More Forms of Control in Marriage

Attempting to control one’s spouse – whether purposely or unintentionally – is a sure way to erode affection in the relationship and eventually destroy it. Yet many couples unwittingly do this very thing. People selfishly endeavor to get their spouses to comply with their wishes. But, in the process they lose their mate’s heart as he/she becomes resentful and emotionally distant. In reality, nothing good can come of seeking to have this kind of power over one’s partner.

Below is a partial list of common ways that spouses use in an attempt to control each other. [See previous article for the rest of the list.] It is suggested that you read each description carefully and evaluate your personal attitude and conduct. Examine your intentions very closely and commit yourself to cease any controlling tendencies you may discover.

Intimidation is the use of fear to force someone into compliance. Examples include angry outbursts, threats, or related means. A partner who is intimidated may comply out of sense of safety for themselves or for the marriage. It is critical to note that any form of anger and/or intimidation that devolves into physical force or aggressions is absolutely intolerable by any standard. Even the risk of violence is completely unacceptable and should never be endured.

Threatening separation is a common form of intimidation. It involves threats to end the relationship or suggestions of leaving or divorce. A partner may comply out of a fear of loss, out of concern for the relationship, out of commitment to the institution of marriage, and so forth. In any event, threatening separation is a lamentable tactic that may seem to work in the short term but often backfires at some point.

Financial regulation involves assuming power over someone by controlling their access to money. In healthy marriages couples jointly decide on budgetary matters and how money should be spent. In problematic marriages both partners make unilateral financial decisions without consulting one another. In toxic relationships one person dominates all financial decisions and uses money as leverage to control his/her spouse.

Isolation occurs when one tries to restrict or forbid the outside relationships of his/her partner. Trying to set limits on the communication or contact with ones parents or other family members is one form of isolation. Obstructing friendships through seeking to regulate the contact with or time spent with friends is another form. Attempting to limit one’s interpersonal interactions with others is a type of psychological domination because it removes the critical social support that is a necessary part of life.

Guilt is another form of controlling others of which many people are culpable without even realizing it. Guilt attempts to make someone else feel responsible for one’s own welfare – as if their personal freedom is injurious to you or to the relationship. Questioning the integrity of one’s partner is a common method. For example, questioning a spouse’s love, caring, commitment, and so forth are subtle forms of guilt that attempt to control the way one’s mate feels or behaves.

Revisiting the past is closely connected to guilt. Bringing up past mistakes, incidents, or other events that were supposed to have been resolved or forgiven is an attempt to invoke guilt. This type of control endeavors to shame one’s partner for leverage or gain. The spouse being blamed with past wrongs is in a position of powerlessnes because he/she is continually being charged with a debt that cannot be repaid.

Playing the victim (or martyr) is also linked to guilt. Specifically, this type of behavior focuses on how much one has sacrificed, given, been taken for granted, hurt, or otherwise suffered for the sake of the relationship. This is generally greatly exaggerated in an effort to evoke sympathy or shame. There is nothing wrong with setting appropriate boundaries if one has truly been taken advantage of in some way. But, playing the victim is merely a selfish attempt to get one’s own way.

Scorekeeping is maintaining a mental (or sometimes literal) record of events or deeds to be used as leverage to get what one wants. One can keep score of their own favors or sacrifices with the intention of cashing in on them later. Or, one could keep score of a partner’s indiscretions with the intention of holding them against him/her in the future.  However this tactic is employed it will eventually lead to resentment in the relationship.

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