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She could have passed for a Wall Street attorney, the way she took on Mr. Hyde---the shadowy, mean-spirited personality of her otherwise wonderful husband. So focused on his angry, controlling outburst, I nearly overlooked this aspect to her otherwise gentle and caring personality.
I've been increasingly impressed with how frequently men exhibit this "dark" side to their personality. Leaders in business, the church and even their families, many men have a ‘Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde' complex, where the majority of time they are generous, caring, dynamic and charismatic. They are elders in their church, active fathers and wonderful husbands—except when they slip into the shadow side of their personality. These men challenge their mates, of course, but often successfully manipulate marriage counselors as well.
But, what about the shadow side of the women married to these men? I call them Crusaders. These women, hooked by the secretive, angry and dominating shadow side of their husband, can be equally destructive.
"He makes me so mad," Lori said bluntly during a recent counseling session. "He lies and I can't stand it. It drives me crazy."
Her husband Ken, shrugged with disgust.
"I don't lie," he said angrily. "She just doesn't like what I tell her. When I say something she doesn't like, watch out. She comes after me like a Pit Bull."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, I tell her something she doesn't like to hear, like how much time I have to spend on a project, and she goes ballistic. If I have fifty dollars unaccounted for, here she comes. She becomes a private detective, checking my calendar, quizzing me about my day, looking for ways to trap me. She gets into my checkbook, looking for some way of attacking me. I'm not going to be controlled like that."
"But, he's not telling me the whole truth," she said emphatically, leaning forward. "I can tell when he's spent more than he admits. I know when he's exaggerating something. He says one thing and does another. I can't just ignore that. Why can't he just be honest with me?"
"I don't make you account for every minute of your day," Ken said defensively. "You have no right to make me account for every penny. I make more than you do anyway! And how dare you call my office and ask my secretary twenty questions."
"See what I mean?" she said, looking to me for help. "His attitude stinks."
I watched and listened as Ken and Lori locked horns in a needless power struggle. Was Ken really deceptive, or was Lori overly focused on incidental aspects of his behavior? Was there some secondary gain obtained by her "Crusader-like" attack on him? Watching her in action, I could see where Ken would be threatened by the intensity of her inquisition, increasing his Mr. Hyde qualities. Certainly, their behaviors reinforced each other, creating incredible division and leading them to the brink of divorce. Something had to be done. I've talked about how to approach Mr. Hyde in previous articles. Now let's focus on a role wives often embrace: The Crusader.
First, like Mr. Hyde, The Crusader is not trying to be this way. I've found these women most often are reacting to some aspect of their husband's behavior. While they may have some predisposition to being controlling, their sense of justice gets hooked when they feel manipulated or duped in some way.
Second, these women aren't aware of the damage of their behavior. Because they feel entitled to act the way they do, they are resistant to change. They feel justified in looking into their husband's email, checkbook and calendars. Sensing that something isn't ‘right,' they're driven to ‘right the wrongs.'
Third, their Crusader-like behavior often makes matters worse. While their behavior is understandable, slipping into ‘parenting' their mate never works. Parental behavior on their part usually reinforces ‘child-like' behavior on the part of their mate. Parental qualities of checking up on a mate reinforces deceptive, childlike, rebellious behavior.
Fourth, adult-to-adult interactions are needed. Healthy relationships are built upon respect, stemming from adult to adult interactions. No one wants to be scolded, shamed, checked up on or humiliated. While Crusaders are tempted to justify their shaming actions, blaming it on his behavior, this never works. Just as Mr. Hyde must move into mature and effective functioning, so it is with The Crusader. Problems can only be solved when both mates are in their adult-state, cooperating with each other in finding solutions to the problems hurting them.
Fifth, step back and choose how to respond to Mr. Hyde's behavior. Refuse to be controlled by another's actions. Take care not to slip into acting disrespectfully, regardless of how a mate acts. Don't be impulsive or reactive to his behavior. Carefully choose how to respond, seeking healthy interactions and setting boundaries on any immature and unhealthy behavior. As I indicate in my book, Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life, we regain control of our lives through setting boundaries on what we will accept and what we refuse to accept.
Remind yourself of our Scriptural imperative to always treat others with respect:
"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." (Romans 12:16-18)
Finally, couples counseling is often the only venue for effective change. Crusaders, like Mr. Hyde, often have little awareness of their actions. Having spent years justifying their actions, they need to get back in position—not being "hooked" into acting like the caretaker of healthy relating in their marriage. This must be a joint venture and depth, couples counseling is the way to change these unhealthy patterns of relating.
Are you in a relationship with The Crusader? Are you a Crusader who wants out of this role? Send me your thoughts at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
Dr. David Hawkins is the director of the Marriage Recover Center where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life, 90 Days to a Fantastic Marriage, and Saying It So He'll Listen. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.