But I have a Very Domineering Spouse!

There are many reasons couples separate and divorce.  Alcohol dependency and infidelity tend to top the list.  However, in many cases, a domineering spouse and bring in a close third place.  This is not a gender specific concept — both husbands and wives can both be on the receiving end of emotional dominance.

Some indicators that you have a dominant spouse:

  1. Are you ever put down because you hold a differing viewpoint than your spouse?   They may try to emotionally control you by pushing you into believing that you are wrong and they are right.  And this coaxing likely continues until you give in.
  2. Is your spouse critical of your friends?  Disliking your friends and trying to keep you away from them is a form of isolation to make you more dependent on your spouse.
  3. Has your spouse ever looked through your call history, text messages or emails?  Then questioned you as to why you were in communication with someone so often?
  4. Does your spouse control all of the money?  Do you know passwords to banking accounts?
  5. Have you ever been on the receiving end of non-verbal signs to change your behavior, such as to stop speaking and keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself?

Although a dominant spouse can make things difficult for you, it doesn’t mean that your opinions and needs don’t matter.   At Carolina Divorce Mediators, we work with couples such as this on a regular basis.  We are very much aware of any spouse who attempts to control the other, the discussion, or the mediation to meet their agenda.  And we won’t let that happen. We keep the playing field level at all times, allowing and encouraging both parties to speak without interruption or criticism.

If you feel your spouse is dominant, here are few things you can do to help your mediation go more productively:

  1. Turn and face your spouse making direct eye contact when you are stating your needs and feelings.
  2. Be clear in what you are saying.  Don’t “seek approval” from your spouse after every sentence.
  3. Don’t place blame.  You may want something, but don’t say it is “because of your spouse”.
  4. Focus on the positive.  Although you may feel there is not much to be positive about, try your children.  Most all parents love and care deeply for them.

In the end

Know that your opinions and needs matter and that your voice will be heard.  Know that your mediator is quite skilled in recognizing a dominant, manipulating spouse and will not allow that behavior to affect the outcome of your mediation.  Please remember that your spouse’s opinions and needs also matter.  It is not about letting one take advantage of the other, it is about helping the two of you reach an agreement that works for both of you.

Mediation is a great tool in your toolbox.  Even though your spouse may be dominant, it doesn’t mean that you have to use a bulldog attorney and go into the ring.  A skilled, competent mediator should be able to facilitate your mediation to a very successful conclusion.