Obsessed by his breadwinner role, he barred her from undertaking any job. The 32-year-old musician was to be a housewife to the letter.
After all, hubby was bringing bread and butter home. That, however, was to extend its tentacles to her speaking to relatives back home strictly in English. Susan Basemera’s American husband deemed Luganda, her mother tongue, offensive.
“He wanted to control every single bit of my life, everything about how and when I did everything in my life,” she shares.
In her opinion, control such as that she went through, is abusive and violent in marriage, akin to battering, starvation and other forms of physical harassment.
Intriguingly though, some schools of thought argue there is no such thing as control in marriage. In his book, Fall in Love, Stay in Love, Dr Willard F. Harley Jr. argues that a man perceived as controlling the wife, actually loves her more than she can imagine.
In that case, therefore, control is a rudimentary vehicle of love. The man is only taking charge of his territory. It is neither abuse nor violence. In any case, it is not the man’s intention to give the marriage blues. At the back of his mind, all he is doing is for the good of the relationship, or so he thinks.
“I know of marriages that have lasted, thanks to control by one of the partners. In this age of HIV/Aids, I would not have any problem with a man controlling his wife,” says Gideon Genza, 27, in support of the theory that control is necessary to a relationship.
“I knew I was being a thorn in my husband’s flesh when I stopped him from taking booze. I could see him die to go have fun with his boys in the bar but he now appreciates me because he has saved a lot,” shares Margaret Kawendeke, a housewife in Kamwokya.
Yet, there is without doubt a line that gets crossed and control becomes abusive, as Beatrice Kakembo, a counsellor and director of World of Inspirations, a counselling service centre in Kampala, explains: “Marriage is a give and take affair. You may have to forego some pleasures for the sake of the marriage. It, however, becomes an evil in relationships when one of the partners is gagged and basic freedoms like privacy are stifled.”
“Excessive control not only deprives one of their personal right to freedom of choice, but also ruins marriages. The attempt of one spouse to control another is a short-sighted solution to marital conflict that backfires every time,”argues the website, marriagebuilders.com.
Henry Nsubuga, the President Uganda Counsellors Association, adds, “Some partners become secretive, especially if the control goes into financial discipline and private matters of one’s life. Sometimes, this even ends up in separation or divorce.”
Tracing origins of control
Kakembo attributes control to mistrust as partners get suspicious of each other. In that case, for instance, controlling the movements and communication channels of the other partner is perceived as a tight control measure against infidelity.
“It can also be due to the partner’s background. For example, some men emulate fathers who controlled their mothers. “To these kinds of men, this becomes the normal way of life in marriage, and they may not see anything wrong in it,” she explains.
The counsellor adds that some husbands draw lessons from predicaments of their peers, especially those whose marriages were ruined due to liberalism.
“In such cases, spouses become overly restrictive with the partners as a preventive measure against falling victim of the same,” explains Jonathan Okiru, a marriage counsellor with Family Life Network.
What to do
Beatrice Kakembo, a counsellor, advises: “Walking straight to your partner and telling him how and what you feel, works wonders. As adults, you should agree and compromise on what control is acceptable.”
According to a website, marriage builders.com, “Self-help books help you learn to negotiate without being demanding or selfish and how to make decisions without trying to control each other.” So, pass him or her a self-help book.
Effects: A woman ceases to be who she is because she is answerable to someonecontrolled by someone in the name of love. She loses her self-esteem.
Solutions: Controlling a woman in such a manner is emotional and psychological torture. Depending on the particular circumstances, which vary from one wife to another, she should seek counselling, to be guided on what to do next.