Power and Control: Learning to Identify Subtle Forms of Domestic Abuse
If domestic violence were a wheel, the hub in the middle would be labeled Power & Control. Learning to listen for power and control issues, whether they are in your marriage or that of another woman or child, will help you gain the sensitivity necessary to identify women who are living with a man who is controlling, and possibly unsafe. This is an important topic for partners of sex addicts, because quite often, we have to be brave and strong, confront sexual betrayal, and ask for change, which can produce anger. And anger, in the hands of someone with power and control issues, can be a dangerous thing.
When we think about DV, we tend to think of batterers: men punching holes in walls and leaving bruises on their wives. But domestic violence can be far more subtle than those obvious outward, often physical, signs. I like the wheel diagram that I got from the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) website because it visually and clearly defines the behaviors that fall into the DV category. And as you can see, a great many leave no outward signs.
The site lists this simple definition of DV: “Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.” That definition covers a whole lot of ground.
If you think back over your life, you have, no doubt, known people who seem to “have real power and control issues.” Generally, their way to do something is the “right way,” at least in their minds. And whether they are family members, friends, or acquaintances, they aren’t much fun to be around. Being with them usually requires that you think clearly before speaking, and speak very carefully when you do speak, so as to “stay out of trouble.”
When possible, the best way to deal with people who have power and control issues is to avoid them altogether. But if you are married to such a person, avoiding them is a big deal, and it’s not always safe, without lots of preparation for creating safety, before making changes or confronting issues.
As you strive to heal from betrayal trauma, you need to be able to identify any power and control issues that may be used on you. A potential lack of safety becomes especially important if you need to confront your husband about his sex addiction, and ask him to begin recovery. People with power and control issues don’t like being confronted and given difficult choices. Additionally, living with a man who strives for power and control requires his wife and family to learn to be codependent to stay safe. And that reality makes it very difficult—and often very scary—for a wife to consider confronting her husband.
If your partner uses power and control to “keep you in your place,” you need the help of local resources that are in place to help domestic violence victims. If you don’t know where to start, the Crisis Line has a bank of resources. By calling them, you will gain the information you need to plug into help and support locally. Unless a therapist has taken special training to treat domestic violence, she simply isn’t equipped to deal with the many issues a DV victim faces. But by tapping into your local DV resources, you can gain the help and support you need to adequately deal with that aspect of your story. And then determine how to safely deal with sexual betrayal in your relationship.
Keeping yourself and your children safe must be your highest priority. Power and control people work to control what family members say about them to others, and they can grow very angry, and even violent, if their wives speak truth to outsiders. So, work closely with the DV counselor around any and all issues.
The National Domestic Violence website has many resources available to you, if you want more information and understanding. In addition, Pastor Chris Moles (chrismoles.org) has many resources that approach this topic from a Christian perspective. But expert guidance has to come ahead of faith-based guidance. Having worked for a year in a DV counseling facility, I learned up close what it takes to keep women and children safe. So, please, make safety your highest priority.
 National Domestic Violence Hotline; https://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/