Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still voice within.”
How many of us have accepted a tyrant in our lives? How many of us have given power over to someone or worst still had it snatched from us? There are so many dynamics at play in a relationship but one of the most toxic of these is control.
I now see that in my marriage, I gave over so much power to my husband. This may sound strange but it wasn’t until the marriage was over and I came out of the relationship, that I realised just how much power I had given over. He made nearly all of the decisions, he always made me subtly aware if I did something he didn’t approve of, he manipulated me into adhering to what he wanted. It was so very subtle but the control had seeped into so many aspects of my life without me even questioning it.
I was very young when we met, he was my first love. I feel like I grew up alongside the control. I normalised it and when I did wake up for a brief moment and challenge it, all hell would break lose. Although at the time, I felt happy in my marriage I look back and see I felt stifled, I could never relax and just go with the flow, everything had to be planned, agreed upon and ultimately what he wanted.
I see that I was in a depression about the lack of control I had in my life and I didn’t even realise it. I see that I was being controlled even regarding what I ate, so I ate badly in secret almost as a rebellion.
My first trip to the supermarket after he left me was a revelation and a weird contradiction of feelings. I felt numb with sadness picking up ready meals for one and yet elated with a sense of freedom that I could buy and eat whatever the hell I wanted. I didn’t need his approval or opinion. I could spend my money how I wanted, on what I wanted. I actually felt like an adult for the first time.
The kicker is, I eat better now than I ever have. I have lost a great deal of weight, without his dictating of the weekly shop. Yes, even the weekly shop had to have his say so!
My husband had very slowly made me believe I could not survive without him. The control I gave over to my husband meant that he was able to manipulate me, deceive me, betray me and abuse my trust. I will never give my power over to someone like that again in my future. Lesson learned!
I’ve learnt that control is about getting a one-up on your partner. It might involve keeping them in the dark, ignoring their values and preferences and guilting them into conforming. They may make their partner feel codependent on them, chipping away at their confidence so that they become more and more central in their lives.
This need for control is a sign of their own insecurities and issues and this desire for power is often related to a sense of fear within them. It might be linked to a fear of abandonment, of feeling powerless. It is so important to understand that this isn’t a reflection on you, your capabilities, your intelligence and your worth but it is a total reflection of their problems.
In any future relationship I may enter into, if I sense a whiff of manipulation, of undermining or of power being subtly pulled away from me, I won’t be sticking around. Of course relationships are about finding an equal footing and a happy medium between you both but if I sense the balance is tipping in that unsettling way again, I know the warning signs. I already know how that story plays out in the end and I don’t want to see a repeat performance.
I make my own decisions now, I am in control of my life and I can’t lie, I feel more alive than I have in years.
In my future, I am not looking to be the ‘tyrant,’ I am simply wanting a relationship where there is a healthy and equal balance of power.
This is what we all deserve and like Gandhi said, may the only tyrant in our lives be “the still voice within.”