If Your Spouse Is Doing This, They Are Controlling

“Is my spouse really a narcissist?” That’s what many of Mary Jo Fay’s clients ask her. Her standard reply: “It doesn’t matter. The real question is ‘Are you and your children healthy in this relationship?'”

Since dealing with a controlling spouse can be very confusing, Fay, 52, relationships counselor based in Denver, Colo., developed a list of what she terms red flag narcissistic behaviors, excerpted from her book “When Your Perfect Partner Goes Perfectly Wrong: A Survivor’s Guide to Loving or Leaving the Narcissist in Your Life.”

“Whether your spouse is a narcissist, drunk, controller, bi-polar or just a jerk, looking at your own health in the relationship is what really matters. And certainly for that of your kids, who are destined to grow up and repeat the pattern,” she said.

“These may help you to gain a clearer understanding of how a narcissist acts. Somatic narcissists may have more behaviors related to their bodies, while the cerebral ones will be more intellectually oriented,” she said, but cautioned, “Not all of these behaviors will necessarily show up in each person. And, in fact, many of us will likely have some of them ourselves. But if you have checked off a vast majority of the boxes on this list, the odds are in your favor that you are on treacherous ground.”

  • May propose love and marriage within only a few weeks of starting a relationship.
  • Very charismatic or charming at first, but can quickly switch from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde without apparent cause.
  • Extreme infatuation with oneself, self-centered, expects to be recognized as superior, preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited power, success, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  • Takes advantage of others to achieve her needs.
  • Demonstrates a constant need for admiration or approval.
  • Exaggerates personal achievements while minimizing those of others.
  • Feels entitled to special treatment and that rules frequently don’t apply to him.
  • May insist that she know your whereabouts at all times.
  • Demands compliance with his expectations.
  • Is unable to demonstrate or understand empathy or compassion.
  • Does not seem to feel real happiness or positive emotions.
  • Panics, cries, begs and becomes emotional if she anticipates an end to a relationship.
  • Quick to anger or feel insulted or slighted.
  • Rages with anger or inflicts the silent treatment when upset.
  • Sulks when he doesn’t get his way.
  • Nothing is ever her fault.
  • Doesn’t acknowledge or respect other’s boundaries.
  • His need for attention, time and space matter, yours do not.
  • Has difficulty putting herself in another’s shoes.
  • Shows no feelings of remorse or guilt for his mistakes or the hurts he dishes out.
  • Wins most arguments through the use of rationalizing her behavior.
  • Frequently complains that whatever you do, it isn’t good enough.
  • His attitude is generally haughty or arrogant.
  • Expects you to read her mind when she wants something.

And what does it do to YOU? Controlling behavior by a narcissist, according to Fay, has long-term and far-reaching effects on you. It often leaves you feeling guilty, drained, fearful, exhausted, just plain stupid, and most of all, wondering how you got there. Identifying with a majority of the feelings on the list below indicates that you might be in a controlling, destructive relationship.

  • Feeling guilty for making the narcissist feel the way he or she does.
  • Chronically confused about partner’s sudden changes in behavior.
  • Frequently exhausted from never knowing what might happen next.
  • Feeling like they have to walk on eggshells to avoid rocking the boat.
  • Always apologizing for never doing things right.
  • Trying to keep a low profile to avoid being noticed.
  • Blaming themselves for never doing things well enough.
  • Always feeling anxious when they walk in their own home.
  • Never completely trusting their partner.
  • Never feeling respected or equal in the relationship.
  • Having to ask permission to do anything.
  • Not being allowed free access to their financial accounts.
  • Never being able to win any argument.
  • Always wondering what they did wrong.
  • Always attempting to try harder  to make things better.
  • Chronically feeling empty.
  • Repeatedly making excuses for and forgiving their partner’s unacceptable behaviors.
  • Often wondering how they got into this situation to begin with.
  • Doing things they are uncomfortable with because they feel pressured to do so.
  • Discovering that the narcissist has frequently lied or misled them.
  • Feeling like no one else could possibly love them.
  • Rarely feeling like their needs are being met or even acknowledged.
  • Friends tell them they are being abused, but they just can’t see it.
  • May end up looking like the crazy one in the relationship.