Controlling Men

Controlling Behaviour

Why-Does-He-Do-That__-Inside-the-Minds-of-Angry-and-Controlling-MenThis article is about controlling abusive behaviour seen in some men. It's a summary of the information in Lundy Bancroft's books , Why does he Do That and Should I stay or should I go?

An important distinction I want to make is between  controlling behaviour which is a common part of arguing that happens in  relationships such as shouting and walking away where couples are want to address how they argue and another kind of controlling behaviour which stems from men having a sense of entitlement where men refuse to acknowledge it.

Lets look at the two types:

 Typical Controlling Behaviour In Arguments

In romantic relationships it's a natural part  of the attraction process that bonding patterns are formed. Bonding patterns are the unconscious ways that we have learnt to connect to each other and at the same time build emotional defences to feel safe. A degree of  conscious/ unconscious control of each other  occurs through our attempts at getting needs met whilst avoiding feeling vulnerable. Often arguments over "nothing" are  power struggles over who is going to be "right" and who will be vulnerable.

Relationship counselling gives couples the opportunity to become aware of  their manipulations and attempts to control each other. Once couples become aware of the bonding pattern there is usually the willingness to work together to heal past hurts and connect more intimately.

Entitlement Attitudes Causing Controlling Behaviour

Here we are talking about controlling behaviour on a different level. Some men are unable to see their partner as equal because they have attitudes and beliefs around ,'entitlement' where they justify to themselves their need to control their partner. Success in rethinking entitlement beliefs really depends on a partner's willingness to look at themselves and their genuine wish to improve the relationship. Often the pay-offs they get through promising to change and then back-tracking continue until their partner leaves the relationship .The partner must  maintain their bottom-line that they will not continue the relationship until all abusive behaviour has stopped for a period of time through their partner getting the correct group support.

In this article I focus on the attitudes and behaviour of controlling men and the therapeutic options available.

What is Entitlement?

Men with entitlement thinking lack compassion. They don't consider that their partner's feelings and needs are as valid as their own. When challenged, the  entitlement pattern may be such that a man  minimises, justifies or simply distracts away from their abusive behaviour to avoid taking responsibility. Typically an abusive  man will focus on 'how his partner's behaviour' makes him feel, disregarding how his abusive behaviour created the response from his partner in the first place. 

Identifying Controlling Behaviours

The remainder of this article is a condensation  of the points made in Lundy Bancroft's excellent Book,'Why Does He Do That?". I hope that naming these behaviours will make them easier to identify. Controlling men may have some of the following behaviours:

He is Controlling.

Controlling men tend to be psychologically healthy but have faulty thinking.

They have a sense of entitlement as if they are owed something by their partners and that they are entitled to demand it.

He may exhibit any of the following behaviours: He takes control of his partner either physically, emotionally or sexually. He comments disparagingly on what she wears, who she sees and what she does. He is punishing in his responses if his partner resists his control. This may be the form of wearing her down, belittling her, confusing her, being invasive or  preventing her sleeping.

He restricts his partner's personal freedom telling her who she can't associate with and when she must be back home. ( He expects her to be grateful for the freedoms he grants) . He is the authority on parenting and tends to treat his adult-partner as a child that needs guidance.

The issue isn't that he loses control of himself, it's that he takes control of his partner

Entitlement thinking examples:
"An argument should only last as long as my patience does."
"If the issue is important to me then I should get what I want"
"I know what is best for you and our relationship". If continue disagreeing, you are acting stupidly"
"If my control and authority are slipping. I have the right to take steps to reestablish the rule of my will, including abuse if necessary"

He Gaslights

This term means using lies or denial or twisting things into their opposites to confuse his partner's sense of reality. He disrespects his partner and considers himself superior to her.

He Confuses Love and Abuse

He manages his need for his partner's attention by controlling her and saying it's justified because he's in "love". He wants to possess his partner's life, make her financially dependent,  or prevent her from seeing her friends because ,"He loves her". Loving someone requires should be demonstrated with "loving behaviour" not control.

Entitlement thinking examples:

"The reason I abuse her is because I have such strong feelings of her. You hurt the one's you love the most"
" I told her she better not ever try to leave me. You have no idea how much I love this girl!"
" I was sick of watching her ruining her life. I care too much to sit back and do-nothing about it."

He Is Manipulative

Partners in their gut instinct recognise that their partner's behaviour doesn't feel right. They feel belittled and controlled. When they attempt to confront their partner, he distracts away from admitting that his  behaviour is abusive. Some partners let themselves be persuaded to go against what they feel . His manipulation throws his partner off addressing the abuse  in the following ways:

She believes:

  • His story of having a difficult childhood. This might be true but doesn't justify his behaviour
  • He was affected by his past girlfriend. Lies and distortions are common.
  • He is caring and concerned, then his moods changes abruptly later
  • He is trying is best - It doesn't excuse abusive  behaviour
  • His argument that it is her fault which she believes. This doesn't excuse abusive behaviour
  • If she loves him enough, he will change. He won't change until he addresses his entitlement attitude.
  • His story that he's abusive is because he cares so much. The 'Love causes Abuse" Excuse. Abuse isn't loving behaviour.
  • His story that he just loses control and can't help it.  The issue isn't his loss of control. It is that he is controlling.

