Relationships Violence and Abuse How to Know If You Are an Abusive Spouse By Sheri Stritof Sheri Stritof Sheri Stritof has written about marriage and relationships for 20+ years. She's the co-author of The Everything Great Marriage Book. Learn about our editorial process Updated on May 11, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Carly Snyder, MD Medically reviewed by Carly Snyder, MD Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print LWA/Creative RM/Getty Images You may think that the way you treat or talk to your spouse is normal when in reality it is abusive. Sometimes, it is hard to tell if you are, as you may not have the level of insight necessary to figure this out. Or, you may think your behavior is "normal" because you grew up in a household of abusiveness, dysfunction, or negativity. Abuse can occur verbally, mentally, and psychologically. It is not just the physical version, also known as "domestic violence." Physical abuse may be more obvious, but the other forms of abuse are still very destructive to your marriage. It will undermine the trust, connection, and bond that must exist in your relationship for your marriage to succeed and be healthy. If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Questions to Ask Yourself If you're wondering if you could be an abusive partner, ask yourself the following questions: Did your partner already tell you that you are abusive? Is your spouse afraid of you? Have you ever threatened to kill your spouse? Do you believe that your way is the only way? Have you ever hit, slapped, pushed, pulled hair, or choked your spouse? Do you often feel jealous? Do you believe you have the right to know what your spouse is doing and where your spouse is all the time? Do you call or text your spouse incessantly when they are out without you? Do you think of yourself as in charge? Do you enjoy seeing your spouse in pain, crying, or hurt? Do you believe your spouse deserves to be hit or yelled at or punished? Do you believe your spouse 'asked for it'? Do you break or destroy your spouse's belongings on purpose? Have you ever been arrested for violent behavior? Do others tell you that you have an anger problem? Do others tell you that you seem paranoid? Are you afraid of asking for help because you might lose everything that is important to you? Has your spouse ever tried to leave you? Do you think about "getting even" with your spouse? Do you twist things around, lie, or exaggerate to make your partner doubt themself and their sense of reality? Couples Have Different Options to Help Their Marriage Through Pain More Clues Has your partner complained to you about any of the following behaviors: Interfering in social relationships Not allowing any privacy You don't open up and/or often shut down Walking on eggshells Too controlling Too uptight Everything is more peaceful when you're not around Not able to spend any money/go out/make plans, etc. without permission Always in a bad mood Critical or complaining about everything Treatment If you answered yes to several of these questions, please see a licensed professional counselor or clinical social worker for counseling. Be honest with the counselor or you will not get the help you need. Your spouse can join you in couples therapy, but only if you have your own counseling individually for a while before and concurrent with the marriage therapy. Look for an anger management group and read self-help books along with other treatments you are receiving. If you abuse or use drugs or alcohol, you must stop or get help to stop. Drugs and alcohol are undoubtedly making your behavior worse. A 12-step program or similar is a must. Does Marriage Counseling Work? You Must Have In order to improve your behavior and your relationship, you need to have: Honest self-appraisalA willingness to seek helpThe ability to let go of controlling your spouseA full understanding of why you are abusiveHealing your own past hurts so you do not continue to take it out on othersAppropriate guilt for your behavior and remorse toward your victims for your actions Full effort and motivation for learning appropriate communication skills, boundaries, and a healthy view of loveSelf-compassion and compassion for your partner A Word From Verywell Saying 'I'm sorry' isn't enough. It's important that you take complete responsibility for your abusive behavior. Hold yourself accountable for any future abusive behavior—listen to your partner if they say you are acting in an abusive way and stop what you’re doing. Do not be defensive or become angry, and if you find yourself getting angry, walk away and regroup. Realize this is your fault, not your partner's. If you want to hold onto your relationship, your partner deserves respect and abusive behavior is never acceptable or warranted. 1 Source Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. MedlinePlus. Domestic violence. Additional Reading Feuerman, M. Your Tango. 21 signs you're in an emotionally abusive relationship. Loveisrespect.org. What are the different types of dating abuse?. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! 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