Thursday Thought — What do the following actions have in common?

•Your partner yells at you to shut up.

•You are trying to make a point in an argument, and he snarls, “You are such a stupid idiot, you obviously just don’t listen.”

•You say hello to a friend from work on the street and your partner immediately jumps into interrogating you about whether you are attracted to him.

•Your partner sulks if he doesn’t get his way, or gives you the silent treatment, until you give in.

The common thread is control.  Your partner is interfering with your freedom to express your opinions, to stand up to him, or to have freedom to care about other people.  The explosive outbursts that he subjects you to, the cutting remarks, the accusations, the periods of silent treatment, all share at their core his desire to control you.

Along with those behaviors comes a set of attitudes to justify what he does; he believes that he has the right to have the last word in a conflict, that his way is the only way — especially when the stakes are high — and that if you resist being controlled by him your defiance proves that there’s something wrong with you.   If you stand up for yourself at the wrong time — and it may always be the wrong time — you pay a stiff price; he retaliates with name calling, ridicule, or physical intimidation.

Think back over incidents in which your partner has hurt you emotionally or frightened you, and ask yourself, “What was he trying to control about me in that situation?”  You will find that you can come up with an answer for most incidents; once you understand that his goal is to control you, the behavior of your abusive partner rapidly starts to make more sense.

(excerpt from Lundy Bancroft’s When Dad Hurts Mom [Affiliate link], pp25-26)

***IMPORTANT NOTE:  While we endorse Lundy’s writings about the dynamics of domestic abuse, we do not recommend anyone attend the “healing retreats” Lundy Bancroft offers or become involved in his “Peak Living Network”. See our post, ACFJ Does Not Recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Retreats or His New Peak Living Network for more about our concerns.

19 thoughts on “Thursday Thought — What do the following actions have in common?”

  1. This is spot on! I have experienced all of the listed tactics of control. He would add profanity to his screaming when the stakes were high.

    After 20 years of his abuse I basically have had little to no contact with abuser husband within our own house. I have wondered if this was wrong to do. “…the periods of silent treatment, all share at their core his desire to control you.” But now I see the difference between his silent treatment and my no contact. His is to control me, mine is protect me; the goals are totally different.

    1. Exactly. Abusers’ actions are motivated by control and punishment if he is not getting his way. Targets should be acting to protect, not punish. My actions are protective, not punitive.

      1. Spot on, Ellie. It’s like boundaries: they are designed to protect the one making them. Cities have boundaries, counties have boundaries, states / provinces have boundaries, nations have boundaries–and in a general sense they are about protecting their citizens, not punishing the “outsiders”. Boundaries are about setting your own limits, not the “limits” of someone else. They are self-protective. An abuser has no limits, or as Dr. Simon has said, “no brakes”. They violate clear boundaries that carry clear consequences, and then blame you, the court, the kids, anyone & everyone for the consequence! That’s how they twist it to make it look like its punitive. I think I finally understand why why the abuser won’t just go away & leave you alone: the lust for control is what drives them. It is lust. They crave control & won’t stop until they get it. It’s why it’s so exhausting, and why NC is so freeing (if you can safely pursue it).

    2. Ann, this sounds like where I am at right now. I wanted to know, what does “Have had little to no contact with abuser husband within our own house” mean? I am living in another room going on 6 months and dont really engage but I dont ignore him as long as he is being decent and not trying to manipulate me into closeness or arguing. My “no contact” is for protection, not retaliation but one of the tricks is to tell me I am “not forgiving” since that can be the ONLY reason I am “stubbornly” refusing to reengage with him (since he hasnt been abusive since Christmas Ever, which is like a record breaker). It cant possibly be becasue he has proven himself untrustworthy…
      Feeling a bit snarky today…

      1. Hello Debbie,

        For the most part I do not have conversation with him. Even his “nice” words are hooks to garner information (which he will twist and / or use against me), or to “take my temperature” about a situation, or to throw me off guard and then attack with biting/stinging remarks, or to lure me back into the cycle of abuse.

