Being in control of your emotions and responses to situations makes you a fully functioning adult. Someone attempting to control another fully functioning adult could be suffering from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD). Controlling people provide plenty of warning signs they are trying to control you. Watch for the signs, and stay safe out there!
It’s Not You
The old saying, “Every pot has a lid” may lead to plenty of successful marriages of people who just seem to fit each other’s needs. Usually that is a good thing, but for spouses with NPD or BPD, their mental health condition may compel them to seek out weak partners they can control and dominate from the outset.
If you are starting to feel a bit suffocated or isolated, do not accept your spouse’s word that it’s you, not your spouse. The chances are very good that your spouse is attempting to control you.
Controlling behavior comes from an unstable person’s nearly unquenchable need to feel superior, be the center of attention, and be admired by others. Some controlling behavior comes from narcissism, but other such behavior may stem from a need to reject others due to hypersensitivity about being abandoned, rejected, or judged by others (typical of borderline personality disorder).
Narcissists and borderline personalities are not subtle. They signal their needs and intent with startling clarity if you are paying attention to the red flags. Let’s unpack some of the NPD or BPD spouse’s typical signs:
- Isolating you — A controlling personality need not exert physical dominance over you; he or she may use words or low-key actions to isolate you from family and friends by passing harsh judgments on your friends or complaining about how often your parents call, so soon you are pitted in a struggle of supporting your spouse against the whole world, giving up your entire support system to prove your allegiance to your all-consuming spouse
- Imperfections — A spouse who constantly criticizes you for every gesture, word, action, or thought is seeking to control and dominate you, to make you doubt yourself so that you turn exclusively to your spouse for validation; soon you are thinking, Why would anyone want to love me when I cannot even open a jar correctly?
- Conditional love — Attaching strings to the love bond between you two is an ominous behavior; consider the emotional carnage of statements like, “We’re so much happier when you put in a few hours of overtime at work each week,” or “Once you lose another five pounds, I’ll probably be a little more interested in having sex with you”
- Keeping score — Real marriage is give and take, compromises and minor conflicts, and always giving more than half, but none of that is in the NPD or BPD’s playbook; instead, your spouse may try to constantly keep track of who owes whom for what, to the point of exhausting you with things like, “I emptied the dishwasher last,” or “We went to your parents’ house for the holidays two years in a row so now we do what I want the next three years”
- Better to receive — With controlling spouses, you never want to be in debt to them; they will hold an obligation over you by purposely showering you with elaborate events, extravagant gifts, or identifying the ways they sacrifice for you, all so that later they can claim these as justifications for making unreasonable demands on you
- Interrogation — If you return from an errand and your spouse demands to know where you were, what you spent, who you talked to, and why you left, your spouse is trying to control you; the same is true if your spouse demands access to your computer or telephone, trying to make you feel guilty for wanting privacy
- Guilty Until — A spouse who treats you as guilty of an imagined or implied infraction until you can prove your innocence is trying to place himself or herself above you as your judge, jury, and executioner
Additional signs of a controlling spouse can surface — sexual blackmail, constant ridicule or low-level teasing, an unwillingness to consider your views — but all point to a spouse more interested in elevating himself or herself than in supporting you.
Take action. Stand up and seek help. It may only mean marriage counseling or it could mean an informative, introductory visit to a family law attorney.
You deserve a healthy, happy life free of cruel and unusual punishment.
It isn’t just some casual legal-speak, either. It is a right guaranteed by our U.S. Constitution, enshrined in the eighth amendment. If it is good enough for our nation, it is good enough for your marriage.
Maintain control over your life, your finances, and your future. Contact us at The Firm For Men today, or telephone our offices in Virginia Beach at (757) 383-9184. We focus only on the needs of Virginia’s men, safeguarding their rights and assets. We can provide wise counsel in every aspect of family law, from mediation to separation to divorce and more.