Is Your Spouse Crossing the Line? Here’s How to Know

Relationship Challenges

Just about all of the folks that I work with speak with me about having difficulties in their relationship.  Relationships at their best are challenging with difficulties inherent in them. They require ongoing attention and work. Many women wonder whether their husband is just “being human” with typical sorts of struggles and habits or whether they are “crossing the line” if they act in certain ways.


It is important to discern between the two as typical and normal challenges can be worked on together while crossing the line, especially if done consistently, should raise bright red flags that the problems may be severe. In these cases a woman will be well served to recognize that she is being disrespected or mistreated, or maybe even being abused. In these circumstances it is less about working on things together and more about a woman creating care and safety for herself and determining her next steps given that she is in an unhealthy relationship. 

Your partner is “Being Human” and having common habits if he:

  • has some difficulties communicating
  • has some differing values from you around money and sex
  • sees things differently from you simply because he is a man
  • gets angry and expresses it healthily by keeping the focus on himself
  • is not making time for you and your relationship
  • feels overwhelmed with work and daily responsibilities
  • feels hurt or resentful and talks about it respectfully
  • occasionally forgets things you tell him or occasionally fails to follow up
  • wants to spend time alone and go to his “man cave”

Some men have much more serious problems than the common habits and problems cited above and then “cross the line” and behave in hurtful, mean, threatening or abusive ways. He may also be attempting to exert power and control over you. These behaviors can fall into categories of physical, sexual, emotional or financial.

Signs and characteristics that he has crossed the line

1. Physical actions such as punching, slapping, kicking, choking, using a weapon, pulling hair, restraining, not allowing you to move away or out of a room.


2. Sexual actions such forcing you to do something sexually that you do not want to do, using you as a sex object or touching you in sexual ways when you do not want to be touched.


3. Emotional actions such as:

  • belittling you by saying you’re a loser or you’ll never be anything
  • calling you names
  • telling you what to feel (or what not to feel)
  • telling you that you are crazy or making things up in your head
  • blaming you for his feeling anger, his angry actions or compulsive behaviors
  • keeping you isolated from your family and friends, controlling who you see, talk to and when you go out
  • using intimidation with threatening looks or gestures, banging on tables or walls or by destroying your property
  • using threats by threatening your safety, threatening to take your children away or threatening to make allegations to your family or child
  • protective services about your behavior or mental and emotional functioning
  • giving you the silent treatment after a disagreement
  • walking away after you request help or support
  • dictating what you can (and cannot) talk about
  • treating you like a servant and acting like he is the ‘king of the castle’
  • violating your privacy by checking your voice mails, texts or postal mail
  • criticizing you no matter what you do or how you dress
  • gambling and using drugs despite promising not to do so
  • having extramarital affairs
  • reneging on agreements
  • coming into a room after you have requested to be alone


3. Financial actions like preventing you from working, withholding money, taking your money, making you ask for money or do things for money, making major financial decisions or major purchase without conferring with you.


In summary, people from all walks of life and of all ages have challenges in their relationship. Often these are typical and normal and things to be worked on together, hopefully in kind, supportive, compassionate and loving ways. Then there are actions and problems that exceed what is referred to as typical. This is when your man has crossed the line. If you recognize the differences you will be able to discern whether you are in a healthy relationship or in a relationship that maybe it’s best for you to not be in, especially if your man does not take responsibility for his problems. If you find yourself in a situation like this seek help through a domestic violence shelter and/or a therapist.

Jeff Schneider
Counselor, LCSW
Jeff Schneider is a N.Y. State licensed clinical social worker and relationship expert in
New Paltz, NY. He has helped people from all walks of life struggling with relationship
problems, addictions, depression, fear, low self-esteem and how to integrate
counseling and spirituality. Visit to learn more about him.

More by Jeff Schneider