20 Signs of Coercive Control That Reveal Manipulation in a Relationship

///20 Signs of Coercive Control That Reveal Manipulation in a Relationship

Would you be able to recognise the signs of coercive control if it was present in your relationship?

I thought I would, but it is only after years of reflection that I realise I was being controlled in a number of ways. The thing about coercive control is that it’s pretty hard to pin down exactly what it is. It’s not physical or mental abuse.

In my situation, I knew deep down things weren’t quite right. In fact, if you’d asked me what was wrong, I would have struggled to tell you.

So what do we mean when we say coercive control?

The term coercive control was first created by Evan Stark in order to fully understand that domestic violence is not just about physical abuse.

Coercive control is when a person that you have a personal relationship with behaves repeatedly in a way that makes you feel controlled, dependent, scared or isolated.

Signs of coercive control include:

  1. Monitoring your activities with family and friends
  2. Constantly checking up on you
  3. Questioning your behaviour
  4. Setting time limits when you are out with friends
  5. Isolating your from family and friends
  6. Banning you from seeing certain people
  7. Stopping you from working in certain places
  8. Controlling how you spend your money
  9. Controlling how you dress or style your hair
  10. Telling you what you should eat
  11. Making disparaging comments about your figure
  12. Putting you down in public
  13. Repeatedly telling you that you’re worthless
  14. Allowing you no privacy
  15. Damaging your property
  16. Using children to report on you
  17. Getting angry at the slightest little thing
  18. You are constantly living in fear of upsetting them
  19. You have to do things in a particular way or they will get angry
  20. Your needs are not important and never discussed

In my relationship, I experienced all but a few of the above signs of coercive control.

I met my ex-partner almost 20 years ago. He was utterly charming and what drew me to him was his kindness. He had been married before and was a father to two young children. We began a relationship and soon moved in together.

One thing that raised a slight red flag was that he’d mentioned an argument with his ex-wife that still bothered him. He told me that one morning he had got up for work and asked his ex-wife to make him an English breakfast (a fry-up). She was busy with two toddlers under the age of 3 and didn’t have the time. He was furious and didn’t speak to her for a whole week.

To be honest, I sided with the ex-wife. Make your own breakfast, I thought. But the thought vanished and we began our lives together.

When the first signs of coercive control appeared

The first sign of trouble started soon afterwards. I had always wanted to study psychology, so I applied to the Open University to begin a foundation course. It included one lesson a week at a local school 20 minutes’ drive from our house.

Everything was fine in the beginning, but when I started getting enthusiastic about the course and told my partner about the male tutor, it all changed. The lesson was on a Monday. Sunday night, he would be moody. The day of the lesson, he would be downright miserable.

He began timing my return from class. If I was 5 minutes late, there would be an inquisition. I was loving the class and getting on very well with everyone.

After the class finished, everyone else went out for a drink at a local bar to carry on the discussion. I told my partner one week that I was going. He did not speak to me all that week.

I decided it was not worth the hassle. At the end of the year, despite passing and wanting to carry on with my studies, I stopped. It would take me 15 more years to finally get my degree.

I was with my partner for 10 years and never studied again while we were together. He began isolating me from my friends, saying they were a bad influence. Also, my family were no longer welcome.

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About the Author:

Janey Davies has been published online for over 8 years. She is the head writer for Shoppersbase.com, she also writes for AvecAgnes.co.uk, Ewawigs.com and has contributed to inside3DP.com. She has an Honours Degree in Psychology and her passions include learning about the mind, popular science and politics. When she is relaxing she likes to walk her dog, read science fiction and listen to Muse.


  1. Reagar July 15, 2018 at 7:03 pm - Reply

    Well as you mentioned he was already married with his ex wife so if he cheated on her, then he may be expecting that you are also cheating in him. Well that’s what cheaters do!

    • Tessa Brantley July 16, 2018 at 3:20 am - Reply

      You might REREAD the article.
      Nowhere does she mention, at all that he was married when she met him, or that he cheated, or that SHE cheated with him being a married man, but only that he had been married before.

      THIS is how rumors and gossip start, and how reputations are misconceived.
      I am curious as to where in all if this article, you saw cheating.

      • Janey D. August 30, 2018 at 11:04 pm - Reply

        To clarify, he was married, I was single. He cheated on his wife. he left his wife to be with me. He imagined that if someone with the integrity he had could cheat, so could anyone.

  2. Gary Hynous July 15, 2018 at 10:10 pm - Reply

    There are many ways to extricate yourself from this type of relationship. In some cases, especially if violence is involved, a woman or a man can find shelter and help in a abused person facility. If that doesn’t work, find a good divorce attorney and do yourself a favor and leave before the situation deteriorates. If you ultimately feel the relationship is worth saving, find a good family, marriage counselor and air your problems with professional help in a safe environment.

    • Janey D. August 30, 2018 at 11:07 pm - Reply

      Yes there are many ways to leave. But I was worn down, mentally. I felt worthless and after being told countless times that no one else would put up with me, I believed him. His abuse started very gradually. He didn’t bash me over the head on day one. If he had I would have left. It was much more insidious.

  3. Rob July 15, 2018 at 10:31 pm - Reply

    Maybe the ex-wife was the cheater. Who knows? One should not just assume. One should probably ask.

