What is abuse in intimate relationships?

Abuse in young people’s relationships is when a young person abuses their girlfriend, boyfriend or partner or when a young person is abused by the person they are in a relationship with. It can also involve someone they see regularly, sleep with or used to go out with.

The abuse can be emotional, physical, sexual or digital. Controlling behaviour, making accusations or being aggressive are examples of emotional abuse. The abuse can also be physical, like beating or kicking, or crossing someone’s sexual boundaries or threatening to spread private photos or films on social media. The abuse and the situations can take many different forms. They nearly always include some form of emotional abuse.

Many people who have been abused say they feel like they’re in a “destructive/toxic relationship” where they are subjected to both minor and serious assault over a long period of time. The abuser exercises power over the other person, by making them feel intimidated, under pressure or insecure. The person being abused may feel they have to change the way they live in order to protect themselves.

Age can affect relationships. The person who uses abusive behaviour is often the same age or a few years older, but even an age difference of just a few years can affect the balance of power in a relationship; for example, if one person lives at home and goes to school while the other has their own place and is earning money.

Abuse or just a bad relationship?

Where does the line between a bad relationship and abuse go? If you fight or argue a lot does that mean you are being abusive towards each other? It’s both easy and difficult to answer that.

There are some obvious limits; hitting someone or having sex with someone who doesn’t want to is never ok. But raising your voice or calling someone an idiot once needn’t have a negative effect on you and your relationship, it could just be part of a normal argument. But when one person raises their voice and calls the other an idiot every day or several times a week, that’s a form of emotional abuse.

When the abuse is hidden

People who use abusive behaviour are usually good at hiding it. They may be the kindest person in the world when other people are around or aim the blows at a part of the body where the bruises will be hidden by clothing. Many people who are abused choose not to tell their friends or family, for different reasons, maybe because they worry what the reaction will be.


Most people who use abusive behaviour are not good at taking responsibility for their actions, and they find something or someone else to blame. They might say they were provoked or that they’re hot-tempered and can’t control themselves. They can be manipulative and try to make it look like they’re the ones people should feel sorry for.

Many also reduce the feelings and experiences of others, for example by saying that the victim is sensitive or exaggerating. They often say they’re sorry and ask for forgiveness immediately after they have been abusive, and promise it was the last time and that things will be different. Things may get better for a while but unfortunately someone who uses abusive behaviour towards their partner often continues to do so, despite the remorse and promises.


In most cases, but not all, a boy abuses a girl. Sometimes a girl abuses a boy, or a girl abuses a girl, or a boy abuses a boy.And it is always just as serious. Abuse exists in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships and in relationships with non-binary persons.*

*A person who is non-binary does not identify either as a girl or as a boy.

The consequences of abuse

Being abused by the person you are together with often has a profound effect on you,and can be really hard and difficult in many different ways. The consequences of abuse can be physical, psychological and social in nature. Sometimes you may react to the abuse immediately, such as in the case of physical abuse, but many consequences and difficulties can also emerge at a later stage. 

Your body and brain reacting to abuse is a sign that what you have experienced is not okay, and that you should take it seriously. It is important not to blame yourself for the consequences of the abuse, but to understand that it is your body and brain that are reacting to the abuse and that help is available. Remember that it is never your fault if you are a victim of abuse.

Exposure to abuse and physical health

Exposure to abuse can lead to various forms of physical and mental illness, and can have both short- and long-term effects. For example, being physically abused can leave you with bruises, swelling, injuries and scars on your body. The abuse can also have more long-term consequences, including lasting pain and psychosomatic symptoms, i.e. symptoms that are both physical and psychological, that can affect you for a long time. Maybe you often have headaches, digestive problems or pain in your back or other parts of your body. All of these may be consequences of being subjected to abuse, even if you have not been subjected to physical abuse or abuse against those particular parts of your body. Pain can occur in different parts of the body anyway, as a reaction to what you are being subjected to.

