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How To Protect Yourself When Self-Isolating With A Controlling Partner

Home isn’t always a safe place.

And even if you do feel okay, maybe home it isn’t always a calm, peaceful place.

You’re only there because you’re worried about the impact leaving will have on the children.

Or maybe you’re there because the sums don’t add up and for financial reasons you can’t leave.

Perhaps you’ve been frightened to leave because your partner’s mental health seems fragile.

Whatever the reason, as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic deepens and Government takes more decisive action to enforce social distancing and social isolation, you’re beginning to notice your anxiety about what this means living with this person.

You might not know whether they are narcissistically wounded. But their behaviour feels controlling and emotionally immature.

Now you’re feeling trapped and powerless while self-isolating with a controlling partner.

Trying To Control Uncertainty

These are uncertain times; nobody knows what will happen next.

What is certain is that life has changed dramatically in the last 10 days, whoever would have imagined one month ago that here in the U.K. we would see scenes we have. People are scrambling and fighting over essential food items and toilet paper with our most vulnerable in society, looking at empty shelves.

And if you’re in a relationship with a narcissistic wounded partner, you are also vulnerable.  You’re vulnerable because you know all too well that their behaviour, particularly during times of stress, is just as unpredictable as Coronavirus (COVID-19).  You’re vulnerable because the collective fear and anxiety that we are all experiencing now, on a global scale, will potentially impact your partner in a, particularly acute way.

The need to be in control of the self drives narcissistic behaviours.  Narcissistic vulnerable people do this by attempting to control their environment and others.  Controlling behaviour is their way of self-regulating and creating certainty.  To manage their fears, stress, anxiety, and vulnerability, they control others.

Therefore they will attempt to control you.

So at this time of collective anxiety regarding Coronavirus, your partner’s behaviour may be more challenging for you. The deeper their fears, the deeper the need for coercion and control.
Self-isolating with a controlling partner is not straightforward.

A Familiar Sense of Isolation

We are following the route of other European countries with more stringent isolation rules.  These lockdown measures mean unprecedented constraints on our autonomy.  Other countries have suspended public transport and force people to carry a document certifying why they are outside.

The reality is while in lockdown or self-isolation, you are likely to be spending concentrated periods with the person who is causing distress and trauma in your life.

Seemingly out of nowhere, it certainly caught me by surprise; you’re feeling cut off from the world.

This feeling might have been creeping up on you long before Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Social isolation is a standard coercive tool used by controlling people and is a form of emotional abuse.  Not only are you distanced from your friends and family, but your partner might also isolate you as a means of punishment by stonewalling or withholding.

Self-Isolating With A Controlling Partner – Cut Off From Lifelines

Maybe you haven’t noticed the isolation sneaking up on you.  But in any event, the things you did outside of the home had meaning.

Going to work might have meant an opportunity for a  sensible, calm conversation with a colleague as opposed to the familiar monologue or inevitable circular argument.  A visit to the gym might have meant a distraction from all the confusion and muddle at home.

Being part of the running club or netball team gave you companionship and a sense of value. Volunteering at the local food bank might have given you a sense of common purpose and community.  Meeting another mum at the school gate might have let you know you had shared struggles and joys.

Or maybe being away from home may just simply allow you to breathe.

Now the person you have been trying to create distance from you’re stuck with.

I get it.

So what can you do to protect yourself and keep balanced when self-isolating with a controlling partner.

Step up your self-care practices.  Self-care is crucial during this time.

7 Essential Self-Care Practices When Self-Isolating – (COVID-19)

Most of these practices are about boosting your immune system and maintaining proper cognitive function so that you are better able to discern unhealthy behaviour patterns and maintain an emotional distance.  They will also help you to manage your stress and anxiety.

1. Follow NHS Guidelines

The first step is to follow the NHS guidelines to minimise the risk of you becoming ill with Coronavirus (COVID-19).  Wash your hands regularly, catch coughs and sneezes in tissue and dispose of it.  Follow the social distancing and social isolation guidelines.

