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4 Vital Ways Your Friends Make You a Better Spouse

4 Vital Ways Your Friends Make You a Better Spouse

You’ve seen them. The couple who, in the midst of a busy restaurant, are oblivious to life around them. Staring at each other, gooey-eyed and grossing people out at surrounding tables. It can be endearing. They’re in the ‘getting to know all about you’ phase. Right now, they don’t need anyone else in the world, but it won’t stay that way. Or, at least, it shouldn’t, if they want their relationship to thrive.

Don’t tell them, but they actually need other people for the long term health of their couplehood. They need their friends. Here’s why.

1. You Have Different Points of View

Men and women don’t communicate alike. Or for the same purpose. The early, gooey-eyed phase is a case in point. At the start of a relationship, the man is on a recon mission. He’s gathering info about a woman in order to know how to ‘do life’ with her. Once he has enough info, the mission is done. No further deep and focused talk is required. That phase is over. He is now ready to move on to the next phase: Doing life.

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The woman experiences the gooey-eyed phase entirely differently. What the woman is thinking: “I’ve finally found a man who will talk with me. It must be love!” And, trouble can begin just as fast. The trouble is, he is finished with that intense level and type of communication just when she is starting to think she can count on it.

Ladies, I know you want him to, but he probably doesn’t need to talk through life events the way you do. He’s Mr. Fix It, not Mr. Discuss It. Men, she doesn’t want you to fix it. She just wants you to listen to her and, where appropriate, discuss it with her.

If we are going to celebrate our differences – and accept them – this truth needs to be heeded: You each need people of your same gender to talk to. Ladies, you need girlfriends to unload the bulk of your talk on. Your man, likely, has a threshold much lower than your needs. Gentlemen, you need other men to bond with. And, likely, the bond won’t be formed around the words you share. (But you knew that without me having to say it, didn’t you?)

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2. You Need a Second Opinion

Life isn’t Leave It to Beaver. No one grows up perfectly. Our ideas of how life works and why our spouses do what they do could be based on bad examples. This means we need another perspective on, well, everything. You will not always be able to see how you’ve contributed to a conflict. But a good friend will.

Maturing means learning to see for yourself where you’re off the straight and narrow, but the learning process can be slow. Often, our straight lines look more like Celtic knots when we start in a relationship. We need trusted friends (who are unlikely to be perceived as a threat to our marriage, by the way) who know where our line is crooked. And, they need to be bold enough to let us know when we’re messing it up.

3. You Can’t Vent To Your Spouse About Them

This one is for everybody. If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a person who doesn’t have anyone to talk to but you, then you’ve heard it. Venting is healthy, to some degree. Unloading emotions in words instead of action can be a far better choice. For example, “I’ll scoop his heart out with a spoon!”, is better said than done.

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But if you’re the only person your spouse confides in then, eventually, they will vent about you. To you. And you won’t like it. Neither do they I’ll bet you can’t listen to how much you’ve put them through for long without buying into it on some level. Or resenting it deeply. Even if you know they’re only venting.

Personally, I have some awesome girlfriends and one incredibly wise mentor who can hear me vent just about anything without passing judgement on me. I’m grateful to have people who understand that arguments are rarely one sided. If your friends are quick to condemn your spouse when you vent, they’re not being friendly. They’re being destructive.

Your relationship is a part of the structure of your life. You want friends who will help shore it up, not be a part of the demolition crew. (Please don’t take this too far. There is such a thing as an unsafe relationship that needs to end or undergo massive change. That’s not what I’m talking about here.).

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4. Everything Does Come to an End Eventually

No one likes thinking about death (of a person or relationship), especially in the middle of life. But the reality is, the two of you are unlikely to pass away on the same day. Plus, we live in a climate of divorce and a culture that practically promotes it. If your partner has been your only true friend in a long life, how would you feel if they passed away before you? You would have two major things to mourn at once. Obviously, you’d mourn your lost partner. But you’d also be in mourning for intimacy and human connection.

Being known by others is a legitimate need. Not only would a true friend or two help you deal with the pain of loss, they would also be able to share the memories that made your partner worth mourning. Divorce would be even worse. The tearing apart that happens to people who divorce can be incredibly painful. Good friends will help you talk through your struggles. Incredible friends will keep you so busy that you can’t even think about them.

These are all compelling reasons to cultivate deep friendships outside your relationship. But will you do it? You’re busy with work. You’re focused on your kids. You want to spend your limited free time on your marriage. And, yes, making new friendships or improving old ones takes effort. But it’s nothing compared to the effort of going through any kind of crisis with only your spouse in your corner.

He or she is only one person and an imperfect one, at that. Sorting through the wrong lessons both of you learned growing up, having only each other to vent to and facing life’s challenges with only one person to help carry the burden is a recipe for disaster. Doing life is simply too big a burden for a couple to carry on their own. If comfort is what you’re going for, you need friends to carry some of the load.

Fill your life with, not only your spouse, but with good friends who will build your relationship up to a level that your grand kids will tell their kids about.

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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