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Is Arguing Domestic Violence

May 14, 2022

Is arguing domestic violence? Just how bad does it have to get before it becomes something criminal and abusive? Every couple argues from time to time, and some definitely fight more than others. Sometimes those fights can get pretty heated, too. And yet, often those couples seem pretty happy together. So what’s going on? When does an argument cross the line?

It’s an important question- if you can hear your neighbors arguing late a night, should you call the police? How can you know if it’s just a bad argument or if there’s something worse happening? Keep reading to find out.

a couple arguing

Is Arguing Domestic Violence?

The answer is: it can be. Arguments can escalate quickly, and plenty of domestic violence incidents began as a regular argument that got heated until it became abusive. What’s tricky about this is determining when an argument actually becomes abusive. That point, where it shifts from an argument to a form of abuse, is different for everyone. Some couples have explosive fights from time to time. Sometimes they’re both stressed out and their patience has worn thin, and they each snap. That doesn’t mean they’re getting abusive, or that their argument has crossed the line into domestic violence. What those couples are going through is an almost universal experience- every couple has some bad fights. And some people can have those fights without feeling traumatized or abused.

It’s also true that some people would feel traumatized and abused by much less heated arguments. For them, the kinds of arguing that other couples experience all the time with no trouble might be abusive, and therefore qualify as domestic violence.

abuse vs trauma

Abuse vs Trauma

Before we go further, let’s talk about abuse and trauma and how they relate to domestic violence. Trauma is entirely subjective. If you feel traumatized, you were. That makes trauma very difficult to define overall, since it can literally be different for everybody. It’s very common for the same event to traumatize some people while leaving others mostly unaffected. Abuse is less subjective. While abuse is often traumatic, abuse is not subjective.

You’ll notice that abuse and domestic violence are often used interchangeably. That’s because they’re often used in each other’s definitions. For instance, the State of California defines domestic violence as “abuse, harm, threats of abuse or harm” involving a romantic partner or family member. Meanwhile, the National Domestic Hotline defines abuse as “Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.”

Since abuse can be clearly defined, it’s much easier to spot than trauma. It also means you now have the tools you need to help identify is arguing domestic violence. It’s important to get this right- you want to protect victims, but a lot of domestic violence calls result in an arrest, even if there’s no real abuse happening. While these cases are usually sorted out quickly and the person is sent home, the arrest still appears on their record. Nobody wants to have their friends, family, or neighbors arrested if they’re innocent.

arguing and domestic violence pattern

Is Arguing Domestic Violence: Is there a pattern?

One of the most important distinguishing characteristics of domestic violence is that there’s a pattern. It’s not just that they argue a lot, it’s that you can predict when they’re going to do it, because you recognize all the signs.

Do they argue like this every day when he gets home? That’s a pattern. If the arguing is happening at the same time every day, if you can predict when it’s going to get louder and louder, then you’re getting into abusive territory. One other clear sign is that every time they argue, it’s one sided. If one partner is always the loud, angry one; if one of them is always berating and belittling the other, or even threatening them, then it’s become domestic violence.

You should also pay attention to what the argument is about. Remember that domestic violence is all about power and control. One partner is trying to dominate and control the other. That’s why constant, one-sided arguments are a reliable indicator of abuse. But the subject of the argument can also be a clue.

When one person is trying to dominate and control another, the things they argue about are often not something which would normally cause such a heated fight. If you can completely understand why one of them is so mad, it might just be a legitimate, non-abusive argument.

That doesn’t mean that it’s automatically abuse if they seem crazy to you. Stressed people have strong reactions to things that wouldn’t bother so much under normal circumstances. That’s why recognizing a pattern is so important- if they’re constantly blowing up over minor things, that’s a warning sign of abuse.

know the signs of abuse

Is Arguing Domestic Violence: Know the signs of abuse

While it can vary slightly from one person to another, there are clear warning signs of abuse that you should always be on the lookout for. These signs are often present right from the start of a relationship, so knowing what they are can help you get out before things get bad.

You’ll notice that some of these are quite extreme and obvious, while others are much more subtle. In a way, the subtler signs are the more dangerous ones, because it’s easy to convince yourself that they’re not abusive. But even just one or two of these signs of abuse can signal danger.

Telling you that you never do anything right.

