Forms of Control in Marriage

One of the easiest ways to destroy a marriage is for one to attempt to control his/her spouse – or for both partners to try to control each other. Yet, the problem of power and control is one of the hidden issues that affect a great number of relationships. Forms of control often exist without the couple even becoming aware of what is happening. This is because control takes many subtle forms.  Furthermore, most people have little insight regarding their propensity to be a controller.  Unfortunately, there are several attitudes and behaviors adopted by many that are aimed at controlling their mate – whether they realize it or not.

Below is a partial list of common ways that spouses use in an attempt to control one another – whether consciously or unconsciously. [See related article for the rest of the list.]  It is suggested that you read each description carefully and evaluate your personal inclinations. Examine your intentions and motivations closely and commit yourself to cease any controlling tendencies you may discover.

Persistence generally takes the form of repeatedly begging, insisting, expressing one’s expectations or demands. The objective is to wear down one’s spouse until they give in. This can play out similar to a child who repeatedly his parent until he gets what he wants.

Nagging is making demands in a griping or complaining fashion. It is similar to persistence with the added characteristic that it virtually always takes a very negative tone. The goal is also to wear one’s partner down – but it does so specifically by annoying or irritating until he/she finally caves.

Avoidance usually takes the form of physical or emotional distance. This can include withdrawing one’s self by refusing meaningful communication, being emotionally unavailable, or even physically evading one’s mate. A common form of avoidance is utilizing the silent treatment.

Passive-aggression is similar to avoidance in many ways. However, it is generally marked by specific behaviors including: apathy, procrastinating, stubbornness, creating chaos, sulking, obstructing reconciliation, and so forth. All of these are marked by negative yet passive, disavowed resistance to interpersonal situations in the relationship.

Punishment typically takes two forms. The first is withholding something that one’s spouse needs or upon which they have come to depend. This can include sex, fulfilling duties/responsibilities (i.e. household chores), favors, and so forth. The second form is inflicting something negative or hurtful upon one’s mate. This can include intentionally arranging circumstances to make their household duties more difficult, and so forth.

Withholding love can be a form of punishment. This takes place when a spouse denies affection, intimacy, closeness, kindness, and so forth. It deserves special mention because it is a particularly destructive. Affection is a genuine need that we have as human beings. When it is withheld this can put extreme pressure on a person to conform to the wishes – but at a cost to the relationship.

Rewarding generally takes the form of providing gifts and favors in an effort to control. Of course, there is nothing wrong with gifts and favors. These are a positive thing if done with the right motivation. Rewarding, however, becomes a form of control if the intent is to manipulate. Sometimes rewarding is done as a type of appeasement in conjunction with intimidation, punishment, or other methods of control.

[See related article for the rest of the list.]
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