If you are in a relationship where your partner tells you to stay unemployed you could be in an abusive relationship. This is especially true if you express an interest in working and the conversation is closed. To be in an abusive relationship you don’t have to be at the receiving end of a punch or slap, it could be an issue of control.
There’s some warning signs to look for in the controlling behaviour of others. Could be that you are discouraged from seeing your friends; told they aren’t good for you to hang out with, and that the controlling person has your best interests at heart. This tactic is really about isolating you from other people, and when you’re isolated, you become an easier target to control. And as for looking for work, if you are isolated and don’t get to talk to many people, there goes your networking ability. Who’s in a position to help you get a job if they don’t even see you much, let alone know you want to work and could use their help?
Another sign to look out for has to do with finances and who manages the money. Many people who have control issues want to manage all the money. They themselves may use money for socializing, buying drinks for their friends and buying things for themselves, but the money they allow the controlled person to spend is severely limited. So again, with respect to work and wanting the money that comes from a job, the controlling person doesn’t want their partner working because then you might gain some independence.
So when someone is controlling the behaviour of another person, what’s behind it? Well it could be that the person has low self-esteem and actually needs someone else to be dependent on them in order for them to feel important. Being the ‘bread winner’ and bringing home the money is a physical way in which they can be the big provider; aka the caveman who brought home the kill for the day and then had their partner cook it up for them. There’s a mistaken belief sometimes that if one can’t provide for two without the second person working, the first is a failure.
Now most of the time, and I’ve been careful not to attribute gender into this piece until now, the male is the controller and the female is their victim. However, there are situations where a man is the victim of a woman who refuses to let him work, removing from him his sense of masculinity. Before you retort with, “What has masculinity got to do with it?” The word is one used often by men in this predicament themselves. I will not change what they state as their feelings with something we might otherwise find more politically correct. And with gay, lesbian, transgender and queer relationships, it may not be a typical male to female model at all. So the, ‘one person to another person’ analogy is where I’ll keep it. Abuse is abuse, leave the gender out of it for now.
Abusers worry about their partner meeting people, sharing things with those people that they don’t approve of, and want to know all the details about what they talked about. They are worried too that if they aren’t watched, their partner might stash some money away for themselves, or open up a secret bank account. So questions about where the money is at any time are always asked.
Now consider anyone who is unemployed for a moment. Probably not very proud of their unemployment, and may have even retreated somewhat from social gatherings. But get a job; ah get a job and what happens? Their self-esteem is back, they are more confident and only then share they good news. It’s much the same for a victim of abuse who is controlled by another. If they get a job, there’s a little rise in their self-esteem, maybe a crack of a smile more often, and possibly purchases of things just for them like new clothes. And if they break free from the controlling partner, only then do they talk much about being free of the controlling partner and in so doing reclaim some personal dignity.
I’m reminded of a 20 something woman who was very attractive, in good shape, and wanted to work. Her partner, who I never did meet, told her he’d have to approve of where she worked, when she worked, and he’d handle all the money issues for her. Alarm bells couldn’t be ringing any louder for me. She wasn’t ready when we first met to see things objectively, (how could she?) but eventually she saw things for the way they were.
She started with a job in a dollar store, and her partner monitored her from outside the store and every so often came in after she had helped people to ask what they’d been talking about. While he got banned from the store, she had to deal with his anger when she went home. Eventually she left, and when she did, he hurled physical and verbal abuse. BUT SHE WAS FREE.
Does this hit home with you? Describe you or someone you know? My advice which is always related to jobs and careers is to first get yourself in a safe spot. Seek supportive counselling. It’s private and confidential. Your safety has to be first.
Written By Kelly Mitchell
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