Meloncauli is a former nurse and anxiety management therapist. She hopes everyone can take something away from her articles.
Possessive and Controlling Men: Why Do They Play Psychological Mind Games?
We have common knowledge about the women who suffer a huge amount of trauma when physically beaten by a male partner or husband. We can see the marks of physical abuse and truly sympathise with the victim.
It is bad enough that men can actually cause severe injuries to those they supposedly love, but what of the psychological damage caused too? We can’t see this kind of trauma.
Physical abuse or domestic violence as it is commonly termed is nothing less than a form of cruelty. Where this kind of abuse happens, it is fair to say that there is a great chance that the woman is equally emotionally abused.
Of course, there are cases of abusive and controlling female partners, but for the sake of this article, I am going to look at the male abuser and female victim.
Mind Games in a Relationship
Psychological abuse, sometimes known as emotional abuse, can happen without the presence of physical violence, and it can be so subtle that it may be years before the victim realizes what is happening. It is often on the advice of observant friends or relatives that the victim begins to look at the wider picture.
It is a cunning form of abuse built on the insecurity and need for control of the abuser. When a man feels weak and has personal internal conflicts, he may consciously seek out a way to exert power over his partner, to gratify his ego, thus masking his weakness and problems.
If this person can dominate someone who he knows loves him, he is under the illusion that he is in control, and sadly for a long time, he may well be!
The Characteristics of a Psychological Abuser
There are some common characteristics of emotional abusers such as:
- Poor communicators
- Unable to take criticism
- Mood swings
- Will not admit to being wrong
- Unable to keep promises
- Shifts responsibility
The Behaviour of Psychological Abuse
He will build you up by making you feel wanted and loved only to knock you down. This may include walking out on you but he will always come back. He will apologise, but it will be a gesture only.
He will buy you flowers and tell you that you he will take your heartache away, that he will always be there for you. You will not notice that you only have heartbreak because he has just hurt you again, and slowly you will believe that you need him. His tactics will work!
- He will pay you compliments that build his ego such as - “I love you so much; you will never find another love like mine”. This sounds like he loves you like no other can, but the ulterior motive is to make you think you would never find anyone else to love you (ironically, he may fear losing you).
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- He will want to know where you are at all times and get jealous easily if you show other men any attention. He will tell you it’s because he’s so in love with you or he’s worried about your safety. At first, you will believe him because it’s followed with a kiss. Again, he is afraid you will leave him for someone else in reality.
- Slowly but surely, he will be making all the decisions. You look a million dollars in the red dress, but your behind looks big in the white one. In other words, he will pay you a compliment, but it’s a backhanded one. You will stop wearing the white dress and feel conscious about your weight. If he says you look better in trousers, you will believe him.
- He will grind you down bit by bit, finding little faults with what you say, how you say it, what you do and how you do it. He will find a way to keep helping you out because he says he can sort it out better than you. This is purely for his ego and not because you can not do those things. He needs you to need him.
- He will find ways to humiliate you, to make you feel stupid, even in the presence of others.
- He will lose his temper with you at times, showing impatience and irritability, but any of his behaviour will be because of something you have done or said. He will be sarcastic and always have the last say. Some of his negative behaviour will be carried out in a joking way so as to make it subtle.
- He may ignore you at whim or go silent and expect to give no explanation for this. You will assume it is something you have done wrong, but he will enjoy the power and control by refusing to discuss what’s on his mind.
- When he feels vulnerable and angry, he may tell you that he behaves the way he does because he has problems from his past (that are also not his fault), that he is the victim and needs your sympathy. You are the only person in the world who understands him.
- He might tell you that he will work for the both of you and that you don’t need to. If this happens, he may then go on to tell you that it’s unlikely you would find work again. He may isolate you but then go on to use and abuse that isolation.
- This man could tell you he loves you from the bottom of his heart one day and leave you the next, but he will enjoy what effect this has on you.
The Effects of Psychological Abuse
These are just some of the behaviours but believe me, there are many. All these behaviours serve to make you feel as weak and needy as possible. You will begin to lose confidence in yourself, and your self-esteem will dwindle. In other words, your man will have ground you down to his level. You may also begin to feel:
- Defeated/feelings of failure
- Spiritually broken
Why Psychological Abuse Is Difficult to See
You love this man. He can be so very kind and loving at times! You will say he has his good points and remember why you fell in love with him. Sometimes you feel sorry for him because he’s had a bad time in the past!
Slowly but surely, you will find that because you love him, you will believe in him and you are sure that he loves you. He tells you so, and his jealousy portrays how important you are to him!
He’s infectious even though he is like Jekyll and Hyde, and you perhaps even think you can change him. I always remember the quote I read years ago by Einstein:
“Women marry men hoping they will change. Men marry women hoping they will not”
– Albert Einstein (1879–1955)
The subtlety of abuse and the wonderful times in between him leaving you or finding fault in you will shroud the reality . . . because you are in love with the good in him. Love blinds us, and it’s not something to feel guilty about.
Not only that but he will make you feel you need him so much you will entirely believe it. His behaviour will cleverly draw you towards him.
It may be that the abusive male has had past bad relationships in which he was let down badly or other deep-rooted problems, but we must remember that abusers make a choice to abuse.
The more power and control they can feel, the more satisfied they will feel with themselves. They would find it extremely hard to admit to abusing someone as that would be admitting to having personal issues, weakness, blame and shame. Men are supposed to be all-powerful and dominant in an emotional abuser’s mind.
If you confront this abusive man, he may turn violent. He may feel desperate enough to threaten to take his life and use this type of blackmail to keep you at his side.
Advice for Victims of Psychological Abuse
- If you recognize some of the behaviours I have mentioned, then it is highly likely you are in a relationship in which there is psychological abuse. By the time you admit you are in an abusive relationship, you will have already suffered some of the effects and hopefully, you will recognise the need to escape. Here are some suggestions to help you break free from psychological abuse:
- No matter what the reasons are, or you think they are, for your partner’s behaviour, you must not make excuses up for him anymore. You must end the relationship and stand by your decision with no more contact.
- You must be prepared to go through a grieving process, and it may be difficult for several months, but you must expect this as you loved this man (probably still do).
Domestic Violence Helplines
- Home– National Domestic Violence Helpline
The Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge, is a national service for women experiencing domestic violence, their family, friends, colleagues and others calling on their behalf.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
- You must admit to allowing it to happen even though you didn’t see it for a long time. That sounds harsh because this type of abuse is cunning, but you need to make this stand for you to begin to take some control back. It also helps you to understand how it happened so you can work on it never happening again.
- To help you understand everything and to aid in healing, it’s a good idea to approach a domestic violence help team. Women’s Aid in the UK has been supporting female victims of domestic violence for many years. Most think Women’s Aid only deals with physical abuse but they do deal with psychological or emotional abuse also.
- You can seek the help of a counselor or therapist who deals with relationship issues. This can help you address the effects the abuse has had on you and help you understand what you must do to avoid getting into an abusive relationship again.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.