The “Sometimes” Abusive Partner and Ignoring Red Flags

by Sep 30, 2022Abuse, Relationship, relationships

Nobody wants to experience abusive behavior in a relationship, but when it happens infrequently, or when it feels not so severe, it is common for the person on the receiving end to make excuses, find reasons to justify the behavior, deem it less important, blame oneself, or choose to ignore it.

Red flags like this are often brushed under the rug: “My partner is not a stereotypical abusive person to me but there are times, like once a month or less, that they get mad and they throw things at me, or they break things. It seldom escalates to physical violence, but it has happened a few times.” Ignoring these red flags can be dangerous for oneself – mentally, physically, or both, and it is detrimental to relationships.

If your life or welfare is in danger, call 911 (or your local authority), or reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

What is Abusive Behavior?

Abuse is defined as a pattern of behavior used by one person to gain and maintain power and control over another. All of us feel like taking drastic measures now and then to change our circumstances. I was so angry when COVID took one of my best friends off this earth. I wanted to pick up and throw everything that was in my path for a day or two…but I had no intention of hurting a soul, and I controlled my actions. Natural occasional anger simply happens, but abusive behaviors are defined by patterns that are repeated (every day, once a week, once a month, every other month, etc.).

Abusive behavior is not just about physical violence or the display of anger. Patterns of abusive behavior also show up as verbal, emotional, mental, or psychological. Mental or psychological abuse is just as common as physical abuse.

The National Center for Victims of Crime reports data on intimate partner violence and abuse:

  • 9% of homicides are committed by intimate partners
  • 20% of women and 5% of men who identify as victims of intimate partner violence report experiencing one or more PTSD symptoms (abuse is hard on our mental health)
  • 47% of men and women will be victims of psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Related: Unraveling Toxicity in a Marriage or Long Term Relationship

Here is an example of emotional, mental, psychological, and verbal abuse:

“I always felt like I was walking on eggshells around her. I loved her, and I wanted to trust and support her, but I never knew when something was going to upset her. If we got into a conversation that she felt uncomfortable in, she stonewalled me. She shut me out. She zoomed around the house and engaged in everything that she could do other than talk to me. Not only that, but she would give me the silent treatment for weeks. I felt as if I had made a mistake and had caused her to feel angry. So, this was her way of communicating to me that I had done something wrong (even if I had not). It was a form of discipline which hurt worse than if she had sat down and openly communicated her displeasure.


Gaslighting was also a horrible situation for me. Her favorite words were, ‘You are crazy! I did not do that. You are way too sensitive!’ At one point, I began to doubt myself. I began to feel as if I were losing my mind. Her words were used as a tool to control me, to lead me to feel as if I were the guilty party and that my mind was not right. For way too many years, I ignored the red flags. I did not consider her behavior abusive. I hid it from others, and my mental health suffered. The last straw was when she started calling me names and consistently said that I was stupid, ignorant, and worthless. She tried to convince me that everyone felt as she did and that they were saying these things about me behind my back.”

Related: Using Emotional Manipulation as a Coping Mechanism

The Dangers of Ignoring the Red Flags

Your partner may not resemble a stereotypical abusive person, but abusive behavior is never okay. You may struggle with realizing that abuse is occurring. Without recognizing this, you may fail to protect your own well-being. You may feel guilty for being abused, even if you are not aware of it. You may feel like you are “walking on eggshells” in your own home…and it may grind away at your mental health. Being in a relationship with an abusive partner is hard, but it is never okay to ignore the patterns – the red flags.

Abuse typically escalates with time. A relationship can start out healthy, but it can become increasingly abusive. One major life event can skyrocket emotions and drastically raise the risk of abuse. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline reports that up to 81% of female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the same offender.

Reach Out for Help

If your life or welfare is in danger, call 911 (or your local authority), or reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

Can your marriage be saved? The long and the short of it is that negative behaviors always indicate that something is going on beneath the surface. Your partner may need anger management therapy, and you may need to know how to deal with it. Your partner may need to shed layers from his or her past that they have carried into adulthood and into your relationship.

It can be difficult to get beyond these issues and it is not recommended to stay in an abusive relationship as things can escalate. We recommend talking to a therapist individually and together. You may need to learn how to set personal boundaries, and how to stay on track with them. There is no shame in reaching out for help – your relationship, your mental health, and your well-being may depend on it.

When you have done all that you know to do and things aren’t getting better, it might be time to reach out for help and rescue your relationship.

Request a Therapy Appointment