Would you rather be unhappy and in control?

Doll in a cage © Fabio Berti | Dreamstime.comIt seems there are men (and women for that matter) for whom being in control is the utmost priority. Among other things, they will choose control, or more accurately trying to be in control, over happiness, peace, accomplishment, or obedience to God.

Yes, yes, I understand the desire to be in control, and I do see some value to having self-determination in one’s life. However, is control so important we should be willing to be miserable just to chase it? Is being in control worth anything if we are unhappy, alone, and not at all productive?

More to the (marriage) point, is chasing control to the point that it hurts or destroys your marriage a wise thing?

Wanting to be in control is not a male desire; it is a human desire. That means your bride also wants to be in control of her life, and of what goes on around her. The more you are in control, or try to be, the more frustrated she will be. Each woman has a limit of how much control she will relinquish. Push past that limit and it could mean the end of the marriage. Well before it control issue will end a marriage, they will cause great harm to a marriage.

When I talk about control in marriage, I do not mean headship. Telling her how to organize the pantry (especially if you do none of the cooking) or how she should go about the things she does is not headship, it is micro managing another adult. Controlling family finances to the point that she has no idea what is going on, or making decisions without getting her input, is not headship, it is totalitarianism. Demanding to know where she is every moment of every day is not loving concern, it is boarder-line abuse.

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9 Comments on “Would you rather be unhappy and in control?

  1. **The more he is in control, or tries to be, the more frustrated she will be.**

    You need to get to know a much wider variety of women because, to be blunt, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    There exist women in epic proportions who consciously and deliberately seek someone to take control, and I do not speak metaphorically. One of them is mine. When I am *not* taking control, when I am *not* at least _offering_ a level of close, if not exactly micro, management… /That/ is when she’s frustrated.

    The world is a much more interesting, and sometimes just plain weirder, place than you imagine. You would find my environment weird because you think of having taken control as, /a priori/, an aberration. But my woman is not a mere exception. There are whole communities where people having chosen such control-driven relationships is considered not just routine, but expected.

    You might learn to moderate some of your perspectives in terms of them being your personal, therefore limited and not encyclopedic, experience. The quoted absolutist phrase at the top is an example.

  2. @karl – I suspect we are discussing different levels of control here. Do you tell your bride how to organize the pantry down to the exact placement of each item? Do you lay out her days activities down to the minute?

    I am well aware of communities such as Mennonites and Anabaptist where men are more in control that in the rest of society. I live in an area with a number of such communities, and I have a deep respect for these people. I also know that while the husband/father has far more say in the life of his wife and children than most, he does not micro manage them.

    To give a Biblical illustration, what about the Pr 31 woman? She is certainly submitted to her husband, but she makes choices and decisions without having to submit every last thought to her husband.

  3. Or it could be that the men who most need to hear this message are the ones who have deluded themselves into thinking that their wives actually want to be controlled to extreme extent Paul is speaking of. These men may never know of their wives’ frustration, because a woman under such control will likely only feel safe in sharing emotions that her husband finds acceptable.
    I, too, am from a faith tradition more “traditional” in our views of the husband’s headship over his wife. I happily respect his position, seek his opinions, and honor his wishes. I believe he should have the final say on decisions. This is what I believe God asks of me, I dearly love my husband, and I believe he deserves the best that I can offer him…but I would not want my husband to control me. If he tried to control me, I would honestly have a much harder time being obedient to the command to honor my husband (not that I wouldn’t try, just that it would be harder for me.) I really do appreciate being treated as an intelligent, capable, trustworthy adult. I do appreciate being allowed to make less important decisions apart from him. I appreciate hearing “I trust your judgment on that.”

    Speaking as a woman who is a nurse and who has lent a listening ear to countless women from many different faiths and walks of life, I have yet to meet one who wants to be controlled or is truly happy being controlled *in the way that Paul is speaking of here.* If you husbands reading this think your wife fits into this category…well, maybe it’s time to reevaluate, just to make sure.

