationships

Physical and emotional abuse is something no one should have to endure and there is no excuse that justifies it. Realising you’re in an abusive relationship isn’t easy, but it’s important.

When you’re in a healthy relationship, both individuals support each other, sharing good times and helping each other through tough ones.  When you respect someone and those feelings are returned, it helps you face the world with confidence.

red stop signBut not all relationships work that way.When physical or emotional abuse takes place, it means a relationship has become destructive and dangerous.

Warning signs

An abusive relationship can have many different characteristics. However, there are some common patterns of behaviour  that can signal your relationship has the potential to become abusive.


If your partner checks on you constantly to see where you are, what you’re doing and who you’re with. If they try to control where you go and who you see.


If without reason, they accuse you of flirting or being unfaithful. If they put pressure on you not to spend time with members of the same or opposite sex, or isolate you from family and friends, often by rude behaviour.

Put downs

If they put you down, either publicly or privately by attacking your level of intelligence, your looks or your abilities. If they constantly compare you unfavourably with others. If they blame you for all the problems in the relationship.


If they yell, sulk and deliberately break things you value. If they threaten to use violence against you, your family or friends or even a pet. If they tell you nobody else would want you.

What to do if you’re being abused

It’s not ok to be physically or verbally threatened by someone you’re in a relationship with. It’s not ok to be put down and pushed around, shoved, hit, slapped, kicked, or punched. No one deserves to be treated this way. No one should use violence – or the threat of violence – to make you do things you don’t want to do.

It’s not ok for someone to excuse their behaviour by saying they’re tired, stressed, under financial pressure or to blame alcohol or drugs.

If you live with your boyfriend or girlfriend and you don’t feel safe, find other accommodation with friends or family, or if that’s not possible, an emergency accommodation service. Check out violence for more.

Living with abuse

An abusive relationship may not be violent all the time. Abusive people treat their boyfriend or girlfriend very well at times. They can be affectionate and apologise for any violent behaviour.  This makes it hard to see what’s really happening. But these problems don’t often just go away. There’s a strong chance  that the abuse will get worse over time, not better, no matter how many times they say they’re sorry.

After an abusive event, both people in the relationship can try and make it better by making excuses, apologising, or promising to change. But  saying sorry is not good enough and change doesn’t really happen over night, no matter how much people want it to.

Sometimes the abusive person will blame the victim, telling them it happened because of something they said or did. It can be easy for the victim to end  feeling like it’s their fault, like their actions were understandable. But you have to remember that there is no excuse for abuse and no reason that justifies it.

After an incident, things often settle down for a while. The abuser might feel guilty, and it’s easy to believe that it was a once-off incident. But it’s really important to remember that this a type of behaviour that doesn’t just stop and usually it’s only a matter of time before the build-up to abuse starts again.

Recognising the behaviour

An abusive relationship can be really confusing, especially if it’s your first boyfriend or girlfriend. You might try to make excuses for the other person by telling yourself it only happened because your partner was drunk or stressed.

You might not be sure what behaviour to expect from them.
You can begin to think the abuse is your fault and try to change your own behaviour to suit them, even if it makes you uncomfortable. You might also feel scared they will hurt you if you leave them.

It can be incredibly hard to find the courage to end an abusive relationship if you’re frightened and your self-confidence is low but the first step towards changing things is to understand that what’s been happening is wrong. Even if they tell you they love you and that it won’t happen again, abuse is never ok.

Where to get help

Talk to someone

Listen to your feelings and trust them. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Talk to someone you trust. Talk to parent, family member, friend, doctor or contact an organisation that can help. Don’t feel ashamed. You’re not responsible for the abusive behaviour of someone else. Your first responsibility is to yourself, so get safe and stay safe.

Contact the organisations listed below for professional support. 

Women’s Aid provides support to women and their children who are being physically, emotionally, financially and sexually abused in their homes. Call their National Freephone Helpline on 1800341900.

Aoibhneas is a women and children’s refuge. Call their 24-hour helpline on 01 8670701 for advice and information on your situation or email helpline@aoibhneas.ie.

Rape Crisis Help provides nationwide support for the victims of sexual abuse. Their free helpline is 1800 778 888.

Immigrant Council of Ireland has information on migrant women’s rights and domestic violence.

AkiDwA is a national network of African and migrant women living in Ireland, that aims to promote equality and justice. Call them on 01 8148582 or email info@akidwa.ie.

National Office for Victims of Abuse provides assistance, support and advice for people in abusive relationships. Freephone 1800 252 524 or call 01 872 8482. For emergency situations that require immediate and urgent assistance call 999.


