Confessions from a Controlling Spouse

controlling spouse

It happens to us all, eventually. We reach a certain age when our body just doesn’t seem to want to cooperate as well as it did in the past. We can’t run as fast, bend as low, reach as far, or sleep through the night without a trip to the bathroom.

Actually, this is a lesson we would do well to learn sooner and in all other areas of our life: We are not as in charge as we’d like to think or would like to be.

Barry Banther brought this home to me in a conversation we had one time. He is a business consultant and has been a close friend for more than two decades, my go-to guy for wisdom, advice, and encouragement. He is one of those people who can slice through the clutter and cut to the chase quickly.

I’d been sharing some of my recent struggles. I told him everything that was on my mind relating to my family, faith, work, and future—my fears, my frustrations, my doubts. After listening patiently, Barry empathized with me and then said, “Mark, many of your struggles boil down to the issue of control.”

He went on: “As we get older, we come to the startling realization that we are not in control of most things in life and never were. We just thought we were.”

That is so true. And recognizing and accepting it can go a long way toward reducing a major tension point for many couples.

Control is an illusion, but it is such an addictive one. A controlling person is often someone who is not only disturbing but also selfish. And when one spouse tries to control the other, the life in the relationship can start to fade away. The trust and freedom that are so absolutely vital to a healthy marriage are quietly eroded.

As a take-charge sort of person, this has been a really big issue for me, wanting to direct the way things go at work, at home, and in the rest of life. In the early years of our marriage, this meant that I thought my way was the right way and that Susan should just be like me. She should think like me, speak like me, handle things the way I would.

I did not realize how that made her feel. As someone with a pleaser personality who is concerned with helping others, she was constantly left feeling inadequate and that she wasn’t quite matching up to my expectations.

If you recognize that you have a tendency toward control in your marriage, here are some steps you can take:

Let Them be Themselves

Remember that you are a team. Winning teams have players that have different strengths and are skilled in different positions. They don’t do everything the same way, but together they come out on top. God gave your wife or husband to you because He knew they brought something you needed. I’ve learned to let Susan be the woman, wife and mother God created her to be.

Let Go of Little Things

When our home was flooded in a big storm, it took over a year to restore everything. As I inspected the work of our painters, I noticed some areas that needed touching up. I found some very tiny areas inside storage closets—where nobody except me would ever see—that I thought could use a bit of paint.

I made a big deal out of it with our painters and with Susan, initially insisting that the hidden places be dealt with. I was obsessive about it and went overboard. That kind of intense behavior can really put Susan on edge.

Loosen the Reins

Both husbands and wives may take the lead in certain areas of their marriage, and the leader mentality is to want to improve, to coach, to correct, to change. These are positive qualities, but it is important to recognize that there is also the tendency toward control.

Delegation means letting go and letting others do things maybe in their own way. Like in the kitchen. For much of our marriage, Susan was the main cook—and a very good one. But as she went back to work and we started having fewer and fewer kids at home, I began to dabble a bit. If she was going to be late home, I’d prepare a simple dinner.

Then when Susan was preparing one of her elaborate meals for a family event or dinner with friends, I’d start standing behind her and offering advice on how to improve what she was doing. It was ridiculous. All of a sudden I was a gourmet chef or so I thought.

Fortunately, Susan was confident enough in who she was and in her abilities to laugh it off. When she pointed out what I was doing, we both chuckled. But it could so easily have been a situation in which I made her feel devalued and inadequate without realizing what I was doing.

Trust God with Our Spouse

Are you confident that God knows what’s best for your spouse and your marriage? It is something that is easy to say but can be hard to live by.

I realized this when Susan was in the hospital. It was a follow-up procedure after a new pacemaker had been fitted to address the heart-related issues she has dealt with since being a teenager. Though it was not as complicated as other operations she’d had, I struggled with it more than usual.

As I thought and prayed, I realized how I like to be in control of things. Because I think when I’m in control, bad things won’t happen. But that day, as the nurse wheeled Susan off into surgery and I let go of her hand, I knew I was out of control. She was entirely in God’s hands.

I cannot always control what life brings, only how I respond to it. So I continue to learn each day how to trust the one true God who created all things and controls all things with all things and with all those I love.

What steps have you taken to let God of control in your marriage? Share below.


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