In this article about a controlling husband, I am going to assume that you have already established for yourself that you are with a controlling, abusive man. You have probably known for some time that things were not right but you could not put your finger on what was going on. But recently your suspicions were confirmed that you are not actually the one who is the problem, he is, despite him blaming you for everything for years.
You can probably recognize that the wonderful person you fell for initially is not the man you are actually married to now. You can now see some of the signs of a controlling spouse. You recognize that he was controlling your time, your clothes, your diet, the finances, your relationships with family and friends, your children. By criticizing and belittling you he was controlling your thoughts, your beliefs and your decision making.
He was also definitely controlling your emotions. He can make you feel just awful by the way he talks to you, or even with a tone of voice or a particular look. He knows how to make you feel great, too, but somehow nowadays that doesn't happen very often. Then there is all the drama and chaos, the problems and crises that wreak havoc with your emotions and have you running from one end of the day to the other so that you are physically exhausted with no time for yourself, neither to rest nor to think.
If you have ever thought you were going crazy because you couldn't make sense of what has been going on in your relationship, or if you think that if only he would stop doing certain things and treat you nicely things would be so much better, this page is for you. And if you are at a loss to understand how someone you love can be so cruel and heartless to you, then keep reading.
(If you are still not sure if you are with a controlling husband or not, you can have a look at these signs of emotional abuse.)
If you knew back then what you know now, you probably wouldn't have even started a relationship with your controlling husband. Well, he knows that, too, and he also knew how to hide his true nature from you initially so that you didn't have all the necessary information to make an informed decision about getting into a relationship with him. In other words, you were tricked. He deliberately withheld information and presented you with false information about himself in order to get you to think that he would make a great partner for you. He presented himself as able to provide what you needed, support you in the way that you wanted, take care of your financial situation and generally make you happy and satisfied. This is where the control actually started. He was controlling your initial impressions of him in such a way that you felt that you had met someone who was an ideal partner for you.
In such a situation it was an easy decision for you to commit to a relationship with him and plan a future.
But once there was a firm commitment on your part, the control changed. He continued to control your impressions of him (he is marvelous, intelligent, loving and successful) and he added in direct control of your actions, your thinking and your emotions.
Not only was he able to make you feel amazingly good, but now he started to make you feel incredibly bad as well. Criticism, humiliation, not keeping his word, flat out lying to you, all became part of his repertoire.
Your opinions were challenged. You were made to feel bad for having certain ideas or beliefs. As time went on, your thinking changed to be more aligned with his. Even if you secretly didn't agree with some things, you went along with them to keep the peace.
There was a system of rewards and punishments put in place, although you probably didn't recognize this for some time. If you crossed him, there was hell to pay. This was the punishment aspect. If you worked hard at making life comfortable for him, going along with him, there were rewards of some sort. They may have been few and far apart, but there would have been just enough good times to keep you in the relationship, giving you just enough hope during all the misery and upset that things would turn good again. Sometimes the reward was that he didn’t shout at you all day.
In this way your behaviors changed to looking after him more and more, with less attention paid to what you wanted. Your life revolved around not upsetting him. He became the purpose of your life. Your decision making was organized around what you thought he would or would not want, what would or would not please him.
And if there are children, they were probably controlled by him through you. He set the rules and you had to make sure the children kept to these rules. He also treated the children very badly, lying to them, shouting, saying horrible things, even criticizing you and blaming you for problems in front of them. A mother's natural response in such a situation is to try and be extra nice to the kids to compensate for the nasty treatment doled out by him.
A fairly common thing with a controlling husband is to use physical violence once or twice early in the relationship. Thereafter, there may be no more physical abuse but there is always that threat there, either spoken or unspoken. This threat is a very powerful control mechanism. Of course, in some situations a controlling husband is just physically abusive on a regular basis.
Many a controlling husband has a personality disorder. This means that their relationships with others are based on exploitation, deception and coercion. They have no emotions, no empathy, meaning that they cannot put themselves in the shoes of others; they are unable to feel the pain or upset of those around them. Their personality is manipulative, callous, impulsive, egocentric and attention seeking.
The more common name for these types is psychopath, sociopath and narcissist. If you haven't realized this yet, it can be shocking because most people have an impression of what a psychopath or narcissist is, and their husband doesn't fit into that. So let's take a closer look.
