Are you struggling to come to terms with your partner’s abusive behaviours? abusive behaviours Clare Murphy PhDDo you wonder: “Is he doing this to me on purpose? And if he is knowingly being cruel, neglectful and controlling, then I find that too hard to take, that he would be so calculated in his nastiness to me. I’ve not done anything to create that.”

Do you wish: “I’d rather he did not know what he’s doing to me, that it’s unconscious, that he can’t help it, that he’s not intentionally trying to destroy me. I find that notion easier to come to terms with.”

Unfortunately, the reality is that some men do single-mindedly, and very consciously, choose to abuse their partners. As indicated by the man who said:

“I knew I could control every move that she made.”1

Men who use coercive control aim to get their own way and be right at all costs. They may use violence or intimidation to shut her up — make her conform. They have deliberate goals to frighten her. Some men may apologise and show momentary remorse, but they continue to deny causing harm and instead tell her she deserves what she gets.

Some men who purposefully coercively control their partners enjoy it.

A man who was interviewed by Julia Wood said, “I was getting like joy — I see her upset from things I’m saying, I just keep right on bringing it. That was good enough for me. Ain’t no need for me to walk up and hit her.”2

One man that Jeff Hearn interviewed said, “it got so you used to enjoy it. You provoked incidents yourself to justify what you’re doing.”3

Some men warn their partners in advance that if she does not do as she is told she will suffer the consequences.

“I tell her ‘shut-up or just take what comes’.”4

“When I thought I was losing an argument I’d say ‘If you don’t shut up I’m going to hit you’.”3

Yet another man said, “I hit her, let’s say I give her a slap, she’ll be safer if she moves to the other room. If she does that, it all ends well.”5

High numbers of men interviewed about their abuse towards their partners have confessed that frightening their partner was a deliberate goal. In fact some men warn their partner that they’ll use violence or some kind of control tactic in the future.6

Unless her abusive partner deliberately, purposefully and systematically takes personal responsibility for his violent and controlling behaviours, women need to do what it takes to protect their own sanity and that of their children’s as well as physical safety and psychological wellbeing.

Life is too short to feel obligated to stay with a controlling partner.

There are too many social messages that encourage victims to stay in relationship with the abuser. There are alternatives. Children flourish better in safe environments. You have permission to leave and be safe. Anyone who moves away from abusive people will survive — and in fact flourish when away from abuse. If you already live with fear on a constant basis — Fear of leaving and setting up a new life is something you can do — Your inner strength is still deep inside you. If you feel your partner could try to kill you if you leave it’s vital you get support to create a safety plan.


  1. Gondolf, Edward W., & Hanneken, James. (1987). The gender warrior: Reformed batterers on abuse, treatment, and change. Journal of Family Violence, 2, 177-191.
  2. Wood, Julia T. (2004). Monsters and victims: Male felons’ accounts of intimate partner violence. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 21, 555-576.
  3. Hearn, Jeff. (1998). The Violences of Men: How Men Talk About and How Agencies Respond to Men’s Violence to Women. London: Sage
  4. Cavanagh, Kate, Dobash, R. Emerson, Dobash, Russell P., & Lewis, Ruth. (2001). ‘Remedial work’: Men’s strategic responses to their violence against intimate female partners. Sociology, 35(3), 695-714.
  5. Eisikovits, Zvi C., Goldblatt, Hadass , & Winstok, Zeev (1999). Partner accounts of intimate violence: Towards a theoretical model. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, 80, 606-619.
  6. Ptacek J. Why do men batter their wives? In: Yllö K, Bograd M, editors. Feminist Perspectives on Wife Abuse (SAGE Focus Editions) 1988. p. 133-57.
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Meet the Author

Clare Murphy PhD is the founder of SpeakOutLoud. Her website is dedicated to providing in-depth research about coercive control and psychological abuse. Clare mentors, supervises and trains professionals to recognise and work safely with domestic violence. She offers one-on-one counselling and consultation to those who are ready to make sense of coercive control and abuse, and to Grow and Flourish Beyond Trauma.