Love Shouldn’t Hurt – Is Your Relationship Toxic?

We’ve all sen the Lifetime movies. We know what domestic violence looks like… or do we? Domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence, is one of the most prevalent acts of violence in our country. It’s also one of the most under-reported, and in my opinion, misunderstood relationship issues.

Victims of partner violence are not just poor, under-educated, young women. They are not limited to women with few options or those with other issues such as drug and alcohol abuse. The reality is that domestic violence occurs at a rate so high that anyone reading this article could be considered representative of a victim.

One in four adult women will be on the receiving end of partner violence in her lifetime. Even more startling is that one in three teens has been in a dating relationship that included violence. That includes boys and girls but doesn’t account for the many who don’t believe that their relationship counts as “abuse”. To reduce full impact of domestic violence, we must first raise awareness about what it means to be in an abusive relationship.

Broken bones, severe bruises and chronic acts of violence are easy to identify as abuse; but that dynamic isn’t how things usually start and for many abusive relationship it isn’t how it ends either. For many girls and women in abusive relationships, abuse is not so easy to spot. Abuse is not always physically violent.

Maybe he follows you everywhere you go or insists on reading every email and text message you receive. Maybe he says he’s just emotional but you notice that his temper is explosive… and often directed at you. Maybe there was just that “one time” when he hit you or you hit him. These behaviors are often precursors to a pattern of control and abuse. You may call the relationship volatile or passionate and dismiss these things as minor scuffles to be worked out. The trouble is that these “minor” issues usually escalate in abuse. And as things escalate, feelings of shame, isolation and worthlessness begin to get between you and help that is available.

Here are some warning signs that your relationship is headed into very dangerous waters. This is not a definitive guide, but it’s a starting point to help you evaluate your relationship or to help a friend evaluate hers.

Relationship Red Flags

  • Does he isolate you from friends and family?
  • Is his temper explosive or hard to control?
  • Does he see violence as a way to solve problems?
  • Does he tell you what to do, what to wear, what to eat, etc?
  • Have you felt pressured or coerced into sex?
  • Are you often accused of things you didn’t do?
  • Does he listen to phone calls, read texts or follow you places?
  • Are you ever afraid of what he will do or say to you?

If these seem familiar, I strongly encourage you to consult with a professional counselor or domestic violence advocate. There are resources to help you and your partner figure out what to do in order to be safe and healthy.


  • Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter
  • Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance
  • [resource for teens and young adults to help them build healthy relationships]
  • [statistics and information on domestic violence in the U.S.]
  • 800-799-7233 National Domestic Violence Awareness
  • 866-331-9474 Teen Dating Abuse Helpline

– Esther Boykin

Esther Boykin

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