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Are You in a Controlling Relationship?--Checklist and Concerns

Updated on July 12, 2020
Joy At Home profile image

Joy has had a love relationship with Jesus since she was 14, and has taught Christian religious classes to various ages since she was 16.

Glorious Marriage? - or Prison Sentence?

Women often become hidden under the cloak of "submission", having their personalities, opinions, and interests erased.
Women often become hidden under the cloak of "submission", having their personalities, opinions, and interests erased. | Source

What Is This Article About?

For the basis of this article series, describing how common Christian relationship advice sets up women and children for problems, see Part 1. In Part 2, we explore control tactics, maturity factors, and sexuality.

Why People Choose to Change

I have divided the following relationship and personal questions into eight topics, designed to provoke serious soul-searching. Some of these questions may be impossible to answer from experience or logic prior to living with someone...but they are not impossible to pray about. Above all, here are some assumptions you should never make:

  • that someone has a valid excuse for deliberately bad behavior or attitudes

  • that someone will change when their circumstances change (new wife, baby, car, job, promotion, church, or house)

  • that someone loves you enough to change...or…

  • that someone loves at all, including themselves

People don’t change unless the pain of changing becomes less than the pain of staying the same...or of growing worse. Some people can and will put up with incredible self-loathing and pain, rather than grow. And you cannot change that in them - not through love, manipulation, harassment, self-pity, anger, patience, or even prayer. A person changes only if they see the need to change. Even God can only ask for change; He cannot force someone’s heart, or violate their free will. He designed us with free will so that we retain the capacity to enjoy or reject relationship.

Relationship Questions to Ponder

To someone who is abusive, love=control. Love is power leading to self-gratification, at all costs. Therefore, as you read the following questions, think about them in terms of power. Do your answers reflect a love of power in your partner? Do they reflect his willingness to share himself in a heartfelt and mature way, with clear and reasonable boundaries and actions? Or, perhaps, do they reveal a very immature or damaged psyche - which would leave you with responsibilities more akin to parenting than partnering?

Love=Control; I'll Die If I Let Go!

Handprints around throat. A woman living each day hemmed in by threats and emotional manipulation, disguised as “leadership” or a “strong personality”, feels as if she has Hubby’s hands poised around her throat.
Handprints around throat. A woman living each day hemmed in by threats and emotional manipulation, disguised as “leadership” or a “strong personality”, feels as if she has Hubby’s hands poised around her throat.

Control Factors

Consider -

  • When you are not side-by-side, does your partner expect you to check in with him - almost like a child with a duty toward her parents?

  • Does he exhibit a need to know where you are and what you are doing every moment of the day?

  • Is he alright with you being on a somewhat different schedule than he is, including bedtimes, or drastically different work hours?

  • Does he want to control your access to other people, the car, phone, computer, etc.

  • How does he feel about you having time to yourself? For example, does he seem to be suspicious of what you are accomplishing or doing? Does he seem jealous of the time you spend on hobbies, work, or other people?

  • How jealous is he, on a scale of 1-10? If he gets a high number, ask yourself whether he is protective...or exploitive? In other words, before you tell yourself that he is simply being protective, name at least two other occasions when he has protected or rescued you, when you really needed and wanted that support. On average, is he caring for your heart? - or his ego?

  • How does he feel about your friends, whether male or female?

  • Apart from holidays, does he ever buy you gifts, or do extra things for you?

  • How does he feel about your clothes and appearance? Your choices? Eating habits?

  • If you have developed homemaking skills, how does he respond to your use of these? Beware of both undue criticism and flattery, especially if he’s not helping with the work. If you have few “wifely” skills, how does he feel about the consequences of this lack? - boxed meals or eating out; excessive disorder or uncleanliness; confusion and lost belongings; haphazardly done laundry, including lack of mending; social shaming or inability to have friends into your home. On the other hand, if you are a good housekeeper, and he is a tyrant - whether of the neat-freak or slobbish variety - understand you can’t fix him. These can both be signs of a selfish, inflexible heart.

  • Does he expect and encourage you to take part in making big decisions, which may affect both of you or your family's well-being?

  • Does he make you feel small, uneducated, or otherwise unfit?