        He has committed abuse against me and another person close to my heart. He has never offered apologies or genuinely repented for the most egregious acts of abuse committed against us. After 20 years “I drew a line in the sand” = I will no longer participate in your crazy making dance I had to have this defining line so I could see him for who he is and get out of “Hopedom”–the land of mythical thinking he will care what he’s done and genuinely change.

        Unless there is a true emergency concerning the children or meeting a need of theirs that requires both our cooperation, then my pearls (thoughts, hopes, and dreams) stay with me.

      2. Not to rain on your sunny parade, but if he’s like my ex, he WILL slip and fall again. But am glad you are experiencing a hiatus in the abuse.

  2. I haven’t been able to comment for a while. My outgoing personality is slowly returning. My soon to be x did everything possible to crush it and make me feel guilty for smiling at something funny, making positive comments re: people in general, looking at someone or glancing, or talking to neighbors. He would get upset and or explosive. I knew then he was the problem, but I justified it as jealousy. Now it’s obvious that it was a controlling issue. How horrific to have your persona suppressed!! What a joy killer!

    1. My husband has squashed my outgoing personality. Most of the time when it hcomes out is when I’m at work or when he isn’t there. The other day he was there when I was having a joke with some of his work colleagues, when he got home he told me my behavior was weird, not me and bordering on manic. No yelling was involved, just concern for me, as he thinks I need to see a psychologist.

      1. Loves6, I totally understand what you are saying. He began talking to me the same way in the beginning of our marriage. Then gradually tightened his fist. The last incident that I can remember, were at a friend’s house eating and having a good time. He was constantly supervising my reactions and interactions and giving me the evil eye. When I started to laugh at a joke (which I haven’t in a long time) he left the room in anger. No one could figure him out. When an abuser wants to put you down and insinuate that you are emotionally disabled, it’s just another tactic it tool of control to keep you in your place, so he can feel better at your cost. No one has the right to crush our feelings, emotions or personality. If he doesn’t like it, then he can move out of the way.

      2. Do not listen to his lies anymore. BE YOURSELF. Do not hide your light under a bushel. Sing, dance, be free. I hid my light and because of it I grew so dim, dim, dim. It is life draining.

        I had a RARE opportunity to spend some girl time with a couple of dear girl friends last year. We were completely ourselves, no inhibitions. It was so fun and freeing to leave behind my shackles, and I was so amazed my jailer agreed to release me to go. It turned in to a blessing beyond belief, but I can’t reveal the details here. Suffice it to say, because I was free to be me, God poured out his favor in such a way those days I was away that I will never be the same again. I know if I had made this same trip with my husband, I would not have been myself in the way that allowed me to be able to participate in this event that was life changing in so many ways. That is when I realized that with him I had become someone I was not intended to be. This was the beginning of my waking up from my coma. Being MYSELF was rewarded in a tremendous way, and when I look back at what took place, I smile every single time. God showed me it’s OKAY to be me, and he even gave me his seal of approval to do just that in the most special, personal, and intimate way. I could not have even dreamed it up. He is glorious. He made you and loves you.

  3. Every one of those examples apply. He was SO controlling. And I was too afraid to stand up to it. So I basically died inside and was just a shell of my former self. Now that I am away from him, that old self is slowly returning and it’s amazing to rediscover the old me. Well not just the old me, but the new and improved me that has been through the fires of adversity and has risen to tell the tale and help others. The new me that is willing to be assertive, tries to be strong, and wants to live a full and wonderful life.

  4. My dear friend writes: “He did it again. He has the gun. He threatened to kill himself if I left. Soon after, he asked me if I wanted to go for a ride, and then go out to eat. I said, “I thought you were mad at me”. That made him mad-all over again.”

    I wrote back, ” He seems to like to keep you off balanced and confused. Darned if you do and darned if you don’t. At this point, nothing will change as long as you stay in that house, and situation, trying to work out things that you can’t possibly work out.”

