Unlearn Controlling Behaviors

People often contact us to find out why people abuse. We inform them that domestic violence stems from a desire to maintain power and controlover their partner. Choosing to be abusive is a decision someone makes because they believe they have the right to control and restrict their partner’s life. There is help for abusive behaviors if they want it, and people can unlearn controlling behaviors.


We believe  people can change. It takes time, commitment, and work, but it is possible. If you recognize your abusive behaviors and want to change them, the steps below can help you unlearn harmful ways.


Some people saw abusive behaviors in their families growing up, while others learned them slowly from friends, popular culture, or structural inequality throughout our society. It is never okay to harm someone, regardless of where you developed those behaviors.

For people who choose to abuse, reflect on what is taking place on both physically and emotionally when abuse happens. Your body may get hot, and it might be difficult to focus or rationally think about what is happening. You may feel emotions such as frustration, anger, or even fear.It is crucial to reflect on the feelings you experience and identify why you feel that way. It may be personal insecurity or fear. Understanding those emotions can help show that it is a personal issue to resolve, not something caused by your partner.

Over time, this can help you realize that controlling your partner will not resolve those issues. Later, if you recognize the feelings and emotions that come up during abusive moments, you can then take action to do something else. For example, you could take a break and walk away from the situation (if needed). Or you can call a friend or family member to help you process how you feel about the situation by talking with them. Allowing yourself time to cool off  helps you disrupt your desire to control the situation or your partner before it happens. It also gives you space to process your emotions or feelings more healthily.

Unlearn Abusive Behaviors

Not all people who abuse realize their actions are harmful. In the moment when they are full of fear, anger, or jealousy, they may think that their actions are not a problem. Their reasoning could be that they have seen people act that way in other relationships or believe that what they are doing is helping. Understanding what abusive behaviors are is the first step in taking action to change. Once you recognize the abusive behaviors, you can take steps to change those behaviors and replace them with healthy ones.

Learn Healthy Behaviors

One step to change for the better is having access to a vast supply of positive alternatives to abusive behaviors. Understanding what makes up a healthy relationship is vital because it helps you identify positive actions instead of harmful ones. For example, progressive behavior could mean learning how to respect your partner’s boundaries, engaging in effective communication, or trusting your partner when you are not around. Learning and adapting to use healthy behaviors can take time, but there are resources available.


Self-reflection is a good place to start if you recognize your behaviors as abusive. However, unlearning these behaviors and making new ones can take years and may require additional support.

Individual Counseling

One way to work on abusive behaviors is through individual professional counseling. A licensed therapist can help you understand the core of your behavior and the skills to choose differently. If you do decide to do individual counseling, be completely honest regarding your abusive behaviors. Resources like BetterHelp, NetworkTherapy, and GoodTherapy, are online directories where you can search for therapists in your area. It has information on their specialty, price, and the types of insurance they accept so you can find the right fit for you.

Group Therapy

Accountability is part of changing your behavior, and having people hold you to that standard is crucial. Your support system should be responsible people you trust to help you through difficult moments and remind you of healthy behaviors. These people can be family or friends, or you can find a support group for people trying to change their abusive behaviors. They can hold you accountable as well as offer emotional care and support.

Batterer’s Intervention and Prevention Program 

Another program suggested for people who want to change their abusive behaviors is the Batterer’s Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP). These programs are unique because they focus entirely on abuse—including the range of coercive and abusive behaviors, common abusive tactics, and the effects abuse can have on partners and families. Participants also learn about healthy relationships and non-violent behaviors to replace abusive behaviors. BIPPs challenge pre-existing beliefs, such as entitlement, ownership, and gender roles, that partners who cause harm may have.

We’re here to help

It can be hard to recognize and acknowledge that your controlling behavior is abusive or causes harm to your partner. It can be even harder to take action to change and work towards more healthy behaviors. We are here to support all people, including those who are abusive. Our advocates are here 24/7 through phone, chat, or text to support you as you take steps to change.