Scott and Mary (not their real names) have been married for 15 years. Both are active in their church, where Scott serves as an elder and Mary teaches in the children’s ministry.
To their friends at church, they looked like the perfect couple. But the story is quite different at home. It started in a subtle way, with Scott taking jabs at Mary for minor things. At first, Mary didn’t give too much thought to it. She didn’t see the warning signs of control and power struggles in her marriage. She told herself to try and do better.
Over time Scott stayed late at work and did not let Mary know his plans. He made major family decisions without any input from Mary. When she confronted him, Scott flew into a rage and accused her of being ungrateful for all he does for her and the children.
When she bought new curtains for the house, Scott yelled at her for not asking his permission before purchasing the curtains. He didn’t like the colors anyway, so he told her to return them.
More and more, Mary felt that she couldn’t do anything right by Scott. She felt isolated, ashamed, and guilty about not being a good wife and mother. Mary felt as if she was walking on eggshells anytime Scott was home. She didn’t want anyone to know what was going on, so she just pushed through each day and pretended all was well.
Is controlling behavior an issue in your marriage? Can you relate with Mary’s situation?
What Does Controlling Behavior in Marriage Look like?
If your spouse is controlling, you may feel they do not value your feelings, thoughts, and choices. They may criticize you and limit your access to money, family, or friends.
Not addressing it can result in verbal, emotional, or physical abuse.
What Should You Do If You Experience Power Struggles in Your Marriage?
Control, power struggles, and manipulation distort your sense of reality. Over time, you may internalize your spouse’s criticisms and accusations. You’ll begin to question and doubt every area of your life… mom, wife, friend, faith, and even God’s love for you.
Your self-worth and confidence take a nose-dive.
So, what should you do?
- Pray and ask for God’s help: God is our ever-present help in times of trouble. Anytime we experience distress in our relationships, we can call on him for wisdom, guidance, and direction. Look up and tell God about your situation. You’re never alone.
- Communicate with Your Spouse: Discuss your concerns with your spouse and let them know how their behavior affects you and what you need from them (Use statements like “I feel… and I need… “).
You can set appropriate boundaries on offensive behavior. For example, you may decide you’ll no longer tolerate yelling, name-calling, or put-downs in your marriage. Let them know what the consequences would be.
It’s not uncommon for a husband and wife who’ve been married for a long time to take each other for granted because of familiarity. Initially, you may experience pushback when you try to implement boundaries. Don’t give in.
By refusing to dance the same dance, changing the music, and setting boundaries, you are saying “No” to manipulation, power struggles, and controlling behaviors in your marriage.
- Seek Wise Counsel: If your spouse is unwilling to adjust after you’ve discussed your concerns with them, seek wise counsel from professionals, a few trusted friends who are seasoned prayer warriors, or your pastor.
By sharing with others, you bring light to the situation. In addition, you’ll receive prayer and spiritual support.
God is not ok with manipulation or controlling behaviors of any kind.
Do not take advantage of each other but fear your God. I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 27:17
What’s God’s View of the Marriage Relationship?
God provides clear guidelines in the Bible for how husbands and wives are to relate in marriage. They’re to respect and honor each other.
Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 4:25
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is to the wife, as Christ is the head of the church. Ephesians 4:22-23
Husbands are to love their wives just as Christ loved the church. Christ loved the church unconditionally with humility, not arrogance and manipulation.
Wives are to submit to their husbands… to love and respect their husbands.
As implied in these verses, submission is a mutual act of worship. Both husband and wife are to submit out of reverence for God and respect for one another.
God calls husbands to love their wives just as they love their own bodies. A husband who loves his wife loves himself. Ephesians 5:28
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2
Unfortunately, many in the church today twist and misinterpret these verses and principles to manipulate and intimidate their spouses. Submission is not weakness; it is the most beautiful way to lead through love.
If you’re in a marriage where control or power struggle is an issue, don’t stay quiet and allow the situation to fester. Please get help. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you need assistance, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233
You are not alone.
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3
You are God’s masterpiece, and he loves you.
Need help to overcome power struggles in your marriage and Reclaim Your Voice? Book a FREE Discovery Call today to discuss how I can help you.