If your spouse is trying to control when you see your family, what clothes you wear, whether or not you have a job, what you eat, and even what books you read – it’s time to take a step back and assess the state of your marriage, and whether you’re actually happy.
Perhaps your husband has to inspect your outfit before you walk out the door because he doesn’t want you to look attractive to other men. If he wants you covered up all the time, it’s not necessarily a sign that he’s crazy about you, but a sign that he has control issues. Or, if you’re a man and your wife texts you non-stop when you’re at the gym, on a business trip, or having dinner with a friend, this may be a sign that she has insecurity issues.
1. Your Spouse is Controlling
Suppose things are stressful at home. You argue daily and it’s a constant battle of the wills. Behind closed doors, you’re not the definition of a “happy couple,” but in public, your spouse forces you to act like newlywed, otherwise, he or she will withhold all love and affection indefinitely – they may even avoid being with you in public if you don’t act perfect the entire time you’re out together.
If your spouse expects you to put up a façade when you’re in front of family and friends, please know that this is not healthy. If you’re in an unhappy marriage, but you’re always putting on a show for everybody else because your spouse insists upon it, all of this acting will be detrimental to your overall well-being, especially if he or she has dared you not to utter a word about your problems to anybody, including your mom or your best friend.
If you can relate to any of the above, please be aware that you’re being subjected to a form of psychological abuse, which is not acceptable, even in a long-term marriage.
2. Your Spouse is Manipulative
Building a happy and healthy marriage takes work, from both sides. Almost every couple fights once in a while (some more than others). Voices are raised, sometimes a few doors are slammed, and somebody sleeps on the couch so they can have some space. After a day or two, most couples cool off enough that they can have a good talk with their partners; they’re able to act mature and treat each other with dignity and respect.
Some spouses, however, have trouble cooling off and thinking rationally. Instead, they stay angry, they close down and shut their partner out completely. Such begrudged spouses may not speak to their husband or wife for days, or even weeks. They don’t respond to calls or texts, and they ignore them in front of their children, as if they don’t exist.
The silence may have been caused by a simple disagreement, such as disagreeing over the use of a certain vehicle one day, or accepting an invitation to a neighbor’s pool party. In other words, the disagreement could have been over something minor, but the emotional manipulator is unwilling to be flexible with their partner, and they’re unwilling to work the issue out in a reasonable, respectful, and loving manner.
While your spouse may think that giving you the silent treatment is much better than verbally or physically abusing you, or moving out, “stonewalling” is a recognized cause of marital breakdown. Using silence to avoid conflict doesn’t work. In Psychology Today, Steven Stosny, Ph.D. said, “In aggressive stonewalling, the stonewaller knows that the silence, cold shoulder, and emotional isolation hurt his partner. He stonewalls to gain leverage or power.”
Are you in a relationship with someone who has the tendency to shut you out, sometimes without warning? Do you have to sit around, scratching your head, trying to figure out what you did to upset him or her? Do you have to beg him or her to talk to you, do you have to go out of your way and above and beyond to get their attention? If so, it may be time to call it quits. This is no way to live, especially if your spouse has proven that stonewalling is an established way of dealing with conflict, and it doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.
Unless your spouse is on board with fixing their issues, or willing to go to counseling with you – it may be time to put an end to the madness. You should not have to be walking on egg shells; if there’s no hope for improvement in sight, and you’re being drained of your positive energy, ask yourself, “Do I want to live this way for the rest of my life?”
3. Your Spouse is Shockingly Aggressive
Maybe your spouse isn’t physically aggressive, but they can yell and scream, and get so angry at you, you’re afraid of what they’re capable of. You may rationalize it by, “He has never hit me,” or “At least she screams at me in private,” but those rationalities don’t make the problem acceptable, nor do they make them go away. If your dream husband or wife turned into a tyrant after you said, “I do,” pay attention to their temper. Even if he or she has yet to be physically aggressive toward you (but you’ve lost a few lamps), that doesn’t mean they won’t be. Usually, people’s behavior escalates, especially if they are under stress, under the influence of alcohol, or develop a substance abuse problem.
Listen, everyone gets infuriated once in a while, but the question is over what? If it’s over cheating or blowing all of a couple's savings in Las Vegas, understandable. But reaching that level of anger because you made the bed wrong, or because the server forgot to “hold the mayo” on a burger while you’re out to lunch - now that’s a different story.
Regardless if your spouse is a “perfect 10,” or has a good job, or can be sweet, it’s not normal to scream, destroy your property, punch walls, or threaten you on a consistent basis. In fact, the three behaviors listed in the post are classified as “domestic violence,” even if they don’t involve physical assault.
If you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship, contact our Los Angeles divorce attorneys for compassionate legal advice and representation.