Taming her Desire to Control

September 27, 2013

in Change, Seeing Clearly, Series

What most of us really want to know about controlling is how to deal with our spouse doing it to us. The tricky part of this is you can easily increase her feeling she needs to control you.

Controlling woman © arztsamui | freedigitalphotos.net

If you want to deal with controlling behaviour, start by identifying it as such. “Stop trying to control me” is clear, but not the best approach. Try something like, “When you ______ I feel you are trying to control me.” The word feel there is important – it is less accusing, and women are generally concerned with how others feel. Try to go beyond the statement and discuss the issue with her. Don’t push for a promise from her, just calmly make your case and then let her think about it. Repeat as needed.

As I said earlier, figuring out why she feels a need to control may help.

  • Fear: This is a common reason for controlling. Her fear might be about something you have actually done, but it could also be something from her past that you have not done. Telling her you’re not going to do what she fears (or not going to do it again) is little help. Fear bypasses our rational mind, making logic and reason of limited use.
  • Differences in Ability: This is a common cause of women getting upset at their husband’s driving. She may know you are a safe driver, but if you do things she wouldn’t or couldn’t do those things may upset her. The problem here is between what she knows (you’re a safe drive) and feels (what you’re doing is dangerous). Even if she chooses to stay quiet, she may be stressed by your driving, which isn’t good for her or your marriage. This is one where some give on your part may be both wise and loving.
  • Power: Maybe she likes to be in control because it makes her feel powerful. This may have started with issues of fear and safety and grown into habit. As with any habit, it’s difficult to change, even if she decides she wants to.
  • Selfish: She wants her way.
  • Vulnerable: When we love someone we give them power to hurt us. Controlling feels like a way to limit this risk.
  • Other’s Opinions: Women often take flack for what their husband’s do. While it is more common for older generations, the idea that you get a wife to fix or change her husband is still alive out there. Therefore, she may try to control to get you to do what others think you should do, or she may try to control to avoid others telling her what you should do.
  • I Know Better: If she thinks her way is better, she may think she is doing you a favour trying to get you to do things her way.

Understanding the why may help you talk with her, but do not use it as a club!

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Can you give some specific examples of behavior that would be considered controlling?   

TheGenerousHusband moderator

@liveinunderstanding Nagging, manipulating, bargaining, limiting, anger, and the silent treatment would all be examples. Basically anything done to get your spouse to do something other than what they want to do.

I do understand that some couples fall into a bad habit where one rarely or never does anything the other wants unless there is some controlling going on. I understand why a man or woman in such a relationship might think they have to keep controlling. The problem is controlling behaviour usually becomes less and less effective over time. This means one has to do even more controlling to get any "benefit". Such a system is not sustainable.


Excellent post Paul.

The more we talk with couples in crisis, the more evident it becomes that fear is at the root of almost all the situations.  But I find that, for those who claim to be Christians, the fear that the spouse may do x, y or z is actually a lack of confidence in the goodness and faithfulness of God. 

It is a fear that God will not have my back, that I cannot really trust Him with my spouse and this relationship.  It is no small matter that "do not fear" or a variant was the most often used phrase of Jesus with His disciples.  Those 3 years with Him were all about learning that He could be trusted, even when the surrounding circumstances looked bleak.

TheGenerousHusband moderator

@marseille55 Our lack of faith is certainly a big part of fear in general. I will touch on that Sunday when I talk about control and God.

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