Abuse Reality Check Is It Just Anger, or Is It Abuse?

Fighting with your boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, or family member can be devastating. The wrong words said, or actions taken in anger can often make you feel as though a relationship is damaged beyond repair. If you have been through other trauma before fighting with your loved one, you may wonder if your relationship is abusive or could be heading in that direction.

Examining the similarities and differences between anger and abuse often gives people clarity and helps them feel more confident when making decisions in their challenging relationships.

Comparing Anger and Abuse

Anger and abuse seem similar or identical to many of us because an abuser is often angry (whereas an angry person isn’t always abusive). Many of the emotions that arise when someone is angry may be harsh and the pain it causes is what leaves many wondering if they have been or will be abused.

But there are some key differences...

Anger can be motivated by a number of factors. Maybe you’re fighting with your girlfriend because she feels mistreated or like she hasn’t been heard. Maybe you forgot an important day, or broke a promise, and now your family member or friend is upset.

Whatever their reasoning, if the person who is angry doesn’t show a pattern of cruelty, it’s unlikely the relationship will become abusive.

Abuse, on the other hand, is built on controlling and manipulating behaviors. It is unjust, unfair, unkind, and cruel, and it causes you serious physical, emotional, or psychological pain. In an abusive or toxic relationship, the person raging doesn’t take responsibility for any relationship problems. Instead, they blame and punish you with their words or actions. If being around your family member, girlfriend, or boyfriend scares you or damages your self-worth, you are in a toxic relationship that may become abusive.

If you’re not sure, talk to a therapist or mentor about your loved one’s anger issues. Having a sounding board you trust can help you get to the root of the problem so you know what to do next.

Seeking spiritual encouragement while dealing with toxic relationships is also helpful. People in your faith community can remind you of God’s love in the face of any relationship challenge.

Protect Yourself from Toxic Anger

If you are confident that your boyfriend, girlfriend, family member, or friend doesn’t want to hurt you or control you, it is likely they just need to work on their communication skills and anger management. Let them know you still love them, do your best to forgive them, and hold them accountable for making positive changes so they can manage their anger in a healthier way.

If you’re in a close or intimate relationship with the person you’re fighting with, consider going to a counseling session with them to show your support as they make a plan to understand what triggers their anger. With time, someone committed to healthy anger management will be able to express it more constructively.

If you feel unsafe or fearful of the person you’re fighting with, reach out right away. We are here to listen, pray with you, and offer guidance for finding emotional peace and healing after abuse.

Send us an email or chat as soon as possible, and we will help you break free from your toxic relationship without judgment.

Want to examine your relationship more? Read my blog, 8 Signs Your Dating Relationship is Unhealthy.

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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