The Controlling Wife


So many times we hear about sociopathic men controlling women. Typically, it is females who become trapped in emotionally abusive relationships and cannot leave due to financial circumstances. However, there are also many men trapped in similar situations. I know that the term ‘controlling woman’ is a stereotype and yet I recently experienced a situation which made me think about it in-depth.

A dear friend of thirty years recently tried to end his relationships with  a sociopathic family member. I had been friends with this man, whom I’ll call Tom, for thirty years. I knew about Tom’s situation with his family member for several years. Several months ago, he came to me because he had decided to cut off ties with this individual, who happened to be his wife.

My friend grew up in a home with a very controlling mother and without knowing it he signed up for the same treatment in his marriage. I met his wife when they first started dating. She struck me as quite immature. She was 21 at the time but seemed more like 11. All that this woman wanted out of life was to have as many babies as possible and to not have to work outside the home. Tom, who was in love with his wife and eager to start a family, agreed that she should stay home with the children but he did not know that he was also signing up to support her financially for the rest of her life.

The number of children seemed to be the first point of struggle. After three children, Tom wanted to stop but she insisted on more. Tom wanted a vasectomy stating that they could not afford more children because his wife was not working and he had a blue-collar profession. After the fourth child arrived, Tom again stated that he wanted no more children. At this time, they had three boys and one girl. His wife insisted that she “needed” another daughter and begged and pleaded. So their second daughter was born. After five children, Tom insisted on a vasectomy.

After the vasectomy there was very little and eventually no sex. Without the possibility of pregnancy, Tom’s wife only used sex as a reward/punishment system, sending him to sleep on the couch so often that he eventually moved to the couch.

In addition to wanting more children than they could afford, Tom’s wife also had expensive habits including wine, clothing, make up and going out to lunch with her friends. She still did not work outside the home. Tom went without to provide her  wants and he subsequently ignored his own needs. His wife had been brought up in a wealthy family and she did not seem to understand that her husband was a blue-collar worker with a limited earning potential. Credit card debts ensued, not for necessary items but for luxuries. At one point the finances were strained after Tom was laid off from a manufacturing firm which was moving overseas. Instead of offering to find work herself to help pay the bills (the youngest child at that time being 8), his wife pushed for them to take a second mortgage, which they did, mounting to the debt.

Early on in this marriage, Tom’s wife took the lead of being the boss, of being in charge. He referred to her as a bully. If she did not get her way, then she would punish him with sullen moods, outbursts of anger, and fits of crying. She inflicted her moods on the children, who also responded to her manipulations by acquiescing to their mother’s demands. The entire household revolved around the mother. Anything and everything was done to keep her calm. Tom pressed her to see a psychiatrist but she refused.

With the economic changes after 2008, Tom found that he was unable to make enough money in his career as an industrial tradesman without traveling to remote areas for weeks or months at a time and sending the money back home to his wife. He lived in squalid conditions including musty hotel rooms, shared housing and even campsites to keep his expenses as low as possible. He was incredibly unhappy and yet he felt that he must keep working to support his children, especially as his wife continued to not work outside the home.

As the years went by the type of work Tom had to perform, which involved climbing and lifting for ten to twelve hours a day, began to have a toll on his body. Having inherited a genetic form of arthritis, his limbs became twisted and as he took medications to control the swelling at such high levels that his liver levels were altered. It was at this point that I came into contact with him again, after an absence of several years. He was desperate to change careers and yet he could not afford to. When I suggested that his wife should get a job, he felt thankful to me for saying so. And yet she continued to not work and he continued to tax his body.

During the past couple of years, Tom remarked to me that lately, instead of working five ten to twelve-hour days per week, he needed to work six in order to make enough money to satisfy his wife’s spending habits. He referenced her credit card bills, expensive clothing, trips to the hairdressers, cases of wine, organic food, vitamins. At this point, I interjected, “Organic food! You’ve got five kids and a workingman’s salary! You can’t afford organic food!” He sadly agreed and yet he seemed powerless to stop her from buying it.

