Fix Marriage…How Control Issues
by Nancy Wasson, Ph.D.
Have you ever been irritated because your mate does things differently than you do?
Does it upset you if your spouse makes different choices and has different opinions than you do? If so, you have encountered some of your own personal control issues and triggers in your relationship. To save your marriage from needless damage, there are some key points you’ll want to understand.
1. Fear is at the bottom of control issues.
When a spouse has controlling behavior in the relationship, marriage problems often result. The feelings you have at those times can be very intense and may include extreme anger at the other person. A controlling wife may feel more secure when her husband mirrors her beliefs, opinions, and choices. Your safety fears and needs contribute to your wanting others to be just like you. The old adage, "There’s safety in numbers," refers to this ancient fear of standing alone.
Also, most people feel more in control when they can predict how others will act and when others meet their expectations. Then they don't have to experience the discomfort of changing, growing, or stretching themselves. Instead, they can pretend that their world is logical, predictable, orderly, and safe.
2. Thinking your spouse should be just like you causes marital problems.
Your control issues are also triggered by seeing your spouse as an extension of yourself. This perception can result in trying to dictate which clothes your spouse wears, who she is friends with, how she wears her hair, what political views she holds, and what she can or cannot do. While your partner may initially make some changes trying to keep the peace, you are creating a parent-child dynamic in your marriage that will eventually foster rebellion and resentment and my ultimately lead to marriage crisis.
3. Using name calling and insults are attempts by a controlling spouse to dominate the partner.
While nothing sinister is involved in many control issues in marriages, pathological behavior can be triggered in some instances. For example, a controlling husband who is upset that the wife did not follow his directions could become physically and emotionally abusive. The partner may believe he has the right to "punish" the other person. Derogatory put-downs and name calling, such as "What a stupid thing to do," are often used to re-establish control over the other person.
It's easy to point a finger at your spouse and to say that he or she needs to change. It's more difficult to face your own unresolved issues head-on and take responsibility for how you need to change. But avoiding change instead of nurturing your relationship can be a sure path to marital separation and divorce. A marriage counselor can often help a partner to see his or her own role in marital dynamics.
As you gain awareness of control issues in your marriage, the starting place for change is always with yourself and your response to what is happening.
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