Let Me Tell You What’s Going Wrong

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Abuse hurts.If someone could tell you what was wrong in their relationship in one sentence, here’s a list of they might say.  Notice you can’t tell whether the relationship is a man and a woman, two women, two men, trans or cisgender individuals.  Notice that almost all the statements are NOT about things that are against the law.

The sentences are sorted into categories with bold headings.  The words in these categories are taken from Evan Stark’s ground-breaking book Coercive Control, in which he describes the conclusions distilled from thirty years of observation and research into intimate partner and family abuse.

In a nutshell, partner/family abuse is not about hitting; it’s about turning another human being into property, even to the point of disposing of the person by abandoning, tormenting, or killing them.  While killing someone IS against the law, this list reveals there is a lot that leads up to a final decisive act of ownership.

How would you feel if you were the recipient of these behaviors?


Constant texting

Wants proof of where you are and where you’ve been

Angry when you interact with someone who might be a rival


Making you stay home

Criticizing family and friends to the point where they stay away

Moving you far away from your support system

Nailing windows shut/locking doors

Taking your car keys/breaking your phone

Economic Abuse, Deprivation

Keeping you from working

Cancelling/hiding credit cards

Giving you an allowance instead of a checkbook or account password

Spending or diverting all the money

Ruining your credit

Borrowing your money, then claiming it was a gift

Hiding money

Emotional Abuse, Shaming, Degradation

Insults, “you’re stupid,” putting you down

Using personal, intimate information against you

Putting down your career

Making you live in sub-standard conditions

Weighing you

Coercion, Threats, Intimidation

Threatens to kill themselves or you if you leave

Forces you to have sex by threatening to get angry or to have sex with someone else

Not taking “no” for an answer

Making you think you are wrong/rebellious/insubordinate

Surveillance, Micromanagement

Demanding your passwords

Driving you to/from work rather than letting you drive yourself or take public transportation

Using spyware, GPS tracking

Showing up unexpectedly where you are

Following you

Having other people check up on you

Telling you how to schedule your time, when you can get a haircut or take a shower


“I hit you because you made me angry.”

“I didn’t push you, I just brushed against you.”

Getting angry while insisting that you are the one with the temper

Telling you that you are abusive.

Blaming you for calling police; demanding you deny anything happened

Minimizing or ridiculing your hurt when they shame or denigrate you

Involving Children

Threatening to tell the kids/turning kids against you

Accusing you of punishing the children by keeping them away even if a court order or CPS has denied visits

Threatening to take custody of children in a court battle


Making you or other people think that you are crazy or an addict

One set of rules for them, another set of rules for you

Spreading rumors

Playing the victim

Convincing you that this is how relationships are

Survival Conditioning, Negotiation

You learn to avoid certain subjects

You don’t talk about your feelings

You negotiate finances around the other person’s behavior

You bargain about sex

You discipline children so partner will not be harsh or inappropriate with them

You buy drugs or alcohol for them

Loss of Autonomy

Being told what to wear, how fat or slim you must be, what makeup you can use

Being told which friends are acceptable

Told when you can speak and whom you can speak with

Preventing or sabotaging work and school

You learn to make all decisions based on their reaction/preference/response

Find out more:  Who is An Abuser?     What Does Abuse Look Like?