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Spotting the Signs

Controlling behaviour happens in many ways. Things like someone stopping you from doing the things you like, cutting you off from friends and family. It can be very confusing because it develops slowly and when you think someone loves you it can be hard to understand.

Controlling behaviour is also known as ‘coercive control’ and is domestic abuse. Domestic abuse can be physical or emotional. It can happen to anyone, young or old, in relationships or within families.

Domestic abuse is a crime.

Ten Signs of Controlling Behaviour
  1. Always criticising – Being critical of everything and nothing being right no matter what, ever. You are ‘put down’ all the time. For whatever reason, this is not acceptable.
  2. Picking your clothes – Questioning your wardrobe choices, telling you to cover up or to take that make up off. Some may think it’s a good thing that someone wants to admire you in that outfit, but it’s all about extreme jealousy and ‘owning’ you.
  3. Checking your texts – Reading your texts, checking your calls, wanting to know who you’ve been talking to. Reading your texts, checking your calls. It’s reasonable to want privacy for your own conversations, but you are only allowed to have a relationship with them. You can’t be shared.
  4. Isolated from family and friends – Slowly stopping people from calling or visiting the house, or you’re not allowed to go out. Controlling behaviour can mean you’re completely isolated from friends and family. As a friend or relative, it can be difficult to speak to the person you’re worried about, which means that they have little support for what they’re experiencing or any chance to talk about it.
  5. Choosing your food – It might seem small, but if you never get a say in what you eat – that’s a big deal. Not being allowed to eat what you want. Calling you fat or controlling how much you eat. It’s all about control of the everyday. Their control gives them power.
  6. Controlling money – You may have no access to any money, even your own because they ‘sort the money’. Cash and cards are taken away, or all the money goes into their account. They want you to be completely reliant on them.
  7. Extreme threats – It doesn’t have to be violent, although verbal threats can lead to physical violence. Something as subtle as a look or gesture which threatens you even when you’re with other people. It is all about keeping you in your place.
  8. Extreme jealousy – Being jealous of a partner, friend or relative is something most people feel at some point in their lives. But when someone else’s jealousy becomes extreme, you’re always under suspicion.  They accuse you of lying. They never believe you. They control with threats of what will happen if…
  9. Exaggerated love – We usually think domestic abuse is all about negative emotions and actions but it often involves expressions of love too. They ‘can’t live without you’ or may even threaten to harm themselves. They manipulate you to keep you exactly where you are.
  10. Stopping your interests – You may find that something you enjoy doing is disapproved of. So it becomes usual that you can have no more hobbies, nothing that might compete for your attention – to control you.

If you think you are experiencing controlling behaviour, get help. There are lots of ways to do this. Choose what’s right for you and the situation you’re in.

It can be hard to know what to do if you’re worried about someone else.  We’ve produced a guide to some of your options if you want to help.

It’s important to remember that many people do escape controlling relationships and go on to have positive relationships again in the future.

If someone is in danger, act quickly to get help.

Remember, if you or someone you know is in immediate danger or harm, always call 999.

Controlling behaviour is also called ‘coercive control’ and there is a definition in law for this. You can find out more about what the law says about this here.