A psychopath has no conscience and a huge ego. The lack of conscience comes from the absence of emotions, no guilt, fear, remorse, embarrassment, love, empathy or regret. They can do anything and not feel bad about it. This is very significant. They can do anything they want and not feel bad about it. This explains how a psychopathic serial killer can do what he or she does and not be upset by what has happened. But not all psychopaths are serial killers and not all serial killers are psychopaths. A tiny, tiny percentage are serial killers or serial rapists. The vast majority are in society and go largely undetected because they act like normal humans. They marry, get jobs, buy houses and for all intents and purposes, from afar, they seem like normal people. They can be charming and friendly in public.
But behind closed doors, as you well know, they can be tyrants and dictators. Their lack of empathy means they can be callous, cruel, abusive and literally destroy people but they don't feel bad about it. This can be hard to accept initially, that there are people who don't have emotions. You may even be convinced that your controlling husband does, but at the same time there have been lots of times when there was a weird lack of emotion on the part of your controlling spouse. No tears on the death of a parent or a total lack of response to the birth of a child, for example.
One emotion your controlling husband will typically have is a fierce temper. But even that is strange. He loses his temper for the least little thing or for no reason at all. It can be unpredictable, one day something really upsets him and the next it is no big deal. And the temper will disappear as quickly as it appeared. When he loses it, everyone around is shaken and stirred and the residual effects may last for hours. But he can be raging one moment and turn around the next and act as if nothing untoward had happened. This, in and of itself, can be very unnerving. The explosive anger present in one instant is just gone the next and he acts as cool as a cucumber.
It's usually at this point that he criticizes you for being too emotional and not being able to control yourself. So you get abused twice for the same incident, the first is being on the receiving end of his fury and the second is the criticism for being emotionally upset at his rage (which is actually a normal, healthy response to what he was doing). This type of rage is very psychopathic or narcissistic.
Things an abusive husband says
You can think of a narcissist as being similar to a psychopath with the addition that the narcissist wants to be the center of attention all the time. They want praise, adoration and compliments from those around them. This is called narcissistic supply.
The reason I say that a narcissist is similar to a psychopath (or sociopath) is that they both have no conscience and they both use mind control techniques to dominate and control their victims. From this perspective, it's not important what particular diagnosis your controlling husband has. And besides, to make a formal diagnosis means interviews by trained professionals, a review of past records and so on and most socialized psychopaths are not going to agree to that. They won't even admit that they are psychopaths. They are much more likely to accuse you of being a controlling psychopath! My point is that some people call their controlling husband a psychopath, others a sociopath and others consider their controlling husband a narcissist. The distinction is academic, what's more important is what exactly the controlling husband does and says, because studying these particular things is enough to undo the damage they cause.
Learn more about psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists.
We have seen so far how a controlling husband changes your beliefs, your thinking, your decision making and how he controls your emotions. Your perception of the world is changed (he is in your head all the time and everything revolves around him) and how you act in the world is altered (you do things to please him and to not upset him).
All this adds up to a major change in the person you are. Your personality is basically manipulated into being something else. If friends or family have tried to warn you about him and say that you are different in some way, it's these changes they wee referencing, although they may not have been as explicit about it as I have been here. Either way, they knew he was having a profound influence on you, and they didn't like it.
This new personality is actually a false personality or pseudopersonality. It is imposed on you without your knowing and certainly without your consent. Most of the influence techniques being used against you were used without your being aware of the degree of psychological pressure being applied.
At the start of the relationship you willingly went along with some of the changes because that's what people do in new relationships. You make compromises, you find common ground to please each other. But even then, you were being tricked into thinking that you were making your own decisions, because your decision making was done with faulty information, through no fault of your own!
This pseudopersonality was imposed on top of your real personality and it dominates and suppresses your real personality without ever destroying it. This idea helps to explain some of the conflicts that occur when you live with a controlling person. Your real personality may not like the treatment and want out, but the pseudopersonality is programmed to be dependent on the manipulator and because it is dominant most of the time, you end up staying in an abusive relationship for years. The pseudopersonality is programmed to take care of the abuser but the real personality may hate the controlling husband. These contradictory emotions of hating and needing to care for a person can be very distressing and there really is no way to resolve the conflict as long as the pseudopersonality in in place. In fact, contradictory emotions, or thoughts that contradict feelings, are very common in someone who is trying to cope with a controlling person and it's one of the reasons that the victim may consider that they themselves are the problem or even that they are going mad because they cannot resolve the conflict.
