Being a Resource for People with Controlling Relationships


Insight comes slowly, like the careful stringing of pearls.  A jewel, a knot, another jewel, another knot.  It’s an insanely difficult act to make a necklace in the midst of tempest, to sit quietly with trembling fingers, while the well water spills over from the sides of your eyes.  But with insight also comes healing, the return of laughter, the possibility of joy.                             Doris Schwerin, American writer


People who are in controlling relationships often have difficulty seeing their options for a number of very good reasons. First of all, the tension and chaos of the relationship keeps them hypervigilant and anxious, and we can’t think as clearly when we are anxious. The constant harassment of a controlling relationship does not afford time for reflection and questioning. And the isolation that occurs reduces input from others.

Therefore, any person who gives information and support provides the first jewel in the necklace of insight and hope. Having someone present possible options to them can be the beginning of creating the space to think. It is important to respect the person’s sense of timing and decisions about what is right for them. Whether the person wants to or can take advantage of it immediately is not as important as the simple fact that a door has been opened regarding the availability of support.

You are the first link in the chain of help as soon as you do any of the following:

  • Tell them they don’t deserve what is happening,
  • Answer a question about a restraining order or give some other information,
  • Hand them a brochure or card for a helping agency,
  • Refer them to another helping professional,
  • Give them information related to safety planning.
  • Go through the steps of making a safety plan with them.

Here is a link to a local Madison, Wisconsin agency who gives free services to domestic abuse survivors:

Here is a link to a comprehensive safety plan; people can pick and choose which parts are appropriate for them:


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