Am I Abusive?

Rarely have we met a person who has acted abusively and does not have at least a slight, nagging feeling that what they did was not right. Exploring that flicker of doubt can be the key to changing, because it indicates you know you have crossed your own lines about how you want to behave.

People instinctively know that they are hurting their relationships when they do things to intimidate, control or scare their partner. Often this is what helps people change.

 “I didn’t like what I was becoming. I don’t like being so angry, so upset, like … when I see the fear in my daughter’s eyes and my partner’s. I never physically abused … well, I guess in some ways I did, but it was more verbally. And I have a rage in my face and it just scared them. And lately, when I see that rage in me, it sort of scares me now. I don’t want that.”

Abusive behaviour is a choice

We believe any person can, at any point in time, choose to change and to behave differently towards their loved ones.

It can be painful to admit that people you care about are afraid of you. But this can also be one of the most powerful incentives to change. Often, people decide to reach out for help  because they are so uncomfortable with their abusive behavior and the effect it is having on their relationships.

 “I want to handle the anger within myself. Yelling and swearing and screaming at people when I’m angry…I didn’t want to do that any longer, so I decided to come in for counselling.”

“I was having problems at home, with my temper and the relationship I was having with my kids. I tend to be very authoritarian so, because of that, I would come down on them a lot harder than I needed to and it would eventually cross the line into abuse. So I wanted to come out of it where I did better with my kids than my parents did with me.”

The potential for negative judgment is also a challenge. Abusive behaviours towards people you care about may have led people to label you as “an abuser” or “a wife beater.” However, abusive behaviour does not define you as a human being.

Most people who act abusively toward their partners will also treat them respectfully and with kindness at other times. Many people later regret their harmful behaviour and express this regret in direct or indirect ways.

It has been suggested that perhaps people are abusive because they themselves were abused as children, or they have mental health challenges. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to excusing the person from responsibility for their behavior. Often when people have been abused as children, they actually make very different and more positive choices when they raise their own children. 

While there is no hard and fast definition of what makes a behaviour abusive, the fact that it creates fear is a good place to start.


These questions can help guide you


Think you may be hurting the people you love and want to change?

We can help answer your questions.


Men& Helpline: 1-833-327-MENS (6367)

Men’s Counselling Service: 403.299.9680 

Connect Domestic Violence & Abuse Helpline: 403.234.7233 (SAFE) or Toll-free: 1.866.606.SAFE (7233) 


Learn more

You can learn more through Choosing to Change: a handbook for men concerned about their abusive behaviours towards those they love

If you are concerned that your behaviour may be abusive, please visit the Understanding Abuse section to learn more.

Learn More

Myths About Abuse

Forms of Abuse

How People Resist Abuse

Am I Abusive?

Children and Abuse

Escape and Safety planning

Help Stop Abuse

How to Support Someone