The Persuasive Mind Tricks of Abusers

November 16, 2018 Kristance Harlow

Isolation is the number one tool used by abusers. Isolation breeds desperation nurtured in an environment where an abuser can exercise more control and wield more power over their victim. Abusers use persuasive mind tricks to increase isolation.

If your partner doesn’t like any of your friends and is vocal about it, that could be indicative of a larger problem. Often abuse means that anyone expressing concern about your relationship is immediately cut out of your trust circle. Either by you or by your partner getting you to believe they’re jealous, or bitter, or a gossiping bitch. Your partner should not be shit talking your friends or discouraging you from getting together and venting to your pals. If your partner is like this, in an attempt to make them happy you might reduce your contact with friends they don’t approve of. You might avoid discussing your relationship because you wouldn’t want your partner to find out.

Paranoia is a tool used by abusers. Such a person is inherently self-centered, believing that they are being targeted or attacked or somehow involved in all things. This can manifest as egomania with grandiose ideas and narcissistic traits. It can also manifest as victim playing (falsifying victimhood to justify abuse). Paranoia can be aimed at both the intimate partner and/or those outside of the relationship.

Abusers also use persuasion as a means of control. When someone persuades you to change course, it isn’t inherently a bad thing. You might be convinced to change your exercise routine, you might persuade an ignorant grandparent to stop saying racist shit. Persuasion is a tool. It can be used to further nonviolent peace accords…or to start a war.

The persuasive abuser will use manipulation to convince their partner to agree with the abuser’s version of events, they persuade their victim to be or not be a certain way, or to see it from their point of view and act accordingly. It’s not honest persuasion, it’s manipulation. They tamper with the truth and distort reality until there is no other choice but theirs. Later the manipulator can hold it over their partner’s head that this is what they wanted. “I didn’t force you.” It is not healthy, kind, or normal to use persuasion to force people to do what you want. The persuasive abuser is dangerous because partners of these kinds of people end up believing that they have had control of their own choices. It’s a real mindfuck. The persuader gets the victim to build their own prison.

Abusers use persuasion like a chisel steadily chipping away at their target’s core identity. It undermines a person’s sense of self to force them to do or say things they wouldn’t autonomously have done. It chips away at someone’s sense of self to tell them that their perspective is not real and that their feelings are not valid. Abusers may force their victim to be involved in situations that are contrary to core values. This has devastating and long reaching consequences. When our core identity is broken apart by the person we are intimately involved with, it’s extremely painful and difficult to ever find again. Many survivors have to build a new sense of self because their abuser destroyed so much of who they once were.

If abusers are such assholes, how do they get someone to fall in love with them in the first place? Easy, they’re not just assholes, they’re often charismatic and attractive. They are persistent and the refusal to take no for an answer can be mistaken for romance. They may seem like a perfect gentleman (or lady, or gentle-person of any gender).

Being a “gentleman” is not bad and being kind to your partner is a good thing, if a partner is being loving and doing something you both consensually enjoy and want. In an abusive relationship, an abuser will use this behavior to create an illusion of love in the honeymoon stage of the cycle of abuse.

In a healthy relationship, you get to decide what kinds of things you want and don’t want in terms of chivalry. Maybe you love when your boyfriend can tell you’re chilly and puts his coat over your shoulders without you needing to ask. Or that your girlfriend will always order your drink for you because she knows what you like. But maybe you aren’t cold and you wanted something different to drink, but you have to wear the sweaty coat and drink the same old shit because your partner isn’t giving you the space to choose and last time you deviated from the script there was emotional, physical, or verbal hell to pay.

The real sinister aspect of an abusive partner is that they know that their behavior is not ok. They don’t act the same way towards everyone else. And in public they often know not to make a scene, but that doesn’t mean they’ll let you out of their sight. They have to maintain control over you, which often looks like being a perfect gentleman or the demurest lady.


Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2016). Definitions of child abuse and neglect. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau

Ellsberg M, and Heise L. (2005). Researching Violence Against Women: A Practical Guide for Researchers and Activists. Washington DC, United States: World Health Organization, PATH.

Leckrone, J. and Wisniewski, M. (2011). Study shows why domestic violence victims drop charges. Reuters [online]. Available at: [Accessed 15 Nov 2018]

NCADV. (2015). Domestic violence national statistics. Retrieved from

NCADV. (2015). Facts about domestic violence and psychological abuse. Retrieved from

Tickle, L. (2017) Coercion and control: fighting against the abuse hidden in relationships. The Guardian [online]. Available at: [Accessed 16 Nov 2018]

World Health Organization/London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Preventing intimate partner and sexual violence against women: taking action and generating evidence. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2010.

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  1. William Lynn on November 28, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Makes a lot of sense! A very well written article that leaves one thinking. Especially the thought of persuasion…used to forge peace accords…or start a war. Worth thinking about!
    Bill Lynn

  2. Alice Lynn on November 17, 2018 at 10:47 am

    A well written and, may I say, persuasive article! Emotionally abusive individuals have many tools at in their “bag of tricks” and while you may not recognize them at first, if you’re subjected to them long enough, they will raise that big red flag. You’ll be walking on egg shells the rest of your life if you let them take control. Great article, Kristance!

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