What is controlling behaviour?

Controlling behaviour, also known as coercive control, is when one partner tries to dominate or restrict the actions of the other, often to gain more power in the relationship. This might include keeping tabs on your whereabouts, dictating who you spend time with, or even how you dress. It’s important to recognise these signs early as they can indicate an abusive relationship.

How to Spot Controlling Behaviour

Controlling behaviours are not always obvious and can often be mistaken for concern. Here are some red flags to watch out for:

  • Jealousy and Isolation: Extreme reactions when you make plans without them or choose personal activities over spending time together.
  • Monitoring Your Movements: Wanting constant updates on where you are and what you’re doing.
  • Invasion of Privacy: Inspecting your phone, emails, or social media without consent.
  • Restrictive Demands: Setting rules about your appearance or activities.
  • Emotional Manipulation: Making you feel guilty or anxious for not adhering to their wishes, often using tactics like gaslighting to make you doubt your own perceptions.
Dealing with Controlling Behaviour

Recognising these behaviours is the first step. Here’s how you can handle them:

  • Maintain Your Independence: Ensure you have your own space and continue doing things you enjoy.
  • Keep Connections Strong: Support from friends and family is crucial; don’t isolate yourself.
  • Open Communication: Discuss how certain actions make you feel with your partner; true care respects boundaries.
  • Seek Support: If controlling behaviour escalates, don’t hesitate to seek help from resources like 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), a counselling service for those experiencing domestic violence.

Understanding and addressing controlling behaviour early can protect you from deeper emotional and psychological harm, helping maintain your freedom and the health of your relationship.

How can I protect myself against controlling behaviour? 

Friends and family are important! Having support networks outside of your relationships is important. Even though it might be tempting to focus all of your energy on your exciting and loving relationship, friendships are also a really good source of support that will be there for you if your relationship ends. 

Seek further help 

Support is available at 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

Need someone to talk to? Free, confidential support is available.

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