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Learn About Coercive Control and Psychological Abuse

Are you struggling to come to terms with your partner’s abusive behaviours?

– Posted in: Male perpetrators SAFETY of Women & Children Why does he do it

Speakoutloud.net 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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  • Serena 13 September 2015, 10:27 pm

    I was in a similar relationship and he made sure I knew he would make my life a living hell if I left. One night he cornered me against the wall with our daughter in between. We were both terrified. I managed to placate him for a little while. I bathed her and put her to sleep (this he left me in peace to do) and we fought again. Because I was “treating him like sh**” and “couldn’t do anything right” after I found a bra in the laundry basket in our bedroom that was NOT mine and brought it to his parents earlier that week.

    I had to leave my daughter in the middle of the night because he threw me out and forcibly pushed me out the door when I grabbed my keys and tried to get her. He ran after me to her room (after telling me if I didn’t leave he’d punch me in the face) which was one door down from our room (where we were) and at the top of the stairs and proceeded to push me just a little toward the stairs. I was afraid I’d fall, so I ran down and he ran after me to the door.

    When he pushed me out he told me because I voluntarily left my daughter with him, I’d never see her again and he was “going to make my life a living hell”. I got in my car and drove to my mother’s house over 50 miles away. My mother and sister lived there with my young neice. She didn’t want him to follow me there, so she said I couldn’t take my daughter.

    I went to live with a friend and finally got “visitation” with her. No court order, just what HE wanted, I had to pick her up from school in the middle of my work week for 5 years before I lost too many jobs to count because of the scheduling conflicts. So I had NO money, just meager unemployment and I blocked out all the other things he’d done, like when my son was having a birthday party at his dad’s house and he dragged me down the street hanging halfway out of the car.

    I called his parents and of course I must have “done something to make that happen”. The denial and the enabling were all I needed to feel like I was wrong and go back home. (My son’s father’s wife let me sleep there because he refused to bring me home and I was not going there alone. My daughter was with her paternal grandmother then.)

    Again we had a fight when he got home at 3am. I had various races of neighbors, but there were 2 black teens sitting on the porch of my son’s friend’s house 3 doors away. He threatened to shoot me because he “knew I was talking to those n#” Again, I had to call his father. Now I betrayed him. It was already too late for me.

    My father was an addict and died and I had no father figure, ever, so the emotional dependency was there. He was fine the last 6 years as long as I did what he said and didn’t tell him anything different.

    I recently moved in with a wonderful man. I never had anyone steady because, a) I was afraid to because I knew he wouldn’t handle it well, and b) when he didn’t handle it well, neither did his wife (she tortured me along with him and tries to poison my daughter against me every time she gets a chance.) I have just found out, along with the people at my daughter’s school, that he has her in the wrong district (for the second time) and I am not sure that he knows yet.

    I did assert myself last week, as I am receiving therapy for PTSD due to the nature of the relationship. I told his mother that I am her mother and I will say what goes now because I am sick of it, etc. I believe they are getting nervous because I will not back down this time, and a large car with no lights on drove by 6 times in 4 hours last night. I checked the perimeters of the house this morning and found cigarettes under windows underneath the deck even. We have no reason to go under there! I never reported any of the prior abuse and second guessed myself last night because I was scared. I know how you feel. The next step is getting my daughter out of there, and it is NOT easy hearing her on the phone, scared to talk to me because she was caught calling me. She is 8. It is so sad. But I will do it somehow. I don’t care if I have nothing as long as she is safe.

  • Nancy 4 June 2015, 8:38 am

    I was a mentally abused wife for 17 years and I have been an abused ex-wife for eight years.
    My ex-husband is a very smart cunning man who knows how to use the law in his favor even though he was the one breaking the law. Some people do not believe what has happened to me and I often sit back and cannot believe it myself. My ex-husband told me if I ever left him that he would (a) ruin my credit; (b) take my children; and (c) put me out on the street. It took him five years but he managed somehow to do all three things. I am not an alcoholic, I am not a drug addict, and I’ve never had a mental issue or a physical issue. Because of his position at his job as a vice President and his preference for me to stay at home and raise the children and not work, when I left him, the court awarded me alimony as well as child-support that was not monetarily in his favor.

    I had been so seriously mentally abused that I tried everything, but I could not stay any longer. After two years of him paying child support and alimony he decided to take a fake lay-off that his boss helped him accomplish. And directly after his support was cut to a third of what it had been, I was in threat of losing the home I was renting for me and the children. It was a very happy home and I stayed in the same school district that the children were raised in.

    Unfortunately my ex-husband knew that I had a very bad attorney who wasn’t helping me at all and he had full knowledge of this so he took complete advantage of the situation knowing I didn’t have the money to go hire another attorney. That’s a whole other story.

    I quickly started my own business but it was too little too late. Since my ex husband had every other weekend with the children and four weeks out of the summer and this happened in June just as he planned it. I asked him to keep the children for 4 consecutive weeks instead of 4 broken up weeks that summer because I knew that I was losing the apartment and that would give me time to find another home for the children.

    And oh, after he took his so-called lay off and he had me in the street he went back to work two months later for the same company. After he took his so-called lay off and he had me in the street he went back to work two months later for the same company I do not have any family here at all everyone is out of state. In the interim he and his new girlfriend went to the courthouse and filed emergency temporary custody on the grounds that I did not have a home for the children, which was technically true but I had asked him to give me four weeks to get another home that he agreed to.

    Before this he had gone online knowing my Social Security number and took out three credit cards in my name ran them up over $10,000 and said “there I ruined your credit!” I took him to court for that and the judge ordered him to pay those credit cards in full. He made one $25 payment and has let them go ever since. Of course I begged my attorney to do something about that and he wouldn’t even though I was paying him hefty fees. I even took $7000 cash to my attorney to his doorstep at his home and that is what I got in return absolutely not a damn thing!

    So somehow in our court system here in Pennsylvania because he had a lot of money and I didn’t he got away with ruining my credit, taking my children and putting me in the street. But it gets better! I quickly got on my feet I have been living in the same home for four years and have had the same good job for 3 1/2 years and I still do not have my children overnight!!!!

    I have contacted CYS and everyone else and no one knows or can explain to me why the children cannot spend the night with me even though I still have partial custody. My ex-husband makes his own rules. This is the complete lack of me having enough money to hire another lawyer to fight him. His new wife paid for one of the best attorneys in town to keep my children away from me.

    The good news is my children are all in their teens and I have a 21-year-old son who is in the Marine Corps. My oldest son came home as soon as he could my 16-year-old son wants to come home as soon as he can but what they are doing to my daughter is a whole other story because his new wife only has one daughter the same age as our daughter. They are mentally abusing my daughter as well as the boys but the boys are old enough to shake it off my daughter is only 13 and extremely confused.

    This is only a little part of the story I cannot believe that any of this has slipped through the court system. And how having one bad attorney can let all this happen.

    Did I mention that I moved five minutes away from my children? Yes I live five minutes away from my children. CYS couldn’t explain anything to me. My old attorney couldn’t explain anything to me. I was totally screwed by the system because my ex-husband had more money than I did and my children are the only ones that have paid the ultimate price.