It is important to seek medical care and try talking to someone if you are being subjected to abuse, or have been in the past. If it feels scary to talk to someone you know or to an adult, you can always contact us anonymously through the chat. 

Exposure to abuse and mental health problems

Being exposed to abuse can affect your mental health. It is common to feel a lot of stress, anxiety and fear if the person you are in a relationship with uses abusive behaviour against you. It is also common to have lower self-esteem and often feel angry, sad and insecure.

Here are some examples of how being subjected to abuse can change the way you think about yourself: 

  • You think it's your fault that the person you're with behaves the way they do. 
  • You think that you deserve to be treated the way you are or that it wouldn't happen if you were a better person or did things differently.
  • You are ashamed of how your partner treats you and don't want anyone else to know about it.
  • You start to believe what your boyfriend/girlfriend says, for example that you are ugly, stupid or worthless.
  • You think you can't live without your boyfriend/girlfriend. That only they can make you feel good.

Being subjected to abuse can also lead to mental health problems such as:

  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Self-harm and suicidal thoughts
  • Sleeping problems
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Panic disorder/panic attacks

You can read more here. Remember that what you are going through is never your fault and it is important that you talk to someone. You can always contact us at ungarelationer.se. 

Other consequences of exposure to abuse

Being a victim of abuse can affect a person's social life and emotional bonds with other people. You may feel ashamed of what you are experiencing, fear that no one will understand, or be afraid to confide in those close to you for other reasons. It can make you feel more alone and distance you from friends and family. Your boyfriend/girlfriend may also tell you not to spend time with certain people, which is never okay.

If the person you are in a relationship with is subjecting you to abuse, it is not uncommon, for example, to:

  • Become isolated from friends and family.
  • Feel that you are betraying your partner if you tell someone about the abuse. Worry that your partner will get into trouble with friends or the police.
  • Have difficulty feeling trust and security in other relationships, such as with friends or other future partners. 
  • Have difficulty with new intimacy/sexual relationships, especially if you have been subjected to sexual abuse.
  • Develop various types of behaviours to cope with the anxiety caused by the abuse. For example, by using sex as a self-harming behaviour, harming oneself in other ways or by starting to sell pictures or sex.

Being subjected to abuse by a partner can affect a person in many different ways – above we have listed some of the most common consequences, but there are many more. Regardless of how you feel you are affected, you have the right to your feelings,and you have the right to get help and feel better again..

You can always contact us anonymously at ungarelationer.se if you want someone to talk to. We listen to you and believe in you.

8 warning signs of a toxic relationship

Om du är ihop med någon och känner dig orolig är det viktigt att vara vaksam på följande varningstecken. Kom ihåg att alltid ta din oro på allvar och lita på din magkänsla.


  • Smsar mig överdrivet mycket och får mig att känna att jag måste svara snabbt.
  • Blir lätt svartsjuk.
  • Har åsikter om hur jag klär mig, sminkar mig, pratar eller rör mig.
  • Snackar skit om mina vänner och min familj och vill att vi tillbringar mycket tid bara vi två.
  • Får mig ibland att känna mig ledsen, rädd, skamsen, förnedrad, fel, arg, irriterad eller chockad.
  • Kräver att jag ska göra saker, till exempel dela med mig av lösenord, ställa upp på olika typer av sex för att visa att jag älskar hen.
  • Växlar snabbt mellan att vara aggressiv/kall och kärleksfull/omtänksam.
  • Kallar mig för barnslig eller omogen när jag inte vill gå med på nåt eller påpekar att jag tycker att hen beter sig fel.

Why not just break up?

It can be difficult to understand why someone stays with a partner who is treating them badly. There are many reasons why it can be difficult to leave someone who abuses you.

