Isolating, Monitoring and Manipulation, Oh My! Coercive Control In the Narcissistic Relationship

Tony Overbay, LMFT, defines “Coercive Control,” as more than domestic violence. Courts across the country are now including isolation, monitoring one’s movements, finances, daily behaviors, and more. Tony refers to the article “Does Your Relationship Include Coercive Control,” by Bill Eddy, LCSW, JD

Tony mentioned his “Magnetize Your Marriage” workshop happening on April 7th. If you would like to sign up for the workshop, please visit¬†


WUTN Ep 29 Oh my -2022-04-01.mp3

[00:00:07] Hey everybody, welcome to episode 29 of Waking Up to Narcissism. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist and host of the Virtual Couch Podcast and absolutely owning a big plug for the virtual couch this week. If you have not listened, I would encourage you to go listen to an episode. I did an interview with my daughter Alex, who virtual couch listeners know was in a horrific car accident 7 to 8 weeks ago. And it’s just it’s beautiful, it’s touching, it’s sad. It’s she just goes into what this whole experience has been like and absolutely will plug as well that she has a go fund me that is going on to help with some medical expenses. But that interview is by far the most downloaded interview I’ve ever done in the first 24 hours. I’m saying that from a listeners for this podcast, from a healthy ego, not from a narcissistic you must go do this because it’s amazing. Because I’m amazing. Absolutely not. My daughter is so real and vulnerable and that’s it’s just an incredible episode. So please go check that out. And today I am going to read we’re going to read three emails from men. And I think there’s so much here. And then we’re going to get to a concept that is someone brought to my attention and I think it’s going to really resonate. And does your relationship include what’s called coercive control? And it’s beginning to be recognized in law of what coercive control is.

[00:01:26] So we’ll we’ll wrap up today after these emails talking about coercive control. So first the emails. And I think that one of the again, one of the largest criticisms I get is that when I talk about narcissism, that it is primarily coming from the wife is the pathologically kind and the husband is the the narcissist or the extremely emotionally immature, immature or whichever, however we want to call it. And so I want to read something from one of the men, and he’s reached out to me a couple of times and I so value his feedback and I think I’ve read something else from his early on in the waking up to narcissism episodes. And I we’re going to break this email down because there’s a lot of good here, but I want you to just listen. And as you listen, especially if you’re a female and you have a, let’s say, a narcissistic husband, that what does this bring up for you? And we’ll see if we can break that down. So he says, Hey, Tony, love the stuff you put out there to help folks on your different podcasts. I just wanted to share a thought I had in regard to some things that I’ve learned. And let me tell you, the title of this email is The Blessings of Being a Narcissist Spouse. Already. That might bring up a lot of emotion for somebody that is saying, How on earth can you find blessings and being in our spouse? He said, As I am going through my own awakening to the reality of having a spouse with very strong, narcissistic tendencies, it’s led me through some grief and sadness and at times a complete lack of hope and recognizing the abuse cycle, and that those fleeting moments of reprieve don’t mean that things are changing for the better.

[00:02:51] That said, I’ve also come to recognize the tremendous blessings and personal growth that come with the acceptance that those narcissistic characteristics are here to stay. And if I just stop right here, there’s a lot in that line. I’ve come to recognize the blessings and personal growth that come with the acceptance that those narcissistic characteristics are here to stay. And this is where I would like to add, I had someone I had an amazing session yesterday where someone was talking about all the steps they’ve had to go to realize that the narcissism or the emotional immaturity is not caused because of them, that it’s caused from childhood trauma, it’s caused from someone not having a healthy relationship modeled, and for someone truly not having a sense of self and then needing to absolutely seek external validation as literally their life depends on it. Because if they don’t get that external validation, then they feel like they are going to be abandoned. And as we talk about often abandonment equals death. So coming to an acceptance that these characteristics are here to stay, and I would add to that or an acceptance that the characteristics are within that person and that it is not because of the kind partner.

