Reading the statistics gathered by the UN, it is easy to recognize the power men hold over women on a national, cultural and familial level. This masculine and powerful stereotype of men perpetuates power hungry behavior and dictates the way men perceive themselves and women. Regardless of whether the controlling man exerts this power from a place of arrogance or insecurity, his actions often take an enormous toll on the psychological state of the woman. In fact, according to Spring Tide Resources, women report that the emotional abuse affects them “just as much, if not more than physical abuse.” Unfortunately, 35 percent of women who are married or in common-law marriages have experienced emotional abuse in the United States. And tragically this often turns into the 29 percent of women who are physically abused. It seems no country escapes these statistics. In every statistically reliable country, anywhere from 10 to 50 percent of women report having been physically abused, according to the Domestic Abuse Shelter organization.
According to The Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System, the most common characteristic of abusive men is their need for control. Perhaps your partner is exhibiting difficult behavior. You’re wondering, why does he do that? It’s important to catch this behavior early, and take action. Often, women are tenderly conditioned to defend a controlling partner or manipulated to suffer the insecurity of feeling insane.
Others, of course, may not have experience with a controlling boyfriend. It’s important to understand the warning signs of a controlling man and the different types of controlling behavior, whether you fear you may be in a controlling relationship, or are simply preparing yourself against one. The signs of controlling men could be a combination of the following:
- He doesn’t allow you to make decisions, especially personal decisions.
Often, it’s not the decisions themselves that a controlling person cares about, but the power they represent. These decisions could be about anything from living choices, clothing, how you spend your time, and how you spend your money. However, if he does allow you to make decisions, he may punish you for making what he sees to be the wrong one. If you make a decision, he’ll question your thinking, and may tell you, “You’re not thinking straight.”
- He interrogates you on your time spent without him.
A controlling man is often insecure, so his questions are a way to reassure himself that you still belong to him. Possibly, he could want to know your every action, who you talked to and what you talked about. He may express jealousy or accuse you of flirting with other men or being unfaithful to him. To physically control this, he may forbid you from talking to someone, or shame you for a clothing decision, or not permit you to wear certain clothes outright.
- He tries to limit your interaction with others.
In another attempt to cater to his insecurities, a controlling man will sever your outside ties completely. He feels insecure about any relationship you have that he does not take part in. In an attempt to prevent you from spending time with others, he may accuse you of being controlled by others, or call your outside friends “bad influences,” that are “trying to put a wedge” between you and him. He may even take your time with others personally, and construe it as your failure to commit to the relationship.
In cases of extreme control, he may control your physical access to social interaction, by controlling your use of social media and a car. He may dissuade you from gaining education or professional work and qualifications in an attempt to control your time and limit your social outlets. Women in relationships with controlling men will often feel completely isolated if he has his way.
A controlling man will deny to you, and potentially to himself, that he is trying to control you. Instead, he shifts the blame to you, believing that his actions are a natural response to the perceived misbehavior of the woman. Rather than admitting that he is angry, a controlling man will tell you that your actions hurt him. He will then use this guilt to coerce you into behaving the way he wants you to. A controlling man often disguises his need for control as love, concern, or hurt feelings.
- He wants the relationship to be entirely codependent.
A controlling man’s desire to be codependent may appear as love. He may say, “You make me happy,” or “you are all I need.” While this may appear sweet, in some relationships it is meant to put an unhealthy pressure on the woman to satisfy his needs. It makes you responsible for his well-being. On the other hand, a controlling man may expect you to be wholly satisfied by him. He may say, “If you love me, then I’m all you need.” Not only does this limit your desires to what he can provide, it perceives your love as contingent on your behavior–just another way to guilt you into doing what he wants. A healthy relationship acknowledges that two people certainly need love and validation from other types of relationships and sources, such as careers and community involvement.
- He wants you to fit inside a rigid gender role
A controlling man expects a ‘woman to be a woman.’ He considers you as inferior to him, or believes you, as a woman, are meant to be subservient to him. He believes your role as a woman is to serve him, and obey him. He does not trust your judgment like his own, believing you, like all women, are not as capable of logical thinking as men.
Sex is another environment where a controlling man exerts his control. He may ‘playfully’ use force during sex, or express excitement over the concept of rape. He acts this out by initiating sex while you are unsuspecting or sleeping. If you deny him, he manipulates, or persuades you to have sex by sulking or expressing anger. He may even withhold intimacy unless you satisfy his sexual desires.
If you feel trapped in a controlling relationship, do not despair. There are actions you can take to change the atmosphere of the relationship. Or, if it is too emotionally abusive or at all physically abusive, you can end the relationship.
According to psychotherapist Julie Orlev, the most important step is to “be willing to walk away from the relationship if need be.” This simple and healthy mindset will allow you make decisions without fear of losing the relationship. Reevaluate yourself as a person outside of the relationship. Has his control crippled or swayed your personal value, beliefs and goals? If he asks you to do something contrary to these, say ‘no.’ Compromise is important in any relationship, but not at the expense of your core person. If he cannot accept this, it is time to end the relationship, no matter how much you feel for him.
In order to salvage the relationship, you will need to set limitations on the type of criticism, or amount of reasonable concern for your personal actions. Set a new tone of honesty by confronting him whenever you feel manipulated or controlled. If he cannot have a reasonable and honest conversation devoid of emotive logic, it may be time to cut ties with him.
Remember that you have value outside the relationship. Reconnect with the people who are honest with you, appreciate you, and respect your autonomy. A truly loving partner will express his love in a supportive way, and can live with the choices you make even when he does not agree with them. When he disagrees, he confronts you in an honest way without resorting to manipulation or power plays. Most importantly, he is able to empathetically understand you as an equal with your own desires and decisions.
According to neuropsychologist, Ian H. Robertson, empathy is often lacking in controlling people. “If we arouse power feeling in otherwise ordinary people, they begin to see others as objects,” Robertson explains, “Objects, after all, don’t have free will and don’t make decisions. This sort of power snuffs out empathy-how can we have empathy for an object?” In an unhealthy relationship, a controlling person may view you only as a means to their own end, reducing you to an object in their system of desires. If you fear your partner sees you this way, there is no reason for you to degrade yourself to please him.
Remember, you can take control of your life. Reach out to family, friends, and organizations for support. Don’t be intimidated, and pick the phone and call the police if you ever feel threatened.