Control. Good ? Bad? What is control?
When you are a woman married to or divorced from a narcissistic man, it is bad. It is painful. It is sometimes hard to see.
I spent 24 years married to a man that I was in love with that I never thought was controlling. But looking back with clearer vision – WOW! He was incredibly controlling. I can see it now; others could see it then. Once I recovered somewhat from my husband leaving and the nasty divorce, although I am still not sure one ever fully recovers, I was at least on my way. Friends would ask me what I was going to do, go back to school? Get a job? Travel?
Simple questions? Not really. I had no idea what I was going to do. Those same friends would say, “now you can do what you want.” The only problem was that I had no idea what I wanted. I could tell you things I had done in my life and whether I liked them, I guess. But as a blank starting point, I had no idea. For 24 years we did what he wanted to do, went where he wanted to go. It didn’t seem a problem during the marriage, other than a few times I can recall. I wanted to travel, he did not. Most places I wanted to go he didnt want to be on a plane that long, so I planned all our vacations around where he wanted or would go. I didn’t go without him, because who would take care of our kids? (Yes, that is what he would tell me!)
In fact, I can remember needing a gown for a charity black tie event that he/we wanted to go to. I hadn’t managed to find time to go shopping, so time was running out. My mom was up visiting and said she would go with me, which was huge because she hated to shop. So one Saturday, late morning, when we had nothing scheduled, I asked my husband (yes asked!) not if I could go to the mall, but if he would watch our children while I went (our daughter was about 2 and our son at home was 11 or 12). He said yes, so my mom and I drove away. I had driven to the mall, which was no more than 15-20 minute drive, parked, went in the first store, picked up a few gowns and entered the dressing room, when my phone rang. Yep, it was him wanting to know how much longer I was going to be! When I explained that I hadn’t even tried one dress on yet, he explained the kids were hungry. Hmmmmm.
I guess the most horrific time in my memory would be when my mother was dying. He didn’t want the kids to see her and fought me on me going to see her. I finally convinced him we needed to go. He agreed and we drove the hour and a half to my sister’s, where my mom was living out her last days. He refused to visit with her or let our children go see her, something my middle son will never overcome. I visited with her and at one point my daughter, who was 4 years old at the time, snuck down the hallway and into the room. But he soon came and pulled her out. Once we returned home and I expressed interest in going back, he said I didn’t need to, she wouldn’t know whether I did or not. And besides, who would care for the kids if I went? So 4 days later, my mother passed away and I will never get another chance. That I will never recover from.
But even those episodes did not open my eyes to the controlling person he was. It was only after he walked out and the ugliness began that I really saw it. And even then, it was my counselor telling me that is what it was. When he would send me hateful texts or emails for what I considered no reason, she would explain about control.
Why do we continue to let anyone be controlling over us? I always used to say I never understood how an abused person could stay with their abuser. Looking back I get it; I don’t like it, but I understand it.
Why did he accuse me of things he knew were not true? Control.
I was speaking to a new friend the other day and listening to her trials and tears as she goes through a divorce with a lot of similarities to mine. She questioned why her husband would accuse her of drinking too much, of being with other men.
I explained to her that is his way of controlling her, still. He knows that upsets her and makes her emotional, which gives him the power to control things. She will argue and try to explain again and again, but he doesn’t care. He is not looking for answers. She explained to me she gets sometimes 30 texts from him in one day. When I asked her why she answers him, she said she had to. Why, why do you have to? Just ignore the texts; better yet, block his number. Oh, she explained, she can’t – what about the kids? Oh honey, there are ways around that. If you cannot tell him to stop or ignore the texts when they come in, get a phone without texting for contact with him about the kids. Keep another number for friends to text. Mine was so bad, it became court ordered that he only email me unless it was an emergency about our children.
He can text all he wants, but if you don’t answer him, it will eventually stop. You’ve taken away his control.
A parenting coordinator once did an exercise with me once that was not very pleasant, but was a huge learning experience for me. For what seemed like an eternity, our parenting coordinator ranted to me on the phone. When he was done, he asked me what he had just said. I repeated things like I was fat, I was a bad mother, I was ugly, no man would ever want me and so on. When the parenting coordinator said I was wrong I began to argue. I knew what I heard. The parenting coordinator explained he had stated my daughter needed to be picked up at 5pm. WHAT? Ok, so I do recall something about that in his ranting.
His point was that I should have heard nothing else. The only things I need to hear from my ex are about our children. Nothing else matters and should have no importance in my life. It takes awhile, but it is such a life-changing lesson. Text after text about where I was, who I was with, what I better do or not do, how horrible of a person I was, how I ruin things for him, how I need to stay out of his life , how I need to stop sharing information with our kids, how I need to make the kids behave when they are with him and on, and on, and on.
My dad once told my mom that it takes two to argue. She wasn’t too happy about it since she was arguing with me, her teenage daughter. But years later, it rings loud and clear in my life. All those texts and emails I felt I had to answer, I had to explain my side, I had to prove him wrong. What I failed to realize was he was doing it to be mean, to be hurtful, to make me argue. I would never win the argument with someone who didn’t care and was arguing for the sake of arguing. I could have said we lived in the United States and he still would have argued.
If it doesn’t have to do with the children, do not answer, period. End of argument.
Photo Credit: Cody Wiley Photography