John came home from an exhausting day of torrent meltdowns at work with arguing staff and angry customers. He laid his coat carefully on the back of the chair in the kitchen and poured a refreshing glass of tea. After wandering out to the deck, he propped his feet up on a stool and enjoyed a few seconds of serenity until he heard his wife's screeching voice.
"JOHN, what is this? You know better than to put your coat here, it doesn't belong on this chair, it belongs in the closet. That's what NORMAL people do, put their clothes away when they get home. GET IN HERE NOW AND PUT IT AWAY. Furthermore, you left a ring of tea on the counter without wiping it down. HOW MANY TIMES have I told you to never leave a mess in the kitchen so while you are in here, clean up your mess." She went on for another ten minutes then walked out on the deck attempting to force him to recite the rules of the house. John got up and quickly escaped the war zone. He'd heard enough and wasn't in the mood to fight back.
She wasn't wrong for wanting a clean house but her approach had crossed the line. It was a regular occurrence for her to follow him around the house correcting him in an attempt to get him to redo things to her caliber of quality and expectations. John didn't feel like he would ever measure up to her demands.
What does it mean to be controlling?
A phycologist would say, controlling behaviors are actions in which an individual likes or 'needs' to be in charge and manage the actions of another person or group. Controlling behaviors are typical in abusive relationships in which one individual likes to be entirely dominant to their partner and manage their actions and behaviors.
In some jobs, it may be a strength to be controlling, such as the military or a job where people's lives are on the line with no margin for error however in marriage, being controlling a recipe for disaster.
If you think you are married to a controller or maybe you are the controller reading this, ask yourself 'why are they (am i) controlling?'. Understanding your spouse's motives can help you adapt and respond in a healthy way. Chances are, they are not doing it to hurt you, to wound you or to control you. In most cases, they aren't even aware they're controlling. They might even argue that you're the one being controlling because you resist their demands.
"A wife once told her controlling husband "NO'', I'm not going to re-vacuum the house. If you don't like the way I vacuum, do it yourself." He got irritated and called her controlling.
Remember, being controlling is easy to define, it's when you try to "impose your will over someone else's". Saying no is not and will never be a form of control, it's simply setting a boundary.
Why are people controlling? I think it's due to three key elements.
Some people had parents who created deep-rooted demands and unhealthy patterns into their children in which became co-dependent habits they brought into the marriage. Their foundation of security and happiness is falsely rooted in these habitual patterns. If their home and life aren't mirrored after their childhood environment then happiness and security elude them.
Take a personality profile. Some personalities render a weakness in which translates to a controlling person. There are many profiles you can find. Take ours to see where you land with your personality. CLICK HERE. Choleric and Melancholy would be the two that are susceptible to this terrible condition. A melancholy person tends to be naturally wired to be tidy, neat, organized and scheduled. They often battle perfectionism, less than 100% feels like failure. The choleric people are 'take charge' people who have little fear of hurting feelings and can be outspoken.
Have you ever been in a line and the person in front of you is walking slow, really slow? Have you ever given them a dirty look as you storm around them or even said something under your breath? If so, chances are, you may be choleric. We attempt to control the world to run at our pace. Notice I said we, you guessed it. That's my temperament.
Understanding your mate can bring relief. It's how God made them. Having a natural controlling personality isn't immoral, wrong, misguided or a reflection of their narcissism. They may struggle with those things but God gave them a personality that has a weakness and this happens to be one of those weaknesses. Your personality has other weaknesses that have an ill-effect on a marriage too but they are different symptoms. Not better or worse, just different.
The key is to be understanding first then create a plan on how to counter the controlling nature of your spouse in a way that's healthy and God-honoring. We will unpack that in the next two segments.
A person who fears other's acceptance of them or having a need to be viewed as 'right' may fall suspect to a controlling nature. Fear of failure, fear of looking bad, fear of not fitting in, are all common fears. We live in a time where people are vain and too self-conscious about their looks, their assets, and their identity. Their fear can drive them to controlling behavior. "What will people think of me if they walk into my home and see a dirty plate on the countertop or a child's toys lying about on the floor? They will think I'm lazy and not fit to be a mom." The controller often fears failure so much they try to control every outcome.
Having children is often a healthy breaking point for a controller. Try controlling a two-year-old. Good luck. Try keeping your house spotless with three kids under the age of ten. In a healthy way, the controller realizes life will be just fine without perfection. The kids are going to be ok if they mess up once in a while and soon the controller lightens up. As the Fear Led Controller matures, they realize it was a myth the whole time.
People don't love you because you are perfect, they love you because you aren't,
So, understand the motive behind your controlling spouse is rarely evil, I would argue it's often fully innocent. If you can be understanding of this truth, then your heart will soften and your response to them can lead your marriage to a place where you are both happy.
Romans 15:1-3 We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn't live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, "The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me."
In short, be considerate of others. Help them do what is right and build them up in the Lord. Don't live to please yourself but others. God is with you.