The following signs of an abusive spouse, if they are present in your own relationship, should be a cause of concern. Do not dismiss them for any reason. A controlling spouse will have any amount of reasons, justifications and excuses for their behaviour. This itself is a red flag. It's a trick to distract your attention from the abusive behaviour.
What you really need to do is pay attention to the behaviour or the words themselves. Is what your spouse does controlling or manipulative? Are the words they say to you hurtful and demeaning? This is what you need to deal with. People can justify all sorts of behaviours to make them seem acceptable. For the torturor, torture itself is acceptable.
There is no acceptable excuse for one spouse to abuse, humiliate, take advantage of, manipulate and destroy the life of the other spouse. Many controlling spouses claim that they behave the way they do for the benefit of the relationship or to help the other person. Because of the nature of mind control, the victim ends up accepting the excuses and justifications of the abuser. This is a ruse by the abuser to be able to continue to dominate and control the victim.
The signs of an abusive spouse may be different at the start, middle and the end of the relationship.
You had some doubts about getting married but you managed to put them to one side and you did it anyway. There may have been doubts because of something your spouse said or something they did, but everything else seemed okay and you thought you would give them the benefit of the doubt.
Or your family and friends warned you about this person, letting you know in various ways that they don't like them. However, you were so enamoured that you defended this controlling spouse telling your friends and family that they don't know your spouse like you do.
Some people go as far as to say that they knew getting married was a mistake. For others, their wedding day was one of the worst days of their lives.
You find out a shocking piece of information about your spouse after you are married. If you had known this beforehand, it would have been a dealbreaker.
It's very likely that shortly after meeting your spouse you were very attracted to them. Some people even say the felt that they had met their soulmate after knowing this person for only a few hours.
There are lots of compliments, nice times, gifts and many moments where you're made to feel special and different.
At some point, usually gradually but sometimes abruptly, all the nice behaviour changes. All the care and attention you were given becomes dependent on your fulfilling their terms and conditions. If you don't do just as they want, all the niceties are withheld and the punishments begin.
You are not allowed to make unilateral decisions. You have to check everything with your spouse. Even if they are not present, you ask yourself in your head how they would respond if you do such and such and you make a decision according to whether they will be pleased about it or not.
They make comments about your clothes, hairstyle, food and drink to the point that you modify these things to please them.
They may deprive you of sleep, not letting you rest in bed in the mornings and/or keeping you up late at night.
There are lots of arguments about the same thing over and over again. You may think that your spouse does not understand you or even that you are not communicating well. However, the fact is that your spouse does understand but just doesn't care. They take the opportunity to continue to try and force their ideas into your head.
You are expected to report your thoughts, feelings and actions to your spouse. You may realise that you actually know very little about theirs.
There are lots of rules. Their rules! It's their rules for you and their rules for themselves. They can change the rules at a moments notice. They may not tell you that they have changed the rules. There are also lots of unwritten rules that you have learnt along the way in order to keep them from getting angry.
A controlling spouse lies to you, either directly or by withholding or distorting information. They say one thing but do something different.
They have no sense of responsibility. They don't stick to the rules, they don't keep their word and they don't pay you back.
They will also keep you very busy. So busy, in fact, that you don't have time to reflect on and ponder your situation.
You feel like they're watching your every move. Any mistake or error, and they decide what a mistake is(!), is punished.
They forgive you nothing but expect you to forgive everything about them.
Whatever they say goes. You are not allowed to criticize or challenge them or even to have your own opinions.
They, however, are free to criticize you and anybody else and they do it often.
They make you feel afraid and guilty about a huge variety of things. Very often you don't realise just how much fear and guilt you are going through until you have the ability to distance yourself from them.
They keep you on an emotional rollercoaster. Your life is spent crashing around from one crisis to the next. You may have realized that they are deliberately causing all this drama around themselves.
If they are feeling that they're losing control, a common step is for the controlling spouse to make friends with you again, to act all nice and kind, do you favors and generally make you feel good. They know that when you are in this state it makes it more difficult for you to leave.
If you tell them you want to leave, they may cycle through a whole series of tactics in order to convince you that you're making a mistake. They claim they will change. They remind you of the good times you have had together. They remind you of the nice things they have done for you to make you feel indebted to them. They blame you for the problems. They tell you that you will never find anyone who will love you the way they do, that you will end up alone forever. They suggest you think about how fantastic a future you could have together.
They may start a campaign to get people on their side against you. They will spread lies and rumours about you to blacken your character.
Even though you are divorcing them, they will tell people they started the proceedings. They don't want others to know that you are leaving them, they claim that it's their choice.
They can be masters at playing the victim role.
They may threaten you, everything from making your life a misery to making sure you never see the kids again and even threats of killing you.
Even after the separation, they will do things to torment you. Many people think that once they are separated that things will settle down. However, an abusive spouse will have other plans. In fact, their most important plan is to disrupt your life as much as possible. You are now in a power struggle with a manipulator and these people do not like to lose. Knowing that they have made you angry gives them a sense that they are still controlling you.
They will make it as difficult as possible for you to have no contact with them. They will pull all sorts of stunts to continue a conversation with you because they want information about you to continue the control. Every time they contact you, in whatever media, they are controlling and abusing you and trying to get one over on you.
They will drag things out as much as possible, again, to maintain contact. It gives them a sense of domination to watch you suffer.
Even with court orders they will find a way to try and break it where you can do nothing about it. For example, they submit paperwork a day or two late, or they pay alimony a week late to make you struggle, but what they do is not quite enough for you to be able to bring them back to court for contempt, but it's enough for them to demonstrate that the rules don't apply to them and nobody is going to tell them what to do.
The best thing you can do is to first learn about mind control, psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists. You need to understand what you are dealing with and what is being done to you. You have been in an abusive relationship for a long time without realizing what exactly what was going on. Knowledge is important here because the information available to you has been tightly monitored by the controlling spouse and there were many things going on that were outside of your awareness. This needs to change. Only then will you be able to make informed decisions about how to deal with your situation.
Read more about whether a controlling person can change, what makes a person a psychopath, the relationship dynamics with narcissistic boyfriends and narcissistic husbands, the stages of an abusive relationship, how to handle manipulative people and how to divorce a sociopath.
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