Helping you get through tough times

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 of an abusive relationship

An abusive relationship can have many different characteristics.

However, there are some common patterns of behaviour that signal a relationship has the potential to become abusive.

Signs of abuse in a relationship


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. If they make you feel guilty for something you know you didn’t do wrong.

If you’re being abused

Know and remember:

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.

If that’s not possible, (and it may not be) 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. 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 victims of abuse to feel like it’s their fault. You have to remember there is no excuse for abuse. No reason 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.

Remember, this type of behaviour doesn’t just stop. 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.

The impact of abusive relationships

It can be incredibly difficult to find the courage to end an abusive relationship. An abusive relationship can leave you frightened, with low self-confidence.

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 if you’re in an abusive relationship

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

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

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.

This article was last reviewed on 03 May 2017

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