[00:03:57] He said it’s been an opportunity to dig deep within myself and find out what I truly value. It’s been an opportunity to figure out who I really am instead of simply being the yes man to my spouse. It’s been an opportunity to find freedom and maintaining boundaries based on those core values that I realized I had built my life on. And he says, full disclosure Holding and maintaining boundaries is super hard when they are constantly being tested. And if we break down these last couple of sentences, that it’s an opportunity to find out what I truly value. Because as we get in relationships, the ultimate goal is we bring all of our experiences into a relationship. And yeah, perhaps we’re both emotionally immature, but we come together to share our experiences with curiosity, not trying to break someone down because you need to feel better than that person. That’s that external validation, but that we bring our own stuff into the relationship, as does our spouse. And now we look at things with curiosity so that we can grow, so we can mature emotionally because we’re going to go through things for the first time. We’re going to go through jobs and parenting and loss and grief and movement and sadness. And we can look at. Those in both say, hey, here’s what this brings up for me.

[00:05:09] Tell me more about it. Then we grow as an individual and we grow as a couple. And that’s the emotionally mature version of a relationship, which is not something that we come from the factory with. It takes work and you have to find the tools and you don’t even look for those tools until you realize I don’t have the tools. But then if you are in the emotionally unhealthy relationship or the narcissistic relationship, then when you start to find the tools, express the tools, try to stand up for yourself. Now that’s when you are threatening the emotionally immature. They view you as saying that they take any criticism as you are telling them that they are a horrible person and therefore they will do anything to defend their fragile ego. So the when one starts to then accept that this isn’t about me per se, but it is the narcissism or the narcissistic traits or the emotional immaturity in my spouse. Now I can realize that I can step back. I go back to my five rules of being in a relationship with a narcissistic or an emotionally immature person that now it’s time for self care. Raise your emotional baseline again. I’ll say these every time I can. That’s rule one. Self care is not selfish. And then to get that PhD in gaslighting really start to understand, Oh, I’m not crazy, I’m expressing an opinion and all of a sudden it’s been turned back around on me.

[00:06:23] But it’s okay for me to express an opinion and especially on things that that I’m passionate about or I’m curious about. So if you get your PhD in gaslighting and your emotional baseline side, that leads to rule three, which is to get out of unhealthy, unproductive conversations. Why? Because those are the ones those are the times you’re being gaslit and nothing good is going to come from those which leads to for which this email the person sending the email is talking about. So now I need to set some healthy boundaries. That might mean that when I’m being gaslit, I need to get out of that conversation letting the person know that, Hey, when you’re starting to get emotionally abusive, then I’m going to leave. But know that that when you set that boundary, that person, especially the emotionally immature person, doesn’t say, okay, I hear you, yeah, I don’t want you to feel that way. They say, Oh, sure, you’re going to leave, huh? You abandoned me. And so they’re going to push on those buttons. They’re going to push the boundary. They see a boundary as a challenge. And which leads to number five, which is there isn’t anything you’re going to do or say that will cause them to have their aha moment or their epiphany. Because just as you are having your very own Aha moments and your own epiphanies based on the work that you’re doing, they need to come up with their own ha moments and their own epiphanies.

[00:07:31] And that can’t be something that you point out, because when you point out the things that you feel would help them and you’re doing it from a kind, I want to have a better relationship kind of place. Then they view that as, okay, now I’m going to gaslight you. And now you’ve also handed me a button to push. Later, you’ve handed me your playbook. So then he says that now he is able to really engage with his own values and know, because I think so much emotional energy and emotional calories are spent and burnt and trying to figure out how do I say this or is this worth saying or do I even want to bring this up? Or what effect is this going to have? Is my spouse going to take this out on their kids or what do I need to do here? And all of that is an absolute and I’ll be dramatic. I will be dramatic. It’s a waste of time and energy. And all of that goes against the time that you could be in a self discovery mode or you could be in curiosity mode with an emotionally healthy partner. So he says there was a point a few years ago that I can honestly say that I did not see any blessings coming from the thought that my spouse was narcissistic. I simply saw shattered dreams and a lack of hope, and I found myself wondering who I even was.

