Your Marriage Can Be Saved #17: Letting Go of Control

(MB&T in Monroe) 

In the best marriages I have seen neither husband nor wife try to control each other. This is not easy. Indeed, as Gerald May wrote in his brilliant book Addiction and Grace, there are people who are addicted to control in the same way some are addicted to drugs.

I don’t know about you but I don’t like being controlled by someone else. However, this isn’t true of everybody. Wherever there is a “controller” you will also find a “controllee.” Marriages that have this dynamic are master-slave relationships. Such marriages are deeply troubled and in need of help.

If you are in this kind of marriage and feel controlled by your spouse my recommendation is that you get help for the “controllee” part of you. What is it in you that allows yourself to be manipulated? Discover what this is, and with God’s help it can be healed. It will, however, be a shock to your controlling spouse when you begin to use the word “no.” And note this: the one who needs help is YOU, not the controlling person. I mean this in this way: you will never need to complain again about being controlled and manipulated once you learn how to set boundaries to this happening. You can’t change your significant other anyway, so you can be free to stop doing this.

If you are the controlling person, recognize how destructive such behavior is in marriage and get help with it. In marriage, control and manipulation reduce your partner to a prisoner (or a slave). Is that what you really want in marriage? If so, then realize that it will be impossible to experience love. Get help to identify the roots of your controlling behavior. Learn to see this behavior, not as freedom for you, but bondage. The good news is that you can be free of the terrible burden of always having to get things your own way. Yes, I said “terrible burden.”

I remember reading, years ago, the chapter in May’s book on addiction to control. I underlined entire pages as I read. Why? Because God, through May’s writing, was showing me how attached to controlling others I really was. When I began to see this, I know I did not like it. And this was good for me, since inner dissatatisfaction and personal brokenness are always the first steps to relational freedom.

In my marriage to Linda I never feel she is trying to manipulate or control me. If she is upset by something I do (and it does happen!) she states this to me. In fact, it happened again today! This is different from nagging. I’m saying this because some think that if they let go of control marital chaos will happen. Actually, controller-controllee marriages are the ones in chaos. Someone has to begin to let go of the control. Someone else has to begin to stop being controlled. Why not you? And when both do this, the result is trust.