The Truth About Coercive Control in Intimate Relationships

Coercive control is a disturbing behavioral pattern that involves domination, fear, and the deprivation of civil rights. In relationships, coercive control can be particularly harmful, with one partner consistently using tactics of control to establish their dominance. In our latest podcast episode, we were joined by Jennifer Parker, a seasoned therapist and author who specializes in working with survivors of intimate partner abuse.

Together, we delved into the intricacies of coercive control in relationships. Coercive control involves a consistent pattern of behavior aimed at establishing domination and inducing fear, dependency, and deprivation of civil rights. These patterns of behavior are not one-time incidents, but rather a series of actions designed to control and manipulate the victim. Those who employ coercive control often have a belief in finite power, meaning they see power as a limited resource that must be fought over and won.

Coercive control is often subtle and insidious, making it difficult for victims to recognize what is happening. Early signs may include the controller wanting to spend all their time with the victim, showing a lack of interest in the victim's life and interests, or refusing to accept 'no' as an answer. As the relationship progresses, these behaviors can escalate and become more obvious, leading to the victim feeling trapped and powerless.

Codependents, or those who tend to over-care for others often at the expense of their own needs, are particularly vulnerable to coercive control. Their empathy and desire to please others can be exploited by the controller, leading to a loss of self-esteem and self-worth. To combat this, it is crucial for codependents to set firm boundaries and learn to prioritize their own needs.

Couples counseling can be a controversial topic when it comes to coercive relationships. In some cases, it can inadvertently harm victims further by providing the abuser with another platform to manipulate and control. Abusers often use counseling sessions to portray themselves as the victim, leaving the actual victims silenced and disbelieved. It's crucial to remember to trust your own experiences and resist the manipulator's gaslighting tactics.

Coercive control is a complex issue that requires a comprehensive understanding to effectively counter. Recognizing the red flags, setting firm boundaries, and seeking support from trusted individuals are all crucial steps in breaking free from coercive relationships. Always remember, the most important relationship you have is the one with yourself.

In conclusion, understanding and breaking free from coercive control is a journey that requires courage, self-awareness, and a strong support system. By equipping ourselves with knowledge and tools, we can navigate the labyrinth of coercive control and reclaim our power. It's a journey worth taking for healthier, more meaningful relationships.

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Jennifer Parker
Jennifer Parker
Author, Psychotherapist