For one thing, the abuse often creeps up and gets worse as time goes on. It hardly ever begins with a punch on the first date; if it did, then not many people would have carried on in the relationship. The person who is being abused can have mixed feelings. You might still love or be in love with the person abusing you, and some aspects of the relationship might still feel good and meaningful. The person using abusive behaviour can switch from being considerate and loving to being aggressive and violent. It can be hard to leave if you hope or dream that things can be good again.

The thought of talking about the abuse isn’t always straightforward. Many victims are ashamed and feel guilty because the relationship hasn’t turned out the way they had expected. It’s common to worry about how people around them will react and if they will be given enough support. The abuser might threaten to make the situation worse if you leave them; they might threaten to kill themselves or seriously harm their partner. Many victims stay in the relationship to protect themselves and their family from even more abuse.

There are other things that can make it difficult to leave, like being financially dependent on your abuser or having children together..

We know that a supportive environment is vital for the person who wants to leave an abusive partner. Do you need support? Chat with usWe are here, we will listen and believe you. At the moment we can only guarantee support and information in Swedish and in most cases in English.


Many of us have experienced the feeling of jealousy at some point. It's not unusual to feel a little jealous in your relationship at some time or another. But if you or the person you're with gets jealous a lot or often, in a way that takes it out on the other person, that can be a problem.

Jealousy can be a very difficult emotion to feel, but also to be exposed to. Feeling jealous a lot can have a negative impact on one’s life and relationship. It can also affect the person you are with – if a partner is jealous all the time, you may feel that you need to change your behaviour or adjust yourself so as not to upset them. As a result, you might not be able to be true to yourself, wear what you want or hang out with whom you want.

Jealousy is often portrayed as romantic and as a sign of love and affection. But love is very much about trusting the person you're with, and jealousy and controlling behaviour are no signs of love. That's why it's important to take jealousy seriously if you find that you are very jealous of the person you are with. If you notice that your partner is often jealous over you, this can be an important warning sign to be aware of.

Every year, we run the “Jealousy is not romantic” campaign together with the Swedish Gender Equality Agency and the county councils, with the aim to draw attention to and make visible the violence of boys against girls and abuse in young people's relationships. Read more about the campaign here.

How to know when to be worried? 

Everyone can feel a little jealous at one time or another. It's not always something to worry about, but it’s important to reflect on why you feel that way. In general, jealousy becomes a bad thing when you act on it. For example, trying to stop someone you're dating from hanging out with a friend because you feel jealous is not okay. It's letting your own feelings of fear and insecurity control your boyfriend's/girlfriend's life, and that's a warning sign.

Here are some examples of when jealousy leads to controlling behaviours, and needs to be addressed:

  • You want to keep track of where your partner is and who they're with
  • You usually check their social media and keep track on them, for example on Snapchat or Zenly
  • You get stressed, anxious or angry when you don't know what they are doing or who they are with
  • You want to influence where the person you are dating can be and who they can hang out with
  • You want to influence how the person you are with dresses and/or behaves
  • You want to influence what they do 
  • You spy on your boyfriend's/girlfriend's text messages or social media accounts 
  • You want access to their password so you can see what they do and write
  • You want your boyfriend/girlfriend to unfollow people on e.g. Instagram because they make you jealous
  • You threaten your boyfriend/girlfriend with, for example, hurting them, yourself or someone close to them if they don't do what you say

Do you recognise yourself in the examples above?

If you do, it is important to take responsibility for your behaviour. You probably feel that you are doing something that is not okay, and know that you are trying to control the person you are seeing in a way that isn't healthy or right. You may also feel bad about feeling so jealous yourself, and would like to change your behaviour. Either way, having the courage to talk to someone is a good first step. We at ungarelationer.se are here for you and you can always remain anonymous.

Do the examples above describe the person you are dating?

It's important to know that just because you're together, the person you're with doesn't get to control you and tell you what you can and can't do. You are still in charge of yourself and your own life. If you feel that the person you are with is often jealous and restricting you, that is a red flag that is worth paying attention to. You can read about more warning signs Here or take our quiz “Am I in a good relationship?” If you want to talk to someone, you can always chat with anonymously at ungarelationer.se. We listen, support and believe in you.

