Psychology of Abusive Relationships ~ Responsibility and the Fall-Out of Your “No”

Dr. Jeanne King, PhD. 20th October 2020

Can't Say No in Abusive Relationship

Have you ever been told that you are responsible for “making someone upset” because you said “no” to a request of theirs? This assertion is common practice in abusive relationships.

Your partner wants you to do something that you are not in agreement with… This is part of life. People make requests, some of which you comply with and others you resist.

In respectful relationships in which there is mutual honor for the integrity of each party, a “no” is met with acceptance. In relationships characterized by abusive control, “no” is challenged and becomes a quest to convert into a “yes.”

Moreover, the wear and tear endured to seek the “yes” becomes the “fault” of the resisting party. Objectively, we all know this is ridiculous. However, when you live in an abusive controlling relationship, this is policy.

Emotional Mental Abuse of Saying No in Abusive Relationships

That one little word “no” is known to bring extreme conflict for couples in abusive relationships. For those seeking to say “no” and feeling they “can’t,” there is great internal and external stress.

You know you will be in battle until you give in or until the tug-of-war rolls into some other dispute. Oftentimes, you find yourself in the cascading fight not remembering its origin. And only later, you recall the heated debate stemmed from your little “no” earlier on.

Your internal stress can be subtle relative to the outward strain, or simply more private and personally significant. You vacillate between holding your own for all the reasons your original “no” was established and giving in merely to abort the outward battle. There is no real win in this dilemma because the ultimate basis for relationship satisfaction is missing.

Responsibility and Accountability in an Abusive Relationship

The other component underlying much of this conflict is the thwarting off of responsibility by one party onto the other. The controlling party will want his/her victim to believe she/he is responsible for any distress they may feel within and around their interactions.

They will insist that you are responsible for their stress over your resistance…as though you are accountable for their inability to accept you as you are. A key element that sustains these dynamics is the victim’s willingness to assume this responsibility. Your accountability for your partner’s experience keeps the abusive controlling dynamics in place.

As you release ownership of their thoughts, feelings and behavior, you empower yourself. You step out from under their control, release the burden of responsibility back onto them and are able to fully own what is yours…and yours only.

If you are in an intimate relationship in which saying “no” comes with a high price of conflict and cascading distress, take a look at the core control dynamics of abusive relationships. For information on breaking the cycle of domestic abuse, visit

Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps individuals and couples worldwide recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse.

© Dr Jeanne King — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention

3 responses to “Psychology of Abusive Relationships ~ Responsibility and the Fall-Out of Your “No””

  1. i have been in a psychological and verbal and once in a while physical abusive relationship for years and years,as a matter of fact since 1994,i broke it off finally when i did research with the behaviors he was showing,and i would use the excuse because he has my dog and he works at my job and my little brother uses his garage,and he lied about marriage,the whole nine yards,the intimidation and other situations i would brush off big time,there has been so much psychological abuse mainly,and with it verbal,which it was crazy that i wouldn’t know what i did at a snap of your fingers,so so so much happening.i broke it off finally after all these years and right now i am second guessing why i did that.i know i shouldn’t,i need help to keep away,and i also out of being up set i need to see my baby bear and visit him–like seeing him to see if he is doing ok or is being treated right,i wanted to take him and he wouldn’t let me,so i beg that i see my baby bear often so baby bear doesn’t think it is his fault,im sorry i am running on,so you know what i am going through,,,and i know that there is much worse cases,much worse,i know i was in such situations in my past,i ask what do i do to heal and deal with this

  2. Senorthia Miller says:

    I am married and still in my relationship although I left 6 times. The last time I left it was for two years. He was in Michigan and I was in Ohio. When he threatened to cross the yellow line to kill both of us it was the last straw. I went to a shelter for 10 months before I got an apartment. We still communicated and he visited from time to time but I didn’t give in because we both had jobs. I had to learn that he had problems long before he met me and I couldn’t let him blame me for everything wrong in our relationship. I began to be the person I was before I married him and I have not went back from that. It not always your fault or you don’t love them that’s why you are having problems. Don’t believe it!!!! Don’t lose your self esteem because once that happens they break your spirit and you fall into negativity and unhappiness. Love is not supposed to hurt whether it is physical, emotional, financial or anything else. It is truly a burden to be solely responsible for someone else’s happiness. They have to be happy within themselves and happiness will follow. Learn to love who you are and if they can’t accept you then it is time to move on. When I don’t want to do something now I just say no and if he doesn’t like it oh well he’ll get over it. Be happy to be you!!!

  3. Ann says:

    My daughter did her best to make my birthday wonderful. Her boyfriend had numerous temper tantrums, drinks all day, etc. He was putting her down after a funeral that we went to and I stood up for her after 11 days of hearing this. I am now the “bad” guy!

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