Do you know a bully who uses manipulation to control conversations and silence others? Is your partner one of these toxic people?
Our understanding of abuse and abusers goes further and further every day. As the times change, we’ve learned about toxic relationships and how abusers control conversations, prey on their victims and enact their will on others. Gone are the days when we assume that only physical abuse counts as a severe problem. We have a greater understanding of the subtleties of abuse and control.
Studies show that control is a critical factor in abusive relationships and situations. Toxic people feel the need to control, successfully manipulate, blackmail, and abuse those around them. Think about it: if you’re not under someone’s control, the power they have over you significantly diminishes.
But control is a complex thing. In fact, it’s not always apparent that someone’s trying to exercise control over another. In close relationships, especially romantic partnerships, the line between guidance, communication, and control can blur when an abusive person learns to be subtle. They know small ways to steer their partner in a way that seems harmless but is causing a significantly toxic dynamic and harming that partner.
So how can someone accurately detect when someone exerts this control over others? The first step is noticing how a partner controls the narrative, thus revealing a toxic nature. When you see through a bullying partner’s lies, facades, and sneaky methods, everything else becomes much clearer. Here’s how people control conversations to bully their partners into compliance.
1. They Control Conversations By Shifting Blame
A healthy relationship involves people willing to admit their mistakes and take accountability for them. There are no situations where a balanced relationship will have only one person always “in the wrong.” The truth is that there are always ways both parties can work together to improve and further their relationship.
But abusers never want to admit their faults. They want to shift that onto everyone else to avoid blame. In a relationship, they’ll push responsibility to bully their partners out of asking for their accountability. They’ll make their partner believe that they’re innocent of controlling conversations and deflecting blame to escape likely consequences. This happens in the following ways:
· They Make It Their Partner’s Fault
This is the most common way an abuser will try to control a conversation. When conflict arises, they’ll reframe scenarios to blame their partner. Sure, it was their responsibility to do the laundry, but have you considered that they’ve had a terrible week? How could you dare to expect them to perform that responsibility? And sure, you said you felt uncomfortable with how they were constantly ogling their ex, but isn’t that your fault for being so insecure? And yeah, they were mean to your best friend, but you should know that they don’t like social situations, so it’s your fault for expecting otherwise! This is how abusers twist problems to blame their partners, even in ridiculous ways.
· They Blame Other People
Abusers always act as if they’re powerless. Ironically, this is the behavior that often gives them the most power. They’ll work like the world is against them. They will say that their actions and behavior result from external factors, saying that once those factors are gone, they’ll behave much differently. They’ll point fingers at everyone and everything, pretending they have no role in these circumstances. They control conversations so their partner unites against an imagined enemy.
· They Appeal To Your Emotions To Control Conversations
Even when something is an abuser’s fault, they’ll find a way to appeal to your emotions, so you let things lie. They’ll cry about how hard their week has been, mention their mental health struggles, or talk about wanting to harm themselves. Besides that, they will sob about how they’ll never be worthy of their partner or how nothing they do will ever be enough for the relationship. They’ll say outlandish, extreme things so that their partner’s instinct is to comfort them. Even though they’ve technically admitted fault here, they’ve made it so that this fault seems excusable. Their partner might even feel guilty for making them have this ultimately fake emotional reaction. At its core, this is just another way of playing the victim.
Some abusers go above simply deflecting blame. They also gaslight partners by entirely and utterly reframing different scenarios. The goal is to make their partner question their perception of reality. They may treat their partner like crazy, be overly sensitive, or misremember details.
2. To Control Conversations, They Flood Partners With Negativity
Constructive criticism has a place in a relationship when delivered respectfully and positively. But abusers aren’t looking to be respectful. They want to control conversations, which they can achieve via verbal abuse and bullying. They’ll flood their partner with negativity, leaving them vulnerable and hurt to maintain power.
Research shows that verbal abuse can have a vast negative effect on self-esteem and mental well-being. Abusers are very good at starting their verbal abuse in small ways that only slightly unravel their partners’ confidence. Over time, their words escalate in severity and negativity, and due to the unraveling mentioned above, their partners feel like they deserve that negativity. An abuser may control conversations through negativity in the following ways:
· They’re Never Satisfied
An abuser’s partner will often try their best to earn the validation and approval of the abuser, finally picking apart their self-esteem. Abusers cement their bullying by intentionally refusing to be satisfied. No matter what their partner talks about, they control conversations, pointing out something wrong in everything their partner says. Their partner, in turn, shrinks more and more.
· They Frame Cruelty As Honesty
Honesty can be painful, and sometimes we must speak brutal truths. But abusers don’t do this in any constructive way. They intentionally speak as cruel and harshly as possible to cut to their partner’s core. They control conversations with this unnecessary cruelty. They say they’re only being honest when called out on this bullying behavior. They insist that it’s for their partner’s good and that they’re only saying what they must. Partners under their control will believe them.
· They Insult Their Partners To Control Conversations
There’s a difference between consensually “insulting” banter and insults that leave their partners feeling small. An abuser can control a conversation by dolling out a well-timed insult that cuts to their partner’s core. They often do this, mentioning these criticisms so often that it becomes a regular part of a conversation with them. Over time, their partner gets used to this and accepts it, not realizing that each insult damages them deeply.
3. They Refuse To Engage to Control Conversations
When an abuser finds themself in interactions with their partner that they don’t want to be a part of, they control conversations by simply not engaging. According to research, this is a stonewalling tactic–a common predictor of the end of a relationship.
Stonewalling can take many different forms, and it can happen accidentally. But abusers use this mechanism to escape a conversation that they don’t want to have. This is because they want to discuss this on their terms or want the subject to be dropped. They may do this in the following ways: