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Family & Domestic Violence

Coercive Control: Relationship Red Flags You Need To Know

Read Time:5 Minute, 45 Second

These coercive control tactics are relationship red flags. They are waving like crazy and they are trying to tell you something. Unhealthy relationship behaviours can lead down a slippery slope, and quickly. Often words and actions follow patterns and cycles and can escalate into something quite out of control. But, one thing is for sure, all of this had to start somewhere.

The thing about some of these red flags is that they are covert, many of these involving tactics of coercive control. These behaviours can appear innocent or at least be explained away as innocent . But, don’t be so sure that all is what it seems. These relationship red flags are a sure sign things aren’t all roses. It’s time to listen to your intuition and stay safe.

1. Everything Is Your Fault

Basically, you are blamed for everything. You are to blame for all the problems in and out of the relationship. Even things outside of your control will be your fault. You are to blame for saying how you feel, what you think or even whatever has caused your partner to be upset. 

You are made the scapegoat for other abuses. Things are turned around on you, and you might hear something like “if you didn’t make me so mad, I wouldn’t have to yell. Now look what you’ve done”. This is an intentional play to avoid responsibility for behaviour and place it squarely on you.

Without taking responsibility, don’t expect your partner to change their ways. Any form of change can only occur when the person admits there is a problem worth addressing. Constant deflection and avoidance of responsibility are not congruent with change.

2. Your Partner Doesn’t Like Your Family Or Friends

Your partner may try to turn you against your support network. They will badmouth your family and friends, and accuse your friends of not liking them (which is probably true). This prep work for isolating you is all aimed at complete seclusion down the track. 

Your partner may demand you don’t see your friends or family. Perhaps the only people you soon find yourself associating with are their family. The goal here is concealing all these other red flags and what better way of hiding these than to not have any prying eyes around. 

Eventually, you will be totally secluded from your support network. The reality is if your support people are not around they can’t talk you out of leaving — mission accomplished for your partner! If down the track you want to leave the relationship, it will be that much more challenging when you have no one to turn to for help.

3. Other People Are Treated Better Than You

So, your partner treats others well. More to the point, you are treated differently from everyone else. Your partner is polite and courteous to their work colleagues, family, and friends. Yet somehow, at home, they are abusive, hostile, demeaning or critical to you.

Abuse is always a choice. This behaviour is selective and your partner has chosen to inflict their abuse on you. Because abusive behaviour is aimed at power and control, friends and coworkers are treated well because your partner simply has no need to assert dominance over them.

Your partner will excuse this behaviour away. They are maintaining their double life and keeping up appearances so that if this behaviour were to surface, no one would believe it anyway. They are so nice, remember?

4. Your Partner Is Always jealous

Jealousy will come out in different ways.  Going out with friends, relationships, accusations of affairs or even your successes can bring about jealousy. This jealousy is relentless and it not only highlights the insecurity your partner has, but it is completely irrational.

Accusations of affairs are common. When it comes to accusations of cheating, anyone is fair game (men or women). You are accused of having affairs you have not had. This makes you always have to prove your loyalty which is aimed at furthering control. 

Your successes at work can’t be celebrated as this may be a reflection on your partner and how they feel threatened by your achievements. They feel inferior, a failure. Your fault again. 

Jealousy is an uncomfortable emotion. To combat this feeling, you may be forbidden to have any contact with people who are perceived to be ‘threatening’. This is a double whammy because in doing this, you are also further isolated and dependent on your partner. Your partner regains control and feels better about themselves, for now.

5. Your Mental Health Is Used Against You

You will start to feel like you are going a little mad, but you are not. You may have existing mental health conditions, your partner knows this and will play on it and use it against you. They may purposefully do things that create anxiety, and then berate you when you have a panic attack. 

If you don’t have a mental health history you may suddenly be accused of being ‘crazy’ anyway which makes you second guess what is real and what is not.

You are berated and belittled. You are continuously told that no one else will put up with your depression, anxiety or whatever. Your partner is a saint for putting up with all of your shit because no one else would do it!

Soon, your mental health is declining rapidly. Rather than supporting positive mental health, your partner only makes it worse, purposefully. You will not be supported to improve your mental health because there is an active effort to make it all worse. To keep you feeling low. 

So What Now?

Coercive control tactics such as these are red flags for further relationship abuse. Violence and abuse of any kind are a choice. 

These are times when you may think, “he’s such a nice guy” or “she’s so amazing” Well, nice guys don’t play mind games or make you feel intimated or scared. Amazing girls don’t make you question your mental health, your sanity and your reality. Nice people — guys or girls — don’t make you feel unworthy.

These are red flags, and they have the power to escalate into more severe and harmful behaviour. You have the right to be in a relationship that feels safe. Trust yourself that you know can make decisions to keep yourself emotionally safe. 

Know that you deserve to have a partner who doesn’t make power and control the foundation of your relationship.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency, call 000.

Photos by 

nikko macaspac on Unsplash

Ben White on Unsplash

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