[00:08:39] And right there, if you have found yourself wondering who you even are, and that you don’t even know who you are and you don’t even know how to find yourself, then that’s a big red flag, because we’re supposed to be in relationships so that we can really start to discover who we are. And we do that with. We can do that even better with an emotionally mature relationship and a secure attachment with a partner. Because if we just are left to our own thoughts, we’re almost in a little bit of an echo chamber. And when we’ve we’ve talked to episodes in the past that when we just leave ourselves to our own thoughts, our thoughts are wired to go worst case scenario because it’s a survival mechanism. So that’s why it’s important to be able to have a safe person to be able to talk to and to process things with. So he said that. He said, Yeah, I simply saw shattered dreams, lack of hope, found myself wondering who I was, who I even was. If someone at that point would have tried to get me to find the blessings, I probably would have wanted to punch them right in the nose. It was too raw. It was too fresh. My world looked completely different. And he says, Hit the skip button a few times, jump forward a few years, and I am still married to the same woman who has the same tendencies and the same actions.

[00:09:49] But what is drastically changed is my own personal growth, the strength that has come from knowing who I am deep inside the peace that has come from planting my feet firmly on the foundation of my core values and being unwavering. As the storm swirls around me, I can grin as those popcorn moments happen regularly. Not take it personally. I’ve asked myself repeatedly if there is hope in the relationship with the narcissist. He says the answer is yes. There are incredible opportunities for personal growth and gratitude is wild as it may seem. These are some of the grand blessings of being a narcissist spouse. So that might be something that is very triggering for someone to hear. And but that is his experience. And his experience is based on all the things that he brings to the table. And so I worry I love reading something like that. I worry that there may be some people that will feel like, okay, so I just got to stay in there. I just have to suck it up. But I hope that you can feel the difference of where this person has come to a form of acceptance. And I don’t know I don’t know what his situation is because there are a lot of reasons why people it’s easier for some to leave and it’s harder for others, whether it’s financial, whether it’s familial, whether it’s religious, whether it’s whatever that looks like, that it can be a lot harder for people to exit the relationship.

[00:11:05] And so sometimes that acceptance is really powerful. But this is where I would say acceptance doesn’t mean apathy. That acceptance means that I’m no longer trying to figure out what’s wrong with me and I’m no longer trying to figure out, okay, how do I show up? How do I say this? Do I even say this? So acceptance, not meaning apathy means I accept that this is my current situation so that I’m not trying to prove myself to the narcissist. I’m not trying to convince the narcissist of anything. I’m just going to start to be and I’m going to start to do. And as I find myself, as I raise my emotional baseline, then I become the person that is going to be a light unto others. And then weather. And I’ll work this one in here too, that when I’m working with people, I often say your job is to get your if your spouse is not on board, if they’re emotionally immature, if they don’t want to go to counseling, if they actually push back against the work that you’re doing, then your job is to raise your emotional baseline. So hi. And bear with me here for a second. I often say that then because they will either then say, oh man, that’s that is the person I want to be with. Or even if they don’t, you are that person. And it’s really more of B because again, it is the narcissist going to truly say, Wait a minute, what’s wrong with me? I got to snap out of this.

[00:12:18] I don’t know. And my my experience shows that can be difficult. But also, when we start to look at things on a spectrum or we look at this as emotional immaturity, then absolutely, if it’s something that somebody just doesn’t know, they don’t know what they don’t know, then you want to make sure I know and rule things out and try to figure out the best way to navigate the relationship until it may seem like it’s just not viable, but the way to do that is to work on yourself. It is to implement these tools. It is to have a framework of communication and just know. And I think that’s where I love this email. Just know the acceptance that that person, your spouse, is not going to them. Embrace this. As a matter of fact, they’re probably going to push against it. But just know that means that you are starting to find yourself and that change, change is going to happen and change is going to happen best. When you feel like you are in a better place emotionally, whether it’s spiritually, health wise, mentally, you name it. But you have to get yourself in that good place. All right. I’m going to read a couple of other emails that are actually a little bit different because we’re staying on the theme of men.

