When I used to think about control in a relationship, I never thought about it in the subtle, quiet ways. To me, it seemed if someone was trying to control me, it would be obvious.
I would know all the signs because they were everywhere - outlined in interviews, in films, in books.
They were spoken in the urban legends our aunts would tell us after two glasses of wine, eyes wider with each gruesome detail. To me, control seemed to be something physically inflicted by an abuser, or if not, it was overtly verbal.
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It took many relationships, and many years to realise that control can take hundreds of forms. It is undefinable because it has no limits. It’s fluid and unique, depending on the relationship.
Right after I graduated university, I received a job offer that I never would’ve dreamed I could be up for. I’d been in a serious relationship at the time, and when I told him I’d received the offer I was ecstatic. His reaction? Disappointment.
He reacted with disappointment when I told him that the job would involve travel, something I’m deeply passionate about.
He didn’t outright tell me I couldn’t take the job, but his behaviour and actions made it clear he was not happy for me.
This was not the first time something like this had happened in that relationship, either.
He was a homebody, a person who liked to travel and go out on occasion, but more than anything he valued routine.
He wanted me to be around, like I always had been before. Me coming and going would’ve meant a disruption in our lives that he didn’t want, and he couldn’t see past it to share in my excitement.
This was one of the first times I actually realised he was trying to control me.
He knew it would be wrong for him to tell me that I couldn’t accept the job, but it would’ve been a lot harder for me to accuse him of trying to control me if he didn’t say anything discouraging to me.
Instead, I could tell through his affect, his face, his body language, and the way he said certain things, that he was not happy for me. I knew he didn’t want me to accept the offer.
I wondered, was I wrong to be irritated by his lack of excitement for me? Was I the one being selfish? And if so, should I take the job?