It's hard for a partner when they have made an attachment with a man, not to want to believe that things will change and that the abusive behaviour will stop.

He Puts On A Good Face To Others

He maintains a good public image. His partner's friends are likely to think he is a great guy. What goes on in the relationship he will want to keep private.

He is Possessive

His entitlement attitude is that he owns his partner which justifies his control. He wants her to focus on his needs and doesn't want her to have the independence that threatens his supply of attention.

His Focus is on ,"How Her Behaviour Makes Him Feel"

He doesn't  consider  what it must be like on the the receiving end of his behaviour .  He focuses on how she is always on at him, judges her as too emotional, as complaining, as making a fuss. After winding her up or being manipulative, his entitlement attitude focuses is on how her response makes him feel and avoids being accountable for his actions.
      I had better say here that many couples in the heat of an arguement exhibit some of this behaviour on both sides. The key distinction  is whether the person's thinking is based on 'entitlement'. 

He Externalises Responsibility For His Actions

Abusers convince themselves that their partners make them behave in abusive ways. They externalise responsibility. They don't get that whatever their partner does, it doesn't justify an abusive response. If he accepted responsibility for his actions in relationships, he wouldn't be abusive.

Justification examples

"She knows how to push my buttons."
"She pushed me too far."
"There's only so much a man can take."
"You expect me to just let her walk all over me. What would you do?"

He's Angry Because Of His Entitlement Attitude

The controlling man becomes angry because he believes he is entitled to prioritise and meet his needs. Sometimes his perceptual system is such that he thinks that his partner is abusing him as she is not meeting his needs. If she has needs it can be too much for him. His partner is supposed to be "listening to his needs, not have any of her own".

Controlling Men Come In Different Guises

It's useful to be aware that controlling men come in different guises

(Source - Lundy Bancroft," Why Does He Do That?")

  • Demand Man - He is  entitled
  • Mr Right - He is always right
  • Water Torturer - He stays calm in arguments. It's psychological. He gets under your skin.
  • The Drill Sargent - I need to control your every move.
  • Mr Sensitive - He uses psychobabble and the focus is on his hurt feelings.
  • The Player - "If you need anything from me I'm going to ignore you".
  • Rambo - "Strength and aggression is good."
  • The Victim - "I've had it so hard ,I'm not responsible for my actions"
  • The Terrorist - "You have no right to defy or leave me".
  • Addicted Abuser - "My addiction justifies my behaviour. You mustn't challenge me as it will trigger my addiction".


Couples Counselling

Couples Counselling can be a valuable  first point of call to see if there is a controlling pattern. It can help to have the abuse named as 'abuse'. Relationship counselling isn't the right  long term treatment for men to resolve entitlement issues unless the man is really willing to face into his behaviour. Typically men with entitlement issues are unwilling/ unable to look at their need to control and manipulate.They use relationship counselling to appear to be working on the relationship so their partner has hope and stays in the relatonship, when in fact they often just continue the abuse.  It's not possible to look at underlying relationship issues that both parties are contributing to  until the man has addressed his abusive behaviour.

Mens Centres For Exporing  Entitlement Attitudes

If a man has entitlement attitudes  the best way of tackling abusive,controlling behaviour is to attend a programme consisting of an assessment followed by attending a men's group coupled with individual therapy designed to challenge
entitlement thinking. 
These centres headline  their services as being for, 'violent, controlling and abusive men'. Men who are not violent may think attending this kind of centre is not for them. However, whatever the expression of the controlling behaviour , the underlying entitlement attitudes that drive controlling or violent behaviour are the same ( See links page for centres). Going to a normal men's group is not the same as attending a mens group that focuses on addressing abusive behaviour. Specialist groups keep in contact with partners to ensure that the abusive behaviour isn't continuing. Abusive men tend to pretend to be addressing their entitlement issues in group settings then continue being abusive in their relationships.

More Information


This book aimed at women is a diagnostic guide for women to idenfity if a partner is:

  • Stuck in immaturity and needs to grow up
  • Has an addiction or self-descructive behaviour
  • Has a mental health problem
  • Engages in behaviours that are abusive

Resources For Women on Lundy Bancroft Site

Help For Men

Lundy Bancroft Articles

Guide For Men Who Are Serious About Changing Part 1

Here is a video by Terrence Real About Shame And Grandiosity in Men

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