Control? What does that mean in a bad relationship

Dec. 1, 2012_ In 1990, I met the father of my children, my first and only husband, my partner, my abuser, the man who beat me so many times I can’t count, who left me with babies for days on end in good times and bad, who used me, cursed me and who lied to me maybe millions of times.

He was a wife batterer. He was a controller.

But, though I understand completely that the bruises on my body after one of his episodes meant that I was a victim of violence and he was an attacker, I have always struggled with describing my ex-husband as someone who wants to control me.

I’ve read so many stories about abusers who wouldn’t let their victims out of the house, spend time with friends, work, handle money, and so on. But, my ex-husband never did that. My ex-husband didn’t try to control my every move, my waking hours, my whereabouts, my goings-on. So, he couldn’t be controlling, right? He didn’t fit the mold of an abuser, I thought.

That logical has kept me up at nights, spinning in my mind just how does this all compute. If my husband is an abuser, then shouldn’t I feel controlled? Shouldn’t he be checking up on me during the day to make sure I was doing or not doing whatever he wanted? Shouldn’t he be ordering me around? Shouldn’t he be paying attention to my whereabouts? Shouldn’t he care?

He didn’t.

He didn’t check up on me. He didn’t keep money, friend or family away from me. He didn’t restrict where I went, with who or when. He didn’t call me repeatedly. He didn’t follow me around. He wasn’t even jealous, suspicious or dramatic about my relationship with anyone.

He didn’t really show any concern about my daily life at all. He didn’t pay attention to me in the slightest.

How on earth could my husband be a controller? This didn’t compute. And in my darkest, silent hours, I still struggle trying to get my head around this puzzle. How could I call him a controlling abuser if he didn’t really care about me at all.

But, he is. And he does care about me. And he is controlling as hell. Just not about anything he doesn’t care about. And what he cares about …  is him.

My ex-husband cares only about how his world is functioning at every moment and like the Earth that has a moon in its orbit, my husband cares about me and my interactions with him when I’m hovering over his horizon or messing with his gravity.

My ex-husband to this day controls his world with precision.

He controls everything when it matters to him and nothing when it doesn’t.

When we were married, I was exhausted with my husband’s constant comments on everything we did or I did that effected him. He had something to say, an opinion to render, a learned position, a condescending explanation of how much better this would be or that would be if I would just stop the direction I was headed and follow the course he laid out.

Often, he would notice what I was making for dinner and he would chime in that green beans were a better choice than corn or bowls were necessary instead of plates, or when we should sit down or when the children should be excused.

For years, I didn’t realized the number of times he offered his opinion on every move I made because so often I trusted myself way more than I trusted him. I thought it was cute,  supportive and frankly wrong most of the time. I used to read his involvement as loving.

I would enjoy his input as a partner would. I felt we were in the foxhole of life together and I was happy that he wanted to participate. That was a bit of a new experience for me in my life. I had spent my adult years so far on my own and it was exciting to have someone who cared that much about “us”.

However, soon the constant corrections he offered became annoying. I knew his life story, or at least the version he told me. I compared it to mine and I was not impressed that he had much to add to what I already knew. Because of how I was raised, I could handle a lot on my own. I was a bit of a tomboy, too, so gender roles didn’t work for me either.

I could do a lot. I could cook, sew, clean, sure. But, I could also mow a lawn, drive a car well, fix a flat, paint a room, build a shelf, train a dog, take care of babies, handle money, and so on. My ex, who had lived with his alcoholic mother as an only child in the same two bedroom apartment his whole life, had never mowed a lawn, enjoyed a big Thanksgiving family gathering, swung a hammer, walked a dog, or any number of typical childhood experiences or early adulthood mistakes. He had never lived alone, either. I had for years.

When my ex offered his two cents on my endeavors, most of the time they weren’t worth rubbing together. He was smart, but he wasn’t street smart. He wasn’t even really book smart. He was however, very clever.

And like all evil monsters, he used his brain power for bad instead of good. Well, in truth, he used his mental fire power to stay ahead of his demons and control his world.

I didn’t feel like he was controlling me, because I wasn’t listening to him.

However, he was trying like hell to do it because every day of his life, he is trying to control his second to second existence. He is controlling for sure. He is trying to control his own thoughts. He is trying to control how people think of him, all people. He is trying to control his environment and how people react to him. He is trying to control the outcomes of events, minor and large.  He is trying to control his every moment and that takes a lot of energy.

His radar scans the worlds in orbits with him at the center. I was and am irrelevant to him when I am outside his detection. He doesn’t care one wit what I do then. But, when I orbit around into his range and suddenly affect his mood, desires, fears, image of himself, thoughts, whatever, then I become something to control.

And you know we all do that to some extend. We all are afraid of the unknown from time to time, or hope that we are liked or respected. We all want control over our own lives, at the very least.

