We all know a control freak – that person who has to micromanage everyone and everything around them. Such a person can learn healthy skills and become an excellent leader. But living with such a person is likely much more challenging. How do you deal with the control freak in your marriage?
You’ve likely tried talking to them, perhaps pouted or sulked, or given in to get along and ended up resenting it. If you’re really bold you might have gotten angry and yelled. Any luck? It’s likely you’ve only ended up increasingly frustrated.
I have some good news and some bad news. First the bad news; regardless of how hard you try, you will not be able change your spouse into someone who doesn’t try to control.
Oh, your spouse can grow and change, but only when they decide to do so.
But here’s the good news. You can make the control freak you’re married to the frustrated one, instead of you!
The ideas I’m outlining here are appropriate when both you and your spouse are basically people of good will. If your spouse has an evil heart and delights in causing pain you may be in a toxic marriage, and need to take a different approach.
So how do you convert a control freak into the frustrated person in your marriage?
Learn to say No.
Your spouse can try to control you. But if you say No, instead of controlling, they are now frustrated. And the ball is now in their court in choosing how to handle that frustration. That’s what setting boundaries looks like.
Boundaries in marriage have often been misunderstood. Some people see boundaries as a method to try to control someone, or to punish them. That’s far from the truth.
Healthy boundaries make a relationship possible. God sets boundaries with us; “These are the parameters under which you and I can have a relationship.” And He allows us to set boundaries with Him. He allows us to say No to Him, to rebel, to go our own way. There are always consequences to our choices if we go outside the parameters God has set. But in all of this, God is the perfect example of One who sets boundaries, but is not controlling.
And boundaries make a relationship with your spouse possible as well.
Setting Boundaries with a Control Freak
If your spouse is a control freak and attempts to control you, a boundary determines what you will do next. A boundary doesn’t try to force the other person to change; it simply says, “When this happens, then this is what I will do.”
For example, if your spouse tries to control you with anger, you might say, “When you raise your voice and yell at me, I’m going to leave the room until our conversation can be calm and thoughtful.”
For some, learning to find your voice, set boundaries, and turn your controlling spouse into a frustrated one seems terribly difficult. That’s a result of your own baggage, not your spouse’s fault. Your own wounds from the past can lead you to be passive – and resentful. And that is where you need to focus your energy instead of trying to change your spouse.
Finding your own healing will make you so much stronger. Get around healthy people, watch how they do relationships, and start practicing. This is something you can learn.
Changing the Control Freak
You have no control over how your spouse will respond to you saying No. If your spouse chooses to become abusive or otherwise even more toxic, you will have to move in a different direction.
But there is a good possibility that God can use your newly growing emotional strength to make your marriage much healthier. Perhaps your spouse doesn’t want to be so controlling, and will be able to welcome you into being more of a partner than someone who’s always passive. If your spouse is a person of good will, your growth may inspire them to find their own healing.
Changing the habits you’ve developed in your relationship doesn’t happen quickly, but it is possible. It’s likely to take some time.
Remember, you’re responsible first to God, not to your controlling spouse. Go to Him and to other healthy people regularly for emotional fuel. Get filled up.
And then you have a chance of developing a true partnership in your marriage.
Your Turn: How have you responded to the control freak in your marriage? What will you do next to convert them into the frustrated one? Leave a comment below.
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