A common experience reported by individuals who are in abusive and toxic relationships is that of a strong effort by the abuser to control the communication that the victim has with their friends and family. Often disguised as a sincere attempt to protect the victim, the abuser will subtly imply that a friend or family member isn’t exactly as the victim believes they are – the suggestion of a questionable work ethic may come-up, questionable morals, or a general statement of disgust or just “not liking them”. This is great ammo for toxic people as victims in these relationships are prone to believe what the abuser says. It’s a war of attrition and over time it’s the small things that help to give an erroneous or controlling notion traction.
The abuser does have a lot to lose in that their illusion of control may hang in the balance; at the very least, the abuser will need to escalate their manipulation attempts once the victim begins to talk to other people usually starting with stronger efforts of character assassination once the victims communication with an objective outsider increase.
What is the abuser afraid of? Simply put, they KNOW there is something not entirely right about the relationship dynamics and they know that in a group of two, their influence has at least 50% of the impact and more likely much higher than that given their overbearing, controlling and manipulative nature. They are also aware that adding a third perspective into the mix can dramatically reduce the level of control they have as this will dilute their influence, particularly when the opinion goes against the abuser – check out Solomon Asch experiments on conformity – were one person agreeing with the victim is often enough for them to break free from the grip of the abuser.
Speaking to other people also affords the victim an opportunity to clearly define what is going on, and this is often very effective at helping someone see what is happening in their life. Friends and family tend to ask lots of questions about things that don’t make any sense so the practice of explaining these can help add some objectivity to an unclear situation. Objectivity is NOT what abusers want so they will often try to limit and control the communication of their partners.
People in healthy relationships do not fear their partners talking to other people because they have nothing to hide. If you find your partner, or yourself, trying to control the external communication, you should take this as a warning sign that the motives may not be as pure as they should be. Take some time to examine the reasons given for discouraging the communication and make whatever adjustments you need to in order to address the situation appropriately.