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Identifying Indirect Psychological Abuse Tactics in CoParenting

While some forms of abuse are obvious there are also indirect or more covert forms of abuse that are so subtle they will go under the radar for long periods of time. That is until it happens enough times and you begin to feel your self-esteem shattering to pieces or thinking you are crazy because the abuser has convinced you that you are imagining things. This is what the abuser wants you to feel because then it allows them to have control.

Subtle forms of abuse often go undetected or recognized in the family court system. And, we are hoping to change that through our coercive control coaching program. Many times emotional and psychological abuse is much more detrimental to a person’s well-being over time and takes years to recover from. And, if you share children it can go on for years through co-parenting, as well as impact the children.

We want you to know you don’t have to face this alone and having a support system to assist with co-parenting communication or your own internal peace from the psychological abuse is the road to freedom.

Here are 11 Indirect Psychological Abuse Tactics Used In Coercive Control:

1. Coercion - the pressuring of a co-parent through threats, force, or feeling stuck with no option other than agree to the manipulation for the sake of your well-being or the children’s. Coercion can take on many forms psychological, emotional, and financial.

2. Gaslighting - A form of psychological manipulation in which a person makes another person doubt their own perceptions, memories, or sanity. They may say things like, “You’re crazy”, “That is not how it happened”, or “You’re remembering it wrong”. These sayings make you think you’re the one who is in the “wrong” because they flip the script and guilt you into believing it. It’s a tactic that is subtle and happens gradually over time until you begin to doubt your own gut instincts.

3. Competing - When one parent tries to outdo or one-up the other parent in front of their children, often leading to unhealthy competition and tension. The co-parent who competes is projecting their own inadequacies onto the children out of fear the children will not favor them over their co-parent. This usually happens through buying gifts or hosting a “better” birthday party or going on a “cooler” vacation.

4. Withholding - The act of deliberately withholding important information, resources, or parenting time with the children. They may withhold medical information, extracurricular activities, the children from parenting time, or parent-child calls. They use the children as a weapon to get what they want.

5. False Accusations - Making unfounded accusations against the other parent as a fear tactic to use in court or to silence the other co-parent for control. They make these accusations based on their own false narrative and perceptions out of resentment when they don’t get their way.

6. Triangulation - When one parent uses a third party (such as a family member, new spouse, a friend, child’s doctor, or therapist) to communicate with the other parent for leveraging. They don't feel confident enough to communicate on their own and so they bring in a third party in hopes of scaring or silencing the other co-parent.

7. Stonewalling - Refusing to communicate or cooperate with the other parent in order to gain control or power over a situation. They believe if they hold out long enough without communicating the other co-parent will cave into their demands or make a unilateral decision for the children they can later use against them.

8. Privacy Invasion - Violating the other parent's privacy or personal boundaries through coming over unannounced, calling the children excessively during the other parent’s parenting time, using surveillance equipment or trackers on cars to build a case, accessing the children's location through phones, and/or play video games with the children through the use of video surveillance.

9. Character Assassination - Deliberately spreading false or damaging information about the other parent to the children, others in the community, or in communications with the co-parent. When a co-parent tries to assassinate someone’s character through slander they are showing their own inadequacies. Slandering one parent to the children is counterintuitive and creates distrust in their own relationship with the children. Children are smarter than the abusive parent.

10. Financial Abuse - Using money or financial resources to control or manipulate the other parent or children. A coercive co-parent may run up large tabs for school supplies, medical bills, or extracurricular activities and expect the other parent to split the tab without consulting in advance of purchases or appointments. They may also drag out court proceedings or make ludicrous claims to financially hinder the less affluent co-parent so the other parent has no choice but to back down and agree to their demands.

11. Isolation - a co-parent may refuse to allow one parent to move with the children to be closer to family and friends as a means of control or punishment. They do this so they remain in control over the other co-parent or they are left to depend on them for support extending the psychological abuse from the intimate relationship into co-parenting.

If you are co-parenting with a coercively controlling co-parent, documentation of facts will be essential to your own mental well-being and not fearing their antics or attempts to build a case against you. Want support and how to document psychological manipulation? Sign-up for a discovery call to learn more about how we can best meet your needs.


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