  4. Justina July 15, 2018 at 11:12 pm - Reply

    I’m so sorry this happened to you .. I’m currently in a mentally/emotionally abusive marriage that will be 7 years this August. I am basically only staying because I have not saved enough money to be on my own. Thankfully we have no kids! It is a rough situation and you are lucky to have gotten out of it.

    • Janey D. August 30, 2018 at 11:15 pm - Reply

      I am very sorry that you are still in an abusive relationship Justina. I know how hard it is to leave. it takes a lot of courage. I wish you strength for the future.

  5. B July 15, 2018 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    now if there were incidents that came off suspicious over and over again and you are overly friendly with men in general, I could see cause for concern, but not a prison correctional officers rules lol, now there are 2 sides to every story but regardless if he felt that strongly about you then he should’ve just broke it off.. trying to force behavior is silly

  6. Patricia Lawrence July 16, 2018 at 1:48 am - Reply

    My first husband was a total control freak. He was also physically and psychologically abusive. It took years of therapy to heal from this relationship. Glad you got out.

  7. Phil July 16, 2018 at 9:36 am - Reply

    Ive noticed that allot of these types of articles are somewhat geared towards women. True, many domestic abuse cases involve men being the abuser, but statistically and surprisingly female abusers are about equal in number. Just less often violent. (Not by much).
    I would like to find more about men in abusive relationships that have children. Ive been living with a master manipulator and abuser. But i don’t want to leave my child. Any info?

    • Tammy July 19, 2018 at 6:49 am - Reply

      I grew up watching my mother verbally and physically abuse my dad. I never understood how he did it, all I really knew was why. He did it for my sister and I. He has always been and will always be my hero. He has been resting in peace now 24 years. I truly hope you find your way through such a difficult situation.

  8. T July 16, 2018 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    Stop playing the victim. Not knowing your worthiness is a YOU issue, not a him issue. There are asshats everywhere, men and women. Choose better ppl to let in your life…

  9. Arielle July 16, 2018 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    It does people a disservice to start this article by saying such behaviors aren’t abusive. This is definitely emotional abuse.

  10. Nakitende rose July 16, 2018 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    Sorry dear, but you should always take your position in whatever relationship. It’s unfortunate that love always blinds us.

  11. daedalus July 19, 2018 at 6:07 am - Reply

    Holy damn, this article is perfect. You’ve just described how every single girl treats their boyfriends, amazing.

  12. James Brown July 19, 2018 at 6:18 am - Reply

    You know you’re basically describing women right? Seriously. If you ask read this list to the average man, he’ll probably tell you he’s been through most (if not all) of these. Hell, most of these happen on sitcoms, followed by a laugh track.

  13. Ironic Truth July 19, 2018 at 7:02 am - Reply

    Thank you very much for helping men see how women abuse them.

    /every woman I’ve dated has engaged in at least 15 out of 20 of these behaviors. By the end of a long relationship… 20 of 20. You did forget actual physical violence. I have never hit a woman, but I have been attacked with weapons several times by intimate partners.

    You are truly a champion of men’s rights.

    *I* know never to engage in any relationship where a habitually genetically abusive partner (i.e. a woman) could invoke the government in our affairs, but many men do not.

    God bless you.

  14. David July 19, 2018 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    Every woman should be forced to read and sign this list when they hit puberty. If they are found engaging in these behaviours they should face a fine, or jail in serious cases. It would save men a lot of trouble.

  15. Susan July 19, 2018 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Do a mental exercise for guys, think about the last…3 relationships you had with a woman,and do a checklist on each time one of these 20 signs of coercive control apply…like when she didn’t want you talking to one of your female friends ((that you knew since forver)) or trying to control on what you spend..or dosent even let you have 5 minutes of privacy and the list goes on.Most men and in coercive relationships if you follow this list.

    This seemed like a projection list more than anything

  16. Anja July 20, 2018 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    At the end of the day it’s about peace of mind and heart in any relationship. I believe people who have some type of moral compass can decide for themselves whether their actions are abusive or at least put themselves in the other person’s shoes to see how they would feel if it was done to them. It’s your decision who you want in your life.

  17. Lalla July 21, 2018 at 7:29 am - Reply

    Wow, this list describes the average girlfriend! Most men go through this.

  18. Janey D. August 30, 2018 at 11:11 pm - Reply

    To all the guys that replied with negative comments, of course women act like this. I am talking about my experience. That is all I can do. I know there are many men who suffer from control issues at the hands of their girlfriends. I cannot write about those from personal experience. However, if you guys would like an article about abuse against men I am more than happy to research it for you.

  19. Fred Bloggs November 29, 2018 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    My wife decided to start going out with a mixed group from work, rolling in at 2am drunk dressed like a teenager! I asked her if she was happy and she said she was. I told her that after 20 years together her behaviour was not exactly making me happy and if she wanted to behave in this way then we should part. She decided our relationship was too important and she would still go out with her work group but would “tone it down a bit”. I suppose by letting her know I didn’t approve of her dress or behaviour then I’m controlling? Bull! If we can’t be in a relationship where we are BOTH happy then I can leave. Or am I supposed to stay, be treated like a doormat and thank my lucky stars?!!

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