Recognising problems with power and control
Whilst many couples may strive for a 50/50 partnership, there are areas when one partner may take on more responsibility than the other or divide up tasks in such a way that total equality is virtually impossible and impractical. There are also situations such as who dominates the remote control that can cause some level of annoyance. These types of power and control struggles are generally minor and not a source of major concern. However, for some couples, these get out of balance either intentionally or otherwise and can become toxic and abusive in nature.
There are many warning signs but below are a few that if present in your relationship should give some cause for concern.
Name calling is never acceptable even in the heat of an argument. Making your partner feel bad, humiliating them or making them feel guilty are abusive behaviours and have no place in a respectful relationship.
Managing money and controlling money are two different things. Sometimes one partner may have a natural flair for money and hence, take on the responsibility of managing the couple finances. This is reasonable so long as it is agreed and there is transparency around how this is managed. However, when a partner is made to ask for money, given an allowance or is not allowed access to their own income then that is totally unacceptable (although possible exceptions may be where one partner has a history of being financially irresponsible or has an issue with gambling).
3) Using isolation
Jealousy can drive some people to be so moody and unpleasant, that their partners feel they cannot go out with work or friendship groups and stop going out because “it isn’t worth the hassle”. This is a form of control and promotes isolation of your partner. This can extend to social media where you may be told who you can or can’t have as a Facebook friend.
4) Denying and minimising
One of the more corrosive aspects of a relationship that is becoming emotionally abusive, is that the abuser makes out that this is their partner's fault or says things are not as bad as their partner makes out. Whilst this allows the abuser to avoid facing up to their responsibility, it can make their partner, who may already feel vulnerable, question their own perception of what is happening and possibly begin to blame themselves for what is happening.
Whilst many people often think of abuse as physical, there is increasing awareness of the toxic nature of emotional and financial abuse. If you find yourself in this situation it may be worth talking it through with a counsellor.
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About Eugene Gallagher
Eugene Gallagher is a relationship therapist and works with individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship-based issues. Eugene has an MA in relationship therapy and is a member of the BACP.