When one spouse is controlling, the more passive spouse usually suffers from low self-esteem. The controlling spouse tends to make all of the decisions for the household, implying that the other spouse in incompetent. The controlling spouse will overrule any decisions made by the more passive spouse, increasing the self-perceived sense of inferiority. If there are children in the relationship, they will soon realize which parent has authority and which parent does not. They may begin to treat the parent without authority with disdain and disrespect, increasing the passive parent's low self-esteem. This negative atmosphere causes an unhappy relationship, which is often tension-filled. The passive spouse may begin doing things in secret to avoid criticism from the controlling spouse, which will eventually result in distrust when discovered.
The passive spouse may feel trapped and confused by a relationship that lacks nurturing, unconditional love and understanding. The passive spouse will resent the attitude of the controlling spouse and lack of respect. Of course, the passive spouse will be unable to communicate these feelings with the controlling spouse for fear of reprisal or possibly the withholding of sexual gratification. Resentment combined with low self-esteem and lack of communication will make it impossible to have true intimacy, passion and romance in a relationship with a controlling spouse. Both spouses end up feeling unfulfilled, unloved and desiring something more from a relationship. These feelings are dangerous because they can lead to infidelity and divorce.
The controlling spouse may feel anger toward the more passive spouse, who seems to be incapable of doing anything correctly. The passive spouse may feel angry but also unappreciated and unloved by the controlling spouse. As their resentment toward each other builds, they drift further apart, and their relationship deteriorates. Eventually, unless they overcome some of the obstacles and begin communicating effectively with each other, their relationship may either dissolve or become fraught with infidelity.