This is one of the most common, and commonly overlooked, signs of abuse. It sends the message that you’re stupid, incompetent, and need someone to take care of you. It sends the message that without your partner, you’d be lost. If you hear it often enough you’ll start to believe it. What’s worse, if they tell you this all the time, they clearly have no respect for you at all.

They get jealous when you don’t spend time with them.

In a healthy relationship, you should be able to spend time with your friends or alone. Some jealousy might be normal, but extreme jealousy every time you’re apart is a definite sign of abuse. This is going to lead to extreme controlling behavior.

Preventing you from seeing family and friends.

This is related to the last point. If they try to prevent you from spending time with your family and friends without them, that’s a clear warning sign of domestic violence. This is abusive and controlling behavior, and it’s not ok.

Insulting you. Insults, demeaning comments, or shaming you are all examples of domestic violence.

If you’re wondering is arguing domestic violence, this is one of the easiest ways to tell. In a healthy relationship, even in heated arguments the partners shouldn’t be insulting or demeaning each other. This is true even in private where no one else can hear, but in abusive relationships it often happens in front of other people too.

Refusing to let you make your own decisions.

This most often happens if you’re trying to decide to start working, to switch jobs, or to start going to school. These things can all give you a measure of independence, and that’s threatening to an abuser. Insisting on controlling your choices is definitely a form of domestic violence.

Controlling the money.

Money is power, right? So if one person has total control of the money in the household, they’ve got all the power. In almost every domestic violence case, the abuser has or wants control over all the money, without giving the victim any say in how it’s spent.

Pressuring you into sex.

This is a big one, and it’s very common in abusive relationships. Being pressured into having sex or performing sexual acts that make you uncomfortable is domestic violence. In a healthy relationship, your partner respects what you’re comfortable with and won’t force you into anything.

Pressuring you into drinking or doing drugs.

This is never ok. It’s a very clear attempt to make you easier to control and keep you docile and submissive.

Trying to intimidate you.

Using threatening looks and actions to imply that they’re willing to use violence is domestic violence. If you’re wondering is arguing domestic violence, one clue is whether or not they’re trying to intimidate and scare you during the argument.

Using your kids against you.

Insulting your parenting, threatening to take your kids away, or any other way of using your kids to manipulate and control you is domestic violence. It’s abusive, and it’s cruel.

Threatening you with weapons.

This one is extreme, but it happens. If they intimidate or threaten you with any kind of weapon, that’s domestic violence whether they actually use it on you or not.

Destroying your home or belongings.

Once they start damaging your property, there’s no doubt: that’s domestic violence.

domestic violence in argument

Is Arguing Domestic Violence: Types of Abuse

Domestic violence can take many forms, and it’s important to understand the different types of abuse that can happen. All of them are wrong.

Physical abuse is what most people think of when they hear about domestic violence. The abusive partner might be slapping, hitting, pulling hair, throwing things, or even starving the victim. This also includes threatening you with weapons.

Emotional/verbal abuse might be more common, and often harder to spot, than physical abuse. Name calling, insults, constant criticism, extreme jealousy, isolating the victim from family and friends, these can all be signs of emotional and verbal abuse. Anything that can be used to control or manipulate you without causing you direct physical harm falls into this category.

Sexual abuse is almost always accompanied by emotional or physical abuse. Often, the abuser uses emotional or physical abuse for the purposes of sexual abuse. Any time you’re forced into having sex when you don’t want to, and especially if it’s an act you’re not comfortable with, that’s sexual abuse. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a committed relationship or even a marriage, being forced or coerced into sex is sexual abuse.

Is Arguing Domestic Violence: What To Do

If you think you’re in an abusive relationship, or you suspect that someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you need to do something. Domestic violence is never acceptable, and steps should always be taken to protect victims of domestic violence.

If you’re the one in an abusive relationship, you need to have a clear plan. Know where you’re going to go, who you’re going to call for help, and how you’re going to get away. Make sure you’re going somewhere your abuser won’t think to look for you. That’s true whether you get the police involved or not. Talk to trusted friends and family and ask for their help in keeping you safe.

If you suspect that someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, call the police. If you hear an argument next door that sounds like it’s getting dangerously out of hand, call the police. It’s better to err on the side of caution and call them than to let someone experience domestic violence.

Arguing isn’t always domestic violence. In fact, most of the time arguments, even very heated ones, are nothing to worry about. But they can also be a sign that something is wrong. If you know what to look for and how to spot abuse, you can protect yourselves and others from domestic violence.