What You Need to Know About Coercive Control (Pt 1)

Getting divorced is tough. That’s certainly the case for anyone leaving a life partner, especially if they’ve been together a long time, or there are children involved. But disentangling your life from a controlling and emotionally abusive partner is a whole different kettle of fish. If you’re getting divorced, and your spouse has used coercive control to manipulate you and keep you under their thumb, then you’re going to need a different tool kit to get through this process. And a lot of help.

A close up of a game consol, which gives someone complete control over a character or a setting.

What exactly is coercive control, and why does it count as abuse?

When people think of domestic violence, they tend to picture a victim who is physically and verbally assaulted. But abuse isn’t always so obvious. Coercive control is a perfect example of how someone can abuse a spouse without leaving any marks, or doing anything overt. Coercive control is a type of emotional and psychological manipulation that can be very damaging to a victim, and make it very hard for them to leave their abuser. It usually takes the following forms:

How does someone use coercive control to abuse a partner?


Isolation is a common tactic used by abusers to control their victims. This can mean refusing to allow you to have contact with your network of friends and family, or simply restricting your access to these people. They may also monitor your interactions with others. In many cases, spouses who use coercive control over their partners insist on having access to social media accounts, cell phones, and email. You never feel free to talk to anyone else, because you know every word you exchange will be read by your abuser. By isolating you from your friends and family, an abuser makes it very hard for you to get the help you need to get away from them.

Limited Autonomy:

Abusers will often attempt to limit the amount of freedom their partners have, in an effort to control where they go, and who they have contact with. This can mean accompanying them to the grocery store, and only allowing them to socialize when the abuser is present. In more extreme cases, it can mean depriving their partner of transportation, finances, not allowing them to leave the house, or following them when they are out running errands.


Misrepresenting you to others is another common tactic of coercive controllers. In particular, narcissists use this method to undermine their partners, by telling lies about them to others. This is usually done in such a way as to also make themselves look like a victim of your emotional issues, or a “good guy” for sticking with you despite all your problems. By making you look “overly anxious”, mentally unhealthy, or even downright disturbed, they can ensure that others won’t believe you when you reach out for help, or make claims about your spouse being abusive. 

Get the right help if your partner is abusive and you need to get out!

If your partner is abusive, or using coercive control to manipulate and gaslight you, it makes sense that you would want to move on. Wanting to end an abusive marriage is perfectly reasonable. But abusive partners are NOT perfectly reasonable, which is why you’re going to need an experienced and compassionate attorney who understands what you’re up against, and how to handle it. Join us next time for the rest of the list of methods used by abusers to control their spouses, and if you’re ready to move on from an unhealthy relationship, call 866 766 5245 right now. We’re standing by, round the clock to help.