Why is it so difficult to leave a controlling husband or any controlling partner? You are unhappy, you recognize the control and the nastiness, you have been thinking of leaving for a while, but doing it seems almost an impossible task. Some articles describe how women leave but return, often many times, before they finally get to leave a controlling husband for good.
People typically want to know what to do. They want to know the steps they need to take. You can read all the how-to articles you like, but if you are not mentally prepared to take the steps, doing all that planning without being able to actually put the plan into action can just frustrate you and make you feel that there is actually something wrong with you and this only adds to the anguish and suffering. In this case, understanding the what, the how and the why (what was done to you, how it was done and why) makes taking the steps infinitely easier.
In order to understand what happens in abusive and controlling relationships we have to examine the nature of a controlling husband, the dynamics of a controlling relationship and, most importantly, the state you are in.
There is much written about how a controlling husband may be a person who is deeply insecure, lonely, fearful, has low self esteem, is anxious and is afraid of being abandoned and they end up controlling others as a way to manage their difficult inner world. If your controlling husband doesn't quite fit into this group, by that I mean that, to you, he has never seemed weak or doubtful but rather he seems to be full of himself, all important and oozes confidence, then read on!
There are a group of people who also want to control others because they want to control others. They want the world to be the way they want the world to be. If you are having trouble trying to leave a controlling husband who is an outright bully who seems fearless and never admits to having any faults or weaknesses, then he might have a personality disorder.
I am specifically talking about psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists. If you haven't considered this before and you are already saying to yourself that it's a bit far fetched, bear with me for a bit.
Many people have an idea what a psychopath is but this idea is often based on movies and horror stories. A psychopath or sociopath is a person who has no conscience and a huge ego. What does that mean? Having no conscience means that a psychopath can do whatever they like and they never feel bad about it. They can hurt, abuse, torment and take advantage of others and it does not bother them.
Basically these people do not have emotions the way normal, healthy, feeling people do. There is no empathy, remorse, guilt, fear, shame, embarrassment or love. These are the socializing emotions that allow people to exist together in harmony for the benefit of everyone. The psychopath, not having such emotions, does not have an inner policeman that stops them from doing wrong.
When normal people think about doing bad things or breaking the rules, there are a range of emotions that put the brakes on, so to speak. These feelings get them to reconsider and if the person does go ahead anyway, there is often guilt and shame, especially if they are caught out.
The psychopath does not have any of this system in place. They do know the difference between right and wrong, they just do not care. If they do bad things, there is no guilt or remorse later. This means that even if caught, they often continue to do the same nasty things over and over again. Why? Because they want the gratification that it brings them and they are not bothered by the consequences.
Remember that idea of the big ego? They feel they are special, superior and entitled. They believe they can have whatever they want and they should have it now. They think they should have it even if it means that others have to suffer. For them, that's the way the world works.
A narcissist also has a personality disorder similar to the psychopath and in addition they crave praise, compliments and adoration.
If you are trying to leave a controlling husband, this may be a huge amount of information to take in. It may seem that you could not possibly be married to a psychopath. Your husband does have emotions and loves you and cares about you and he wouldn't deliberately do hurtful things. You may think he just has difficulty expressing his emotions, or he was abused as a child and that's the reason he is the way he is, or even that he loves you the best way he can. After all, he tells you, or at least he told you, that he loved you. And he wouldn't lie about that, would he? Would he?!?
Psychopaths are also practiced and professional liars. I say professional because this term is often used for someone who is paid for what they do. The psychopath makes a living at lying. They are experts in telling lies, hiding things and pretending to be someone they are not.
If you are struggling to leave a controlling husband, it's vital that you consider that your abusive spouse may be a psychopath or a narcissist. This is a whole different situation to someone who is a little bit controlling or jealous or insecure or who has 'abandonment issues'. It's a game changer because the rules are very different.
Let's look at why...
At the start of a relationship with a psychopath, the psychopath presents themselves as your ideal partner. Basically, the typical pattern is that the woman falls head over heels in love with a man that she thinks is the perfect partner for her, in the way he is, the things he does and the future he offers her. I am not going to go into the details here of how they do this, you can read about it in this article on what happens in a marriage to a sociopath.
(Another scenario is where the psychopath chases the woman until she finally gives in and agrees to go on a date and in that way she gets caught.)
Once involved, the behavior of this perfect being changes. It may be gradual or sudden, but he starts to do things that are hurtful and upsetting. Initially they can be excused away because he has been so great up to then.
