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  • Writer's pictureAnn Curry

Its all under control - Coercive control in a relationship

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

We were chatting in the pub last night about people who are jealous or controlling in a relationship and one person remarked 'I don't get why people stay with a partner who controls them - why wouldn't you just tell them where to go and get out of it?

I responded with the story about the frog - The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death - and coercive control works the same way.

If you met someone and within the first few dates, they tried telling you what to do... you would be outta there! Someone who wants to control you will do it very slowly in a calculated way - you may not even realise it is happening - not until you start second guessing yourself or thinking twice before you speak!

In fact, when you first meet them. you will be astounded at how lovely they are, you will be the best thing in the world - you may never have felt so loved and cherished! And they may say things like 'oh are you going out with your friends on Friday night? I just fancied a romantic cosy night in with you' - usually accompanied by an adoring look and a hug. Which makes you feel all loved up and special ..... until you realise that you haven't been out with your mates for several weeks and well.... its not like your partner would stop you ... its just... erm... well they might be a bit funny about it.

You will start to realise when you tell them about something that has happened in the office, you will alter the story a little because if you mention anyone of the opposite sex, they go a bit funny.. and well... its just that they love you so much, they cant help being a little bit jealous.

Pretty soon, you will be tiptoeing around, walking on eggshells, not rocking the boat, however you want to put it - but not really knowing why.

And then it will escalate ....... slowly and surely.

They may :

Isolate you from family and friends - they may do this by acting jealous when you are with them saying your prefer to be with them, so you spend less and less time and they are phased out.

Monitor your day to day activity - suggesting that they add you on 'findmyphone' or install a video door bell (so they can see when you leave or come home)

Deny you your privacy - insisting on knowing your phone passwords and assuming a right to go through your phone or emails, monitoring your social media intensely and questioning you on social media contacts

Gaslight - Oh i could do a whole blog on gaslighting - but its basically where they tell you one thing then will flat out deny they said it, or that you misunderstood what they said - and you start to mistrust your memory.

Put you down - it may start off seemingly innocent ... 'oh i didn't think you would wear that just to go the pub - its a bit dressy! - or 'we aren't buying any biscuits in the shopping this week because your jeans are gettting too tight.

Control your finances - of course they will do it in a well meaning way, just helping you because 'you know you get carried away spending - before you know it, you will feel guilty buying anything.

And just like the frog in the pan, things will heat up and heat up - till you can't make a decision without consulting them, till you are scared to tell them things you wouldn't have thought twice about, till you realise you don't do anything without them , till you realise you don't have any control over your own life anymore.

We hear about the extreme coercive relationships in the news such as the devastating story of Alex Skeel. His partner and the mother of his children was the first woman in the UK to be convicted of coercive abuse and control. Alex was deprived of food, made to sleep on the floor, physically abused and was days from death when police intervened.

But i can't help wondering how many people are currently sitting in a pan of warm water - not really aware of how hot it is going to get.

If you are concerned about your relationship and not sure if what you are experiencing is coercive control, check out this Womens Aid page for more information.

Or contact :

Womens Aid - 0800 2000 247

Mens Advice Line - 0808 8010327

National Gay, Lesbian and Trans DV helpline - 0809 995428


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