Recognizing Signs of Control or “Red Flags” in a Relationship

Domestic violence encompasses a spectrum of behaviors that abusers use to control victims. The following list includes warning signs that someone may be abusive. If you or a friend experience these behaviors from a partner, remember: it is not your fault and Denton County Friends of the Family is here to help.

“Red flags” include someone who:

  • Wants to move too quickly into the relationship.
  • Early in the relationship flatters you constantly, and seems “too good to be true.”
  • Wants you all to him- or herself; insists that you stop spending time with your friends or family.
  • Insists that you stop participating in hobbies or activities, quit school, or quit your job.
  • Does not honor your boundaries.
  • Is excessively jealous and accuses you of being unfaithful.
  • Wants to know where you are all of the time and frequently calls, emails, and texts you throughout the day.
  • Criticizes or puts you down; says you are crazy, stupid, and/or fat/unattractive, or that no one else would ever want or love you.
  • Takes no responsibility for his or her behavior and blames others.
  • Has a history of abusing others.
  • Blames the entire failure of previous relationships on his or her former partner; for example, “My ex was totally crazy.”
  • Takes your money or runs up your credit card debt.
  • Rages out of control with you but can maintain composure around others.

Sometimes people have difficulty deciding if their relationship is just unhealthy or if it is abusive.  If you feel like you are being abused, then trust your feelings!  If you want more understanding, it can be helpful to view relationships on a continuum or spectrum, with healthy or equality based relationships on one end and abusive or controlling relationships on the other end.  Variations of unhealthy relationships would be in the middle of the two extremes.




A healthy relationship means that both you and your partner(s) are:

You may be in an unhealthy relationship if one or more partners is:

Abuse is occurring in a relationship when one partner:

Communicating: You talk openly about problems and listen to one another. You respect each other’s opinions.

Not communicating: When problems arise, you fight or you don’t discuss them at all.

Communicates in a way that is hurtful, threatening, insulting or demeaning.

Respectful: You value each other as you are.

Disrespectful: One or more partners is not considerate of the other(s).

Mistreats the other: One partner does not respect the feelings, thoughts, decisions, opinions or physical safety of the other.

Trusting: You believe what your partner has to say. You do not feel the need to “prove” each other’s trustworthiness.

Not trusting: One partner doesn’t believe what the other says, or feels entitled to invade their privacy.

Accuses the other of cheating or having an affair when it’s not true: The partner who accuses may hurt the other in a physical or verbal way as a result.

Honest: You are honest with each other, but can still keep some things private.

Trying to take control: One partner feels their desires and choices are more important.

Denies that the abusive actions are abuse: An abusive partner may try to blame the other for the harm they’re doing, or makes excuses for abusive actions or minimizes the abusive behavior.

Equal: You make decisions together and hold each other to the same standard.

Only spending time with your partner: Your partner’s community is the only one you socialize in.

Controls the other: There is no equality in the relationship. One partner makes all decisions for the couple without the other’s input.

Enjoying personal time: You enjoy spending time apart, alone or with others. You respect each other’s need for time apart.

Dishonest: One or more partners tells lies.

Isolates the other partner: One partner controls where the other one goes and who they talk to. They may isolate their partner from family and friends.

Making mutual sexual choices: You talk openly about sexual and reproductive choices together. All partners willingly consent to sexual activity and can safely discuss what you are and are not comfortable with.

Pressured by the other into sexual activity: One partner uses pressure or guilt on the other to have sex or do anything sexual at any point.

Forces sexual activity or pregnancy: One partner forces the other to have sex, or do anything they don’t want to do sexually at any point. In relationships where pregnancy is a physical possibility, one partner may force the other to become pregnant.

Economic/financial partners: You and your partner have equal say with regard to finances. All partners have access to the resources they need.

Unequal economically: Finances are not discussed, and/or it is assumed only one partner is in charge of finances.

Exerts economic control: One partner controls the money and access to resources. Having an open dialogue about finances is not an option. This may include preventing a partner from earning an income or not allowing a partner access to their own income.

Engaging in supportive parenting: All partners are able to parent in a way they feel comfortable with. You communicate together about the needs of the child(ren), as well as the needs of the parents.

Ignoring a partner’s boundaries: It is assumed only one partner is responsible for making informed decisions.

Engages in manipulative parenting: One partner uses the child(ren) to gain power and control over the other partner, including telling the child(ren) lies or negative things about the other partner.