When You Have a Controlling Husband

When You Have a Controlling Husband October 6, 2018

When we get married we enter into a beautiful union where we can no longer think only of ourselves, but we must work together to make collective decisions that are best for both spouses. One way we can consistently do this effectively is by asking one another’s permission before making most decisions. However, I want to point out that this practice requires a delicate balance. Permission is not a word that adults like to use or hear…unless directed towards their children, and yet, we ask for it and give it every single day of our lives.  When we pass our driver’s test, the DMV employee gives us permission to legally drive a car.  When we go to a restaurant, we ask to be seated.  In our jobs, we ask and give permission all day long.  It is simply part of life.

So, why do some have such an issue with it in their marriage?

The word permission in the dictionary is defined as “consent or authorization”.  Some synonyms for permission are “authorization, consent, leave, authority, sanction, license, dispensation, assent, acquiescence, agreement, approval, seal/stamp of approval, endorsement, blessing, clearance, allowance, tolerance, empowerment”.  All of these words appear to have favorable meanings by themselves, yet the term permission seems so negative to many of us.  Why is that? I believe it’s because so many people have used the act of giving permission in a selfish, unhealthy, or abusive way.   If this is the truth, it is no wonder that someone would hate asking for permission…especially from their spouse.  Even still, I believe it is a good thing when it is done in a healthy, loving, respectful way.

So, how can asking for your spouse’s permission go WRONG? When the need for control is at the heart of it, and here are 3 ways this is manifested:

1. When asking for permission is DEMANDED.
In other words, the person calling the shots within the co-dependent relationship holds the other partner down by taking advantage of his/her dependency on the alpha in the pairing.  This is NOT healthy and is extremely abusive.  We must never manipulate our spouse by making him/her feel inadequate unless they have our approval or guidance.  Again, the asking of permission must be a mutual practice in marriage to cultivate and maintain a healthy relationship.

2. When the asking of permission is ONE-SIDED
Asking for permission must be a MUTUAL practice in marriage, or the relationship will suffer greatly and be unhealthy.

3. When it creates unhealthy CODEPENDENCY
According to Wikipedia, “Codependent relationships are a type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.”
In other words, the person calling the shots within the co-dependent relationship holds the other partner down by taking advantage of his/her dependency on the alpha in the pairing. This is NOT healthy and is extremely abusive. We must never manipulate our spouse by making him/her feel inadequate unless they have our approval or guidance. Again, the asking of permission must be a mutual practice in marriage to cultivate and maintain a healthy relationship.

More than anything, we must understand that seeking each others’ permission is not meant to be a manipulative tactic. We choose to ask for each other’s permission to extend communication and show love and respect to one another.

Recently, I received a message from a wife who feels suffocated and disrespected by her husband’s need to control her. He tells her what to cook, how to clean, how to discipline the kids, and even what to wear to work. Instead of asking her opinion on things and making decisions as a couple, her husband believes his word is final and his wife’s thoughts don’t need to be part of the equation. And, whenever she tries to intervene or exerts her opinion, her husband becomes very angry. They usually end up having a big argument, so she backs down to “keep the peace.” And, the cycle continues.

This husband’s controlling approach is breaking his wife’s heart and deeply wounding his marriage. This poor wife feels emotionally abused by her husband’s demands, and she fears the reaction that she might receive if she questions his decisions. This is not healthy at all. Marriage is about serving one another in love, and a spouse’s desperate need for control goes directly against this. Control breeds fear, and the Bible is clear that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear,” in 1 John 4:18. Even so, I have heard some Christian husbands use Bible verses about marital submission to support their need to control, but these husbands are often not remembering or understanding the meaning of the entire passage. In Ephesians 5: 21-33, Paul writes:

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

It’s interesting that Paul first encourages married couples to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” before he goes into the specifics of submission (love and respect) for both husbands and wives. And, when we read further into these verses, husbands are called to be willing to lay down their very lives for their wives, just as Jesus willingly laid down his life for us. Wow! That is a high standard! It even goes on to say that husbands should care for their wives as they care for their own bodies and as Christ cares for the church. I find this very interesting in light of a husband desiring control over his marriage. You see, controlling someone is not the same thing as caring for someone, especially in marriage. In fact, when a husband strives to control his wife, he is casting her cares, insight, and opinions aside and treating her like a child, or one who doesn’t have the maturity to help make important decisions. Instead of controlling, God has called a husband to love his wife in such a way that he would give his life to protect her physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and this requires servant-hearted tenderness, trust, and respect.

My husband has so wisely said that a husband and wife are like two wings on the same bird, with Christ as the head. This is a beautiful image of a husband and wife soaring together, but this will not work unless there are two wings. I’ve never seen a bird fly when one wing is trying to dominate the other wing and hold it down. That bird will never get off the ground.
So, what can a wife do when she feels like her husband is always trying to control her?

Well, it starts with having a heart-to-heart, gut-level honest conversation with her husband. Truth is, we are only going to be treated with the level of respect that we have for ourselves, so we cannot keep making excuses for our spouse’s unhealthy behavior towards us. When we don’t stand up for ourselves, we only perpetuate the problem. However, we must resist the urge to stand our ground by lashing out and creating an even bigger fight. Instead, calmly tell your husband that his constant need for control hurts your heart and makes you feel unvalued and unloved. If he gets upset and you both can’t seem to have a respectful conversation around this issue, it might be time to see a Christian counselor. You can find one right here at MarriageToday.com. It often helps to have a neutral third party to walk a husband and wife through a healthy conversation about the need for control to get to the heart of the issue. Your husband may not even be aware that he’s being controlling at all or that his need for control is unhealthy. A Christian counselor could help him to see this and could help both of you to develop a healthier way to communicate where you both feel heard and understood.

A husband and wife are to live life as ONE–unified in their commitment, purpose, and vision for their lives. We live this out by supporting–not holding down or controlling—one another. When both the husband and wife choose to lift one another up, they will soar together.


Browse Our Archives