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Psychological Abuse and Controlling Men

Non physical abuse hurts

Non physical abuse hurts

We have a common knowledge about the women who suffer a huge amount of trauma when physically beaten by a male partner or husband. We can see the marks of physical abuse and truly sympathise with the victim. It is bad enough that men can actually cause severe injuries to those they supposedly love, but what of the psychological damage caused too? We can’t see this kind of trauma.

Physical abuse or domestic violence as it is commonly termed, is nothing less than a form of cruelty. Where this kind of abuse happens, it is fair to say that there is a great chance that the woman is equally, emotionally abused. Of course there are cases of abusive and controlling female partners, but for the sake of this article I am going to look at the male abuser and female victim.

Mind Games in a Relationship

Mind games are a cunning form of abuse

Mind games are a cunning form of abuse

Psychological abuse, sometimes known as emotional abuse, can happen without the presence of physical violence, and it can be so subtle that it may be years before the victim realizes what is happening. It is often on the advice of observant friends or relatives that the victim begins to look at the wider picture.

It is a cunning form of abuse, built on the insecurity and need for control of the abuser. When a man feels weak and has personal internal conflicts, he may consciously seek out a way to exert power over his partner, to gratify his ego thus masking his weakness and problems. If this person can dominate someone who he knows loves him, he is under the illusion that he is in control, and sadly for a long time he may well be!

The Characteristics of a Psychological Abuser

There are some common characteristics of emotional abusers such as:

  • Poor communicators
  • Unable to take criticism
  • Mood swings
  • Manipulative
  • Will not admit to being wrong
  • Jealous
  • Unable to keep promises
  • Demanding
  • Shifts responsibility
  • Critical
  • Intimidating

Behaviours of all Domestic Abuse

Power and Control Behaviours

Power and Control Behaviours

The Behaviour of Psychological Abuse

He will build you up by making you feel wanted and loved only to knock you down. This may include walking out on you but he will always come back. He will apologise but it will be a gesture only. He will buy you flowers and tell you that you he will take your heartache away, that he will always be there for you. You will not notice that you only have heartbreak because he has just hurt you again, and slowly you will believe that you need him. His tactics will work!

  • He will pay you compliments that build his ego such as - “I love you so much; you will never find another love like mine”. This sounds like he loves you like no other can, but the ulterior motive is to make you think you would never find anyone else to love you (ironically, he may fear of losing you).
  • He will want to know where you are at all times and get jealous easily if you show other men any attention. He will tell you it’s because he’s so in love with you or he’s worried about your safety. At first you will believe him because it’s followed with a kiss. Again, he is afraid you will leave him for someone else in reality.
  • Slowly but surely he will be making all the decisions. You look a million dollars in the red dress but your behind looks big in the white one. In other words he will pay you a compliment but it’s a back handed one. You will stop wearing the white dress and feel conscious about your weight. If he says you look better in trousers, you will believe him.
  • He will grind you down bit by bit, finding little faults with what you say, how you say it, what you do and how you do it. He will find a way to keep helping you out because he says he can sort it out better than you. This is purely for his ego and not because you can not do those things. He needs you to need him.
  • He will find ways to humiliate you, to make you feel stupid, even in the presence of others.
  • He will lose his temper with you at times showing impatience and irritability but any of his behaviour will be because of something you have done or said. He will be sarcastic and always have the last say. Some of his negative behaviour will be carried out in a joking way so as to make it subtle.

Self-Help for Psychological Abuse

  • He may ignore you at whim or go silent and expect to give no explanation for this. You will assume it is something you have done wrong, but he will enjoy the power and control by refusing to discuss what’s on his mind.
  • When he feels vulnerable and angry, he may tell you that he behaves the way he does because he has problems from his past (that are also not his fault), that he is the victim and needs your sympathy. You are the only person in the world who understands him.
  • He might tell you that he will work for the both of you and that you don’t need to. If this happens, he may then go on to tell you that it’s unlikely you would find work again. He may isolate you but then go on to use and abuse that isolation.
  • This man could tell you he loves you from the bottom of his heart one day and leave you the next but he will enjoy what effect this has on you.

