Who’s In Control?
By Dottie Parish
Control issues are evident in many marriages. Looking at who decides things or who has the final say often reveals a very skewed picture. Ideally control should be shared and there should be room for each person to express their individuality and "get their own way" some of the time.
Control issues are not the same as power issues. Power has to do with competition and winning. Couples who disagree, argue or fight are often in a power struggle. Control struggles, in contrast, are about autonomy - the need to have your own individuality. Ask your self who controls me and who do I control? A controlling person does not respect the uniqueness of the other person. They know best what, when and how things should be done.
A marriage in which one person is highly controlling of the other may begin that way because of a wide age difference. For example, an 18 year old woman may welcome the dominance of her 28 year old husband. As she grows and develops, however, this arrangement becomes less and less satisfying. Similarly, someone with little self-esteem may welcome the protective control of the other.
The dominated person is fearful of asserting their needs and rights. Security is so important to them that they opt for peace at any price. Often the controlling partner has little awareness of the controlled partners’ unhappiness or of how disrespectful they are to their partner.
The Need to Control
The driving force behind a need to control is fear. The more fearful the person is the more they attempt to control every aspect of their life. Things are in order, predictable, scheduled. Since fear is at the root of this problem the solution lies in overcoming fear. Both partners need to overcome fear.
The controlled person must overcome fear and find the courage to express their needs. This can be done in a non-threatening way. Talk with your spouse about what you want and need. Then take small gradual steps toward making some independent decisions and some shared decisions. As you become more independent, reassure your controlling spouse that you love him and you have no intention of leaving. Remember, he is fearful under the surface or he wouldn’t have such a need to control.
The controlling person needs to recognize the fear behind their need to control and set a goal to reduce their controlling behavior. Letting go will feel scary but will help you and your spouse grow. Faith in God can help overcome fear. We are not in control, but he is. Trust God and let go.
“For God has not given you a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT