A chief in Africa called all his men to come to his hut in the center of the village. It was his fear, he said to them, that there were no longer any real men in the village. He had the impression the men were being ruled too much by their wives. To find out of this were true, he asked all the men who felt their wives bossed them around to leave the hut through the door on the right. Those who felt they were in charge at home should leave through the door on the left. Lo and behold, all of the chief’s men left through the door on the right, except one who stood alone. He finally left through the door on left. So the chief called the men together again and gave a speech of praise to the lone wolf. “At least we have one real man in our village,” he said. “Could you please share with us your secret?” The man looked rather sheepish and at last he muttered, “Chief, when I left home this morning, my wife said to me, ‘Husband, never follow the crowd!’” [1]

There are some who try to control their spouse and micromanage every detail of their partner’s life. Both sexes are guilty of this behavior at times. There is the overly demanding husband that tries to keep his wife “under his thumb”, and there is the domineering wife who barks out orders to her husband.

Why are some spouses so controlling? Those who are overly controlling are usually more anxious types of people. They feel they must attempt to control the world around them in order to feel safe. Often, in marriages, anxiety shows up due to fear of losing the other person’s love and/or is often due to self insecurity. In order to feel better about themselves or secure in the relationship, one partner will try and control the other’s behavior. Do this. Don’t do this. Go here. Don’t go there. Spend time with me, and don’t spend time with them. Look here. Don’t look there.  I think you get the idea here.

They seek to control the other person to make sure things are going as they feel they should be in the relationship. Controlling spouses live with the illusion that their controlling behavior is keeping the relationship where it needs to be. The problem is, seeking to manage our spouses’ behavior is actually an intimacy killer. Intimacy and closeness are based on mutual trust. When trust is present spouses feel the freedom to live in honesty. When one spouse closely monitors the other’s behavior, secrets tend to develop. The spouse in the fish tank begins to feel that if he or she is honest it will lead to trouble and more controlling behavior by the other.

I am not saying that relationships need no boundaries. On the contrary, relationships can only thrive within certain parameters. My wife and I have plenty of boundaries in our relationship, but they are mutually agreed upon. They are not punitive measures that one imposes upon the other.

Nor am I saying that spouses shouldn’t influence one another. Healthy marriages actually have high levels of partner influence, but again it works both ways. We should note that there is a vast difference between influencing our spouse and attempting to control them.

Controlling behavior is always one sided. Generally it leads to secrets, resentment and withholding. You can’t have intimacy in an atmosphere of distrust. Love allows the other a certain margin of error to fail at times, but not room to destroy the relationship due to having no boundaries around the relationship.

Love is freeing. It isn’t overly restrictive. Love trusts. Love believes the best.

Oh the comfort – the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts or measure words, but pouring them all out right, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, then with breath of kindness, blow the rest away. – Dinah Maria Mulock Craik

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh


[1] Walter Trobisch, The Misunderstood Man