The Effects of Psychological Abuse

These are just some of the behaviours but believe me there are many. All these behaviours serve to make you feel as weak and needy as possible. You will begin to lose confidence in yourself and your self esteem will dwindle. In other words, your man will have ground you down to his level. You may also begin to feel:

  • Self blame/guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Hurt/rejected
  • Humiliated
  • Defeated/feelings of failure
  • Vulnerable
  • Unattractive
  • Spiritually broken

Why Psychological Abuse is Difficult to See

You love this man. He can be so very kind and loving at times! You will say he has his good points and remember why you fell in love with him. Sometimes you feel sorry for him, because he’s had a bad time in the past! Slowly but surely you will find that because you love him, you will believe in him and you are sure that he loves you. He tells you so and his jealousy portrays how important you are to him!

He’s infectious even though he is like Jekyll and Hyde and you perhaps even think you can change him. I always remember the quote I read years ago by Einstein:

“Women marry men hoping they will change. Men marry women hoping they will not”

Albert Einstein (1879-1955).

The subtlety of abuse and the wonderful times in between him leaving you or finding fault in you will shroud the reality…because you are in love with the good in him. Love blinds us and it’s not something to feel guilty about. Not only that but he will make you feel you need him so much you will entirely believe it. His behaviour will cleverly draw you towards him.

Understanding Psychological Abuse

It may be that the abusive male has had past bad relationships in which he was let down badly or other deep rooted problems, but we must remember that abusers make a choice to abuse. The more power and control they can feel, the more satisfied they will feel with themselves. They would find it extremely hard to admit to abusing someone as that would be admitting to having personal issues, weakness, blame and shame. Men are supposed to be all powerful and dominant in an emotional abuser’s mind.

If you confront this abusive man, he may turn violent. He may feel desperate enough to threaten to take his life and use this type of blackmail to keep you at his side.

Changes to the Law and Psychological Abuse

Advice for Victims of Psychological Abuse

  • If you recognize some of the behaviours I have mentioned, then it is highly likely you are in a relationship in which there is psychological abuse. By the time you admit you are in an abusive relationship, you will have already suffered some of the effects and hopefully you will recognise the need to escape. Here are some suggestions to help you break free from psychological abuse:
  • No matter what the reasons are, or you think they are, for your partner’s behaviour, you must not make excuses up for him any more. You must end the relationship and stand by your decision with no more contact.
  • You must be prepared to go through a grieving process and it may be difficult for several months but you must expect this as you loved this man (probably still do).

Domestic Violence Helplines

  • You must admit to allowing it to happen even though you didn’t see it for a long time. That sounds harsh because this type of abuse is cunning but you need to make this stand for you to begin to take some control back. It also helps you to understand how it happened so you can work on it never happening again.
  • To help you understand everything and to aid in healing, it’s a good idea to approach a domestic violence help team. Women’s Aid in the UK has been supporting female victims of domestic violence for many years. Most think Women’s Aid only deals with physical abuse but they do deal with psychological or emotional abuse also.
  • You can seek the help of a counselor or therapist who deals in relationship issues. This can help you address the effects the abuse has had on you and help you understand what you must do to avoid getting into an abusive relationship again.

You and Psychological Abuse

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Dreamer on November 20, 2019:

Hi, it's been 3 years...A lot has happened. I am far from my past self. I am in a way better place mentally and physically. I wish I could tell my past self that it's going to be okay. To everyone. Give it time, yourself time to heal as much as you can.

Thanks for your advice, I went and got myself a therapist and support. Have a nice day!

Ayesigye jackie on April 08, 2019:

Am married but my husband changed soo fast .am emotionally abused becouse i despise myself.right now am pregnant but my husband has a girlfriend their relationship is about 2 years old some times i ask my self why did i get married should i leave him to enjoy his relationship with the girlfriend or i wait he will change. The worst thing is my husband has no sorry in his mouth . you just sort yoself out .ive cried and i prayed for this to end.i feel so pitty and self denial to self what should i do cuz even wen send messages he doesn't reply and even communication is very poor should i stay cuz he puts food on the table pliz i need your advice

Haider from Melbourne on February 22, 2017:

I was psychologically and verbally abused by my father. He was a narcissist, insecure, manipulative and a very selfish person. I forgave him but what he did to me is irreparable.

Now my psychological condition is so bad that I cannot tell. I become suicidal, developed severe anxiety and socially isolated.