Do the examples above sound a lot like someone you know?

If you have a friend who is very jealous and controlling in their relationship, it might be a good idea to talk to them and tell them that you see what they are doing, that it is not a good behaviour and that there is help available to change it. If your friend is dating someone who is jealous and controlling, it is important to remind them that they have the right to make decisions about themselves and their life. You can also encourage them to talk to us at ungarelationer.se, or you can talk to us in the chat if you have any questions or would like advice on how to help.


Många som tittar mycket på porr upplever att de blir negativt påverkade. Det är vanligt att porr innehåller förnedring mot framför allt tjejer och kvinnor och andra handlingar som inte känns bra att titta på. Den känslan är viktig att ta på allvar. Väldigt mycket porr är kvinnoförnedrande och framställer tjejer och kvinnor som objekt som bara finns till för mannen. Det visas oftast heller ingen ömsesidighet eller samtycke. 

Många som är tillsammans med någon som tittar mycket på porr tycker att partnerns porrtittande är ett problem. Porr kan påverka sexuella fantasier och sexuellt beteende. Att gå över någon annans gränser kan vara inspirerat av porr. Forskning visar till exempel att killar som tvingar eller pressar tjejer att ha analsex är delvis inspirerade av porr. Porr kan också användas som en del av ett sexuellt övergrepp, till exempel att tvinga någon att titta på porrfilm. Ett annat övergrepp är att pressa någon att bli fotad eller filmad och sedan sprida bilden/filmen på porrsajter. 

Den som tittar på porr kan tro att sex ska vara som i filmerna. Killar kan tro att tjejer gillar det som kvinnor i porrfilmer utsätts för, till exempel förnedring eller våld. Som kille kan du också tänka att du ska vara dominant och bete dig på samma sätt som i porren. Tjejer kan å sin sida känna att de måste ställa upp på allt som visas i porren. Personer som tittar mycket på porr kan känna att det blir som ett beroende som de behöver alltmer av. De kan också behöva se mer förnedring och våld för att bli upphetsade och tappa kontrollen över sitt porrtittande. Porren kan flytta gränserna för vad man tänder på i sitt eget sexliv och hur man behandlar andra sexuellt. Det finns hjälp att få för dig som känner att du tappat kontrollen över ditt porrtittande.

Porren skapar och förstärker också olika fördomar, till exempel fördomar om personer som är rasifierade eller hbtqi+. Personer som konsumerar porr kan ha överdrivet positiva attityder till din sexualitet, tycka att du är ”spännande” och bli fixerade och fascinerade över att du är “annorlunda” från hen själv. Att bli utsatt för diskriminering på det viset känns ofta fel och förnedrande. Ofta kan det kännas som att man blir till ett objekt, “en stereotyp” och inte blir sedd som en hel människa med en egen sexualitet.

Kom ihåg att det är helt okej att tycka och känna att du inte vill att den du är tillsammans med kollar på porr.

Boys' violence against girls

Almost one in four girls in Sweden has been exposed to abuse in their relationship. Abuse in young people's relationships can be just as severe as abuse in adult relationships, but unfortunately it is often not taken as seriously and many people – both young people and adults – don't know how common it is. 

Men's violence against women starts with boys' violence against girls

Abuse in young people's relationships can take different forms, but most often it involves a boy abusing a girl. Patterns of power, violence and control often begin early and can grow if they are not stopped. This in turn can develop into what is known as men's violence against women, which is when a man subjects his girlfriend, partner, wife or ex to some form of abuse. Men's and boys' violence against girls and women is a huge and serious problem, and one of the most important things that can be done to change that is to actively address boys' violence against girls. 

