Have you ever been irritated because your spouse does things differently than you do? Do you get upset if he or she has different opinions and makes different choices than you would? If so, you have bumped up against some of your own personal control issues and triggers in your marriage. Here are three important points to consider:
1. Fear underlies control issues.
Control issues cause problems in many marriages. The feelings you experience at those times can be very intense and may include rage at the other person. Most people feel more secure when others around them mirror their opinions, beliefs, and choices. Your safety needs and fears contribute to your wanting others to be just like you. The old adage, "There is safety in numbers," refers to this primitive fear of standing alone.
Also, many people feel more in control when they can predict the behavior of others and when others meet their expectations. Then they don't have to experience the discomfort of growing, changing, or stretching themselves. Instead, they can pretend that their world is logical, orderly, predictable, and safe.
2. Thinking your spouse should be just like you harms your marriage.
Your control issues are also triggered by viewing your spouse as an extension of yourself. This perception can result in trying to dictate which clothes your spouse wears, how she wears her hair, who she is friends with, what political views she holds, and what she can or cannot do. While your spouse may initially make some changes trying to keep the peace, you are creating a parent-child dynamic in your relationship that will eventually foster rebellion and resentment.
3. Using insults and name calling are attempts to regain control.
While nothing sinister is involved in many control issues in relationships, pathological behavior can be triggered in some instances. For example, a partner who is angry that the spouse did not follow his dictates could become physically and emotionally abusive. The partner may think he has the right to "punish" the other person. Name calling and derogatory put-downs, such as "What a stupid thing to do," are often used to re-establish control over the other person.
It's easy to point a finger at your spouse and to state that he or she needs to change. It's hard to face your own unresolved issues head-on and take responsibility for how you need to change. As you become more aware of control issues in your marriage, the starting place for change is always with yourself and your response to what is happening.
Nancy J. Wasson, Ph.D., is co-author of Keep Your Marriage: What to Do When Your Spouse Says "I don't love you anymore!" This is available as an e-book at http://www.KeepYourMarriage.com ,where you can also sign up for the free Keep Your Marriage Internet Magazine. Nancy can be contacted at Nancy@KeepYourMarriage.com.