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  5. If we believe that God is in control of everything, then we need to look at what His control looks like. During a study on submission, I was reminded that God submits His will to our wills. He does not force us to do anything we don’t want to do – oh, the consequences of our decisions may make us wish we would have, but God does not force us to do anything. We have a “free will.” We can either choose to submit to God or choose to spent eternity in hell. It is our choice and God allows us to decide. He submits to our choice. The bible says His desires is that all would choose life through Jesus Christ, but the reality of it is, that we will not all make that choice. God submits Himself to our choice. Therefore, if we as men are to represent God to our family, we must also submit to our wife’s will. I am not saying there are not consequences for her decisions, as a matter of fact there will be. However, if we are being Godly men, we will submit to her will and treat her just the way Christ treats us when we don’t do what God desires for us to do. That is called love.

  6. ** I suspect we are discussing different levels of control **

    I suspect we’re not.

    ** Do you tell your bride how to organize the pantry down to the exact placement of each item? Do you lay out her days activities down to the minute? **

    No, because such details generally do not concern me. E.g. I am a terrible cook and have no concern for how the kitchen is organized or run, so long as it is done well. Where details concern me, I can indeed take such control. I do not refer to it as micromanagement because, simply put, that is not my style. A deeper level of control does not necessarily equate to micromanagement.

    ** what about the Pr 31 woman? **

    You need to catch up on the current state of OT scholarship. The “wife” of Prov 31 is not in fact a woman; she’s symbolic of wisdom. As NET’s notes read (Prov 31:10#23):

    “A careful reading of the poem will show that it is extolling godly wisdom that is beneficial to the family and the society. Traditionally it has been interpreted as a paradigm for godly women… The poem captures all the themes of wisdom that have been presented in the book and arranges them in this portrait of the ideal woman… Any careful reading of the passage would have to conclude that if it were merely a paradigm for women what it portrays may well be out of reach – she is a wealthy aristocrat who runs an estate with servants and conducts business affairs of real estate, vineyards, and merchandising, and also takes care of domestic matters and is involved with charity. Moreover, it says nothing about the woman’s personal relationship with her husband, her intellectual and emotional strengths, or her religious activities… In general, it appears that the “woman” of Proverbs 31 is a symbol of all that wisdom represents. The poem, then, plays an important part in the personification of wisdom so common in the ancient Near East.”

    Note well the lack of context with regard to the husband, aside from v.11’s passing reference to his trust in her, in contradiction to your supposition that “she is certainly submitted to her husband.”

    ** she makes choices and decisions without having to submit every last thought to her husband. **

    I never suggested that in the first place. The existence of control also does not equate to having to confirm and re-confirm every choice and movement. I would never have taken an interest in a woman who could not act independently. The point is her understanding of the context within which independent action is taken.

    I am neither Mennonite nor Anabaptist.

    • @karl – You suggest we are talking about the same thing, then twice show how we are not.

      As for the Prov 31 woman, I note you left out part of the NET Bible note: “Traditionally it has been interpreted as a paradigm for godly women. And while that is valid in part, there is much more here.

      So while what you say is true, they start by agreeing it is describing a godly woman.

  7. ** I was reminded that God submits His will to our wills. He does not force us to do anything we don’t want to do **

    Apparently you’ve missed the entire book of Jonah, in which Jonah was virtually rendered a marionette after failed initial resistance, as well as Paul’s forced conversion on the road to Damascus, including being ordered (w/no opportunity for argument, note well) as to what he must do (Acts 9:6).

    Humans are God’s slaves; the apostles routinely described themselves as such. Slaves are property, and they do as they are told. Cf. δοῦλος (G1401) in Rom 1:1; Gal 1:10; Phil 1:1; Tit 1:1; Jam 1:1; 1Pet 1:1; Jude 1:1.

  8. @karl – I don’t want to get into a long debate on free will, but I would note that Paul and Jonah were both deeply intent on doing God’s will, and as such gave him permission to do what He did.

    As to the apostles, in the Greek they called themselves bond servants. This is a far cry from a slave – it is a person who choose to become the life long servant of a person or family. One could not change their mind after making the decision, but they had free will to make the choice. It was also understood that the master, and/or their family, would care well for the bond servant and would care for them when they were too old do any service. It is a great picture of what we have with God, if we choose to have it.

    As to free will, if we don’t have it, then God has chosen for me to think we do, and if we don’t have free will then I can’t stop thinking we do because that is how God made me. ;-)

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