Tuesday, June 18, 2024

I’m married to a Bully – what should I do?

His easy charm turned into devious manipulation, and his kindness hinged on my toeing his line. The sad account of a 65-year-old who writes this account anonymously

I am a 65 year young woman and my husband is 69. We met in college. He is Punjabi and I am a Maharashtrian. We both studied in Pune and fell in love and got married. Two years later I had a miscarriage and after another two years we had a baby girl, and the Doctor said that having another child was not going to be easy.

My husband was charming, attractive, intelligent, funny, and kind. He knew just the right words to say to make me feel special. He was the perfect guy for me — until he wasn’t. In our early years, he was being overly attentive and helpful. He just wanted the best for me.

He’s a strong, decisive man who knows what he wants and says what he means.  However, as time went by, if I didn’t listen to suggestions and friendly tips he came down heavily on me, criticising and demanding that I listen to all his suggestions, even trivial stuff.

The charm turned into manipulation, and his kindness hinged on my toeing his line.

I soon realised that my perfect guy was in reality a control freak who demanded that everything was his way or the highway.

He had an array of psychological tools at his disposal to ensure I did what he wanted or suffered the consequences. The consequences range from ultimatums, manipulation, and threats to shaming, blaming, and shutting me down.

By this time, 5 years into our marriage our daughter was born and suddenly the pressure eased on me and we were both happy again.

My dad, who was a Doctor, ran a pathology clinic and after his demise I sold the entire business to a group of Doctors and received a sizable sum of money.

We have our own ways and ideas, opinions, beliefs and assumptions of doing things that we have developed long before we met our partners. As a couple it’s natural to want our spouses to have similar viewpoints. Sometimes my husband would subtly attempt to coerce me that his way is the best way.

We sent our daughter to a boarding school. I thought it would make her independent and keep her out of our constant rattle.

There was a constant tug of war and I had to change my opinions and beliefs to match his. He would find a way to get nasty if I ignored or dismissed his opinions.

It seemed to me that I had lost a lot of my autonomy?

I had to hold back saying what I thought for the fear of making him angry. I had to analyse everything I did because I was unsure of myself. He treated me more like a child or a subordinate than a true partner?

I began to believe that I had lost my identity and a sense of self.

Twenty years into our marriage, our sex life had waned, my daughter came back from boarding school and saw what was happening and concluded that my husband was a control freak.

Control freaks aren’t always the beefed-up tough guys you see in the movies who yell and scream to get their way. They can be soft-spoken as my husband was as well as well-educated and amiable extroverts. What control freaks have in common is the need for control and the compulsion to exert that control in their intimate relationships. They have learned to fool even the smartest, most capable woman, only to reveal their true nature once the woman is made wife. Post our marriage the change came slowly, like a low-grade fever and turned into a full-blown virus and it happened with such sudden intensity that I became a little puppy doing everything he said.

The most difficult part, in the beginning, was the confusion and shock. He was so nice. He was so loving. What happened? What did I do to bring this on?

My grown up daughter was a great support and my husband resented her butting into every conversation.

I was confused about whether or not I was married to an overbearing man who wanted to control me. Perhaps I have wondered if this behavior is a normal part of relationship dynamics. Did it always happen that one of the two spouses becomes a controlling freak? And is it always the man?

We all exhibit controlling behavior from time to time, but it’s important to know the signs of a controlling husband. There is no stereotype of a bully.

Their needs, desires and decisions always override yours and if you try to argue or press your case, you’ll get an ear full. They will bully you, pout, try to make you feel guilty, or refuse to acknowledge your request. They will make your life so miserable that you simply give in.

Over time, I learned to just go along, which, unfortunately, led my controlling husband to tighten the reins.

I was criticised constantly. He didn’t like what I was wearing or how I spoke. He made “jokes” at my expense. He always found an error or flaw in my success. Typically if I had made a good dessert, it would be either too sweet or not sweet enough and some fault was found with the rest of my cooking. I rarely felt good enough around him because there was always something to correct, something I could do better. And if I reacted he would say “Why do you have to make such a big deal about it? I’m only trying to help you.” Over time, I felt unloved and always lacking.

My daughter helped me get over my emotional trauma. My husband feels that she is butting into our life. In the meanwhile she has finished with her graduation and has found a job. She is also seeing someone and sooner or later they will get married and I would be all by myself. Deep down I feel my husband terribly resents the fact that I am financially self-sufficient and not dependent on him. A part of the property of the laboratories was retained by me which now has appreciated in value and I could sell it for a tidy sum.

My husband attaches conditions to love and affection.

He uses sex as a tool for manipulation. He knows I crave love and affection, so he doles it out based on what he wants from me.

I am completely worn out, the man snoops and checks my phone, email and believes that I have no right of privacy. He is possessive and jealous and constantly suspicious of my motives and actions and views the most innocent interaction as flirting. He won’t admit his fault and in front of others he behaves as if he is prince charming. He is so out of touch with emotional intimacy that sex is perfunctory and just a physical release for him without any concern for me.

My daughter got married and went away to the USA and after that I really couldn’t take this relationship any more. I asked my friends if I should divorce him, they advised me not to. The standard answer was why so late in life continue living the way you are. Being by yourself will be even more traumatic than staying in the marriage.

What should I do?

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