  • Does he ever push you to do things you would rather not do? Does he ever threaten you, or act threatening?

  • If you are in a position to share sleeping quarters, does he allow you to sleep well and soundly? Are you refreshed after a night spent alongside him? Notice ways in which he seems to ignore your needs in this area, manipulating you into exhaustion, illness, or an inability to function well.

  • How does he respond should you experience nightmares, a sleep disorder, pain, or a medical condition which interferes with your quality of sleep?

  • Does he ignore you for no good reason, or give you the silent treatment whenever he is displeased or wishes to punish you?

"Dear Rabbit" Song - Animation Showing Control, Abuse, and Codependency

Maturity Factors

Consider -

  • When you make a mistake, how does he respond?

  • Does he joke at your expense, even after you tell him how you feel about these incidents?

  • How does he feel about you wanting to know information about him and his past activities? If he hesitates to reveal himself to you, is he simply a very private person? - perhaps reserved - or is he in fact an unpleasant character looking to hide his heart and motives from you?

  • When he talks about himself, does he brag, exaggerate, or, perhaps, play the victim card...exhibiting either arrogance or a poor-me attitude?

  • How does he react when blamed for something, whether justly or unjustly?

  • Notice if you have to beg him to take part in activities which you enjoy, or whether he ever suggests things you both enjoy?

  • What are his motives for dating you or for getting married?

  • What behaviors and acts has he expected of previous girlfriends or spouses?

  • What is his definition of love? In what ways does he demonstrate affection, and expect you to demonstrate affection to him? How does he respond to you even when he’s not feeling warm and fuzzy, or when he is under stress?

  • How does he respond to you when you are unhappy, upset, or exhausted?

  • Are you allowed to disagree with him? How about shouting? Crying? Does he recognize that emotions can occur without being part of a manipulative pattern?

  • In what ways does he demonstrate forgiveness of himself and others?

  • How does he feel about physical aggression - especially as regards the possibility of receiving it from you?

Worth Your Time - Boundaries - The Book That Started My Road to Recovery

About the Book Boundaries

Boundaries was a very painful book for me, through which I slogged with trepidation the first time, struggled with conviction the second, and waded with satisfaction the third. It is not a big book, nor is it written in a difficult manner. But I was completely unprepared for it. I felt broadsided about every third page, because I had never before tried to set boundaries with the adults in my life. I am going through the book yet again, slowly, reviewing and taking journal notes. I can say with certainty that it has been among the more valuable books I've read.

The authors walk you through what a boundary is, why boundaries are good and necessary, and how to set them and grow with them. The vocabulary is, for the most part, ordinary, the organization of the book is good, and the attitude is gentle and helpful. I felt I got some desperately needed help which was timely and reasonable. The feelings of expectations I received from this book were high, but not too high. All the exercises are doable, and best of all...I could take my time, and change whenever I felt ready.

Sexual Boundaries and Fantasies

Do you have a clear understanding of his sexual boundaries, if any? While answering the following questions, you should keep in mind that they are for the sake of exploration - not condemnation.

How does he feel about:

  • Attending clubs

  • Viewing sexually explicit material or activities

  • Multiple partners

  • Committing adultery or having affairs

  • Cross-dressing

  • Same-sex partnerships or marriages; lesbianism, sodomy, bisexuality.

  • Bestiality (having sex with animals)

  • Oral sex

  • Anal sex

  • Sex toys

  • Coerced sex or rape (notice if he makes jokes about this)

  • Violence during sex, or as part of sexplay

  • Slave-and-master or dominant-and-submissive relationships and contracts

  • Sex trafficking and the sex trade

  • Under-age and child sex

  • Frequency of sexual intercourse

  • Male-female roles and stereotypes

  • Sexual positions

  • Kinky sex

  • Your responsibilities toward him sexually

  • Birth control methods, options, and consequences

  • Pregnancy

  • Abortion

  • Having children out of wedlock

  • Single-parenting

Previous Sexual Abuse and Concerns

Was he ever sexually abused? If he was, you can bet that he has what may be considered shameful fantasies, and possibly altered brain chemistry. He may have emotional disorders and impulses which he can’t really explain.

