How to Deal with a Controlling Spouse
In all my years of dealing with couples, I know that each relationship typically has one dominant person and one submissive person.
The dominant person could be labeled as controlling (which is more negative), but they could also be labeled as the one who takes charge and makes things happen. They create structure and work hard, almost acting like the “parent” and devoting all their energy into decision-making. At the same time, they probably have a lot of pressure on their hands which seems to exacerbate the controlling-ness.
The submissive one is usually easygoing and relaxed, doing whatever their counterpart wishes. They are good listeners, patient and well-tempered.
When these two sides are balanced, there is harmony and flow; things work to the benefit of both parties. But sometimes, the balance is disrupted. One person becomes too dominant while the other becomes, for lack of a better word, a doormat.
For years, I was a doormat and what happens to doormats? They get trampled on. I was
insecure and suffered from feelings of worthlessness, which only allowed for the trampling to happen.
But one day, after I had enough, I knew that I needed to fight back; to stand up for myself and to exert more strength.
Beware: the following story is not pretty, and I struggled in sharing it, but my purpose is to draw from real and raw experiences in order to truly help.
I love my husband (very much). He has a good heart, which is all that really matters to me. But at the same time, he can be rebellious, aggressive and hot-tempered. When we fight, things can get really nasty, really fast. He knows how to provoke me and get right under my skin, causing things to explode.
There was a period of time where every time we fought, he would yell that I was useless to the family, that I contributed nothing and that he was the only one pulling the weight. I was a stay-at-home-mom to two babies and what he said was incredibly hurtful because I poured every ounce of strength I had into our family. I gave my all every day, working tirelessly in love, only to have it go unnoticed and unappreciated.
One day, after he yelled at me once again that I was useless to the family, I told him, “Fine! Then I will really become useless! Starting now, I will not lift a finger or do a single thing!”
He scoffed and said, “Not like it’s going to make a difference anyway!” This angered me even more and I knew I had to stick to my word.
Starting that day, I really neglected my duties. I didn’t clean, I didn’t make his breakfast, snack, fruit and lunch for work, or his dinner at home, I let the dishes fester in the sink, laundry piling, house a mess, and he had to watch the kids after work. I felt so angry for being taken for granted all the time and for all those occasions he called me useless.
By nightfall of the same day, my husband called me, pleading for my help at home. I must admit, my heart strings were tugged, but I didn’t budge. I didn’t cave. It was too soon, and in my heart, I knew that if I went back right away, the same cycle would just repeat itself. So despite my feelings, I stood firm and kept my distance in order to make sure he learned this lesson.
It took about two days before I fully returned to my normal routine at home and before I felt the message had sunk in loud and clear. From that day onward, my husband never ever uttered those dreadful words to me again.
Sometimes, that’s what it takes to show you can’t be stepped on, to show you can’t be treated a certain way. Stand up. Fight! It may be weird that I’m telling you to fight, given my background. But you wouldn’t want your child to become a doormat, would you? You have to protect yourself and at the same time, set an example for those under your care. You are worth fighting for. Your opinions matter. People can’t treat you that way.
Looking back, I don’t blame my husband one bit. 1). It’s easy to think that stay-at-home-moms don’t do anything (I think the stay-at-home part trips people up). My husband had to actually go through the motions to understand. And 2). I was the one who allowed him to say those mean things to me.
People will treat you the way you let them. You have to set your own boundaries, bite back when you need to and take action when things are misaligned.
To conclude: when your spouse is too controlling, you need to balance the scale by exerting more strength and dominance.
Do you have a question of your own that you would like to ask The Married Nun?
Or to learn much, much more about dealing with your spouse and ways to thrive in your marriage, see the book If Nuns Were Wives