Read an Excerpt
If This Is Love,
Why Do I Feel So Bad?
When love goes wrong you feel it -- usually long before you can name or talk about exactly what the problems are. That uneasy sensation creeps up on you, like a bad case of flu. You brush it off, hoping it will go away. Or you take some precautions to "fix" things. But there it is -- that awful feeling -- taking up more and more of your life. Sometimes, looking back at the end of a relationship, you can see that you never were quite comfortable with it.
Haven't we all had that experience? Haven't we all said, about some relationship in our lives, "I should have figured that out a whole lot faster than I did"?
But when that uneasy feeling arises from a relationship with a controlling partner, it's very hard to make sense of it. In the midst of such a relationship, you may get all wrapped up in the immediate situation. You may become very busy, trying to keep your partner happy in order to seem reasonably happy and safe yourself.
This chapter -- in fact, this whole book -- will give you a chance to step back and see the bigger picture, the patterns often overlooked or ignored in the confusion of living with a controlling partner. In this chapter we'll define that key word control, and we'll talk about controlling partners. Who are they? What do they do? And most important: how can you tell if you're living with one?
Barbara was a little uneasy about her boyfriend right from the start, even though he couldn't have been nicer. Something about Kennethbothered her, but she couldn't say exactly what it was. The more she thought about it, the more she felt guilty about her own reservations, because he was usually very thoughtful and attentive. Barbara believed that her uneasiness was a symptom of her own fear of intimacy, and decided that if she wanted to have a boyfriend she'd have to get over that fear. She tried to focus instead on all the good aspects of Kenneth's personality and their relationship. She didn't want to spoil things.
While they were going together, Barbara saw what she called some "little problems" in Kenneth's behavior. She felt that he pressured her about sex, and sometimes he got angry or sulky if she was not in the mood for lovemaking. He wanted to spend so much time with her that she occasionally felt a need to get away by herself. But she continued to believe that the biggest problem in their relationship was caused by her own "fear of intimacy" -- and Kenneth agreed. He was ready to make a commitment to Barbara, he said; why couldn't she make a commitment to him?
Barbara convinced herself that marrying Kenneth and loving him "better" would straighten out his problems, as well as hers. But it didn't. After the honeymoon, her uneasy feeling didn't go away. Barbara asked herself: Why was Kenneth so difficult? Why did he seem to be so disappointed in her? She knew that she was far from perfect, but Kenneth seemed to find fault not just with her lovemaking but with nearly everything she did.
Naming The Problem
For many of us, this is a familiar story. Haven't we all spent time in Barbara's shoes, trying to work on a relationship, trying to make apartner happy? Perhaps your partner behaves in ways that annoy or frustrate you, but you hope that if you make him feel loved and secure, he'll behave differently, and the problems in your relationship will disappear. You may think -- and he may tell you -- that you and your love for him are his best hope of being happy and being able to change for the better. Or perhaps, when his behavior troubles you, you disregard it. You may find excuses for the way he acts and put the blame instead on the world we live in. You may take the blame on yourself. If he blows up at you, perhaps you tell yourself, "I should have known better than to talk to him when he was in a bad mood."
The chances are that he'll put the responsibility on you, too, just as Kenneth put the blame on Barbara. When he does something that bothers you, he says it's because of something you did first. And you have to admit that you're no angel. In addition, if you go to a therapist or read a self-help book, you may be reminded -- quite correctly -- that you can make changes only in yourself, and not in your partner.
In short, everyone points the finger at you. But in any relationship, both partners play a part in creating some of the problems, and both partners bear a share of the responsibility for fixing them. While you work hard on your part in the relationship, however, you may overlook your partner's part. Worse yet, you may not notice that some of the problems are caused entirely by your partner. Like Barbara, you may try to improve your own behavior -- without really questioning his.
You may be overlooking cues -- as Barbara did -- that the real problem lies with your partner. It may be that your partner is selfish, self-centered, moody, manipulative, possessive, critical, withdrawn, demanding, pressuring, coercive, intimidating, unpredictable, exacting, domineering, bossy, bullying, unreasonable, immature, angry, tyrannical, temperamental, explosive, insistent upon always getting his own way. In short, your partner may be controlling.
In Chapter 3 we will discuss why controlling partners behave as they do. But, as you will note in the following stories, their behavior frequently undermines some aspect of the woman's freedom: her work, her ability to drive a car or to leave the house.
When Love Goes Wrong. Copyright © by Ann R. Jones. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.