Sometimes abuse is obvious; other times it's not so clear-cut. And recognizing it can be hardest for the person who's being abused. Find out how to know if you're in an abusive relationship with this Howcast video.
Step 1: If your boyfriend has ever laid a hand on you, even if it was just once, there's no need to go any further: You are being abused, and you need to break things off.
TIP: Physical abuse often starts in little ways -- a shove here, a squeeze there -- and then escalates.
Step 2: Don't discount emotional abuse. Does he regularly put you down? That's abuse, too -- even if he says he's just kidding.
Step 3: Think about the influence he has over your life. Does he try to control which friends and family members you see, how you dress, or how you spend your time without him? Many abusers are controlling.
Step 4: Consider how he makes you feel. Are you anxious much of the time? Are you getting more headaches and stomachaches? Do you worry about disappointing him or making him angry? Even if he's never physically hurt you, do you feel like he could some day?
Step 5: Think about his other relationships. Does he get into a lot of fights? Have any of his ex-girlfriends claimed he abused them? Does he have a bad temper? Is he manipulative?
TIP: If family, friends, or even acquaintances are cautioning you about him, take their warnings seriously.
Step 6: Don't blow off threats he's made to harm you -- even if they were said in the heat of an argument, or in a jokey "this is what will happen to you if you ever dump me" kind of way.
Step 7: Consider if your relationship fits the cycle of abuse: an explosive outburst followed by a "honeymoon phase," where he begs forgiveness and acts like the perfect boyfriend, followed by a "tension phase," where you're walking on eggshells waiting for the next blowup.
Step 8: If you have any doubts about whether you're in an abusive relationship, talk to someone who can give you an unbiased opinion.
TIP: Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline or the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline for help. Visit ndvh.org and loveisrespect.org.
Step 9: Do whatever it takes to get away from the abuser -- and stay away.
FACT: Sixteen- to 24-year-old women enter physically abusive relationships more often than women in any other age group.