Dominance techniques in relationships, and how to deal with them

Dominance techniques are used to control or humiliate the other, and can be used in most social contexts. It has been common to talk about domination techniques used in the workplace, but we also find them used in social relationships. In this article we will look at dominance techniques used in relationships.

What is dominance technique

The term “ruling technique” was introduced in 1945 by the philosopher and psychologist Ingjald Nissen. He wrote the book “The Dictatorship of the Psychopath” about the psychology behind the Nazi takeover of Germany in the Second World War.

However, it is not only in such extreme cases that one can find use of domination techniques. In 1979, Professor Berit Ås presented five common domination techniques that she believed were used to control and gain power over women. Unfortunately, these are just as relevant today, and we can also identify them in relationships and relationships.

Berit Ås’ ruling techniques:

  1. Invisibility
    2. Ridicule
    3. Withholding information
    4. Condemnation no matter what you do
    5. Inflicting guilt and shame

More have subsequently also been added, and new ones are constantly appearing as there is more focus on this in the media.

Dominance techniques are often used to gain control over another. Dominance techniques in relationships can be used both consciously and unconsciously. The common denominator for the various techniques is that they are used to achieve the same goal: Control.

Examples of using dominance techniques:

– Showing a clear negative body language when talking to your partner. It can be rolling your eyes, sighing, or seeming impatient. The person then sends out signals that this is boring or uninteresting to listen to. The person speaking can then end up feeling stupid and troublesome, or feel low self-esteem both inside and outside the relationship.

– Mixing matter and person. This can be a way of manipulating your partner’s feelings. Personal attacks or rude or condescending comments can also help to depress the self-esteem of the recipient, while the person who says it feels more superior.

– Overlooking your partner in social settings or at home. In social settings this can, among other things, lead to a feeling of ridicule, while at home it can feel hurtful and painful not to be seen or included.

– Give a feeling of guilt, or deliberately manipulate the feelings in other ways. In a relationship, you know each other well. You create intimacy and closeness when you are vulnerable with each other and when you open up to each other. This can then be abused by playing on the vulnerability of your partner, or deliberately commenting on things you know hurt.


What lies behind the ruling technique?

To deal with dominance technique, it can help to know what lies behind it . Associate professor at the University of Kristiania, Helene Tronstad Moe, explains that dominance techniques are often used when one feels threatened, insecure or to mark one’s own worth.

This can be in discussions where you see that your partner is winning, and you have run out of factual arguments. For some, this can feel embarrassing and threatening to the self-confidence and power one would like to have. In that case, domination technique is a way to turn the situation around.

If you are unsure of yourself, and feel stupid or inferior (unconsciously or consciously), then it can be a defense mechanism to make your partner feel the same about themselves. One pushes the uncertainty onto the partner, and can thus feel a short-term feeling of power.

If you are aware that you are using domination techniques, it can be helpful to get to the root of the problem. Perhaps it is self-confidence, insecurity or poor self-esteem that triggers the domination technique. This can be worked on, and it is possible to find other ways to feel self-confidence and self-worth.

How to deal with dominance techniques in relationships?

In 2017, Sigrid Sollund wrote a book about ruling techniques. She emphasizes that it is first and foremost important to pay attention to them. When you know which domination techniques exist, it is easier to see them when they are put to use. That way, you know what’s going on, and it’s easier to keep a cool head.

Associate professor at Kristiania University College, Helene Tronstad Moe, supports this point in her article on the topic . She emphasizes that you shouldn’t let yourself get psyched out. It is important to remember that the person who uses dominance techniques may be struggling with self-esteem. It is therefore not directed at you personally.

One way to deal with dominance techniques is to try to turn the situation around. If you recognize the use of dominance techniques by your partner when you talk together, try to stay calm and matter-of-fact. Maybe even say something nice to your partner. Then you have not given the reaction that was expected or perhaps desired at that moment. Eventually, your partner may see that there is no point in trying to control you, precisely because you do not give the reaction that is expected.

Communication is important

It may also be a good idea to talk about the way you communicate. It can be difficult to confront someone that they are using domination techniques, so it is important to remain calm and friendly. Those who practice domination techniques are not always aware of it themselves, and thus it is important to tread carefully.

One way to start such a conversation is to calmly ask what the partner meant by rolling his eyes when you spoke. Another way is to explain that you don’t feel so good when your partner uses words that are difficult to understand, or that you feel it hurts when you feel overlooked.

So, how to deal with dominance techniques?

Here is a list that briefly summarizes how we can deal with domination techniques when we encounter them:

  1. Learn about different domination techniques, and practice recognizing them
    2. Know that there is a reason why the person is exercising them, and that it is not directed at you personally.
    3. Try to turn the situation around and don’t be triggered by comments or looks.
    4. Try talking to your partner and tell them how you feel.

We have previously written about how important communication is for the relationship, but it is not always easy to know how to proceed. You can try your hand at it on your own, but it is also possible to get help in the form of therapy to deal with dominance techniques in the relationship. The therapist offers both individual therapy and couples therapy .