But then the badness increases. He chips away at her with criticisms and snide remarks. He lets her down by breaking promises, changing his mind and even denying that he said or did certain things.
But there are still some nice times, especially after he has been nasty. He promises it will not happen again, he may give gifts and be especially nice and the woman feels that the relationship is back on track and things settle down.
Until the next episode of nastiness. And this becomes a regular thing. Cycles of nastiness, upset, promises of change, settling, nastiness upset, promises of change etc. Sometimes the promises of change stop and the victim is blamed for the abuse. He says things such as "I was only responding to what you did" or "Look what you made me do! You know I hate when you do that thing!" or "I am just doing this for your own good, so that you can improve/learn/grow as a person!"
Over time, and it doesn't necessarily have to be a long time, the husband begins to control the thoughts, the feelings, the decision making and the behavior of his wife.
Her thoughts and opinions are ridiculed and scoffed at. He makes comments about her clothes, her hair, her weight, her diet, her friends, her family, her work, her hobbies, her cleanliness, her ethics, her ability to do things and her personality. These are not complimentary things, but rather they are criticisms aimed at making her feel bad about herself and her life.
At the same time, the psychopathic or narcissistic husband is claiming to be all the things she is not. He is perfect. He is the ideal. He is what she should be aiming to be like. If only she was more like him then the relationship would be better, he claims.
By this stage the power in the relationship has shifted considerably, to him. She may not recognize this for a while, but it is no longer a relationship of equals. She may think she is making her own decisions but she doesn't recognize just how much influence he is having on her. And he is not happy with most of the power. Basically, he wants all of it. Nothing short of that will satisfy him. He wants someone who will listen and follow instructions. And no matter how hard the woman tries to do that, it's still never enough for him.
This is a basic pattern with the psychopaths. It doesn't matter how hard you try, how much work you do, how many things you give them, it's never enough. They keep pushing you for more. Goading and provoking you. Destroying your self esteem, stripping you of your freedom and your dignity and literally breaking your will.
He spends his money and your money. You may not even know what money he has. He goes where he wants and does what he wants but you have to report everything back to him. There is an underlying competitive streak and he has to win, every time.
His needs come first, second and third, Yours are a very distant fourth. He acts like the perfect gentleman in a public forum but he is a tyrant behind closed doors. He is never the problem, or wrong, or at fault. All that is passed directly to you.
He knows how to make you feel great. He knows how to make you feel awful. And you never know which he is going to do.
So what effect does all this have on you, the long suffering wife?
By the time a woman figures out what is going on and decides to leave a controlling husband many things have happened. She has been living in a high stress environment for years and the abusive man has been controlling her thoughts, emotions and behaviors for that time. He has also been manipulating her perception of herself, of the relationship and even her perception of reality. The woman is not the same person who got married. Basically the woman has been changed at the level of identity. She has undergone a personality change.
Outsiders say of people in abusive situations that they don't recognize them any longer, they are not themselves, they have changed, they are a shadow of their former selves and so on. What they are describing is this change of personality, the new personality that the psychopath or narcissist has imposed on them.
The good news is that this new personality is a false personality or pseudopersonality. It was forced upon the victim. It is something that is learned by the victim in order to cope with the situation. That means that it can be unlearned. The bad news is that it was created with powerful influence techniques over a long period of time and it is very strong and does not simply disappear on it's own. Just because you leave the situation does not mean the pseudopersonality will disappear spontaneously. It takes work to unravel it and to allow your repressed, real personality to develop and flourish again.
This idea of the pseudopersonality is fundamental to understanding the problems inherent in being able to leave a controlling husband.
As I mentioned, the manipulator wants a person who listens and follows instructions. This would mean believing the manipulator, trusting that they are right, accepting that they are more powerful and not criticizing or questioning the manipulator. And indeed, this is the way that the pseudopersonality is programmed to be. Add to that a large dose of dependency and you have the basic makeup of the pseudopersonality.
So to be clear, the manipulator/controlling husband/psychopath/narcissist changes you, at your very core, they give you a new personality which is basically the way they want you to be around them. They turn you into a subservient being who is programmed to take care of their every need irrespective of the cost to you. You are not allowed to think for yourself, to consider yourself first or to live your own life. The pseudopersonality is programmed to make the manipulator its life's purpose. The manipulator is the center of the universe of the pseudopersonality.
