Let’s Identify the Control in Our Abusive Relationship

Dr. Jeanne King, PhD. 01/21/2023

Some people will read a popular book on abusive relationships and then insist that their partner is a domestic “abuser.” They see their partner in the description of signs of controlling relationships and from here draw their own conclusions.

These readers persist on a campaign to get their partner to recognize what they have come to believe. For those men guilty of using the B or C word, this can be done. And for those guilty of physical harm, sentencing may even begin.

These little families often come with two or three small children that serve as part of the glue that binds these couples together. In therapy, they struggle with which one is the “abuser.” The well-read one is convinced the other is the abuser. However, this alleged abusive person can come to the table without any power in the relationship.

Who Is in Control?

Take Ronda and Joey for example. Ronda read the popular abuse book currently on the market and now claims to have identified the essence of her marital problems. She insists that her partner is an “abuser.” Moreover, until he admits the same, this couple cannot progress forward.

She brings him to an abuse specialist and seeks to convince the therapist of her theory…her conviction. There are many therapists out there that may buy into the campaign especially if they are not schooled in the dynamics of intimate partner violence and the central themes of control.

Unfortunately, this can enable the continuation of this couple’s primary blind spot, and thereby the perpetuation of some unhealthy dysfunctional control dynamics within their interaction and communication pattern. The most helpful thing one can do in the case of Ronda and Joey is banish the word “abuse” from this couple’s vocabulary.

The word itself can become the club used to continue the battering dynamic. Instead, what Ronda and Joey need is a hard and fast look at the control dynamics in their relationship. Ronda holds most of the power and Joey knows it but can’t seem to do anything about it.

From time to time, he will have a melt down and become verbally and or physically abusive to his partner as he exerts his will. It’s as though he comes to learn that a reliable way he can exist in the relationship is through his roar… and over time he becomes accustom to displays of scary, abusive behavior to get his way.

Relationship Change Is a Personal Inside Job

Now with their newly found focus on his abusive behavior, he must learn new ways of expressing his rage. Often this can buy this couple a handful of years…but it does not address the inequity in the power and control dynamics across the relationship.

If you are a woman reading this article and you identify with Ronda, please do not assume that you are the cause of the problems faced here. Recognize that the relationship issues causing harm to the marriage are clearly interactional with each party fully and completely responsible for their individual contribution.

This in no way makes you responsible for your partner’s abusive, battering behavior. Battering is always a personal choice.

This is NOT about blame. This is all about accountability. It is in the interest of both parties to look within oneself and identify what biases, perceptions, expectations and habits they bring to the interaction pattern with their partner. Change is always an inside job. Balance and mutuality across the relationship can be achieved when both parties fully embrace this undeniable fact that long-standing, meaningful behavior change happens from within.

For more information on healing intimate partner abuse dynamics, visit https://innersanctuaryonline.org/spousal-abuse-help Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps people worldwide recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse.

© Dr Jeanne King Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention

2 responses to “Let’s Identify the Control in Our Abusive Relationship”

  1. gian says:

    Any spouse that is forced to go to couple’s therapy by his/her controlling spouse has absolutely nothing to gain by being honest. The therapist will see one reaction, but after the session is over—comes the real reaction.

    • Dr. Jeanne King PhD says:

      Thank you for your comment. That may be true for “couples therapy” using a systems approach. If one is in domestic abuse therapy, the therapist with proper training, would be able to parse out true dynamics beyond false representations limited by the individual interaction patterns. Dr. King

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