But my ex-husband, is willing to do anything to have it.

He will say or do anything to keep me under his power. He will direct me, talk over me, lie to me, hit me, leave me, threaten me, bull shit me, walk away from me, accuse me, assign motive to my actions, lie about me, hurt me, yell at me, call me names, laugh at me, smile at me, lie to himself, throw me aside, tell me he loves me, do anything to maintain the higher ground, or at least think that he has it.

He will control his world and anyone who comes into it.

I am not an easy woman to control. I’m independent, capable, smart, educated, friendly, strong, responsible, worldly, a jack of all trades. Some may think that I’m stubborn. I also trust myself and don’t seek help, even when I need it. I don’t like the feeling that I need anything from anyone because it makes me feel vulnerable and unlikeable, even unlovable. This is not an ego thing. I am not prideful. I truly would love the support and advice of someone who cares. I am untrusting that anyone will WANT to come to my aid, that I am worth that to anyone. I take care of myself, because I believed for so long that no one else would. This makes for an interesting dynamic and an abuser.

At first, his control over me was completely foreign to me. I didn’t know what it was. I had never experienced anyone taking such an interest in what I thought or did. Then I started to like his involvement because it was better than the void of disinterest when my ex’s radar beam was pointed in the opposite direction and I was invisible to him.

Then, I became annoyed. He seemed to always take the position that he knew better than me, even when it was clear that he didn’t.

Then, I was resentful and angry, especially since he spent so little time at home and didn’t care very much when he was. And after all, he was solving our emotional turmoil with abuse.

His control of me, or lack there of, confused him and upset him. When he wanted what he wanted and if I was in his way, he would pull out his bag of tricks and begin to work me and the common situation until he got what he wanted, and he always did. Even when he didn’t get exactly what he wanted, he would spin it in his head to believe that what he got was what he wanted all along. But, not in a way of accepting … you know “you win some, you loose some,” But in a “No one is going to get over on me,” way.

Even today, as we are forced to co-parent our children, he will do anything to make sure that he feels like he is the puppet master pulling the strings, that he is in-charge. When he doesn’t feel like he is, he zigs to the left or the right and keeps seeking a way to feel his own power. It has got to be exhausting.

My ex loves control, and we all do at times. But, my ex can not accept that somethings are not in his control. That makes him crazy. He plays a daily psychological game with himself that he is dominant over everything. That the world has nothing on him. That he is the master of his world in the worse possible way.

He will do anything to maintain that belief system.

Including hit me, file a custody suit against me, blame me or anyone for anything negative in his life, take little responsibility for his actions, choices, repercussions.

Knowing this, I try to stay out of his radar, but its hard to do. First, we have minor children together, so this makes it difficult to have zero interaction. Second, I can’t anticipate where is beam of radar is turning next. I can’t try to anticipate crazy. Who knows what will get his attention.

The years I spent with him, I wasted many, many hours of my life trying to figure him out and figure out what he wanted. I put so much energy into him, that I didn’t put much into my own life. No wonder why I was so unhappy and unhealthy. My choice sucked. I struggle even know as I write this, that I am still wasting time on him.

When I decided it was time that I make a better choice, I had to accept, though it took me years of therapy, that my ex would always have some power over me because I was not willing to play this game by his rules. I was not willing to hurt anyone at all cost to win.

I had to accept that I will likely forever be involved with a controlling abuser and there was nothing much more I could do about it.

Like someone who has had cancer and constantly wonders or worries if the bad cells will come back, I am haunted by the knowledge that my abuser is out there, capable of doing devastating harm to me, my children, my life, if I happen to get to close to his atmosphere.

The years I spent worrying about how to avoid getting hurt by him and the efforts I have made to achieve a harmonious existence with him sometimes seems like a waste of my time, my life. But, regrets don’t change much.

I fight today to find peace, despite my bad relationship with the father of my children and know that I can’t change it. I work to keep my distance as much as I can. No phone calls. No meetings, unless we are with a counselor. I don’t even make eye contact when we are in the same room. Again, still spending energy on him.

I try to find grace when confronted with one of his only current ways of engaging with me … emails. I try hard not to respond to his rants and accusations. I try hard to avoid comment whenever possible. I’m trying to find my way around space without brushing up against him, without coming into his focus. But, I don’t want to spend too much of my shortening life on this dance that took so much of my time in the past.

It isn’t easy.

I struggle with it.

I am co-dependent by nature and so breaking away isn’t a picnic.

But, with the help of a great therapist and this blog and friends and family and the smiles of my wonderful children, I’m getting there. I hope someday soon I won’t wake up needing to write about this relationship and the pain it has caused me. I hope one day to find a relaxed existence that doesn’t include a moments through about him. I hope to no longer need to control my world for fear that if I don’t, disaster will fall. I don’t want to be as exhausted as my ex. I want to be me. Happy. At peace. One day I will.

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