[00:13:20] And this is almost a callout to more, more men that if this is your experience, then I would love to hear from you. This is from someone who says, Hi, Toni. I listened to your first couple of podcasts. I feel they’re very accurate. My wife is the kind person that you speak of. I’m the gaslighter. I’m the manipulator that you speak of. I was raised in a home where my dad would definitely fall under the narcissistic diagnosis full blown. So he says. So I would say some of my siblings and I definitely have the strong traits from him. And he said, I’ve been to some therapist and couples counseling and spoke with them about these issues, but most of the time I feel they don’t know how to identify the narcissistic traits I have or they don’t specialize in it. But either way, he said, I need to get help and changing this for me, for my wife or my kids. There seems to be so much info out there on the person in the relationship with the narcissist. And he said, I guess I’m looking at where to go to help change me this very short explanation of all of what’s going on. But I’m just reaching out to somebody who seems to have a good understanding of narcissism. Can I get help to change? Where do I go? I’m ready to change the person I am. So any information you could give me would help.

[00:14:22] So first of all, if you are that person and I so appreciate this person reaching out, if you are that guy, then please continue to reach out to me. I’m starting to put more and more of these guys together so that I can form a group of guys. When I talk about my private Facebook group for women in narcissistic relationships with, again, it’s anyone. It’s a spouse, it’s a parent, it’s a sibling, it’s a church, it’s a job, you name it. Then there is so much power there. And I feel like men that are having these same issues, but they’re the people that are are waking up to their own narcissism. I feel like that that we want to be able to address those, too, because he’s absolutely right. I think there’s a really there’s this not a lot of information out there for. Somebody that really does want to take a look at this. Take a look at their own narcissistic traits and tendencies. And I really feel like this was why I was, like, so intentional on identifying narcissism, a.k.a. emotional immaturity. Because then if we can put it on a spectrum, we can look at our own narcissistic traits or tendencies or our own emotional immaturity. And that is something that can almost feel a little more tangible, a little more palatable to work with is I am absolutely going to take ownership of being emotionally immature in certain situations, but then in others, then we’ve got the healthy ego.

[00:15:41] Okay, let me read one more and then we’ll get to that course of control. This one, the person said. Hello, Tony. I was recently forwarded your podcast. The Virtual Couch fell in love with it on the first episode that I listened to. This led me to checking out, waking up to narcissism. I chose it because I have parents and an ex-wife who are all somewhere on the narcissistic spectrum. And I thought, okay, this can help. Well, it did, but not in the way I thought or I wanted. I realized very quickly that these traits I was hearing are all the things that I do. So here I am worried about how the nervous system in my life are affecting it, and I realize that the bigger issue is myself. He said, Do you have any specific episodes dealing with how to start being more empathetic and how to. He says, kick these habits. These habits and traits just help to the downfall of my relationship. And it was seriously the best thing that I had going for me. I just want to improve and help myself become the best version of me possible. And so I again appreciate this on so many different levels. But if you are the person that has continually asked yourself, Am I the narcissist? And my number one answer is, then you’re not. And let me give an example. So this person, thank you so much. They realize that they have been doing this for a long time and not asking themselves, are they the narcissist? They even went into it and then had their own waking up to their own narcissistic traits or tendencies.

[00:16:55] And this is where the emotional immaturity comes into play. And I was I had a text from someone and someone that I had worked with at one point. And I really feel like this really is I feel like this is the person said, could we both have been narcissists? And then he just had stronger traits than I did, which caused him to spiral worse. And I told this person, I hear you. And there’s a difference between narcissism and emotional immaturity. And that’s where I said everybody to a point is emotionally immature. But the narcissist then follows all the patterns and the traits of complete taking, lack of ownership or accountability, the gaslighting, the defensiveness, the the manipulation, all of these things. And so I said the inability to take ownership or be wrong about all the things that that the person and I had talked about. But I said, here’s this person literally texting me, actively trying to work on things. And they look inward. They can look inward, they can look outward. So they are becoming more emotionally mature versus the true narcissist who cannot look outside of themselves. And everyone else is wrong and they are going to defend that to their death because that gaslighting is truly a childhood defense mechanism.