For years I had no idea what is abuse. I never heard this word before and I always blamed myself. I was a living dead body.

Abuse is a cruel and barbaric act. And, the abuser is unworthy of respect and love.

Good article and you have raised a very important issue.

meloncauli (author) from UK on July 20, 2016:


In response to your comment and regardless of INFKJ personality type, all oppressed people in relationships need to make a decision and act on that decision. A psychologist can only work so far with a victim and ultimately what happens next is the decision of the victim. If you recognise that you are being controlled and manipulated then you are not living YOUR life but that of someone else! I think it would be a good idea to read as much as possible on the subject....and then perhaps you will really accept that without you making decisions that will bring about positive change, the pattern of abuse will continue. Good luck.

Dreamer on July 18, 2016:

I have known for some time, that he's controlling and manipulative, because he tried to make me to do the same thing. At first, I thought it's not that horrible, but right now... I use this, his behaviour. I feel like I need this, to improve my social life and make easier to work in my future. But also, my pesonality type according to Meyer-Briggs is INFJ. I am disgusted sometimes, from myself, I'm searching my real self, because here, home, I have to opress myself. It's probably laughable, but also devastating. I had some sessions with a psychologyst, but I feel like I need more. What do you think? I respect your knowledge, so yes, your answer will be appreciated. I plan to buy the book "Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse". Could it be helpful for me? It's probably too much to ask. I'm sorry...but I need someones advice. Please.

meloncauli (author) from UK on July 17, 2016:

Manipulation and control can be so subtle. It is worrying that the controller often mixes in a measure of apparent love just to confuse the issue. It's all very clever. Glad you found the article useful.

Dreamer on July 17, 2016:

This is tricky, but my fater did these things with me. Saying daily, that he loves me, and so happy that I finished my BsC, but also, when I was in my room, learning, alone (it's important, so no one could protect me) he used to tell me, that I don't deserve to be there, in college, that he doesn't belive I am smart enough to finish it, or just simply, why have he ever thought, that sending me to higher education will be a good idea. And other things also, like, one day, he hurts me deeply, makes me cry, the next day he brings me a bouqet flowers (he does this very rarely, only on "you have to buy flower day, bc it's tradition). And after that day, everything becomes the same again, but he bought flowers, so I should shut up. I can't understand why he acts like this. I am INFJ, as I can recall, I never had self-esteem, I had various types of depression, self-hating, self-harming periods, more then I dare to admit. When I was little, and I agreed with him on something, or I was on his side with something... He said I were smart. But since I have opinions, I have been degraded, stepped over or silenced more than I belive. I can not express myself at home, because it will piss of someone, so I shouldn't talk at all. After this, they wonder why I hate living at home.

Finally, I would like to thank you for this, it helped to figure out what is hapenning with me.

moonlake from America on February 13, 2016:

I knew someone that lived in a marriage like this. He wouldn't talk to her for days just because she forgot to do some dumb thing. He wouldn't let her get calls after 5:00 pm. He didn't like any of her friends. He lost his temper over small things. One day she ended it and he was shocked. Suddenly he was alone and the ones he loved weren't there to greet him at the door. He still hasn't got over it but doesn't believe it was his fault. They have kids together and he still tries to control her. We have to remind her, don't let him do that." She's not under his thumb anymore.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on February 12, 2016:

Great hubs on this difficult subject matter. We see it all the time on the news, which leads to domestic violence into the relationship. Women should stick up for themselves and get out before it gets too hard to do so. When the going gets tough, get out of there and break it off by fighting back.

Isabella Ly on January 02, 2016:

