I had never considered my husband a control freak. But as we were ending our marriage, I saw his need to control blossom into something ugly.
At that point, I reflected back over our marriage (for the millionth time?) and realized it had been there all along. I think I had largely overlooked it because I just wanted to get along.
Plus there were other hurtful behaviors that actually trumped this one.
Our divorce kicked off with some controlling behavior. What I had hoped would be a dissolution upgraded to a divorce when my husband sent the Sheriff to our home to serve me with divorce papers.
In those papers were restraining orders. He was trying to prevent me from accepting a job in my hometown. It was the best job opportunity that I could’ve received at that time. Many years ago, we had jointly decided that he would financially support our family while I basically stayed home with our four children.
But when the divorce started, he shut down all of my access to our finances. Then he tried to block my ability to provide for myself and the children. I was in an impossible spot, and needed solutions. Eventually, I came up with six strategies to handle divorcing a control freak.
6 Strategies To Use When Divorcing A Control Freak
1. Limit his opportunities to control. I created an email account just for him and refused to communicate with him in any other way. I informed him that I would no longer speak with him in person, nor would I answer his texts. If he needed to give me information quickly (maybe running late to pick up the kids), he could text someone in my support system and they would immediately let me know. The email account was actually my attorney’s idea. It limited my ex’s ability to control me and made a permanent record out of everything he said.
Along that same vein…
2. Create witnesses. After I made an email account just for him, I realized I could improve upon the idea even further. I made sure he knew that I would not be reading his emails. The people who supported me took turns reading emails from my ex. They only passed along the information that I actually needed to know, usually details about the kids.
I was never made aware of the drama, threats or speeches. My ex was intensely upset about this, but I stuck with it. I cannot even express how much stress this lifted from me. And yes, I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have such a wonderful support system!
3. Move, if you can. This was a tricky situation because my attorney and I decided that I would drop all of the kids off at their father’s new place, and then I’d move to my hometown. Their father had never wanted to be involved in parenting, and I knew that among other issues, the children would get really upset by his parenting and personality.
Within two weeks, all four of the children had found a way to move out of their dad’s home. Thankfully, the courts later interviewed all of them and allowed the children to move so they could live with me. The kids had been so understanding, but this calculated risk frightened me and filled me with guilt. The move was for a job opportunity and creating a better life for the kids and me. But it also ended up playing a significant role in my healing and creating boundaries. I believe it saved me.
4. Document. It felt like I would be stooping so low to record or videotape my ex, even though he was consistently doing that to me. But one day he called the police on me because our son rode the school bus to where his Pappaw was instead of where his father lived.
Once the officer understood how upset the children were, he explained that it could really help the kids and me if I were to record them being forced to visit their dad. Once my ex understood that I would be openly recording, he backed off on forcing visits. (Disclaimer: If children can be/feel healthy in their relationships with BOTH parents, I believe this is best. I don’t want to sound anti-dad. I’ve met some men that are amazing dads!)
5. Neutral territory. Two of our children visit with their father, and whenever we exchanged the children I insisted that we do so in a very public location. I had noticed that my ex’s controlling behavior was always bolder when we were at our homes or another private place. I’m very lucky because my father usually offers to do pick-ups/drop-offs. Pappaw has clocked in some major hours driving the 90-minute trek to my ex’s house with some very precious cargo.
6. My life is no longer his business. I stopped posting on social media for a few years. When I returned, I thinned down my friend count to remove anyone who was also a friend of my ex’s. As far as I know, the children feel pretty protective of me and never mention me or details of my life to their dad. He has tried to come into my home to use the bathroom, but I’m not comfortable with this (there is a nice Subway and gas station just two blocks away). In the past, he has gone through my belongings, and he’s been known to take pictures. I believe the less he knows about me, the less opportunity he has to control me.
There are almost always better ways to handle relationship issues than with control and force. Where’s the finesse, patience, compromise, and understanding? We have the right to be treated with respect. Plus, when we do stand up for ourselves, the other person has an opportunity to self-correct – if they are able. If they are allowed to treat us unfairly, they aren’t going to have an impetus to change. But if this best-case scenario doesn’t work out, and they still remain control-freaks, at least you’ve established some healthy boundaries for yourself.