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Am I committing Coercive Control?

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

When we think of domestic violence, we often think of verbal or physical abuse but there are many forms of domestic violence.[1]

Coercive control is a type of domestic violence where an abuser demonstrates a pattern of controlling and manipulating behaviour designed to intimidate, isolate and control a person.[i]

You may not be aware that you are doing coercive controlling behaviours which could lead to you having an apprehended violence order taken out against you and if breached you could end up with a criminal record.

As societal changes shift or new laws come into play, it is so important to provide education and awareness giving people the opportunity to change.

It is really important to know that behaviours that you may not be aware of due to your own upbringing, or societal changes of unacceptable behaviour or the gender roles in your household.

Coercive Control can be behaviours used by ANY gender.

The following are coercive controlling behaviours, your perception of what you may be doing at home and possible changes you can make to shift your behaviours in order to avoid being accused of coercive control.[2]

1. Isolation

  • Isolating a partner from family and friends by reducing or cutting contact altogether

  • Not allowing a partner to go to work

  • Not allowing a partner to attend social events, classes, hobbies

Your perception

  • You may feel that your partner’s family or friends may influence your partner regarding issues in your relationship, fearing they may be talked into leaving you.

  • You may have young children and prefer them to be looked after by their primary carer.

  • You may feel that if your partner enjoys activities outside of the home that they may meet someone else and leave you.

Changes you can make

  • Seek counselling so you and your partner can discuss issues freely and gain strategies and skills to improve your relationship.

  • Sit down with your partner to discuss alternate safe child-care or a ‘return to work’ plan to increase work hours over time as the children start school

  • Seek a psychologist for yourself to help you work through your need to isolate your partner due to possible fears of them leaving you due to possible past childhood trauma of behaviour from your own parent.

2. Monitoring Activity

  • Calling or texting excessively when separated from your partner.

  • Reading your partner's texts, emails or social media messages without their permission

  • Installing GPS, cameras or recording devices at the home or in the car. This is considered stalking or harassment.

Your perception

  • You may feel anxious when your partner is away from you, so you want to stay connected to them by constantly calling or texting them.

  • You read your partner’s texts, emails and social media as people may be encouraging them to leave you

  • You install recording devices as you don’t trust your partner

Changes you can make

  • Try some meditation or keeping yourself busy when you are away from your partner

  • Aspire to be your best self and rebuild your self-worth and self-esteem

  • Seek a psychologist to uncover why you have trust issues and gain strategies to rebuild trust in all your relationships

3. Restricting Autonomy

  • Restricting partner’s access to transport

  • Hiding partner’s phone, laptop or iPad so they can only use them when you allow

  • Changing passwords on your partners devices or online accounts

Your perception

  • By keeping your partner homebound you may feel they are less likely to leave you

  • Restricting access to devices so you can keep an eye on who they are communicating with to avoid influences other than your own

  • Changing passwords so their activity is restricted until you are there to supervise

Changes you can make

  • Seek a psychologist to uncover why you have trust issues and gain strategies to rebuild trust in all your relationships

4. Controlling Body

  • What their partner can and cannot wear

  • What their partner can and cannot eat and drink

  • How their partner should groom or present themselves

  • How much exercise, sleep or medical care they should have

Your perception

  • You may feel that your partner should dress according to what you feel is appropriate

  • You moderate their food and drink intake to help them not put on weight

  • You may want to set a standard to how your partner should look at any given time

  • You make sure that they are doing what you think is appropriate time to sleep, exercise or go for medical treatment

Changes you can make

  • Your partner will be happier if they dress in what makes them feel good

  • You may suggest that the whole family should eat healthier but it is their choice to decide if they want to

  • Compliment your partner on how you like a certain outfit or the way they do their hair but don't tell them how they should look

  • Offer your advice but let them decide

5. Degradation

  • Criticise, call names, insult your partner

  • Put your partner down in front of others

  • Bully or belittle your partner

Your perception

  • By criticising, calling names or insulting your partner you think you are making them change for the better but it is actually damaging their self-esteem reducing confidence and self-worth.

  • You may think you are joking and being funny but it hurts your partner’s feelings

  • Bullying or belittling is not a behaviour you want your mother or your children to witness as they will think you are mean

Changes you can make

  • If you start to criticise, call names or insult your partner… stop and think about all the things they do for you and your family

  • Don’t make jokes at someone else’s expense, make jokes about yourself so everyone can laugh with you and not at you

  • Being a good role model will teach your children how to be treated and how to treat others with respect

6. Financial Control

  • Withholds or restricts access to money to their partner

  • Provide partner with allowance or control how money is spent

  • Making their partner financially dependent on them

Your perception

  • You may think you should take control of the money as you have earned it, so you should manage it

  • You may be giving an allowance so your partner spends wisely

  • Your partner can ask for money if they need it

Changes you can make

  • Sit down with your partner to plan a budget together so everyone can have access and understand the income and expenses

  • An allowance reduces independence and self-reliance. Preventing money being spent through restriction should be replaced with awareness and understanding of what bills are coming out this month.

  • Having to ask for money feels like begging. Empower your partner by granting access to funds.

7. Jealousy & Possessiveness

  • Constantly accuse their partner of cheating

  • Reduce the partner’s time away from the home

  • Making their partner feel guilty if they go out

Your perception

  • You may fear your partner is going to cheat and seek signs that it could be happening

  • Preventing access to people outside the home will reduce the risk of them leaving you but it just makes your partner feel trapped and suffocated causing the demise of your relationship

  • If your partner goes out you will miss them

Changes you can make

  • Accusations pushes your partner away causing the very fear of losing them to occur

  • Your partner will be happier if they are given the opportunity to have independence and self-reliance

  • Isn’t it better to have someone stay home willingly rather than under duress wishing they were somewhere else

8. Threats & Intimidation

  • Threats to their partner

  • Threats to children, pets, property, family or friends

  • Scare or intimidate partner so they do what they are told

Your perception

  • They made me angry so I lost my cool

  • You find it hard to hold your temper and what ever is around cops it

  • If they just did what I told them, there would be less arguments

Changes you can make

  • Do an anger management course so as not to scare your partner into subserviency

  • Seek a psychologist to uncover what is causing your anger issues

  • Think about what you want your children to say about you in their 18th birthday speech

Assess whether you are doing any of the coercive behaviours above.

Becoming aware of coercive controlling behaviours and understanding how you can change, gives you the opportunity to modify your behaviours before it is too late.

You may try to justify the behaviours by saying; "this is how I have always been", "this is how my parent was when I was growing up", "society is changing the rules on us". Times have changed and we need to evolve into the best person we can be so that we have equality and respect in all our relationships.

Most coercive controlling behaviours are due to underlying trauma or fears that a psychologist can help you uncover and provide strategies and techniques to change.

Ending up with an apprehended violence order against you may impact the time you get with your children in the future, so it is a good incentive to change NOW.

Author - Cheryl Duffy, Divorce Coach, Mediator & Parenting Coordinator


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