Editor's note: This is part 1 of a 3-part series on controlling and dominating spouses. Today's article discusses how to identify such a spouse.

Marriages become distressed for a variety of reasons. In our turnaround weekend for crisis marriages, we see them all; infidelity, addiction, poor communication, lack of love, anger, and more. One of the most common difficulties leading couples to us is one spouse controlling or dominating the other.

Some controlled or dominated spouses finally had enough and decided not to take it any longer. They took a stand and made it clear that if things do not change the marriage will soon be over. Others fell into an emotional relationship with someone who treated them with dignity and respect. All have one thing in common: they demand a different life than the one they have been subjected to in their marriages.

Though in actuality the marriage has been in trouble for some time, the other spouse did not recognize the severity of the problem. From our workshops, we know that most controlling or dominating spouses have little comprehension of how their actions affect their spouses. As they become aware of their spouse’s negative reactions to them, they typically justify their behaviors by explaining their intentions. We often hear them say things such as:

“I thought I was helping by pointing out things she could do better.”

“I admit that I can be a little harsh in the way I say things, but that’s just the way I am. He knew that when he married me. I never meant to make him feel badly about himself.”

“If I didn’t control the money, she’d spend us into the poor house. If I let her do what she wanted, our kids would be wearing hand-me-downs.”

“Isn’t it fair for me to say what I think? I was only standing up for what I believe and I can’t help it if that offends him.”

“I think I have a right to have her take care of me and my needs rather than always running off to do any and everything her family wants from her. I wasn’t controlling; I was trying to make my marriage work.”

From their viewpoint, they did nothing wrong. However, their spouses feel anger, resentment, and sometimes bitterness because of the way they have been treated.

Because this problem prevails in so many marriages, I placed a survey online for people who feel that their spouses control or dominate them. Though not exhaustive, the survey indicated at least nine areas in which people feel controlled or dominated by their spouses. Unfortunately, only females responded to the survey. Therefore, all quotes in the next section are from women. However, we know from our work with marriages that situations exist where the wife dominates or controls the husband.

Because so many controlling or dominating people tend to dismiss complaints from their spouses, I supply the quotes below with two goals. First, I wish 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 give examples of how several different people feel controlled in hopes of creating awareness within the dominating spouse of how his/her actions are perceived.

SPECIAL NOTE: If your spouse is physically violent, or if you have any fear for your safety, skip this article and call the Domestic Abuse Hotline for information about how to be safe. 1-888-7HELPLINE – US & Canada)

Ways That Spouses Control

My Spouse Tries to Control What I Do Or Wear

Writing about her current husband, one respondent stated, “He makes choices for me including the food I eat.”

Referring to a former spouse, another respondent wrote, “I wasn't allowed to wear makeup or ‘revealing’ clothes. However, he required me to wear sexy lingerie weekly.”