Paradoxes of Control


It takes two people to unite in a marriage. If you succeed at controlling your partner (imposing your will on them) unity is lost. Why? Because your partner no longer has a free will and is no longer an independent person; they’ve become an extension of you and your will.

Controlling a partner is bitter sweet. We may get our partner to do what we want (which feels sweet) but they’re not doing it willingly (which feels bitter).

Fear of unmet needs is usually behind the urge to control our partners. The more we try to control our spouse the more disinclined they are to want to meet our needs. It’s a vicious self fulfilling prophecy.

Expecting others to do what we say fuels our sense of power and power is a terrible glue to hold couples together. Kindness, love, respect, deference, freedom, and serving are much better at fostering connection.

Few people welcome a partner’s control without trying to control back. This then creates a power struggle and the relationship becomes a competition to see who is most powerful. This leads to escalation and in worst cases, violence.

If the thought of letting your spouse do whatever they want increases your anxiety it’s likely you’re controlling. If your spouse does what you want and your anxiety decreases it’s likely you’re controlling. Since anything that decreases anxiety is addicting, controlling your spouse can become addicting. This is a precarious place to be since your spouse eventually will resist your control, your anxiety will spike, the urge to control will increase, their resistance will increase, and now anxiety regulation rules the relationship, not love.

Since much unhappiness occurs when spouses fail to meet our expectation to do what we want we have two options: try harder to get them to do things our way (spouse control), or change our expectations (self control). Since one of the “fruits of the spirit” is self control, we believe fostering personal spirituality and thereby decreasing the urge to control others is good for marriages.

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1 Comment

  1. meredith moyer

     /  March 4, 2013

    Great Erik. We are working on the how to retire options…… It helps to receive our SSI soon & know it is still available!! That the GOV hasn’t shut down just yet.


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