      1. I was thinking that also, Ann. A double minded man is unstable in ALL his ways. IOW’s he can’t be trusted.

  5. Your partner yells at you to shut up.

    You are trying to make a point in an argument, and he snarls, “You are such a stupid idiot, you obviously just don’t listen.”

    You say hello to a friend from work on the street and your partner immediately jumps into interrogating you about whether you are attracted to him.

    Your partner sulks if he doesn’t get his way, or gives you the silent treatment, until you give in.

    My husband does not do any of this to this degree. He was much more subtle except for the guilting and intimidation (yelling to sort of drown me out, body placement) so it always puts doubt into my mind as to whether staying separated is necessary. The control motivation is clear to me, but my mind always goes in 2 directions:
    1) He never went farther because he never HAD to (I always gave in; I can’t prove that he would have) or
    2) Now that I am “onto him” and am so much stronger, maybe he won’t go there anymore because he knows it will be futile. (something I can’t know until I reconcile.) It is a very tough dilemma. I don’t feel any particular pressure to reconcile anytime soon but feel like I am just treading water, like nothing is being accomplished. Maybe just being in my own room by myself for these past few months is what I needed to heal and try again. Just talking out loud.

  6. My husband is so subtle with his control. He never swears at me and has never physically taken to me, except with clinched fists and yelling in my face.
    He has the cutting remarks, cynical, snarky comments that fuel my kids against me as he makes them, or fuels me to at times lose my temper. He has a nasty tongue that, when in the honeymoon phase, is so sweet, loving, tender and kind, but when triggered is subtlety nasty, critical, cutting and goes deep into my spirit.
    When I look at my journal and see the times he has verbally abused me, or recently subtlety and covertly had snarky digs, I can see the control he is trying.
    He has a thing about me… He says he loves me so much, I know he is needy and gets something out of having me. He knows my every move. He thinks it’s a husbands right to know where his wife his, when she leaves where she is.
    I made a friend recently that left her husband years ago, he was very abusive. She is on her own and we get on well.he makes snarky remarks about her, not being with her husband, and has subtlety made it clear to me that he doesn’t like me seeing her….the reason will be that he doesn’t want her influencing me to leave him. If he smells a rat with a friend I have he makes life very hard until I walk away from the friendship. He makes out that he is taking care of me because he feels I’m not good at making decisions sometimes, he thinks my boundaries are not in place so he has to point them out.
    My husband has kept me under the thumb for many many years that if I had freedom I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. I’m used to being accountable to him, always saying sorry, not being my outgoing self, not pursuing my dreams because if I did any of it he would make it so difficult I would give in, not do it… Sometimes acting nice and playing the good girl makes life a lot easier
    Thanks for this post, very thought provoking for me and I needed it today.

    1. Can totally relate to and understand everything you wrote Loves6. You are not alone. It has happened to me, too…the divorced friend who I was sure would be cut off eventually; giving in to spare myself the struggle; giving up things I loved doing in order to “honor” his wishes; the twisted tongue that blesses and then curses and provokes. Yep, it’s all too familiar. So sorry you are experiencing it.

  7. I had a terrible situation arisen in the early hours of the morning. It involved a couple very close to me.
    All I can say on here that it was abuse. Terrifying and with both parties being intoxicated.
    One of the parties involved came to my home. Stories of a lot of abuse was discussed. I spoke up, my husband said nothing. When we finally got to bed I said what I thought of this situation. My husband dismissed it and said they are both abuses bad as each other.
    Having read so much about abuse. I see all the signs. I see this wife is terribly abused. The abuser is one of my children. He is like his dad in many ways that were discussed. … but much worse.
    I am so upset that my husband dismisses it. I am hearing acts of hate and abuse. I have seen it. What we were told was horrific but he still dismisses it.
    My husband has never been that horrendously abusive in the physical sense and so threatening…. I realize my husband is a different type. .. much more conniving and subtle and wants to looks like the most wonderful husband.
    I’m just slightly shocked today

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