Maggie, a 33 year-old teacher, shares:
“My closest friend attended this group quite awhile ago and found it very helpful. She was so excited about what she was learning. I watched her grow and change. It was great. Recently, she told me she was worried about my relationship. Initially, I was very surprised. I know Paul can be very outspoken, a bit self-righteous and hard to argue with at times. But I never thought of him as controlling. I guess I didn’t see what my friend saw when we would socialize together. It’s hard for me to see it even now. It’s confusing. I’m not sure what I think or feel, exactly. But what I did notice is that I was nervous about telling Paul that I want to attend this group. I made up an elaborate story about how Carol could leave this cryptic voice message about requesting a time and day for tutoring, which would in fact be when the group is starting. It then dawned on me that maybe I am intimidated by my husband. I am here to get clear…to figure out what is happening exactly in my relationship.”
You too (or someone you know) may need to “get clear” about what’s actually taking place in your relationship with your boyfriend or spouse. Like Maggie, you may be wondering if your partner controls you. You may have questions: Does he intimidate me? Do I feel confused about my relationship? I’ve offered recovery groups for women with controlling partners since 1993, and, in my experience, many women can’t see control in their relationships.
Like Maggie, you may have someone in your life—a well-meaning friend or family member—who has observed something about your boyfriend or spouse and shared it. Perhaps, you’ve been told, “He can be a bully.” or “He’s a bit controlling.” or “He doesn’t always treat you well.” Rarely, however, does anyone say, “He’s abusive.” You may have been thinking about how your partner treats you for a long time but haven’t known what to do about it or felt like you could do anything at all.
Or the messages you get from others may be strikingly different than your experience in your relationship. Perhaps someone has said, “What a nice guy!” about your partner but you know his pleasant, public demeanor disappears when you are alone with him. One frustrated woman said, “When it was finally labeled abuse, it was only then I took it seriously.”
Coercion or controlling behavior is hard to identify. The behavior is intended to confuse you, keep you “off balance” and unaware. Because most people don’t really “see” the controlling behavior, they don’t recognize it as abuse. But it is abuse. Like the women in my groups, you could be already experiencing the devastating effects of a controlling partner and don’t fully realize what’s happening to you. Right now, how you feel is the most important indicator you have of how your partner acts toward you, and letting your feelings guide you is the best way to begin to “’get clear” about your relationship. You may not yet be able to see what controlling behaviors are or how they harm you, but you can identify if you feel controlled by your partner. Paying attention to your feelings, no matter how vague they are, provides a chance for you to explore, just as other women do, if your partner controls you.
Take a look at the information on my website. It will help you to understand controlling behavior and psychological abuse.