Controlling Behaviors
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Surviving Domestic Violence (SDV)

Controlling Behaviors

-Excerpted from the MANALIVE (Men Allied Nationally Against Living in Violent Environments) list of controlling behaviors.

Male role control works by physically, verbally or emotionally destroying his partner's physical and emotional integrity, so that she will be afraid to be herself...and therefore be available to be controlled by him.

Emotionally controlling behavior is implemented through verbal abuse, body language and deprivation (withholding).

Abuse is always about control whether it is verbal abuse, emotional abuse or
physical abuse. It is about controlling one's partner, subtly or openly.


The abuser controls his partner's time by making her wait. He will say he's
ready to talk, but will continue to do something else while his partner waits. If she complains of having to wait, he will blame her for not being patient and blame her for making him wait. Diverting, countering, blocking,
"forgetting", forcing her to explain, making her repeat when he wasn't paying
attention and "prove it" are common ways he controls her time and energy. It
is rare that an abuser will be willing to discuss or negotiate his plan. To do so would be to give up control. This type of control is twofold: control
her time in some way, the blame her for it.


The verbal abuser may control one or all of his partner's material resources
by withholding information or work he promised to do often by "forgetting,"
"I don't know how" or "I didn't know you needed it done." Another common
practice is to withhold needed money, then compound the abuse by forcing her to act on her own, beg, plead, or do without. He then begins to blame the
withholding on her acting on her own, begging, pleading or "trying to be a

In more severe cases, the abuser will keep money from his wife that is
necessary for her survival and that of the family. He gives no thought to
spending "his" own money or to what his selfishness or control is doing to his wife and family. While they are deprived, and left to fend for themselves, he feels in control and free.


The verbal abuser uses body language to control his partner, just as he uses
words. The words and gestures often go together. For example: sulking, stomping out, refusing to talk, hitting or kicking something, refusing to make eye contact, driving recklessly, boredom (crossed arms, eyes closed, deep sighs), showing disgust (rolling eyes) strutting and posturing.


This form of control is very oppressive. When he tells his partner what her reality is he is playing God and discounting his partner's experience by defining "the truth" which is in fact a lie. E.g., "That's not what really happened." or "That's not what you felt."


By telling his partner that she is responsible for his behavior, the verbal
abuser attempts to avoid all responsibility for his own behavior. He avoids accountability by blaming her.


Putting his partner down about what she does best or praising and thanking her for trivial things rather than the big things she does, which demeans her
talents, time and energy. Implies that she is best suited to doing trivial
and demeaning tasks.


Examples are belittling, laughing or smirking, offensive jokes, mimicking partner, patronizing, scornful or contemptuous tone of voice, ignoring, words like "so what" or "grow up", bafflegabbing (talking in ways intended to mislead or confuse partner),insults, inappropriate sounds, grimaces, deep sighs, starting a sentence with "forget it."

(This is not an inclusive list)

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