For nearly 15 years, I was involved with a man who was controlling me and I didn’t even realize it. I didn’t think that my bruises were the result of a controlling husband. I didn’t think that my depression was the result of a controlling husband. I didn’t think my incredible weight gain was the result of a controlling husband. I didn’t even think that our horrible marriage was the result of a controlling husband.
I believed a lot and sought a lot of psychological help, but no one ever told me that I was married to man who needed to be in 100% control his world and if he felt out of control, then he was dangerous.
It wasn’t until the very last months of my marriage, that I finally got the help that I needed to see just what I was dealing with and exactly what I had to do. And it wasn’t until years after my divorce that I learned how it all works.
When Tom and I first met, he used to tell me sincere stories about his hard life. He would tell the story through trembling lips and slowly unfold the tales as if it was the first time he ever had the courage to share the stories. I would comfort him and hold him. I did notice that he didn’t seem to actually cry, but he seemed to act like he was.
The theme of his tales were always the same. He was trying to do right but there was someone who was getting in the way, misunderstanding him, disrespecting him and he was left with no choice, but to try to navigate his living hell.
These events in his life were the reason and explanation for many of his actions, it would turn out. For example, he was sorry that he was out until 4 in the morning without calling but he was an only child who never had to answer to anyone before, so he didn’t think about me at home worried sick.
The first example, the first red flag, he told me that he couldn’t just break it off with his girlfriend. She needed him so much and wanted just one last holiday with him. So could I just hold on until after Christmas, which he would need to spend with her, one last time. I was hurt, but I understood. Afterall, I was the “other woman.” But then Christmas came and went and January ticked down and still no break up. Ummm.
He wanted to, but just couldn’t break her poor heart. Funny, this was the girl who had treated him like garbage and now, she was a needly, crumbling child he needed to protect. What gives? Finally in February I didn’t think he would do it, so I broke it off with him. The next day, he came to my house with flowers and tears as he described how awful he felt that he hurt another human being as much as he just hurt her.. they broke up and he did it because he loved me so much. But that was all he wanted to say about it.
So, I believed him. And for the next year or so he had on and off communication with her behind my back. She was now the other woman and I was the girlfriend getting screwed, I just didn’t know it then.
I also didn’t know that I was being completely controlled by an abuser.
The power and control wheel of domestic abuse is well documented. However, I had never seen it until about three weeks ago… just about 20 years from when I was first emotionally abused. It sure filled in a lot of gaps when I read it.
The abuser is trying to constantly maintain power and control by any, all or any combination of the following tactics:
Using intimidation with looks, actions gestures, or worse.
Using emotional abuse by playing mind games, lying, making her feel guilty, putting her down, making her feel bad.
Using isolation by controlling what she does and who she sees and where she goes.
Minimizing, denying and blaming her by making light of abuse, her feelings and concerns, denying the abuse, shifting responsibility for abusive behavior or saying she caused it.
Using children to relay messages, threatening to take the children away, using visitation time as a time to harass her.
Using male privilege by trying to be the one who makes all the “big decisions” or acting like the master of the castle.
Using economic abuse by controlling the money, withholding financial information, giving her an allowance, making her ask for money, or threatening to withhold child support.
Using coercion and threats to get her to do something by threatening to leave her, commit suicide, hurt her or report her to the authorities.
There are many other ways of saying the above list of ways that abusers use to control their own world and maintain a sense of power.
When I learned that power wheel, it finally put clearly into words the kind of manipulation my ex was and still does do to me. He doesn’t do all of them at once and doesn’t always use the same tactic. They are all in his toolbox of control that he uses as he sees fit to maintain his world.