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How Do You Know if You Are in a Controlling Relationship?

I met a man nearly 2 years after my divorce. He was tall, dark, handsome and extremely funny. His distaste for alcohol was a turn on after being married to an alcoholic, and he was an honest man with high integrity; traits I’d never seen before in a man. Assisting a stranded person with car trouble on the side of the road was what he lived for. He was kind, and had a passion for helping people. When I met him, I thought I had found the man of my dreams – dependable, high integrity, sober, nice, athletic and good-looking.

As the relationship progressed, his deep dark controlling behavior appeared. It began subtly. If I were 15 minutes late from a hike, he would be worried. If I walked too close to his male friends in public, I was pulled aside and scolded. If I didn’t help him with his male chore (like moving a truck, raking leaves, pulling a rope through a tube), the way he expected it to be done,  I was reprimanded. The expectations to be the perfect girlfriend and be at his beck and call were enormous. I found myself always trying to do the right thing for fear of being critiqued; cook his favorite meal, look fabulous, wash the dishes, do his laundry, and help him in anyway I could. We spent 3-4 nights a week eating dinner with his mother; a true mama’s boy in all sense of the word and I felt my personal life disappearing. He didn’t like drunk women, so I obliged and didn’t drink, even though occasionally I craved a shot of tequila from the stress of it all. I tried my best to live up to his expectations of his perfect woman and in turn, gave up my sense of self. When he belittled me, I felt like crawling in a ball and rolling away. I felt unsafe and the guns in his closet frightened me. At night, I’d wake up with a stomachache and wonder if I had become Julia Roberts in Sleeping with the Enemy and fallen into a controlling relationship. I justified his behavior and convinced myself it was a minor insecurity and that he could change.

As months passed, I stayed in the relationship and finally found the courage to confront him and his controlling behavior knowing fair well that it stemmed from an insecurity from his past relationship. My instinct told me that he had a fear of being abandoned, because his Xwife and high school sweetheart had left him. I tried to explain that when we live in fear, our fears are manifested, but if we live in love, then we will attract love into our life. We spoke about it calmly and he told me he wanted to change and that it had been a problem in past relationships. He shared letter a past girlfriend had written to him which confirmed all my thoughts of his fear of abandonment.

He said he understood and told me to bring awareness to the situation when I felt degraded and I did. But when the mean comments escaped his lips, I noticed his eyes would change and the light disappeared. If I confronted him when it was happening, he would be visibly angry. I realized that when the light switch went off, there was no self-awareness and it was evident that there would NEVER be any self awareness. There was no hope in coaching this middle-aged man through his fears and insecurities because he couldn’t see his behavior.

So I reflected upon myself and my own insecurities. Why did I bring this person into my life? Was I that desperate to find love and happiness? More importantly, was I happy and was I living my authentic life? The answer was clear…NO!

So after 11 months of the relationship (yes, I stayed too long), I said goodbye, “you’re not the right relationship for me,” and I escaped, Julia Roberts style (sort of, without pretending to be dead and changing my identity). When he was out of town, I moved all my belongings out of the house and into a storage unit, and threw my clothes and cat into the car. It was a drastic goodbye, but I’m grateful to have my life back, my self-esteem back and I’m grateful I had the courage to get out of a relationship that wasn’t right for me and my personality. Finding the courage and making the decision is the hardest part, but I’ve learned it is important to do what feels right in your heart and everything else in your life will follow.

One thought on “How Do You Know if You Are in a Controlling Relationship?

  1. What are recommended exercises – for an awareness-challenged man to consciously perform – in hopes of releasing the chains that bind??

    Your fear manifestation theory reverberates. Thanks for the reminder.

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