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How To Survive A Controlling Husband

Western Producer August 8, 1991

Q: I am writing about how to be a survivor of an emotionally abusive marriage. Perhaps I’m excusing them, but many older husbands aren’t aware that they’re being abusive. And even worse, many don’t care. Most older men want their wives to be submissive, obedient, have no mind of their own, and on top of that, be hardworking, thrifty, hospitable (to all the man’s friends) and to keep their opinions and ideas to themselves.

We had a speaker on family violence at our church women’s group. After that, some of us ladies talked. We feel we’ve all been abused. Most of us have only suffered emotional, psychological or verbal abuse, to lesser or greater degrees. But physical violence occurs in every community, even ours. Some women put up with it for years before they manage to get away. Men don’t know that crisis centres can be called, collect, so that a husband can’t trace his wife’s calls. Some areas have "safe homes", but only crisis centres can direct women to them.

My husband is basically good, but his ideas about what is a good wife belong in the Dark Ages. He sees himself as the boss of the family, with everyone doing as he says. He doesn’t approve of anything I do, so I quite asking him what I could do, long ago. If I were to ask, he’s say "No", so I just said, "I’m going". He still grumbles, gripes and even hollers about my going to my church group, although he knows I’ll go, no matter how much he complains.

He worked hard to financially support us as a family, but that was it. I was in charge of the kids. The only rest I had was when I was in hospital having a baby. After our children left home, I didn’t suffer from any empty nest syndrome. Instead, I could finally do a few things on my own!

My husband’s behavior follows a cycle, similar to that of abuse or violence. He’ll be nice and so helpful. Then he’ll become increasingly cranky when he knows I’m going to a ladies’ meeting. Finally, he gets really mad, hollers at me, and is quite insulting. He knows I’ll call the police if I get any physical abuse, so he just yells and threatens to beat me up. I don’t back off. I go to whatever events I need to go to. He gets over it, but it starts up again the next time.

I have no intentions of ever leaving. I basically like the guy! We barely have enough to get by on how, so who could afford to live alone! But, it gets depressing. I’m not alone in this situation. I know of other cases where the wife just smiles and humours the beast. I do my share of hollering in self-defence. No doubt, the Christian way would be to sweetly agree.

When my husband isn’t involved in the community, he’s glued to (or sleeping in front of) the television set. Yet he complains when I go to my ladies group. I feel sorry for women whose husbands try to control them so much.

It’s stressful, depressing and tiring having to deal with such pressures.

A: Thanks for your message. It’s an excellent testimonial for any women who needs to start to assert herself, and not be treated like a servant or slave by her husband.

Responding with firm action to abuse is the only way to stop it. Spouse abuse is like blackmail. If you give in once, you set up a situation where it becomes increasingly harder to take a firm stand. Reacting firmly and strongly, at the first sign of abuse, is the healthiest thing a woman can do.

I respect your decision about your marriage. But remember, Christianity talks about loving yourself as well as your neighbour. And this means not accepting abusive behavior. All men, regardless of age, are at risk of being abusive to their partners, the moment that the men start to believe that they have to be the boss, or that their spouse has to take care of them. Marriage is based on partnership, not ownership.