How Has Your Spouse’s Domination or Control Affected You?
- Joe Beam President, Marriage Helper
- 2013 1 Feb
Editor's note: This is part 2 of a 3-part series on controlling and dominating spouses. Today's article discusses how actions of a such a spouse affect the family. To read part 1 (how to identify such a spouse) click here.
She wrote about how her husband’s control and domination affects her:
“I have almost zero self-esteem. I was a straight-A student in high school and graduated college with a 3.64 GPA. However, his constant criticism and questioning causes me to question everything I ever knew. I question my decision-making ability, my knowledge, and the reality of any of my gifts God gave me. I have no confidence in any area. I am constantly walking on eggshells around him. The whole family is afraid of setting off his anger.”
Suddenly, she stopped, “He just came home. Later!”
She was one of several people who responded to an online survey about controlling or dominating spouses. Though we know that women can dominate as well as men, and the survey was open to both genders, only women responded. They provided heart-breaking pictures into their lives.
In part one of this three-part series, we examined ways that one spouse dominates or controls the other. I presented that information with two goals. First, I hoped to demonstrate to those who feel controlled that they are not alone, and that they should not dismiss their frustrations as selfishness or misunderstanding. Second, I hoped to create awareness within the dominating spouse of how his/her actions affect the other.
Continuing with both of those goals, in this article we consider how the actions of the controlling or dominating spouse affect the other.
How Has Your Spouse’s Domination or Control Affected You?
The following is based on answers respondents gave to specific questions about control and domination. Their responses fell into the following categories.
Sense of Worthlessness
The quote that began this article identified this effect eloquently. However, several more spoke about how her spouse’s control destroyed her belief in herself.
One respondent said, “As a result of his controlling me, I have low self-esteem. I feel worthless. I have no value.”
Another wrote, “It’s as if I no longer exist. Therefore, I cannot do anything other than sacrifice my needs for what others want.”
Loss of Confidence
One woman said of her former spouse who had controlled her, “I had lost my self-confidence, my dignity, and my self-respect.”
Another wrote, “I now have an inability to make decisions. I live in fear of failure and being inadequate.”
Yet another said, “He completely squelched any individuality or autonomy I had. He crushed me as a person and as a Christian.”
Depression and Anxiety
One woman wrote about her former spouse’s controlling behavior, “I suffered severe depression. I even contemplated suicide. I became another person, very different from who I was before. I would feel nauseated when he called because of anxiety of knowing he would be yelling about something.”
Another confessed, “I internalized the stress. I think it would have killed me if I hadn’t gotten out. If I had died, my children (one is special needs) would've been stuck with him to raise them. I couldn’t let that happen, so I had to leave him before the tension destroyed me.”
Yet another said, “I am always feeling overwhelmed and depressed. I cry a lot.”
Disengaged from Friends and Family
A woman wrote, “It was a very scary, very sad, very dark time for me. I pulled away from family and friends who criticized my husband because I was just tired of trying to defend him all the time. I did not see what was happening or at least did not want to accept it.”
A wife stated, “I hid my real life and emotions from everyone outside our home. It looked like everything was great, but I was falling apart inside.”
Another said, “I don't have friends; I rarely do anything with my family.”
A woman whose marriage has since improved wrote about what it was like when her husband dominated her, “During that time, I had an early miscarriage though I did not know that I had been pregnant. It was the worst pain of my life and I thought that I was going to die. Literally. But my husband was asleep and I was too scared to wake him up, so I laid in the hallway so that if I died our roommate would discover me when she got home from work late that night. It was his control over me that made me believe I was not to wake him for any reason ever. I was extremely depressed and constantly scared during that time in our marriage.”
Another wrote, “I lived on eggshells, which is a terrible and horrible way to exist. I considered suicide. I almost left the church.”
Another stated her fear succinctly, “I retreated.”
Susceptibility to Manipulation
A respondent spoke to how her husband's control of her continued even as she divorced him, “I left him thinking I could handle anything. Was I ever wrong! I allowed him to manipulate the divorce still thinking things might change and we could reconcile. We were well off and very comfortable in our lifestyle, but he managed to get most everything we had materially. My financial situation has been difficult, but the blessing is that I am learning who I am and whose I am.”
Some who felt controlled or dominated rebelled by doing things against their own beliefs and values. As one woman wrote, “No one deserves to be mistreated. However, I know that I reacted badly to what was going on in my marriage. I had to get out because I was dying inside. I turned to other people, which was not right, but felt so unloved by my ex. Learning to love myself was what I needed most.”
If You Feel Abused: The Lesson to Be Learned
If you relate to some or all of the quotes above, consider the possibility that you are being controlled or dominated. Control or domination does not gradually fade away. Instead, they are more likely to increase with time. If you feel that your spouse behaves in dominating and controlling ways, the best time to address the issue is now. The longer you wait, the worse the effects on you.
If you feel it safe, suggest marriage counseling or other therapy if needed. If you wish a faster route to changing your spouse’s behavior, consider an intensive marriage workshop such as our three-day Marriage Help ER 911 for marriages facing difficulties.
SPECIAL NOTE: If your spouse is physically violent, or if you have any fear for your safety, rather than suggesting counseling or a workshop, call the Domestic Abuse Hotline for information about how to be safe. 1-888-7HELPLINE – US & Canada)
If you feel that you may be dominated or controlled but are not sure, take a free assessment. Reach it by clicking this link.
Are You Controlling or Dominating?
Most people who control or dominate their spouses do not believe that they do so. They offer reasons for their behaviors and see them as justified. If as you read the above quotes from the survey respondents, you recognized emotions or comments that you spouse has made, consider carefully whether you are controlling or dominating, no matter your intentions. If you think you may be, give this article to your spouse and ask if he or she feels any of the things identified in the quotes above. (NOTE: do not expect a controlled or dominated spouse to answer honestly unless you give total immunity for his or her response.)
If you control your spouse, you very likely control and dominate your children as well, even if you do not intend to do so. As one woman wrote, “I was willing to live with it because of the kids, but when he started talking to my 10-year-old like he did to me (she looks just like me) I snapped. I called an attorney, got a backbone, and kicked him out.”
More to Come…
Part Three of this series will focus on how to deal with a dominating or controlling spouse to stop that behavior.
Publication date: February 1, 2013