Helpful sites

Comments Show all comments

  1. roisin says:

    Hi there Depressed,

    It sounds like you are going through a lot at the minute. Moving away at 19 is a big deal especially when you are away from friends and family. Part of going to school is figuring out who you are and what you need as a person.

    It sounds like you know you need to concentrate on your studies. It sounds like this relationship is holding you back but you need to work out whether this relationship is something you want to hold on to. I know you say you love him but do you think his motivations are from love?

    Feeling dependant on someone is not really the right reason to stay in a relationship. It may not feel like it now but you can learn to be happy without him. Maybe doing something like joining a club or society could help you build up your confidence and feel less dependant. Whether you stay with your boyfriend or not it's important for a healthy relationship to feel that you could cope on your own.

    It sounds like you know his demands of you are unacceptable. He can't control your every move and he has to accept that. Giving in to these irrational demands will not help him or you. If you do decide to stay together it is him who needs to change his behaviour and seek help around whatever is motivating this and making him feel so insecure.

    I know you are hoping that his behaviour will change when you return home but it wont unless he addresses the underlying reasons motivating him to act this way. Summer is a long way away and maybe taking a break from this relationship until summer and then seeing how you feel could be healthy and give you an opportunity to concentrate on your study.

    If you really don’t feel like you can talk to your family then maybe you could confide in a trusted friend or there should be a counsellor on campus that you could talk to confidentially about everything you are going through. It's important that you do reach out to someone. You don't have to go through this on your own.

    I hope this helps,


  2. Depressed says:

    Hi, I really need help. I've become emotionally dependant on my boyfriend. I'm in an abusive, long distant relationship and I can't handle it. This relationship is affecting my mental health, and causing me severe depression. I'm only 19 and still in school, and my biggest worry is the fact that it's starting to affect my studies. I can't talk to any family member about this problem because my family/relatives are strict and I can't even describe what would happen if they found out I am in a relationship with someone.
    Just to clear things firstly, my boyfriend was never emotionally abusive, until the day I moved abroad. Now I've been suffering for the last 4 months. He's controlling everything in my life, he doesn't want me to do anything related to other guys, even if it means ignoring my classmates, refusing to shake hands with males, deleting all my social apps etc. This is just the minor stuff he's done, but all the problems stem from his inability to let me have any sort of contact with other guys. I'm desperate to hold onto this relationship because I've become dependant on him, and I'm sure when I see him next summer things might go back to the way they were. We always planned to get married, I really can't live without him. I hate him but love him at the same time. I just can't handle this, it's making me fall apart. I can't handle the depression

  3. roisin says:

    Hi James,
    It sounds like you have come to the realisation that this behaviour isn't healthy and that something needs to be done about it.
    Lot's of people struggle with dealing with anger and this is something that can be worked through. This article has some tips on managing anger.
    You say that this usually happens when you both are drunk. If alcohol is a trigger for this behaviour then stopping drinking would be a good first step. At least until you have worked through everything. It's important that you do everything to manage the feelings, as you say make you "fly off the handle”.

    .Stopping drinking can be quite a challenge in this culture but if you support each other it could bring you closer together as well as avoiding one of the main triggers for this kind of violence.

    Everybody needs a little extra support from time to time and it sounds like you could both do with some help around communication and acting out when you are frustrated. I can tell from your comment that you really want to learn how to deal with your anger in a healthier way. Speaking to someone outside of the situation will help you organise your thoughts so that you can work out why you act out like this when feeling overwhelmed by anger. 

    A professional like a counsellor or psychologist will be able to help you work through this and come up with strategies for healthier communication and dealing with your frustration. If you don't feel up to speaking to someone face-to-face you may want to try turntome.org.

    This kind of behaviour tends to get worse if left without professional intervention. We would really emphasis the importance of getting support from a professional with what you are going through.

    You have done the right thing in coming on here and talking about what you are going through.
    But no one deserves to be on the receiving end of this behaviour so it is your responsibility to learn to manage it.
    This is not an easy thing to do but now you need to reach out to someone with the skills to help you with this situation. You can find a professional to speak to at the counselling directory or turntome.org.

  4. james says:

    hi i need help,wen i get drunk i argue wit my partner of 5 years over d stupididest tings,anyting can set me off,i get abusive towards her and recently put my hands around her neck in anger,i fly off the handle to easy,i no its no excuse but this only happens wen wev get drunk,wen we are not drinkin we hav a fantastic relashonship and never argue,we are soulmates and shes my best friend,but its gonna riun wat we hav,is there any way to stop feeling like dis,tanx

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