2. Eat Well & Keep Hydrated

These are stressful times.  Stress can have a dramatic effect on our digestive system and can lead to an imbalance of gut bacteria which, in turn, triggers inflammatory symptoms.

Processed food and refined sugar wear the immune system down.   Alcohol suppresses the immune system, which can predispose you to get sick.  Conversely, diets high in antioxidants and low in sugar boost the immune system and fight off viruses.  So it makes sense to cut back on coffee, sugar, and alcohol.

Optimise your digestion by upping your intake of vegetables.  Drink plenty of water as well as avoiding processed food as much as possible.  Take advantage of the opportunity to cook healthy food.

3. Sleep Well

Sleep improves the immune system.

Lack of sleep can have a detrimental effect on your mental health.  Your brain will fog, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions.  You’ll start to feel down, and may fall asleep during the day.

As much as possible, keep a to a nighttime routine as this is especially important when you lose your routine.  You need to maintain consistency where you can, to help your body clocks stay set. Most adults need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep every night.  By working out what time you need to wake up, you can set a regular bedtime schedule.

Before bed, wind down without any screens in dim light, and set the alarm for the morning to ensure that you’re waking up at the same time each day of the week.  If you’re having trouble sleeping, get up and do something quiet and relaxing instead of tossing and turning.  Laying in bed only serves to make you more anxious in bed and can worsen insomnia.

4. Exercise

It’s essential to keep the body moving.  You can go for a walk or run while following the social isolation and social distancing rules.  Your activity could be gardening or following an online yoga or fitness class.

5. Keep In Connection With Others

When you’re self-isolating with a controlling partner keep in connection with others.  Our brains are wired for connection, and so this will make social isolation inherently tricky.  Keep in contact with work colleagues, friends and family.  If possible, start a WhatsApp group with your neighbours.  If you have a class list for your children, perhaps you can set up an online group for that.

Think of who you can keep in touch with independent of your partner.

6. Use The Time To Educate Yourself

Take the time to educate yourself about what is happening in your relationship.   Knowledge is the first step in being empowered.

Read books on what healthy relationships look like.  Check out books on the behaviours you notice in your relationship. An excellent place to start is Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft.  There are many books on narcissistic behaviours, including many posts here.

Download the book so that you can read it privately on an app like Kindle or listen to an audio version.

7. Limit Your News Exposure

While it’s essential to stay informed, it is also important not to become fixated with the news.  Most news media is designed to target the emotional part of the brain.  When you see or hear alarming headlines, this will trigger a mild flight or fight response.

So while it is essential to keep informed and up to date, it is also stressful for the body.  Inevitably in a time like it’s tempting to watch the news continuously to keep up to date with the latest developments.

What you are inadvertently doing is increasing the amount of cortisol in the body which impairs your cognitive function.  This, in turn, will make it more difficult for you to remain grounded and centred in the face of your partner’s behaviour and establish an emotional distance.

Practice setting boundaries for yourself.  Set limits on when you will watch the news and for how long.  Perhaps only between 9.00 am-5.00 pm and only from a reputable news source.  When you are better able to set boundaries for yourself, you ‘ll get better with setting them with your partner.

Your Safety Comes First

If you do feel unsafe, self-isolating with a controlling partner reach out for support.

If you are worried about self-isolating because of your relationship dynamic,  please call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or contact the Helpline via Refuge’s contact form at www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk. To ensure your safety, you can let us know how to contact you and what time to contact you.  You can also contact Women’s Aid who have advice on self-isolating.

In an emergency, always be ready to call 999 if you are in danger.

Over To You

Are you self-isolating with a controlling partner?  If you want a safe space to talk, figure out your feelings, get in touch, and book your first counselling appointment.   I offer video sessions online via a secure platform.  Coronavirus (COVID-19) doesn’t need to end your therapy sessions.

Or call me today on 07535 864836.

Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.


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© Sandra Harewood 2020

About Sandra

Soul Centred couples counsellor Sandra Harewood specialises in working with couples and women with childhood wounding that impacts their adult relationships. Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore and discover creative solutions to their difficulties and create a great relationship.