What does this all mean? How does this translate into real life?
Having a pseudopersonality means it's very difficult for you to make decisions. You are so used to his making the decisions that it's very hard for you to make choices that are good for you. Even thinking of leaving most likely brings up thoughts of how it's going to affect him and how awful it will be, rather than thinking how good it will be for you. One of the reasons for this is the dependency on the manipulator. Many victims can hardly even imagine a life without the manipulator because they are so programmed to stay in the relationship and consider that the relationship is forever. Even the most strong and independent woman can be reduced to a shell of herself where she is unable to decide the most basic things without the go ahead from a psychopathic husband. Some women may be brilliant at making decisions and managing the work situation but they fall apart at the thought of doing the same thing at home with a psychopathic or narcissistic husband.
The dependency of the pseudopersonality on the manipulator is huge. Don't underestimate this aspect. It's common knowledge that battered wives often return to their husbands. This is why. They feel so bad without him, so alone, so incomplete that when they leave a controlling husband they feel so unbelievably bad that the only thing that gives (temporary) relief is to go back to him. Outsiders cannot believe it when it happens but they really don't know what it's like for the victims. The dependency is also what stops many women from being able to leave a controlling husband in the first place. They may feel so dependent that they think that they will not be able to manage without him. Again, it seems nonsensical to anyone who has never been on the receiving end of mind control, but that's the way it is.
Your perception of the world, your thinking, your ability to rationalize and your world view have been very distorted by the manipulator. You will have suffered so much abuse that much of it will seem 'normal' to you. Things that would horrify others may seem ordinary to you because you have been exposed to so much of it. Behaviors that might be labeled as abusive by others may have other explanations and justifications in your mind.
For example, deciding what you eat is not actually for your health (as he says), it's a way for him to manipulate an important aspect of your life. His wanting to know where you go every time you leave the house is not actually because he is worried about you (as he claims), it's a way for him to control your time and behaviors. Running your decisions by him is not what all couples do (as he insists), it's called 'asking for permission'.
Your ability to see contradictions in the relationship is severely affected. While you may see some of them, not all of them are easily obvious to you. Believing that he loves you, for example, despite all the nasty behavior is a major contradiction. If you were to write a list of loving behaviors, those nasty behaviors would absolutely not be on the list. They belong on a very different list. Thinking that he loves you while he does all that nasty stuff is a distortion in thinking. (This is in no way a criticism of you, it's simply a comment on what happens in many mind control environments.)
And this is where the idea of the pseudopersonality helps to understand some things. The pseudopersonality is programmed in a very particular way. It does not, however, completely destroy the real personality which often acts in a very different way than the pseudopersonality.
The real personality is the one that wants to leave a controlling husband. The pseudopersonality is programmed to stay. There is typically an inner conflict because of this situation. The victim feels that part of her wants to leave, another part wants to stay and 'hope that things improve'. Because it is impossible to relieve this situation while the pseudopersonality in in place, the victim will often feel that there is something wrong with her and even that she is going crazy.
Many other conflicts can be explained by this idea of the pseudopersonality. The woman may love her husband and hate him at the same time. She may feel very angry at him and simultaneously feel she needs to take care of him.
She may have conflicting thoughts and feelings too. Her head is saying that he is nasty, her feelings are that she cares for him. Her head can see the abuse but her heart is saying that he would not treat her that way because he loves her. And the list of contradictions goes on and on...
There is no way to resolve these inner conflicts while the pseudopersonality is in place. While the pseudopersonality is dominant it keeps overriding the natural desires and instincts of the real personality.
The pseudopersonality is also programmed to be afraid of the manipulator and this fear can be so pervasive in someone's life that people can develop fears of things that they have not previously been afraid of, such as fear of the dark, flying, elevators and so on. This fear, with large doses of guilt, are used by the psychopaths and narcissists to control people. This fear is also used to stop people from leaving. There may be threats of violence, death threats, and threats such as "you'll never find anyone to love you the way I do!" (To which the response is "Whew! I hope not!!")
You can begin to understand now why it's so difficult to leave a controlling husband. It's never a matter of 'just leaving'. These manipulators change you at your very core, they manipulate your sense of yourself. They have been ripping your identity to shreds for years. Getting out is not an easy thing to do, and yet, it's the only way to recover from the damage that was done to you.