[00:18:07] So if you are the one that has been seeking help and trying to figure things out and wanting to improve the relationship, then that alone is not the narcissism. That is somebody that is growing into emotional maturity. So that’s where I would say this person, this last person that emailed me where he enjoyed the podcast, he started listening to the podcast and then he realizes, Oh my gosh, this is me. Then I would say there’s somebody that was emotionally immature that now is starting to recognize that emotional immaturity. And as they recognize the emotional immaturity now, they can slowly start to take ownership and recognize these areas where their narcissistic traits or tendencies or emotional immaturity truly stood out. All right. Let’s get to coercive control. And I am referring now to an article on Psychology in Psychology Today, Psychology It’s by Bill Eddy, who is a licensed clinical social worker, as well as an attorney. So I love that it’s quite a combo. And so he says and so I’m going to read it, pretend that this is what the kids call these days, a reaction to an article, because I think that’s the best way to just take full ownership that I am reading the article. Does your relationship include coercive control? And so Bill says coercive control is becoming recognized as a pattern in abusive relationships. So he goes on to talk about the key points of domestic violence is the form of coercive control experienced by over 10 million adults in the United States each year.

[00:19:29] And so courts in the States are issuing restraining orders when there is coercive control, even without physical violence. And this is why I think this is really important to understand with the population that is listening to waking up in our system. So he says states are defining coercive control more broadly to include isolation from friends and family. Coercive control may include controlling, regulating or monitoring the other parties, movements, communications, daily behaviors and finances. So Bill goes on to again talk about that domestic violence. While that’s experienced by over 10 million adults in the United States each year, one in four women and one in ten men, they experience sexual violence, physical. Violence or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. And so for many years, victims of domestic violence, which he says also are known as survivors, have had the potential to get court orders restraining their abusers from contact, including temporary restraining orders that require them to stay 100 yards away and not contact the victim by phone, internet or through third parties like family members or friends. But he said courts have usually required a recent incident of physical violence or a recent serious threat of physical violence to qualify for such orders, sometimes within the last 30 days. But coercive control can go down every day without physical violence in if at all. There doesn’t even need to be physical violence. So, he says, from a psychological perspective, abusive behavior often goes beyond physical violence, as the listeners to this podcast absolutely know.

[00:20:56] But he said, it can be just as devastating the psychological term for one person, such as a spouse or co parent. Dominating the other person in a relationship is coercive control. And in the last couple of years, he says, during the pandemic, several states have added the term coercive control to the criteria for a restraining order, even if there has not been a recent incident or serious threat of physical violence. And he talks about that California actually is the leader in this trend and that similar language has been added by over a dozen other states since January of 2021. So California Family Code Section 6328 says the court may issue an order enjoining a party from molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, including but not limited to making annoying telephone calls, destroying personal property, contacting either directly or indirectly by mail or otherwise, coming within a specified distance of or disturbing the peace of the other party and in the discretion of the court on a showing of good cause or other named family or household members. And then Section C says, Also disturbing the peace of the other party refers to conduct that based on the totality of the circumstances destroys the mental or emotional calm of the other party. This conduct may be committed directly or indirectly, including through the use of a third party and by any method or through any means, including but not limited to telephone online accounts, text messages, internet connected devices or other electronic technologies.

