My husband controls who I have for friends, what kinds of meetings I go to, what I should wear to cook breakfast in. I’m thinking of leaving him. Please help. What should I do?

There are things you can try to do before moving out to see if change is possible. You and your husband have slipped into an unhealthy pattern. At some point, he decided to become controlling and overbearing. Without knowing his background, it is hard to say what his motives are for being this way. My guess is he is frustrated.

Some people don’t have a high tolerance for frustration, and sometimes see the problem as coming from others rather than themselves. Those people might not be willing to change, and therefore, they are not good candidates for a committed relationship such as marriage.

Nevertheless, sometimes, a controlling person will change if you make some decisions about the quality of your life and of your children's lives, if you have some.

What You Can Do for Him

You may need be the one to take the initiative when it comes to changing how you communicate as a couple, because you are the one who is not happy with the current situation. Discovering why he reacts the way he does is the first step. Remember the adage that hurting people hurt people. He may have some deep underlying issues. Ask yourself:

  1. Does his father seek to control his mother? Some behavioral patterns are learned at a very young age. If he has been raised to believe this is how husbands should act towards their wives, then it will take a while for him to see marriage differently. And he will need to make a considerable effort to do that.
  2. Does he feel emasculated? Is he misinterpreting your actions and reactions, or has he heard you talk about him to your friends behind his back? Couples should build each other up, not tear each other down.
  3. Does he have an over-demanding boss? He may subconsciously be trying to control you in order to compensate for his frustration with his workplace environment.
  4. Does he have trust issues? Did someone hurt him deeply in the past and so he feels the need to control you so you don’t hurt him? Is he concerned that you may have a wandering eye, so he wants to monitor your acquaintances and monopolize your time out of fear or jealousy?

If you can, find a quiet time to tell him how you feel when he seeks to control you and ask him if any of the above questions relate to this issue. However, be sure not to blame him or accuse him. That will only put him on the defensive. Realize it most likely will be an ongoing conversation for several months, if not years.

Related Story: Read Caroline's journey — Domestic Abuse: Living with the Enemy.

What You Can Do For Yourself

You might benefit from seeking a counselor to help you deal with this issue. Inthe past, you have allowed yourself to be controlled by him. A counselor can help you figure out why.

Role playing and other therapeutic techniques can be eye-opening and life-changing. Building your own self-esteem will help you lovingly confront his behavior. As you gain confidence in yourself and your ability to make your own choices, you will feel emotionally stronger and more capable of handling his personality.

Even if he yells, stay calm. Don’t let the situation escalate. For example, you might say, “I love you. But I want to choose what I want to wear. Let me show you that I can pick out something that meets your approval so you can see that you can trust my choices.” That way he understands that he still has a measure of control; but at the same time, you have gained some autonomy. If he continues to be unreasonable, smile, say “I love you, but I cannot talk with you when you are like this,” and walk away.

Soon, he will discover that he cannot control you as he once did. He may buck at first. He may try other ways of manipulating you such as yelling, throwing things, or the like. If you deal with only one situation at a time and keep expressing yourself with love and respect, then he may begin to calm down and treat you differently. Again, it depends on the level of frustration he experiences from the boundaries you intentionally set. Your therapist can better advise you about how to go about this process.

Perhaps you can talk him into joining you in counseling. He may scoff and say you need it because you are acting strangely. Ask him to come along for a few sessions and allow the trained professional to arbitrate your conversations.

Eventually, as you regain his trust while asserting your autonomy, he will gain more love and respect for you. But it is going to take both of you working together.

Please note: If he is prone to violence, have the phone nearby to call 911 if he threatens you physically. If he hits you, call the police and have him arrested. It’s against the law to assault people. No one should put their lives or well-being in jeopardy.

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This article is an adaptation and expansion of an article by Dr. Ginger Gabriel.

This article was written by: Julie Cosgrove

Photo Credit: Ben Blennerhassett