This article about being in an abusive relationship is the second part of a series. You can read part one here.
The idea is to not only reference the controlling behavior but to give some background as to why it is done and how the behavior affects you. In this way you get to recognize what is actually being done to you so you can take steps to protect yourself.
Manipulators understand the importance of information control and they want to be the main source of information available to you. This means isolating you from friends and family and other support networks. At the start of the relationship, when things are great, this is relatively easy. You naturally want to spend as much time with this wonderful new person in your life that makes you feel so good. There may be lots of messages, emails, calls during the time when you are not actually together. All this attention people often find flattering. It makes them feel special, wanted and cared for.
Later in the relationship, your partner starts making comments about your friends and family, pointing out their flaws, the things that are annoying, the mistakes they make. These things are often redefined for you.
In this way, the manipulator is changing your impressions of those closest to you so that you end up thinking differently of the situation and the obvious thing for you to do is to spend less time with them. This can be subtle and you hardly even notice that you are spending less and less time with your friends and family.
Another tactic is for the manipulator to make you feel bad when you are going to spend time with other people. They may start a fight on the way to a family dinner so that you arrive in a bad state and don't actually enjoy the meal. They may pout and give you the silent treatment when you get home after spending time with friends. They may get angry when you arrive home, again, spoiling your event. Over time, you learn that there is going to be problems when you spend time alone away from your partner and it just seems easier not to go out in order to avoid confrontations. The idea, of course, is that the abuser doesn't want you hearing the opinions of others who can see what he or she is really like. They don't want you discussing your situation with others. They want to control the information that you are receiving, as well as how you interpret that information.
A controlling person of the nature I am describing here is not just someone who is insecure or anxious, but someone who controls for the sake of controlling. These are often psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists. I know that may seem shocking, the idea you have of your partner/coach/mentor does not line up with what you think of as a psychopath. However, if you are dealing with one of these types, you really need to know about it for several reasons.
Their relationships are based on coercion and exploitation. They not only want to control, they want compliant victims. That means they want to control everything, they want you doing exactly what they want you to do. This often includes your clothes, your hair style, your food and drink, your work, your hobbies (you typically end up giving these up), your free time (there won't be any, they keep you constantly busy), your sleep and your finances. Now, obviously not every manipulator controls every single one of these things, but when you look closely, it may shock you to see just how many of them they actually do control.
This is a tricky one. The nature of mind control is such that the victims firmly believe that they are making their own decisions, so it's often not easy to recognize the level of influence the manipulator has.
Do you ever find yourself asking yourself "What will they say if I do this?" Or do you think such things as, "If I do that, he will be upset so I better not do it"?
Many victims think that they are controlling the situation by making such decisions, that they are deciding things in order to keep the peace. The fact is that they have been trained to make decisions this way. They know what upsets and pleases the manipulator because the manipulator has made these things very clear. So rather than 'controlling things', this is actually called 'asking for permission'. The victim is actually checking with the manipulator, even when the manipulator is not present, to know whether something is acceptable or not.
With regard to information, the more information he or she has about you, the easier it is to establish and maintain control. Therefore they train their victims to reveal their thoughts, ideas, their whereabouts, who they spend time with, what they speak about and so on. So all those wonderful moments at the start where they sat and listened attentively to you going on about yourself, that you felt a marvellous connection with this new person in your life... that was actually an information gathering exercise on their part. Were they interested in you? Absolutely! But they were gathering different types of information than you thought. They wanted to know your wants, your needs, your fears, your desires, your motivations, you pet hates, your strengths and your weaknesses, in order to use this information against you.
Later on, they make you feel bad when you do not tell them things. "You don't share with me anymore, I don't feel part of the relationship, you are doing things without me, you are making unilateral decisions, you are turning selfish, I think you are deliberately hiding things from me, I am afraid you are lying to me..." and on and on. All these things are designed to make you feel guilty or upset in some way so that you tell the manipulator what's going on in your mind. The things they say are tricks. Many of them are lies. But the manipulators use them because they work to get you talking.
Of course, the controller has no sense of obligation in revealing things to you. They actively keep things from you. Some will even disappear for days on end and not tell you anything about where they were or what they were up to. They also distort events and facts as well as telling bare-faced lies.
Being in an abusive relationship means that you are subjected to a cascade of lies every day. The idea that the manipulator is taking care of you is a lie. The belief that the abuser loves you is a lie. But it is such a big lie that it is hard to get your head around it. The whole relationship is built on this idea. You have been acting like this is true. You have made decisions based on this idea being a fact. The fact is that these people are professional liars. They make a living lying to and manipulating others. And one way they do this is to build a reality, or a story, around themselves, and then they force people to live within this reality. The problem is that this reality often has little to do with the real world.
They will lead their victims to believe that they are more intelligent, more worldly and more morally right than anybody else. They insist that they are always right, you are wrong. Anything good in the relationship is because of who they are, anything wrong is because you are the problem. This is very black and white and the world is actually full of greys. Many of the things they lead the victims to believe are actually 180 degrees away from reality. But because the manipulators are such good liars, over time they will have their victims believe all sorts of things that are not actually real. It is obviously very difficult for a victim to accept that their whole life was based on lies and deception. Accepting that deeply held beliefs are not actually true is devastating.
My husband is emotionally abusive - what can I do?
You can read part one about controlling behavior in a relationship here.
Learn more about how to detect a sociopath, how to leave a controlling relationship and narcissistic abuse recovery.
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