Prevent men’s violence against women

Controlling Relationships

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What is controlling behaviour in relationships?

Controlling behaviour happens over time. It is a pattern of behaviour that a person uses to have power over another person and to control them. It is a violation of trust. Controlling behaviour is not always obvious and can be a sign of an abusive relationship.


Signs of Controlling Behaviour[i]

In the context of men’s violence against women, controlling behaviour includes:

  • isolating a woman from her family and friends
  • going through a woman’s text messages, emails and social media
  • telling a woman what she can wear, where she can go and who she spends time with
  • controlling how much money a woman has
  • continuous criticism
  • threats to hurt or kill
  • threatening to publish private information
  • rape
  • emotional blackmail, for example “If you loved me, you would …”
  • ignoring or refusing to talk

The Power and Control Wheel

Power and control are at the centre of physically and sexually abusive relationships. The Power and Control Wheel demonstrates this. It shows the various tactics an abusive partner uses to maintain power and control in a relationship.

Controlling behaviours can be one sign of domestic violence and abusive relationships. Visit signs of an abusive relationship for more information.


[i] The Home Office (2015) Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship. The Home Office, London.

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