Abusive Behavior

Nine Categories of Abusive Behavior

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:3-8 NIV).

Important Note

Abusive behavior is a pattern of behavior that occurs. Some of these behaviors happen in heated moments and an isolated incident that might occur is not indicative of a destructive relationship. Abusive behavior is when one partner consistently oppresses the other person using abusive behaviors to maintain that power and control. Cutting off the airway, strangulation or choking of the other person must be taken very seriously. It is often a precursor to murder and can even unintentionally lead to severe injury or death of the victim because of swelling to the airway and blood vessels in the throat. Always advise separation for the safety of the victim in the event of choking or strangulation.

Emotional Abuse

  • Making the other partner feel bad about themselves
  • Putting the other person down
  • Playing mind games
  • Making the other person think they must be crazy
  • Humiliating the other person
  • Using intimidation to make the other person afraid via looks, gestures, or actions
  • Minimizing one’s own actions of abuse
  • Not taking accusations or the other persons concerns seriously
  • Saying the abuse did not happen
  • Shifting responsibility for the abuse one committed
  • Blaming the other person for one’s own abusive actions.
  • Making the other person feel guilty

Verbal Abuse

  • Threatening to leave
  • Threatening to commit suicide
  • Threatening to report the other person to welfare
  • Threatening to hurt the other person
  • Name calling
  • Threatening to hurt the children
  • Threatening to harm or destroy things the other person cares about
  • Shouting at the other person
  • Criticizes or condemns spouse to the children or in front of the children or other people.
  • Saying negative things about the partners friends or families to undermine the partners relationships.
  • Telling the spouse what to say or not say to other people

Economic Abuse

  • Preventing the other person from having or keeping a job
  • Making the other person ask for money
  • Giving the other person an allowance
  • Not letting the other person know or have access to the family income
  • Taking the other persons money if they own money separate from the family income.

Sexual Abuse

  • Spousal rape.
  • Never accepting a no.
  • Using scripture to force the other person to comply sexually.
  • Forcing the other person to do sexual things they are not comfortable with.
  • Forcing the other person to view pornography.
  • Touching the other person sexually in front of the children or other people.
  • Refusing physical affection unless it culminates in sex.
  • Blatant disregard such as forcing sex after a new baby, illness, a busy or stressful day, etc.
  • Blaming the spouse for one’s own use of pornography.
  • Degrading the partner’s body or sexual performance to them or anyone else.
  • Marital infidelity or pornography use.
  • Not agreeing on birth control or pregnancy.

Using the Children

  • Using the children to convey personal messages rather than communicating directly.
  • Threatening to take them away from the other person unless the other parent does what they want (child abuse is the exception here).
  • Criticizing the other parent in front of the children.
  • If parents are separated, using the visitation as opportunity to harass the other person.
  • Not supporting the other parent’s parenting (unless it is dangerous to the child’s well-being).

Physical Abuse

  • Smashing or destroying things to make the other person afraid
  • Harming pets or the other persons property
  • Displaying weapons
  • Hitting, beating, pushing shoving kicking
  • Choking
  • Slapping, pinching, or biting
  • Punching
  • Pulling hair
  • Throwing things at the other person
  • Holding the other person down on the floor.
  • Keeping the other person from leaving the room
  • Restraining the other person in any physical way.
  • Not stopping when the other person says to stop with play behavior like wrestling, tickling, etc.
  • Abusing pets
  • Displaying weapons
  • Threatening with weapons
  • Refusing to help the other person with chores, parenting, etc.
  • Threatens to harm him or herself.
  • Controls the other persons use of needed medications or deprives them or their children of health care when necessary.
  • Tells the other person what to wear or what not to wear.
  • Uses drugs or alcohol illegally or inappropriately.


  • Limiting outside involvement
  • Controlling who comes to see the other person
  • Controlling the other person’s time, social life, or actions
  • Controlling where the other person goes
  • Controlling who they are friends with
  • Not allowing the other person to see their family
  • Controlling what the other person does
  • Controlling what the other person reads
  • Controlling what the other person sees
  • Controlling who the other person talks to
  • Using jealousy to justify any of these controlling behaviors
  • Constantly monitors what the other person in doing
  • Unfairly accuses the other spouse of infidelity a lot of the time

Dominating Behavior

  • Treating the other person like a servant.
  • Making all the major decisions alone without considering the other person’s viewpoint.
  • Spending large sums of money or making life-impacting decisions without the other person’s consent.
  • Defining marital roles without the other person’s consent or input.

Spiritual Abuse

  • Using the Bible to degrade or humiliate a spouse.
  • Using the Bible to make a spouse afraid of not complying with personal desires.
  • Refusing to go to church or not allowing the other person to go to church.
  • Using the Bible to condemn rather than encourage.
  • Using the Bible as a weapon rather than building each other up in faith and relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • Not allowing the other person or children to develop or maintain their own convictions about spiritual things.
  • Refusing to give equal weight to the partner’s spiritual input and convictions.

Relevant Scriptures

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers, and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (I Thessalonians 5:11-24 NIV).

“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (Galatians 5:19-26 NIV).

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people” (II Timothy 3:1-5 NIV).