Coercive control: Signs your partner is trying to control you and How to Get Out

Most likely, you’ve heard of different kinds of domestic violence, like verbal or physical abuse. There’s a different kind of abuse that’s equally damaging.


Are you concerned that your spouse might be attempting to control you? If you even have the slightest hint that something is not right in your relationship and you aren’t feeling physically or emotionally safe, you’re not alone. Domestic violence is much more complicated than it appears at first glance, and it’s not always physical.

If you are the victim of a partner who abuses you emotionally or psychologically but doesn’t point fingers at you, the abuse may be challenging to identify and can make you question yourself; however, it isn’t less than a traumatic experience for the victim.


Sometimes abusive techniques within a relationship can be subtle and are difficult to recognize. However, manipulation, insults, and intimidation may all be a part of what’s referred to as coercive control.

What is Coercive control?

Coercive control happens when someone with whom you feel personally connected repeatedly behaves in a manner that creates a sense of control and makes you feel like a victim, dependent, or anxious.

Coercive control refers to oppressive behavior designed to subdue someone and remove the sense of self.

Coercive Control: What is it?

They said if I loved them, I’d do it.” 

“He tracks my phone as he is concerned.”

“He puts me down whenever he can”

“If I don’t reply immediately, she’ll be angry.”

Does this seem familiar? This isn’t love. It’s abuse.

Coercive control can create invisible chains and a feeling of terror that is present in the entirety of the victim’s life. It restricts the person by stripping them of their rights and diminishing their power to take action. Experts like Evan Stark liken coercive control to being taken, hostage. He says, “The victim is entangled in an imaginary world created by the perpetrator, trapped in a haze of confusion and contradiction, as well as fear.”

Signs of Coercive Control

If you’re constantly doubting yourself and aren’t sure whether your worries are real or just a figment of your imagination, don’t be afraid to seek assistance. If you’re in a problematic relationship, it isn’t easy to discern if the situation is occurring to you, mainly because coercive control is to create self-doubt.

ReelNat has listed the following indicators that show your partner may be employing abusive methods to control you. If one or more of these sound familiar, this could be the time to review your relationship and think about the possibility of an exit plan:

You are isolated from your family and friends.

The first step in getting control is to divide and conquer. Abusers often try to cut you off from your family, friends, or other support system to attain total power. If your spouse begins to speak negatively about your family, that is the first sign of trouble.

They will begin to make direct comments about them and then create problems when they are seen. Abusers are always looking to play the victim, and they’ll make it appear that your family members and friends that are the ones that have an issue with them. They then attempt to convince you that you must be a part of their cause and stand up for them.

Monitoring your activities.

The idea of checking your phone or looking at your social media accounts sounds harmless, but when your spouse begins to observe your everyday activities, something as basic as checking your phone can turn into total coercive control.

They’ll monitor the places you’re headed and, who you’re hanging out with, the length of time. They’ll also monitor your social media usage and the people you’re talking with on your mobile. In the worst case, they may set up cameras inside your home and place sensors on your vehicle.

Gaslighting you.

Are you beginning to doubt yourself? Gaslighting is a subtle yet nefarious kind of domestic manipulation and abuse that leads victims to doubt their opinions, feelings, and sanity.

The person who abuses you causes you to doubt the truth of your experience and even your sanity; they do this by insisting they always have the right answer and retelling the story of the situation even when evidence suggests otherwise. The essence of gaslighting is built on deceit and manipulation of the truth.

Gaslighting could have grave consequences. A lot of victims feel overwhelmed, ashamed, as well as confused, hurt, and lost. Gaslighting for long periods can have detrimental effects on the victim, causing many to suffer from a post-traumatic anxiety disorder.

Denying you freedom and autonomy

A person who exerts coercive control might try to restrict your freedom and autonomy. Examples include:

  • Not allowing you to go to school or work.
  • Limiting your access to transportation.
  • Observing your every move while you’re not at home.
  • Even taking the phone and changing your passwords.

If an abuser begins to control you by denying you freedom, they are trying to destroy your identity. You can no longer see or perform the activities you used to do that brought you joy. They would like to make your world tiny so that they can grow into a huge and powerful person in it.

Exerting financial control

A joint account may be the next obvious step for your relationship, and you might appreciate the assistance when you’re struggling with managing your finances. Still, if your spouse has a complete grasp of your funds, that could be a serious problem.

This happens when someone controls someone’s access to money and doesn’t permit them to make financial decisions. It can result in a person having no food or clothing; they use it to make you feel isolated and ensure there is no other place to go and no option of leaving. Abusers seek to keep their victims to make them believe they are in no position to get out and must remain in their shacks regardless of what.

You are constantly being criticized and slammed.

If your partner’s constant criticism is gaining momentum and they keep putting your down, that’s an obvious warning sign.

Abusers are often quick to criticize and put down their victims directly or indirectly. This makes the victim doubt their abilities and their capabilities, for them to turn to their abuser to give them the reassurance they require. This also makes the abuser feel good while putting other people down.

Forcing you to live by their rules

Some quirks can be found in relationships, such as insisting on a specific meal or a particular place to eat are normal but if your partner runs an extremely strict ship and you’re worried about the reaction they’ll have if you do not abide according to their rules, it’s a sign that you’re in dangerous territory. 

Abusers always want their way, and the victim feels like they’re walking on eggshells, trying to do everything they can to please their abuser.

Turning your children against you.

They could attempt to use your children to attack you by using negative comments about you, mocking your character in front of your children, or telling them you are bad parents. Sometimes, the tactics are subtle, involving the gradual feeding of a story that deems you an outlier.

