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Looking at Marriage from a Glass Half-full/Half-empty Way

Controlling Men: He Won't Let Me

If he says No, I say run. If at any time your response to something that you want to do is he won’t let me, referring to your boyfriend or your husband, know that you are in a controlling relationship—and they are inherently bad relationships.

Maybe I’m exaggerating. Maybe not.

Think of the opposite situation. Could that same man, who flagrantly says No to you, say, at any time, No, I’m not going to do whatever because my girlfriend or wife says no? If not, you need to assess what it is that you get out of the relationship. If you want someone to guide you, well then good for you, you found him. But, even in this situation, you need to make sure that you don’t relinquish your decision-making process; it’s one thing to get suggestions, it’s another to have that person decide for you, or for you to feel uncomfortable if you don’t want to do what he suggests. Controllers are not suggesters, they are deciders who don’t like their suggestions not taken. And it’s hard to live with someone who doesn’t like to be contradicted, because that’s how they see non-compliance.

I had lunch the other day with a woman in her seventies who had lived through a controlling marriage for over fifteen years, divorcing the controller more than 30 years ago. When I was telling her some of the things that my ex has done or said, she had parallel stories. And she began many of her stories with the same awful expression that has run through my head: he wouldn’t let me about various things, important and not. Not that I ever thought that I had a unique situation, but hearing her talk of living through the same experiences a generation earlier made me feel so sad, so utterly dejected that this cycle is so obviously a cycle and not an aberration of time or place.

Some of the most basic no’s had to do with: where I was going, what I was doing, and what I was wearing. Sounds pretty comprehensive, all-encompassing even.

It took a while to realize that he was controlling me. I can’t decide if it was a good day the day I realized that his concern was really his controlling me. It let me mentally break free, finally, but it also set in place years of anguish—both in the future as I would work my way out of the marriage (and his increasing nastiness once I said the biggest NO possible to him) and as I re-evaluated our past, taking off my lovely rose-colored glasses.

Your Personal Dresser and Shopper

When he would say that he didn’t like an outfit, it never felt like control, it felt like caring. That he wanted me to look good, and since I wanted to look good in his eyes, this was actually a good thing. And the shopping together to get clothes that he liked on me was a treat—I never spent that much money on myself when I was shopping alone. But it was really about his controlling me—deciding how I would look, not about my developing my sense of style--my sense of self.

Friend Matchmaker

He also knew, intrinsically, that my friends were not of my caliber. If he met them or not, they were never up to snuff. I just don’t know how, amidst all of those poor choices in friends I managed to discern such a wonderful man (blatant sarcasm here). This resulted in my keeping away from others, and keeping this wonderfully insightful man (sarcasm again) as my best—and only—friend.

Weekend Drives

Not only did he know what looks best on me, who was good for me to hang out with, but he also knew the best places to spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. Whatever I wanted to do was always boring, and whatever he wanted to do (even if it was just to sit in the car for three hours driving to someplace lovely and then turning around without ever getting out of the car) was always infinitely more interesting—to everyone and not just to myself.

Guidance Counselor

If he knew me so well, then surely he would know—better than I—what kind of work I should be doing. This was the most blatant example of his trying to control me. I’m a very creative person, but not a business person, but he convinced me to start a business to sell my writing services and the games I created. I started businesses—three times (twice in Israel and once in New York). And each time they failed. Granted, he believed in me enough to support me leaving my job to make a go of it, but I needed more support than that. I needed the support to say that you are incredibly talented, but this doesn’t seem like the right outlet for you, why don’t you try to find someone to partner with rather than try to do it all on your own, or maybe it should just be a hobby. Instead, he always managed to make me feel like a loser because in two months I didn't have a wildly successful company--making enough money for him to retire on my earnings.

The one thing that I absolutely resisted was going to law school. I knew that that was not for me and of no interest to me. Also, I knew that I would always be comparing myself to him (he is a lawyer), and, true or not, I never thought that I would be as successful as him and that would be a constant cause of contention and loss of self-esteem. 

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Control is not just in decision-making, it’s in the constant need to appease, to consider what he would want and do that to prevent irritating him. And once you start to make decisions to prevent an outburst (of whatever kind, be it silent treatment or insulting words) know that you have crossed the line from a controlling relationship to an abusive relationship.


New Jordans 2010

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