Working to prevent boys’ violence against girls can end the abuse that is already happening, while preventing future abuse and the serious, sometimes lethal, consequences it can lead to.

Here you can read more about the different types of abuse and their consequences..

How can we prevent boys' violence against girls and abuse in young people's relationships?

Working against boys' violence against girls and abuse in young people's relationships needs to be properly funded and prioritised – we need stronger efforts on many fronts if we are to achieve a world where no young person is abused in their relationship. Among other things, we need to: 

  • Strengthen support and assistance to young people who are abused in their relationship. The national helpline that we offer on ungarelationer.se shows that the need for support and help, but also for preventive measures, is tremendous.
  • Raise awareness about abuse in young people’s relationships. Although abuse in young people's relationships is common, many people, both teenagers and adults, do not know what different types of abuse can look like and what warning signs to look out for. By gaining knowledge about boys' violence against girls and abuse in young people's relationships, we can better understand, intervene and prevent abuse.
  • We need to prosecute young perpetrators. By prosecuting young people who commit criminal abuse, it is possible to show that abuse is unacceptable, and at the same time to put in place treatment interventions that can put an end to the abuse.

Read more about key measures in our report here..  

Why are we talking specifically about “boys' violence against girls and abuse in young people's relationships”?

At ungarelationer.se, we talk a lot about boys' violence against girls, but also about abuse in young people's relationships. The reason we talk about it in this way is because both in our own work with young people and in national and global statistics, we see that abuse in intimate relationships usually means that a boy or a man abuses a girl or a woman. So on a more structural level, this is the most common form of abuse in relationships. Many reports also show that the abuse to which girls and women are subjected is often more severe, it happens repeatedly, it is more sexualised and it has more serious consequences.

We think it is important to shed light on the structure behind the abuse that mainly affects girls and women around the world. However, this doesn't mean that it can't take other forms, or that other abuse is okay. Girls can use abusive behaviour against boys, and there are also cases of abuse in same-sex and queer relationships. Abuse can take different forms, but no matter how it manifests itself or who the perpetrator is, it is never okay. 

A large part of our work involves offering help and support to young people who are victims of abuse, who are perpetrators themselves or who are friends of a victim/perpetrator. We believe that everyone should have access to support and help, regardless of gender or gender identity. Our chat room here at ungarelationer.se is open to anyone who needs help and support, and we also have a clinic in Stockholm where we can offer trauma treatment. We strive for social equality in which everyone has the right to a life without abuse!

Grown up with abuse at home

Unfortunately, many children grow up experiencing abuse at home. In most cases it involves a father or step-father who hits or abuses the mother. Growing up with abuse can affect you in many different ways. Perhaps you have had to take a lot of extra responsibility for yourself and your siblings. Maybe even for your parents. Maybe you yourself have been abused.

Experiences like this can have an impact on how you see your own relationships. Some people are always on the alert for anything that might remind them of what it was like at home: raised voices, screaming and threats, among other things. Some may never have had the help and support to process their experiences, and maybe they themselves have been led to believe that a relationship can actually include abuse and that this is “normal”. It might also be the case that you become extra dependent on the person you are with because you don’t feel safe at home and you want to get away.

If you are then subjected to abuse in your own relationship you might still feel that it’s “worth it” just because you don’t have to be at home. But you should never have to experience abuse to get away from something else – you deserve to be in a relationship that is happy, healthy and free from abuse. Chat with us anonymously if you have any thoughts or questions about this, or want to talk to someone. We can give you support and information via the chat in Swedish and often in English.

If you have grown up in a household where abusive behaviours were present, you may think that abuse is part of a normal relationship. However, it 's important to understand that it should never be an excuse for abusive behaviour to continue. But it’s important to process what you have experienced as a child, and above all, to end the abuse. If you use abusive behaviour, you can contact us anonymously on the chat, and you can also have your own support contact to chat with once a week. If you feel that you are maybe abusing your girlfriend or boyfriend, then read more here..