It can be a real challenge to recognize if a significant other is an abuser. The part of you that loves them does everything it can to find a reason to excuse their behavior. You may even blame yourself for what they are doing to you. It can be difficult to reach out to family and friends when you take responsibility for the situation.

Abusive relationships can come in many forms. They are not limited to a particular gender, orientation or race. The abuse can also look very different from couple to couple. At the heart of the problem, though, is the abuser’s desire for control and power over their victim.

Recognizing abuse with the Duluth Model of Power & Control

Named after the Minnesota city it was created in, the Duluth Model of Power and Control breaks abuse into eight categories. It can be a good starting point for identifying ways abuse may be occurring. Six of these categories are especially important to watch for:

  • Economic abuse: Some perpetrators use financial means to restrain their spouse. Without monetary power, they must rely exclusively on their partner for their needs.
  • Abuse through threats: The abuser may threaten harm to either their significant other or themselves in order to get a desired result.
  • Abuse through intimidation: To gain the upper hand, one partner may intimidate the other. This can include verbal and physical displays.
  • Emotional abuse: Sometimes, an abuser may try to twist the victim’s emotions so that they feel sorry for them or even responsible for the situation.
  • Abuse through isolation: To exert control over their partner, an abuser may cut them off from friends and family. They also lose emotional support from those they cannot contact anymore.
  • Abuse through minimizing, denying and blaming: Perpetrators can inflict harm on a victim by belittling their concerns, denying that there’s an issue or blaming them for anything that happens.

It’s important to think about these behaviors carefully and whether they could apply to your partner. They could be a sign of deliberate abuse. If you think there is a problem, don’t hesitate to seek help.