Policing your lifestyle

It might seem like they are caring if your partner is interested in your style choices or is interested in knowing your exact location. However, if they instruct you on what to wear or where to go, this is a standard indicator of coercive control.

Abusers transform their victims into robots. The victims are conditioned to do what they are told, like what to eat, when to sleep, and what to wear. Victims lose their identity as well as the ability to make decisions independently.

This kind of manipulation could weaken the victim until they’re not able to think for themselves. They feel that they must be a victim of their abusers in their lives because they cannot live their lives without the abuser instructing them on how to live their lives.

Controlling your sexual relationships

Does your partner constantly ask you about sex or pressure you to engage in sexual activities that cause you to feel uncomfortable? While it’s not unusual to have different sexual desires if your partner is making you perform any activity you’re not happy with, it indicates coercive control, and you have the right to refuse.

The perpetrator wants to control all aspects of your life, and that includes the sexual aspect that you share with them. They’ll tell you when, where, and when. It’s all related to power and control. The perpetrator will not take into consideration whether the victim’s consent is valid or not; they simply believe they are entitled to do what they like.

Threats to kill

Are you scared of your partner and fearful that they could hurt your family or you? In a relationship where coercive control is a factor, the abuser often uses violence to gain their way.

This is done to scare you and create fear so you’ll follow whatever the abuser tells you to ensure your family’s security. If an abuser realizes that the method works because you and your family are at the vulnerable point of attack, they will continue to do this to get what they want.

Making jealous accusations

We’re taught that being jealous indicates that someone is concerned. However, continually accusing you of doing something that you haven’t committed can be extremely damaging to your self-esteem and can be a way to allow abusers to have control over your life.

Most of the time, when an abuser accuses his victims of doing things, and they are completely jealous, that is because the abuser is doing what they are accusing their victim of. The reason for jealousy is ownership. The abusers think they are owners of their victims, and if they see their victim receiving praise or attention elsewhere, they won’t like it since it’s not about them.

You are being blackmailed.

It’s like something from a film, but if you’ve previously divulged confidential information or shared photos with the person they now threaten to reveal, it is considered blackmail and unacceptable.

How to escape Coercive control?

If something doesn’t feel right, then it most likely isn’t. Getting rid of a toxic relationship can be challenging and requires planning, time, and emotional strength. If you feel that you’re not in a position to break up, it’s because your spouse has deliberately and repeatedly weakened you to prevent you from taking action. However, you don’t have to endure the abuse of your emotions, and support will be on its way if you speak up to the right source, so don’t forget that you’re not on your own.

Sometimes all you need to do to get rid of an abusive partner is a strong written break-up speech. However, more often than not, the abusers aren’t willing to let go of control, and the situation can become dangerous for the survivors.

If you’re ready to get rid of your abuser, speak to a counselor at an advocate hotline to discuss the options available, including an order for protection to develop a safety plan and get assistance when deciding the best way to go about leaving.

Make notes and keep a journal.

If you notice signs of coercive behavior in your relationship, you should start recording things and keeping a journal. Keep all your screen captures containing text, images, and letters – everything you might need in the future.

Do not be afraid to ask for assistance.

Please speak to a trusted friend to offer support, inform them of what you’re experiencing, or call one of the help organizations you know. It’s extremely difficult, especially if they’ve removed you from the majority of your family and friends and taken away many parts of who you are.

Plan your escape

Planning your getaway is vital since it has to be carried out with a lot of consideration and attention. Begin collecting all necessary documents like passports, birth certificates, and bank information and then put them away in a safe place or hand them over to an individual in the family or to a family member to be safe. Keep a bag for emergencies with a spare set of clothes, the numbers of those you might require to call if you go away without a phone, and any cash you can get.

Escaping Coercive control

Share your feelings and information with a trusted friend. 

If you can trust a friend, family member, or colleague, let them know whenever you encounter incidents. The information you provide to them could be admissible as evidence later.

Smartphone applications 

It can help track domestic violence incidents, including background audio, phone calls, and even images.

Take pictures

 Take pictures of your house damaged after an act of violence at home. Include any broken objects.

Take screenshots 

Take screenshots of threatening text, messages from social media, or repeated messages that show the stalking.

Find a Therapist 

Who is specialized in helping victims of domestic violence. They might be able to be a witness from a different perspective to confirm your story of violence. An advocate from a domestic violence shelter that you can confide in might be able to help you in the same way.

The law is on your side. 

Unfortunately, abusers don’t generally go without a fight; therefore, if you’re worried they could be violent, contact the police. The act of coercive controlling is considered a crime, and abusers are liable to be prosecuted, which is why it’s essential to preserve all possible evidence.

Read More: Assertiveness: how to stand up for yourself and still win the respect of others

Read More: Is it possible that I have an inferiority complex? What Can I Do to Get Rid of It?

Read More: Entitlement mentality: No one owes you anything!


Coercive control is a deeply concerning type of abuse that goes far beyond physical violence. Its sly nature implies constant manipulation, isolation, and enslavement of the victim, leaving long-lasting emotional and psychological marks. Recognizing the indicators of coercive control is essential for both the victims and society in general by educating the public, providing assistance, and promoting legal remedies that will help stop the cycle and establish an equitable, safer future. No one should not have to endure the suffocating hold of coercive control. We can all work together to create an ideal society that fosters tolerance, respect, and liberty for all.

Eggshells – A Short Film About Domestic Abuse (coercive control, gaslighting, domestic violence)
You May Also Like