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What is narcissism, abuse and coercive control, and what do I need to know?

Abuse comes in many different forms and ‘invisible abuse’ such as narcissism or coercive control. Find out more below.

What is coercive control?

Often thought of as a silent abuse, coercive control is a pattern of behaviour used by one partner against the other to influence how they behave.

Quite often it is used to isolate you from friends and family.

It can take many forms including controlling who you spend time with, how you spend your money, and even what you wear.

The control can escalate into behaviour humiliating and degrading you, and even threatening to reveal things about you to your friends and family.

Coercive control is now a criminal offence.

What are signs of controlling behaviour?

Does your partner insist on having a tracker on your phone or your car?

Do you need permission to spend time with friends and family?

Does your partner put you down, tell you what to eat, or what to wear?

If the answer to these questions is yes, and this is happening on a regular basis, then you may be the victim of coercive control.

What is financial coercive control?

What can be presented as one person looking after the finances may in fact be them controlling and excluding the other person so that they have no financial independence.

Your partner may insist on your income being paid into a joint account, or into their account, and they may ask for passwords to your online banking.

If you are worried that you can’t afford to leave the relationship, you should take legal advice as options may be available for monies to be released or for your partner to cover your legal fees.

Am I being gaslighted?

Have you ever been certain that you have said or done something, only for your partner to tell you that you haven’t? That may be gaslighting.

Gaslighting is used to isolate you, and the abuser will tell lies about other people to make you doubt how trustworthy your friends may be.

Your abuser may also use gaslighting to tell your friends and family that you are the ‘crazy’ one, and it can feel that everyone believes your partner and no one believes you.

What is a narcissist?

The traits of a narcissist are typically misplaced arrogance and self-importance. The narcissist will promote themselves and denigrate others. They won’t be told they are wrong, and they will try to control the narrative. But they also need attention and validation.

Is narcissism abuse?

Yes it can be. It may be demonstrated by the narcissist through controlling behaviours.

What to expect when divorcing a narcissist

A narcissistic personality can feel difficult to manage, but with an experienced family lawyer who can recognise the signs and behaviours, their conduct can be navigated.

We know that the narcissist will want to win and they will do everything they can to manipulate the system. We also know that the narcissist with be charming and charismatic at first — we will be prepared for that and won’t be hoodwinked.

Read more information on divorcing a narcissist.

How can I safely leave an abusive relationship?

Leaving any relationship can be difficult, but when you have been controlled and frightened by your partner it can feel incredibly daunting and even impossible.

The most important step you can take is to tell someone. Whether it’s a friend, a colleague or a charity, speaking to someone about your exit strategy will help ensure you have thought about things you may forget, and it will make you feel supported and give you the courage to leave. You can also discuss safety measures that the Family Court can put in place with a solicitor, including:

  • if you want to stay in the house and exclude your partner, then you can apply for an Occupation Order.
  • if you want to ensure your partner can’t contact or approach you the you can apply for a Non Molestation Order.

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