The Ugly Truth about A Controlling Abusive Partner

30 Oct 2018

What makes it so hard to recognise a controlling, abusive partner for the toxic creature that they truly are?  Why is it that the people who love them find it so hard to make sense of the controlling abusive partner’s behavior?  And why does all the information that they have about control have so little impact on the way that the loving partner actually feels?   In this article, I want to look at the whole issue of controlling partners in a new light to help you  grasp the full hopelessness of attempting to love a  controlling abusive partner.

The purpose Mr Wonderful serves

An abusive, controlling partner is hell to live with, as any abuse survivor knows to their cost. They make you feel unfree, unloved and unworthy.  But, still, they may not be that way all the time. Certainly, at the start ,they can be affectionate, fun, companionable, even adoring. However, the longer the relationship goes on, the less frequently that Mr Wonderful persona is  likely to make a guest appearance.

The point is, that early affection – role-play? – serves its purpose.  It makes it very hard for the loyal, loving, abused partner to let go off the dream and the fantasy that they signed up to.

Understanding control

We need to start by digging deep into the whole notion of control.  The very first book that I read on the subject of emotional abuse and domestic violence was Sandra Horley’s “The Charm Syndrome”. I read it when I was just beginning to realise that my long, long, LONG marriage felt so dreadful because it was terminally toxic. Horley talks about Power and Control and, for the first time, I got it. I was still in the throes of delusion. Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, I was still heavily invested in the wasband’s Wonderful Man & So Much Love in the Relationship Spiel.

Nevertheless, it had not escaped my notice that the wasband was (and doubtless still is) a man who loves to dominate every conversation and situation.  The toxic little beggar was, as even I knew, an almighty wind-bag.  (Actually, in more ways than one.)

Gradually, it dawned on me that Mr Uniquely Wonderful was not such an individual, after all.

The limits of power and control

Unsurprisingly, all abusers ADORE exerting Power and Control – Horley’s watchwords – over their partner. However, over my years of working with thousands of emotionally abused women, I’ve noticed that the explanation that toxic partners do what they do to maintain power and control does not resonate as deeply as I would like.

You see, I am not too concerned with my client group understanding potentially life-changing emotional truths with their heads.  They need to truly get those truths at heart level.  I have found, over and over again, that once a realisation really hits at heart level, you feel the truth.  That is when all the wavering and the fear of making a horrible mistake, or maybe still loving them really fades away, once and for all. That is when you bow to the truth that you can never, ever, redeem them, or save the relationship.

 So, let’s look more deeply at the whole idea of controlling behavior and look inside the skull of the controlling, abusive partner.

Why should control matter so much anyway?

What makes controlling the living daylights out of you matter so much to them?

As a generous, heart-centered empath, there is a part of you that likely wonders, Why can’t my controlling abusive partner just love and be loved? Why would anyone need power when they can have love?  

The short answer is that an abusive controlling partner is not “anyone”.  In fact, the one thing on earth above all others that they does not want to be is “anyone”.  He needs to be different and special.  Much of the time, in his own eyes, he is special.  You help to make him so.  Albeit for all the wrong reasons.

A controlling, abusive partner is not built like you and me.  Sure, you speak a common language – at least, they are as fluent in your language as they need to be.  You, however, have never been and will never be fluent in theirs.

I do not believe that controlling, abusive partners lack feelings.  The problem is those feelings only concern themselves.  They have the wherewithal to know what you are feeling and how to manipulate those feelings.  But do they care about your feelings?  

How much does a controlling abusive partner care? 

The true answer to that question is, they care very, very little.  They care only inasmuch as the way that you feel affects their convenience.  If you get so sick and tired of them that you want out, if they don’t have a replacement already lined up, that could affect the smooth delivery of their creature comforts.  That they care about.  So, at that point, you may well see the reemergence of The Holy Grail – aka Mr I-Can-Make-You-Happy, the partner you first fell in love with.

At this point, we need to go back to the beginning and re-examine, Mr I-Can-Make-You-Happy.  Who the hell was he in the first place? 

Being the person that you are, with your taste for honesty and openness, you naturally assumed that he was who he said he was.  After all, Narcissists and abusers have a great spiel.  They certainly should have because they listen carefully to you, at the start, and create their spiel accordingly.

So, you need to ask yourself, why do they do that?

What they were attracted to us in the first place

Much as we might all love to believe that they are irresistibly drawn to us by what lovely people we are, that is not actually their motivation.  The truth is more like this, they are looking to expand or replace their personal staff.  That means interviewing for and selling the position that they have available.

Unfortunately, you do not know what they know – which is that they are very poor employers.  They spin you a great story to get your buy-in because they need to fill the vacancy – at the lowest possible cost to them.

Nevertheless, even a narcissistic controlling partner knows that they have to shell out on a good “marketing” campaign.  That campaign may include, dinners, holidays, gifts.  What they are doing is contracting to buy the service and convenience that you represent.

The staged payments

Once the deal is signed and sealed, things start to change – because they own you.  In reality, they are probably making a staged purchase. The various stages probably include,

  • Becoming exclusive.
  • Moving in together.
  • Marrying &
  • Having a child together.

With each staged payment of your being, as they see it, they own you more completely.  And that is the point.  In their eyes, you become their thing, their domestic vehicle.

Some kind of vehicle

A controlling abusive partner sees you as some kind of vehicle.  You could be the Ferrari that they use to impress people, or the station wagon for keeping the family on the road.  Equally, you could  be the pickup truck or the rust-bucket that they run until it runs no more and then replace.  Or else, you could even be, at different times, all of these things.

The point is, they will only treat you as well as they feel they need to treat whatever vehicle they see you as.  They don’t feel that they owe you anything.  You simply occupy an object status in their life.  That means that they are hardly likely to say, “She put in X years of solid service, looked after me and the kids well, and showered me with love, so I need to do right by her.”

The purpose ascribed to you

A controlling abusive partner merely relies on you, the vehicle, to get them where they want, when they want.  That is why they are so notoriously callous when, through ill health or other significant problems, you become less dependable.  You don’t keep a vehicle with a view to having to humor and care for it.  It is purely there to serve you.

The ugly truth about a controlling abusive partner is that they don’t see you as anything other than a vehicle for them.  That is the only light in which their toxic behavior makes sense.

How my marriage imploded over a pair of socks

The first three day silent treatment that the wasband inflicted on me was because he did not have a clean, balled pair of socks waiting for him, first thing in the morning.  (Notice, he had – more or less – mastered the skill of dressing himself.) It made no sense to me that he would totally reject me and tear apart our 6 week old marriage for something so trivial.

Now, look at it from his perspective.  He had invested heavily in his new performance vehicle and what had it done?  It had stalled, virtually the moment he drove it out of the garage. But having signed and paid for it, he was stuck with something that wasn’t fit for purpose.

Now can you see how the rages of a controlling abusive partner work?

If you need help to free yourself from the clutches of a controlling abusive partner, get it touch.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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