The pseudopersonality is programmed by the psychopath or narcissist to be subservient and obedient, to take care of the manipulator and to put the manipulator's wants and needs first, second and third. It treats the manipulator as superior and works hard to gain the approval of the manipulator. And it does this even if the victim is arguing back and fighting the manipulator, although often the victim won't like to admit this.
The pseudopersonality is dependent on the manipulator, too. Often the victim cannot even imagine a future without the manipulator and this explains how some people leave a controlling husband but then return again. What happens is that the pseudopersonality feels so bad without the manipulator that the only way to alleviate the bad feelings is to go back to the abuser. Even thought the person knows that it's a bad thing to do (the real personality) the bad feelings of isolation, helplessness and emptiness are so strong that the person overrides logical thinking and returns to the abuser.
This does NOT mean the victim is codependent, has a weak personality, needs someone to make decisions for her or likes the abuse. These ideas are created by people who do not understand mind control and simply blame the victim.
The pseudopersonality is created using heavy duty influence techniques that are repeated over and over, often on a daily basis. The beliefs and behavior patterns are strengthened and reinforced over years. The manipulator is deliberately molding the victim to be a certain way. The manipulator may not think in terms of pseudopersonality but is intentionally changing beliefs and behaviors. All these things mean that the pseudopersonality does not disappear on it's own simply because the person leaves the relationship or the mind control environment. It takes time and effort to tease things apart so that you can understand how the pseudopersonality was put in place. Understanding the subtleties of mind control techniques lessens their effect on you and learning about mind control, psychopaths and narcissists is the only way to fully undo the effects of these creatures.
Another very important factor here is that when a person has been in an abusive relationship and has not undone their pseudopersonality, the next psychopath they meet will instantly recognize the beliefs and behaviors of submission, they will recognize that they have an easy target in front of them and they will take aim.
The pseudopersonality is also programmed to reveal things about itself because psychopaths want information to better increase their control over their victims. The more information, the more control they have. A person who has recently left an abusive situation will often be quite happy to chat about their awful relationship with others. If this new acquaintance offering a friendly ear happens to be a psychopath or a narcissist, the victim ends up giving them all the information they need to pick up where the last manipulator left off! This may sound unlikely but it is actually very, very common!
A victim may think that they would spot another controlling man but not all controlling people are alike. There is no stereotypical controlling husband. The next manipulator will learn what patterns you know how to recognize and will avoid them until you are committed in the relationship and then by the time you start to see the signs of a controlling boyfriend, it's too late, you are neck deep in another abusive situation.
Some ideas on help for sexual abuse victims...
If your controlling husband is a psychopath or a narcissist, then this is very different situation from one in which a controlling husband has other reasons for being controlling but is (genuinely!) willing and open to working on themselves and on the relationship in order to make things better between you. A psychopath or a narcissist is not going to change. They see no reason to change because they consider themselves to be superior to others, they act as if they are always right and they don't doubt themselves.
So bearing in mind that they are not going to change, you should never give a psychopath the benefit of the doubt, you can't negotiate with them (you have been trying for years and it just doesn't work!) and you must never underestimate a psychopath, the best option is to get out of the relationship.
Even if there are children, or rather, especially if there are children, getting out is the best option. It is considered that children should have a relationship with both parents. However, people who say this leave out the rest of that sentence. The full sentence is that children should have a relationship with both parents except where there is physical, psychological or sexual abuse. Or, in the language that is being used nowadays, unless it is not in the best interests of the children. Being abused is not in anyone's best interests, least of all children who are the most vulnerable and the least able to protect themselves.
So the thing to do is to get out and get help, because you are going to need it. Help from family and friends as well as professional help. Working with an expert in this field is absolutely worth it. You have been programmed to believe that you should be able to sort everything out yourself, but getting away from a controlling husband is a big deal and you should take all the help you can get.
An expert will speed up your recovery, helping you to avoid the common mistakes and pitfalls and pointing things out to you that you might miss yourself. Verbalizing what happened to you to someone who does not judge or criticize you, who understands what you have been through and who can explain why things happened the way they did is an important part of your recovery.
You can read more about the signs of verbal abuse, dealing with a sociopath, what it's like in a marriage to a sociopath, recovering from a psychopathic relationship and how to divorce a sociopath.
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You have the theory but how do you actually apply it? This book spells it out...
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