This is very moving and inspiring ! I read many topics story's watched a lot on PSA or watched a lot videos on DV I was a victim of DV of a 4 months relationship my ex boyfriend who is only 22 an I'm 24 it's amazing how age doesn't matter I was under going emotional physical mental everything going through the cycle you name it. I never thought in a second I would be in some sort of situation like this it was my very first I learned a lot and I learned to take advantages when I could . The first week I remembered how sweet he was but later in type his bi polar ways just showed me who he really was is very real and very scary . In the 3 months it was about control but being me I have a strong personality and I don't like to be controlled ! I don't live with him I love with my parents still but he would let me go because my mom would have to meet me or get me somewhere but during school I had night classes I missed 7 classes because he wanted me to stay and at the time there was no where to leave but the door he stood in front of . I never had anyone hit me so many times and made me cry so many times in total in less then 4 months I took a total of 11 hits mostly from slappes the last 3 weren't so pretty . Anyhow eventually by the end of school i failed my class by 3 percent and will no longer be attending my nursing program . Eventually he got better for one month but we still fought a lot he's very disrespectful man many things under the cycle is all him . So today is jan 2 2016 lets talk about 2 days ago .... Everything was fine around 6 till 11 pm he was drinking with one of his room mates so I decided to take his phone but even before that I had these gut feelings for a while that something Bad was really going to happened ! Anyhow I took his phone deleted our messengers Facebook notes everything then took his ex girlfriends number down .... After that he knew his cell was during so I sat on the other side because he had broke my cell phone a few months ago while sitting on the side he was talking away and I chipped away at the part where it charges the phone I chipped so hard that there is no way to charge the phone anymore . So by the time 11 rolled around my best friend told me to meet at her house when we got there I told my ex please be respectful this is like my other family ! What does he thinks he's in control my family taught me to have manners and respect your elders he respects no one ! It was around 1230 and I told my best friend to drop me downtown and now we where all getting upset because he was being a asshole ! He took all that anger and held it in . So while my best friends father was driving her sister my best friend her father and her younger brother all where trying to talk to him an even my self . So when they dropped us off my best friends father said bella get rid of him he is no good I said yes I understand and then I got out of the car ! And my best fried was yelling at him as as they left he said she was a batch and all these low words I stood up for her of course . I was sober now I'm very careful when I drink around him because he forces me to I'm sober but he wasn't he was lost and I said I'll help u get back home why did I do that for ???? Now I asked my self . As soon as we got to the apt doors he said watch ur step its slippery I said okie but I'm leaving now he got angery and this the part where I really ended it all but anyhow .... He said get inside I said no he said fine no is looking and he opened the door and pushed me inside now I'm scared a bit because I've seen this . I pushed on the doors to go back out but I couldn't .. I said let me out let me out he said no ur going upstairs I said my mom is coming to get me I have to go its 115 am so push comes to shove I didn't even know where the stairs where to be honest .... So in between the outside doors and the doors to get to the elevator ... He said okie there's no one watching he tryed to hit me but missed i told him to stop there are cameras here he said he didn't care he took the fob key and the inner door buzzed .. I opened it I started crying a bit I said I have to go . So we got to the 7th floor I said okie I'm leaving now this is it its live or die tonight . I didn't get out of the elavadors he started to push shove me I the walls kick me slap me I cried and screamed a bit I got upset and I started grabbing him and slapped him but because he had so much anger from earlier he got more furious because I grabbed his brand new jacket and ripped two of his Bottons ad I said I'm sorry and u can get it sowen back on .. He said that's it ur not leaving anymore and he started to push me to his room door and I started crying an I knew it was going to be a long night so he opened the door pushed me inside I said I have to go I'm very brave and I had to stand up for y self I'm not going to let him have his way so I backed into kitchen being that the apt room it's small and everyone was out expect one room mate he was the one my ex was talking to he's 45 . As I backed into the kitchen he said where is my shoe he hits me from there but the worse pain I have felt was the broom stick the 45 year old man stood there and obeyed and told the older man to leave he had this under control . You where it goes for the there I screamed and cried so loud he told of I don't stop crying he will keep going now I'm scared for my life but I will keep fighting like hell ! He grabbed me by my hair and pushed me into his room he told me to lay down and take my shoes jacket and purse off I did listen after first I got back up and I fought we fought for 1 hour fist fight kicking pulling hair grabbing butting punching I never endured something like this before my first fight I never got into a fight in my life I never got this hurt in my life !!! I can't tell you how many times I ran out of that room into the halls screaming and crying but no came out to help ! I can't tell you how many times I that room he tryed putting me to sleep and I tryed choking him I damaged him as well . I can't tell you how many times in just one hour I went to the one room who is a 46 year man who did nothing but heard me scream and cry and I went to his room an he witness me getting hit . This mad had a bigger room then my ex and it was easier for me to play circles with him I hid beholder the man begged him for help he said called the cops the man once again obey my ex who is only 22 years old so as time passes one of the other room mates who is a gym trainer walked in with his gf . And my ex told me nicely bella get out of the room what are u doing I took advantage of this moment because my ex walked back to his room and I was all ready to go ! I ran to the gym trainer and his girlfriend was in the room I told him please help me I want to leave it been held here for a hour and my mother is waiting for me . My bf was furious he said okie I will walk there to the elevators and all the way down he looked at my ex and said are you serious ?! He was a lot stronger then my ex my hair make up everything was ruined I had no time to fix my self . We got to the main doors and u need the fob to open the door . My ex then grabbed me and Said I just want talk I said please leave me alone and don't touch me and the gym trainer grabbed him I said please open the door I wanna get out and it buzzed I looked at him and he I was thankful and he held on to my ex and I ran and I never looked back ! My mom was furious with me but I glad for me because if that gym trainer didint come home at 230 am I wouldn't have not survived the night . I was shaking by the time I got home and and scared and puking telling my self how can a man do that to a women ... Im thank it's been day 3 I'm sore as hell by I'm thank to be alive