Finally, last fall, feeling his body becoming worn out and broken, and with every day of work more painful than the one before, Tom had enough. He decided to call it off. The youngest child was fifteen. He announced his intention for a divorce, and told her that although he would fully support the children and household until the youngest was eighteen, she would need to get a full-time job right away, as he intended to transition to a career which would not destroy his body further.

Tom’s resolve lasted a few months while his wife battered away at him daily. First, after having ignored him sexually for years, she began pursuing him against his will. He felt extremely uncomfortable about her advances and asked her to stop. She did not. Since he was working several hours away, and saw her only occasionally, at first this was not too difficult. But then she began calling him and texting him unceasingly. After having ignored him completely for years, she began a campaign of constant contact, which anyone outside of the situation would consider harassment. She agreed to go to counseling to address her poor behavior, then she missed the appointments. She yelled, screamed, cried, withdrew. She harangued him, argued with him and accused him repeatedly of neglecting his duty. She shamed him. She told him that his children were suffering because of his actions. She upset their teenage and young adult children, whom she drew into her confidence as she designated herself as the victim, suddenly thrown out and forced to get a job, as if doing so were an indignity she could not bear. Soon his young adult children began to call him at work asking, “Why are you making Mom get a job?”

None of Tom’s children seemed to be aware of the breakdown of their father’s body, or how hard he worked, or what that work did to him. All they heard was the deafening yells of this woman who was simply a large child not getting her way. Finally, after several months of harassment, Tom needed unexpected surgery and wound up unemployed and living under the same roof as his wife. Due to pressure from her and his oldest daughter, he finally gave up his intention to get a divorce and agreed to reconcile with his wife. Undoubtedly, he will work six or seven days a week until his body fails, which cannot be too many years from now. (He is currently 50 years old.)

As sad as this story is, I know of several men trapped in similar situations. Their female partners control them by withholding sex, and making them feel ashamed. They accuse them of neglecting their duties and being bad fathers if they consider leaving their wives. My friend Tom knew that it was possible to get divorced and still be a good father and he set out determined to do this and yet his intentions were undermined by his wife convincing him (and the children) that if he left her, he was also leaving the children. This case is particularly sad in that the wife used the children to such an extent that Tom began viewing them as if they were much younger and more helpless than they were. A secondary aspect of this family’s dysfunction is that the adult children were also growing dependent on Tom to be the person who not only made all the money but who solved all of the emotional squabbles in the household. Two of the adult children were still living at home and not contributing anything to the household in terms of either money or labor.

Control and manipulation are gender neutral. Anyone can play in these twisted games. My heart goes out to all persons trapped by controlling partners or family members; may you all find the courage to escape.

Namaste,

Ixchel

Pathological Relationships in the Media: Harry’s Law ‘After the Lovin’


I was quite appalled on Sunday night after watching the episode, ‘After the Lovin’ on NBC’sHarry’s Law‘. One of the episode’s story lines featured a narcissistic man, Tommy,  who was in a relationship with several women at once and lying to all of them.  When the story line began, one of his girlfriends was suing him.

Tommy, the narcissist, got caught because he had bought several pairs of the same style shoes for his five girlfriends for Valentines‘ Day gifts. As it turned out, two of the women ran into each other and figured out what was going on. In addition, under questioning by counsel, Tommy admitted to telling each of girlfriends at the onset of each relationship that he was impotent and subsequently could only  offer companionship and cuddling.

The plot thickened. Next, Tommy told each girlfriend that her own unique love  had revived his dormant penis, which resulted in each of the relationships becoming sexual.

While telling this story to counsel, Tommy appeared like a slimy jackass. The woman who had brought suit asked him how many other women he had told the same story to and was visually hurt when he told her that he’d been sleeping with four other women at the same time. She then explained how special Tommy had  made her feel, by spinning his lies about her love curing his impotence. I was really hopeful at this point in the narrative that we were going to see a narcissist shamed on national television for lying to and cheating on women.