Based on these ideas, we can see that simply formulating a plan is not enough. Many women can't even get a plan together. They literally do not know what to do to leave a controlling husband and they have incredible difficulty even trying to figure it out.
You need the mental fortitude to develop a strategy and, just as importantly, to also carry through with it in such a way that you don't end up going back. So how do you build the mental ability?
Some women are in a controlling and manipulative relationship but don't actually recognize it for what it really is. They don't understand the gravity of their situation. They know it's bad but they don't realize how bad. These women need to learn more about psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists as well as about mind control. They need to come to terms with the fact that they are married to a psychopath and they need to understand the implications of that. Implications such as the notion that their husband is deliberately abusing them, he will never change and that as long as she stays in the relationship she will suffer. Understanding these things gives these women the necessary drive to get out of the relationship. (Believing that their husband can and will change has kept many a woman in an abusive relationship for years!)
Other women realize these things and are trying to leave a controlling husband but they are so dependent that they literally cannot physically or mentally get away. These women need to learn more about mind control so that they can begin to undo the pseudopersonality, reducing the dependency and so loosening the hold their abusive husband has on them. Only then can they take action to leave a controlling husband.
And other women are in such a dangerous position that they really need to run, or rather escape, as soon as possible, and pick up the pieces afterwards. If someone thinks that their psychopathic husband may continue to physically harm them or even kill them or the kids, they really need to get out straight away. These women can be greatly helped by an expert in psychological abuse who can educate them in order to overcome the dependency quickly so as to minimize their suffering once they have left and to make sure they do not go back.
And even after leaving, working with an expert is invaluable to continue the healing process. Remember that the pseudopersonality does not disappear on it's own. Some small aspects may resolve themselves over time but the system of beliefs and the patterns of behavior run so deep that it is not possible for people to fully undo a pseudopersonality on their own. Just look around at the number of people who have left a controlling relationship years ago and who are 'working on themselves' but still have all sorts of difficulties in their lives.
Here are some common beliefs that victims often have. However, these beliefs actually hold the victims back in their recovery and victims don't think to challenge them because they think that this is the way things are. In effect, the victims don't see them as beliefs, they think they are the reality of their situation.
These are often beliefs of the pseudopersonality, installed by the manipulator in order to keep the destructive cycle going.
Separating is only the first step in being able to leave a controlling husband.
In business they say that it's easier to keep a customer than to get a new one. For the psychopath, it's easier to keep a victim than to get a new one, too. So you can expect that your controlling husband is not going to let you go easily, not after investing all that time in controlling and manipulating you.
Many women breathe a sigh of relief when they leave only to realize that the abuse is being ramped up by their now angry and controlling husband.
Your leaving is a significant message to the psychopath that they are losing control. Remember that the motivation of the psychopath is control and domination and this means that you are now in a power struggle with the psychopath. And the struggle is for power over you.
If the psychopath cannot get you back, they often decide that if they can't have you, no-one else is going to either. They will use every dirty trick in the book (and they have very thick books!) to keep themselves in your life, to keep you busy so you don't have time for anything else and, in particular, to destroy you as a person. They will use the kids to get at you, they are willing to destroy your property, your business, your reputation and anything else that is important to you. Most women are not ready for this and just when they think they can relax and settle down, they have their world turned upside down in a major way.
This is why continuing to undo the pseudopersonality and the damage done by the psychopath or narcissist after actually leaving a controlling husband is vital. Working with an expert not only helps you to deal with what the psychopath is throwing at you, but it also keeps undermining the pseudopersonality, getting rid of the controlling beliefs and ideas and the fear. Only in this way can the woman hope to get free of the controlling husband.
It doesn't matter what stage you are at in terms of your plan to leave a controlling husband, undoing the pseudopersonality will help speed up the process and make the transitions easier for you to deal with. It will also help you not to fall into the traps of the psychopath and to avoid the common mistakes made in dealing with a sociopath.
If you want to fully recover from narcissistic abuse or psychopathic abuse, you have to understand what specifically was done to you. You need to learn what techniques were used against you, how they were used, what effect they had on your thinking, your emotions and your behavior. The more you understand these things, the less their effects and the sooner your own personality can surface to start 'running the show' again. Obviously, the sooner you start doing this the better.
So lets have a look at things you physically need to do to leave a controlling husband.
You can read more about mind control, recovery from a narcissistic relationship, the signs of verbal abuse and the characteristics of a psychopath.
Return from Leave A Controlling Husband to Definition of Psychopath
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