meloncauli (author) from UK on August 27, 2013:

Thanks for dropping by watergeek :)

You sound very astute when it comes to being controlled. Imagine how many very young women who fall in love don't see it until it's too late and the damage is done. Women often mistake the actions of a controlling man to be somehow their fault. That's how cunning a psychological abuser can be :(

Susette Horspool from Pasadena CA on August 27, 2013:

Our fathers do it and our mothers don't stand up to it. My father, well-meaning, used to make promises and not keep them, tell me my ideas and dreams were not "realistic," ask for reassurance about drastic actions he took (like breaking up our family), subtly negate my mother, and tell me I needed to cater everything I did to my husband. Once I left home I began to realize how he'd controlled my thinking ("Now ____. I know you're getting your bachelors degree to be interesting to your husband, but don't go further, or you'll be . . . "). As I learned more I began to recognize it as a perfect setup for an abusive relationship, so I never married.

meloncauli (author) from UK on August 26, 2013:

Many thanks for your comment Cheeky Girl :)

I totally agree with you and I believe that some women don't feel deserved of any other kind of treatment...usually if they have had confidence issues since childhood.

Cassandra Mantis from UK and Nerujenia on August 25, 2013:

If you have a good open honest understanding of life and people and how things work, you can see through the lies that can be perpetuated by others, including ones we think we love or think love us. But lots of people, especially women - are just not equipped to see the false reality of someone's strong personality. Lack of experience and having too much trust and a certain innocence can combine into a deadly trap for many people. Your hub reveals a lot about those issues.

This is a great hub and it deserves to be widely read and viewed. I expected a lot more reads than this in the comment section! Tweeted and shared already! Well done!

meloncauli (author) from UK on September 25, 2012:

Thanks so much for your comment . I think there may be more of us who have fallen prey to controlling men than we imagine! Thanks again.

Kristi Sharp from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on September 25, 2012:

Well done and very thorough. I recognized many characteristics of my past. I suspect there are many women who find themselves in this situation without the strength or means to get out. It's my personal mission to raise a strong, confident young woman who can make her own choices. Great hub. Useful, Interesting & Up. -K

meloncauli (author) from UK on September 24, 2012:

Thanks for your comment watergeek. You are right! It is strange how cunning these controlling people can be. They often work it so the victim is made to feel like the cause too.

Susette Horspool from Pasadena CA on September 22, 2012:

I was wary of it and refused to marry, but my last boss was that way. He was alcoholic too. I felt depressed about myself when I left that job after four years, but now, a year later, I'm back to my optimistic self with many lessons learned - stronger now than before.

I might add that they make you feel like nothing you do is right and/or effective. But bosses will secretly learn from you and start doing it themselves (or teach it to others) without telling you. They'll also try to make you not trust your perceptions anymore, denying things that seem obvious to you. It's a weird syndrome, when you think about it.

meloncauli (author) from UK on September 11, 2012:

Thanks catgypsy. Glad to hear you saw the light!

catgypsy from the South on September 10, 2012:

Unfortunately, I seemed to always attract the "control freak" and spent years in relationships with this kind of man! It took me longer than I care to admit to realize this and break the cycle. Now, if I get the slightest hint of this behavior, they can hit the road! Great article and such an important issue for women.

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