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Partner and Head of Family Law, Rugby
After recently writing a blog about parental alienation (link here) and wondering whether this was more likely if the parental relationship was abusive, I was drawn to think more about how often I have to say to clients that they are the victim of emotional abuse. It appears that in the main, people take a very long time to realise that their partner is actually controlling them; sometimes in a very subtle way but on other occasions in quite an overt way.
When two people come together to become a ‘couple’ they bring with them their life history and all the beliefs and scripts they have learned about how relationships should work and roles that partners should occupy within their liaison. For some, this means they need to dominate their partner in some way; physically, emotionally, verbally, sexually or financially. For others, probably due to a whole host of psychological complexities, the need to control their partner’s behaviour and be a constant part of their life is paramount.
If this is the case, it is very easy to fall into the initial trap of believing that a partner’s obsession is all because they love them so much. To feel so revered and wanted is a huge compliment and can be quite seductive to a lot of people. When two people first fall in love why wouldn’t they want to spend every waking moment together and if they can’t physically be next to each other they might choose to keep in contact by text or another form of social media on a very regular basis.
In healthy relationships once things have settled down, it is quite normal for two people to have a sense of ‘separateness’ from their respective partner. Couples develop their own interests and friendship groups as individuals as well as engaging in lots of couple stuff with their other half. When I speak to a client whose whole world is heavily influenced by what their partner wants or needs, my professional alarm bells start to ring. What might have been an initial, relatively healthy obsession or fascination with a new partner may have developed into a need to possess or own them. This is not a healthy set of circumstances and in time would be considered an abusive way to treat someone.
When one partner isolates the other from the outside world and only allows them to take part in activities that they are ok with, this means they are removing choice and freedom from their partner. This type of abuse can chip away at a person’s confidence and self worth to the degree that they believe they have to stay in the relationship because they have no alternatives.
If you feel that you are being treated in this way and may be the victim of emotional abuse please do seek professional advice. I would be happy to try and answer any questions you might have on this particular topic, please do get in touch here.