However, to my utter dismay, the narcissist then turned the tables. Tommy convinced the woman and the lawyers that the only reason he had lied and cheated was because of his own low self esteem. Tommy justified his behavior by painting himself as the poor guy whom all women broke up with. “You would have left me too, ” Tommy told the woman. And then the whole scene changed, with everyone looking sad and sympathetic for the sexual predator. And that’s how it ended! No settlement to the victim, no shaming for the perpetrator!

Shame on you, NBC. With all the public awareness growing about pathological relationships, your writers should have done the right thing and not let this slimebag wriggle off the hook.

I visited the ‘Harry’s Law’ webpage to see what, if anything, was written about the episode. I found a quiz about the episode called “You Be the Judge” and took it.

The quiz consisted of one question about each of the story lines. The one about Tommy’s treatment of the women was, “Tommy deserved to be sued by his scorned lover” (http://www.nbc.com/harrys-law/games/you-be-the-judge-211/a8e125c2417d65ba72dc01f5bfd5a0ef)

How infuriating. Tommy didn’t scorn his lover. Tommy systemically lied to and cheated on five women at once, and then was made to look like he was the victim.  What if Tommy was HIV positive or had syphilis and infected all of his lovers? There is nothing funny or socially acceptable about lying to and deceiving multiple sex partners.

Television set for Wikipedia userbox icons, or...

Image via Wikipedia

Maybe we should boycott NBC until their writers revisit this story hold Tommy accountable for his actions.

Namaste,

Ixchel

Crawling into a Hole & Dying (or not)


Shame on you

Image by Έλενα Λαγαρία via Flickr

After the shock, after the month of bargaining and denial, shame took over. Shame is not one of Elisabeth Kubler-Rossstages of grief. How could it be? Kubler-Ross was writing about death and dying when she described the stages. Nor is shame in the Extended Grief Cycle.

Shame is where grief from betrayal branches off from other kinds of grief.

Once I could no longer deny what had happened, once I could no longer pretend that the magic fairies were going to swoop in and fix it, or he was going to have some sort of life changing epiphany, enter a residential drug and alcohol treatment program, and turn the screwed up mess he’d made of my life into the ending of a Hallmark made for tv movie, I was deeply, totally ashamed.

I was ashamed to tell others what had happened. I was ashamed to face my two good friends who had told me never to trust this man again when he’d appeared back in our lives.

I was ashamed to face my seventy five year old father, whom I’d convinced that my lover had his act together and was treating me good this time around. I was ashamed to ask my Dad to come and be with me while my world fell apart in those first days of shock.

I was ashamed that I’d ever trusted him again, that I’d let him hurt me again. I was ashamed that I’d become so intimately involved with him and that he’d hurt me like this. I was ashamed that he’d thought so little of me that he’d just started sleeping with another woman, started dating her, and not even had the kindness, the decency, to let me know in advance, so that I could have saved my pride, at least.

I was ashamed that I’d believed any of his lies.

I was ashamed to tell my teenage sons what had happened. I still haven’t told them. As far as they know, this man I had been dating for two and a half years, their sister’s long lost father, and about whom I had told them so much about why he was so important to me, just dropped off the face of the earth.

I was ashamed, I was mortified, that I’d had a sexual relationship with this liar, with this cheater! I was ashamed that I’d given my entire emotional and sexual self to him, in complete trust.

I was ashamed that I’d been tricked, not only by him, but by this other woman, who apparently knew all about me. They’d both tricked me, they’d both lied to me.

I was ashamed to have my life fall apart, to be that person with her life falling apart, once again.

I was ashamed to find myself ,forty three years old, sleeping on a mattress on the floor of my dining room, because being in my own bedroom triggered too many memories.

I was ashamed to weep myself to sleep every night on this mattress on the floor.

I was ashamed that my sadness would not go away.

I was just so very ashamed, at all the things that must be wrong with me, to be treated like this, with such callous disregard, with such disrespect.

When I was alone at the house last December, I could visualize digging a hole in the back yard and crawling into it and dying. Yes, just like that Marshall Tucker Band song.

I have never been so ashamed in my whole life, and the shame colored me darkly with a purple black hue that I cannot wash off. It filled up my entire being, inside.

I am stained with shame.

Namaste,

Emmeline