How to handle an intimidating spouse

The reasons why two people get along and make good romantic partners are as varied as humans are.

He yells at you, and you respond sweetly: “I’ve thought about your request that I wear high heels to cook in, and even though I enjoy making you happy, I’ve decided that I’m more comfortable in these pants and tennis shoes.” He says: “If you loved me, you would wear what I requested.

As a Psychologist, I find it easy to look beyond the behaviour to the underlying reasons. Having said that, understanding the reasons doesn’t automatically make me like someone! When we come across an angry and unhappy person, many of us take this behaviour personally. I remember when I worked at Broadmoor Hospital, we would have supervision to help us cope with the various personalities we had to deal with.

The person who had come to talk to us explained that the aggressive and intimidating behaviour that we received most days from those held in Broadmoor was more about them than it was about us.

After a woman breaks-up from a controlling partner, he may send her gifts, such as jewellery and flowers, with a card saying, “Sorry, I love you.” To someone who has lived with ongoing coercive control by this man, the gift and the message means something threatening to her, for example, the unwelcome gift and message may mean he will try every tactic possible to manipulate his way back in; or he knows my every move; or there is no escape; or I am unsafe.

It is important for the victim of symbolic aggression to trust their gut instinct about what they view the tactics to mean, and to do whatever it takes to keep themselves, and their children if they have any, safe.

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