Sexuality is a very complicated subject, as each person’s outlook is created from all the other factors in their lives. Our sexuality is a mirror of our heart and experiences, including physical or soulish abuse. It is in this area that we can be both the most vulnerable, and wear the most masks. The above questions are designed therefore to be revealing...not divisive. They are for the purpose of showing you how much you really understand about your partner’s core desires and beliefs. His answering the “wrong” answer to any question means you have a serious problem to work out, and should weigh your opinions, values, and relationship most carefully. These things don’t usually work themselves out without help, and counseling. A series of negative or harmful answers to sexual questions may reveal a serious flaw in his heart attitude, which you cannot afford to ignore. At the least, such answers point to experiences and focuses of which you need to be aware. If you believe your man suffered a harsh or abusive background, you need to learn all you can about his behaviors and thought patterns, and why he has them. He may continue these patterns with you, or your children.

"Baby's" Romance, by Chris Garneau. He eventually did tell...but shame and horror can be strong barriers for many.

Perspective On Childhood Molestation

For more on living with and recovering from childhood sexual abuse, see Tommy’s Story. This is a firsthand account of one young man's experience of suffering repeated molestation at the hands of a family friend, and the stages through which he went on his healing journey. This story is not graphic, but is explicit. It was written to help and encourage others who may have undergone similar forms of trauma.

Checkpoints - Crucial Questions to Help You Draw a Conclusion

To put relationship concerns in focus, ask yourself, “If I had a child exactly like this person...and wound up rearing him completely alone...how would I feel about that? Would these traits I see help elevate my life and heart...or cripple it? Would I be ecstatically proud to be that child’s mother?”

It is a fact that whatever annoys you just a little bit during dating, will turn into a raging fire of shame, humiliation, confusion, or abhorrence during marriage. Translation: If, during dating, a behavior annoys you at the rate of 1 on a scale of 1-10, it is likely to climb to a 10, after you realize you are chained at the wrist with the owner of the habit, until death do you part.

If This Article Has Helped You, Feel Free to Link Back to It.

Would the Above Questions Have Helped You Avoid a Particularly Bad Relationship?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2018 Joilene Rasmussen

Are There Other Questions You Would Like to Add to These Categories? How About Sharing Your Personal Experience?

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    • Joy At Home profile imageAUTHOR

      Joilene Rasmussen 

      3 years ago from United States

      DS, again, you make several good points. My favorite:

      "Very few things rise to the level of importance as choosing the right people to invest our time and emotions into."

      As time and emotions are both limited resources, I couldn't agree more!

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 

      3 years ago from Chicago

      Very well written.

      "People don’t change unless the pain of changing becomes less than the pain of staying the same...or of growing worse." - So true!

      I often tell say: "People don't change unless (they) are unhappy."

      There have been many times I've had discussions with people who want and {expect} their mate to "change" into they want.

      The goal is to find someone who {already is} what you want.

      If you go to the grocery store to purchase an apple but buy an onion instead whose fault is that? Do you curse the onion for not being an apple? No! You learn to become a "better shopper"!

      When (we) change our circumstances change.

      I say all of the above from life experience. Once a person stops making {others} responsible for their happiness or lack thereof they're free. We get to (choose) who we spend our time with.

      "Checkpoints - Crucial Questions to Help You Draw a Conclusion" It's extremely important to have one's own {mate selection process}. Unfortunately many people pursue relationships without having taken the time to figure out who (they) are let alone know what they need in a mate for life.

      It's the equivalent of going shopping without a list!

      Know yourself, Love yourself, Trust yourself.

      The goal is to find someone who shares your same values, wants the same things for the relationship you do, naturally agrees with you on how to obtain those things, and last but not least have a mutual depth of love and desire for one another.

      There is no amount of "work" or "communication" that can overcome being with someone who simply does NOT want what you want. Compatibility trumps compromise.

      Like attracts like and opposites attract divorce attorneys!

      Very few things rise to the level of importance as choosing the right people to invest our time and emotions into. It can take years to recover from one extremely bad choice. Choose wisely!

    • Joy At Home profile imageAUTHOR

      Joilene Rasmussen 

      3 years ago from United States

      Whisper, you are most welcome!

    • profile image

      Whisper99 

      3 years ago

      Thank you!

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