The term "intimate relationships" is used here to be maximally inclusive of any romantic and/or sexual relationship between two non-biologically-related people, including dating or courtship relationships, relationships in which the romantic partners live together in the same household (cohabiting), relationships in which two people have children in common but are no longer formally romantically or sexually involved with one another, and marital relationships.
Ideally such relationships are loving and supportive, protective of and safe for each member of the couple.
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This can happen whether the relationship is ended by just one of the partners or, seemingly, by mutual consent.
There are several types of abuse that occur in intimate romantic relationships.
It is frequently the case that two or more types of abuse are present in the same relationship.
Emotional abuse often precedes, occurs with, and/or follows physical or sexual abuse in relationships (Koss et al., 1994; Stets, 1991; Tolman, 1992; Walker, 1984).
Sexual and non-sexual physical abuse also co-occur in many abusive relationships (Browne, 1987; Mahoney & Williams, 1998; Walker, 1984), and, as with emotional abuse, sexual and non-sexual abuse often are combined elements of a single abusive incident (Bergen, 1996; Browne, 1987; Finkelhor & Yllo, 1985; Russell, 1990; Walker, 1984).
As discussed by Tolman (1992), it may be somewhat artificial to separate emotional abuse from physical forms of abuse because physical forms of abuse also inflict emotional and psychological harm to victims, and both forms of abuse serve to establish dominance and control over another person.
However, it also is possible for any one of these types of abuse to occur alone.
In fact, emotional abuse often occurs in the absence of other types of abuse.
Therefore, despite some conceptual and experiential overlap, the various forms of abuse also are separable conceptually and experientially.
Moreover, for better or worse, they are often treated separately by the research community, although that practice is changing as research on these topics matures and progresses.
The categories of abuse that occur in intimate romantic relationships include: Emotional Abuse (also called psychological abuse or aggression, verbal abuse or aggression, symbolic abuse or aggression, and nonphysical abuse or aggression).