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Positive Ways to Influence a Controlling Spouse

If you can influence your controlling spouse to turn his or her natural skills toward improving your marriage, you both may benefit.

Sally dreamed of a marriage in which she and her husband, Phillip, could share thoughts, feelings, desires, and work together as they faced the challenges of life. Phillip, on the other hand, was a controller. Sally explained, "He controls the money like he's a guard at Fort Knox. I must ask for every nickel. Every time I come home, he wants to know where I've been and what I've done. He makes the decisions in every area of our life including which water-saving shower heads and energy-efficient windows are better for our home."

Living with a controlling spouse can be difficult. People with controlling personalities often become leaders in the community, on the job, or in the church. They're the kind of people who make decisions, solve problems, and get things done. They usually have a high level of self-confidence. However, dominating people aren't in touch with emotions — others' emotions or even their own. They're goal-oriented, not relationship-oriented. They produce results but often hurt people in the process.

Wrong Turns

Is there hope for people married to controllers? The answer is yes. But first, here are two common negative responses to a controlling spouse.

The Power Play.

The attitude is, If you're going to try to control me, I'll fight you to the end. This approach leads to anger and heated arguments. The more the controller argues, the more you argue. No one wins, but the power play continues. Eventually, there's another power play, and the arguing per sists. Many couples follow this pattern for years.

The Submissive-Servant.

The attitude is, I yield to the controller and avoid conflict. The motto is "Peace at Any Price," which essentially renders you a slave to the controller's demands. Ironically, the submissive-servant approach doesn't create peace. Externally, you and your spouse may seem to be at peace, but you've turned the battle inward.

The Right Road

There are two positive approaches that have proven successful for many.

Influence By Agreement.

You agree with the controller's arguments but don't allow yourself to be controlled by them. Respectfully agreeing without allowing yourself to be controlled holds tremendous potential for influencing a controlling spouse. This approach doesn't strike at the controller's self-worth or significance. You aren't arguing that the ideas are bad, which will always be interpreted as personal criticism. However, it's important to follow through with the second half of this approach and not allow yourself to be controlled by the controller, such as the executive decision to buy certain appliances for the sake of the budget. This approach applied consistently over a period of time has influenced many controllers to a more balanced approach to life.

Play to His or Her Strengths.

In the world of sports and business, good supervisors find the strengths of the player or employee and utilize them to the maximum. This principle also works in marriage and is especially helpful for influencing a controller. Since the controller is performance-oriented, he or she will respond to challenges to reach a given goal. Therefore, the controlling spouse will welcome a request to help, such as: "You're really good at mapping out strategies to reach goals. Would you be willing to help me with a project? A friend of mine has asked me to come up with practical ideas about how she and her husband can enrich their marriage. I have some ideas, but would you give some thought to that? Next week, maybe we can pool our ideas." You may be surprised at the ideas the controller will produce.

Ideas often include discussing a book on marriage, attending a marriage enrichment seminar, setting aside time each day for conversation, having a date night once a week, buying a gift even when there's no special occasion, and so forth. Having helped generate ideas, the task-oriented controller may be more willing to pursue such activities. If you can influence your controlling spouse to turn his or her natural skills toward improving your marriage, you both may benefit.

You won't win an argument with a controller; you can only prolong the battle. Influencing by agreement and playing to his or her strengths are much more helpful approaches. Both assume a kind, but firm refusal to be controlled. You can't change your spouse, but you can influence him or her.

This article is courtesy of HomeLife Magazine.