You’re so controlling! Can you just get off my back?
If your husband has ever hurled words like these at you during an argument, you no doubt remember their sting. But besides feeling hurt, you were probably also confused. Me? Controlling? Where’s he coming up with this?
This conflict can cause real damage in your relationship if it continues unchecked. Today, I want to help you get to the root of the issue and to suggest some shifts that both you and your husband can make to strengthen your marriage.
Are You Really Controlling?
If your husband has told you that you’re controlling, you’re far from alone. This is one of the most common points of tension in marriages. But I don’t believe that most wives are out there secretly scheming to find new ways to boss their husbands around.
What’s actually happening? As you know firsthand, we women have a lot on our plates. In addition to going to work, women still spend more time on household chores and childcare than men do. And then there’s the emotional labor that goes along with having a family, which also disproportionately falls on women.
With so much going on, we have to be very good at getting things done. To keep all the balls we’re juggling in the air, we’re relentlessly focused and efficient.
Why He Thinks You’re Too Controlling
Here’s where issues of control come in. When you’re driving so hard to check off all the things on your list, sometimes it can feel like your husband is slowing you down or getting in your way. So you end up doing things like this:
- Telling him how to do a task “right.”
- Jumping in and taking over if he’s doing it “wrong” or taking too long.
- Constantly reminding him about something you asked him to do because you’re worried he’ll forget.
You know that you’re just trying to get everything done because you care about your family. But he’s taking away a very different message from your behavior. If he complains that you are too controlling, he isn’t just saying that he feels micromanaged. The deeper meaning behind his words is that he doesn’t think you trust him or respect him which makes him feel demoralized and unmotivated.
Again, I know these aren’t the messages you’re trying to communicate to him. But they’re the ones he’s taking away.
Step Back So He Can Step Up
Your marriage doesn’t have to stay stuck in this destructive pattern, though. Here’s how to change the dynamic between you and your husband.
- As we’ve discussed, the behaviors that he perceives as controlling are probably happening because you have too much to do and you feel stressed and overwhelmed. That means it’s time for an open and honest discussion about household responsibilities — chores, childcare, emotional labor — and how the two of you can divide things more equitably.
- Once you agree that a task or responsibility is his to manage, back off. Don’t jump in and sideline him, even when you know that you would do a better job. Yes, taking over might be easier right now, but giving him some space to grow is better for you both in the long run. He might make some mistakes, but he’ll grow from them.
- Remember “the friend test.” Our spouses are so close to us that sometimes we take them for granted and don’t show them the same respect and consideration we would show a friend. When you’re tempted to tell your husband how to do something, or to jump in and start doing it for him, ask yourself whether you would behave the same way with a dear friend.
Persist Through Discomfort
Shifts like these may feel uncomfortable at first because things will take longer to get done, and they might not be done according to your high standards. But I believe the closeness you’ll gain in your marriage more than makes up for any efficiency you lose. He’ll feel less controlled, you’ll feel less burdened, and you’ll both enjoy a more collaborative partnership that gives you more freedom and flexibility.
For more marriage tips like the ones in this article, pick up copy of my book Strong Women, Strong Love. In it, you’ll find many more strategies for maintaining a strong relationship amid our busy, stressful lives.
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