Domestic Abuse Psychology – The ABC’s of Abuse, Control and Narcissism

Domestic Abuse Psychology
The ABC’s of Abuse, Control and Narcissism

Dr. King




by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

How do you know if you are dancing with domestic abuse or interfacing with someone’s narcissistic psychopathology? That’s a question I ask myself from time to time in helping people heal abusive relationships.

The control antics are so clear. The question is: are they merely a function of the person’s tendency to grab power and control at all cost? Or, is the controlling behavior merely one of the characteristics of their psychological condition?

And then again...does knowing the answer really matter when it comes to treating people who abuse their domestic partners? I think it matters immensely.

Abuse, Control and Narcissism

Intimate partner abuse is essentially about control. Therefore, you can expect an identified domestic abuser to seek control over their intimate partners. People with narcissistic personality disorder also seek to establish and maintain control in their intimate relationships. But their control issues stem from their disorder itself.

A) Their preference trumps yours

For example, their preference will trump yours in decision-making. In their interaction with you, the decision is already made. There is no negotiation; rather it is about how they are going to bring you over to their side, because their preference trumps yours.

B) You are there to serve them

Further, you exist for them to serve their needs; not vice versa. Thus, you will find an expectation in the relationship in which you serve to accommodate them and only them. Once again, from the outside looking in, it appears as though they seek to control your serving them (but that is not all that is going on for these patients).

C) Their experience matters most

Moreover, at the end of the day (and throughout the day for that matter), their experience matters; yours does not. They demand that you embrace the import of their yearnings and longings. They require that you factor this into your decision and “negotiation” with them, fully considering their experience and needs…all while ignoring yours.

The bottom line here is that you are conditioned as a result of your interaction with them to have a deaf ear thrown at you with respect to your experience, needs, desires and preferences. And you are required to do the same with yourself if you are to stay safe in relation to them.

These few examples of some of the criteria characterizing a narcissistic personality disorder clearly manifest as “control issues.” However, the question for the intervening clinician is: how does the control seeking serve the controlling, partner-abusive patient?

The dysfunctional use of power and control tactics serves a different function for other forms of psychopathology. It is my belief that the better we understand the psychopathology underlying the display of control issues, the more effective we are in helping domestic abusers change.

If you are in a controlling abusive relationship and want to break the cycle of domestic abuse, seek to engage a therapist knowledgeable in domestic violence, psychopathology and clinical psychology.

For information about domestic abuse therapy , visit and claim Free Instant Access to The 7 Realities of Verbal Abuse. Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps individuals and couples nationwide recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse.

© Dr Jeanne King — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention

Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.