[00:22:23] This conduct includes, but is not limited to coercive control, which is a pattern of behavior that, in purpose or effect unreasonable, unreasonably interferes with a person’s free will and personal liberty. And here’s why I think it’s so fascinating that this is in these court statutes where he says examples of coercive control include but are not limited to unreasonably engaging in any of the following. Number one, isolating the other party from friends, relatives or other sources of support to depriving the other party of basic necessities. Three Controlling, regulating or monitoring the other parties movements. Communications, daily behavior, finances, economic resources, or access to services. And there are a couple of other items that talk about coercion of immigration status or engaging in reproductive coercion, which literally coercion around pregnancy or birth control, that sort of thing. So he just ends the article by saying, if you or someone you know is experiencing coercive control in an intimate relationship, you may want to look into the laws of your state by contacting a lawyer or domestic violence support services to see if you can get a restraining order requiring that an abuser keep his or her distance. And I appreciate him saying, of course, a court order is only a piece of paper, so it helps to also have a safety plan in the event that your partner ignores the order.

[00:23:36] But police are enforcing such court orders more effectively now than ever before. So I thought that was something that was really important to identify that now we’re starting to look at coercive control as part of restraining orders, and they can include isolation from friends and family, regulating and monitoring the other people’s movements, communications, daily behaviors, finances. And now this seems like an overly simplified phrase when I say you can have love or control and then adult relationship, not both. And so if you are one who feels like you are absolutely experiencing this coercive, coercive control, then that is something that I think needs to be addressed. And I would imagine that if somebody feels like they’re in that situation, that they don’t feel safe. Just going up to this the partner and saying, hey, I just heard this, I just read this article on coercive control. I think you’re doing this because that’s the part where, in essence, we’re saying, hey, here’s some buttons to push. And I would imagine where the person’s going to tell the other person, that’s crazy. They’re either going to gaslight or they’re going to say, Well, you’ve made me do that because of these different things, which I guess again is a form of gaslighting. So we’ll call it good from there, but I so appreciate all the feedback. It still is just a phenomenal, overwhelming and a wonderful way. And the best part about the emails that come in is as sad as some are, but the people that just continually say that they feel heard, they feel understood, they feel like they feel like the examples are them.

[00:25:02] They feel like I’ve been in their cars or in their living rooms, or I’ve heard them talking or fighting with their spouse. So please keep sending those in. Feel free. And I feel like if it’s therapeutic just to share, then share them with me. And and whether we use that now or within something in the future, I just I’m going to continue to share the examples because I think that’s what helps people just feel not crazy. And if you’re a woman, you’re interested in my private women’s Facebook group, then by all means shoot me an email, go through Tony, over Macomb. And if you’re a guy who is feeling like you’re waking up to your own narcissism, then please. And I do. I see you too, because again, the waking up, the narcissism title was very intentional because I know that I’ve been waking up to my own narcissism, narcissistic traits and tendencies and emotional immaturity for years now. And and boy, it is it can be difficult because as the one email I read today, the person does start to feel like, oh, my gosh, I worry about the damage that’s been inflicted on the people around me. And that the irony there is that beating oneself up is one of the things that will actually then feed the narcissistic traits and tendencies.

[00:26:07] Because now I would imagine, let’s say that the guy that was sharing that with me now wants to let his spouse know, no, no, I get it now, like, but I’m better. And you need to tell me that I’m okay because now I get it. And that’s really repeating the same cycle. So this is it’s an individual journey for the person that’s waking up to their own narcissism. It really is. Just as the person that is waking up to the narcissism of somebody in their life can’t go and tell the other person, Hey, it turns out I think you’re a narcissist that has gone over 0% of the times. Yeah. Feel free to share those stories. And then if you are interested, feel free to go to Tony over Macomb Magnetic. And I’m doing a workshop. It’s a marriage workshop on April 7th. It’s, it’s going to be online, but it’s not something that I’m saying that you need to attend with your spouse, especially if you are in an emotionally unhealthy or abusive or immature relationship. But I really just want to lay out what a healthy relationship can look like and why we don’t have those tools from the factory and why you often aren’t going to even go find the right tools until you’ve been through a situation and so many people that are waking up to narcissism, we definitely can classify this as going through a situation. So have an amazing week and I’ll we’ll see you next week. I’m waiting for nurses.

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