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Avoid Marriage Separation
Because of a Controlling Spouse

by Nancy Wasson, Ph.D.

Have you ever been miffed because your partner does things differently than you do?

Do you get upset if she or he has different opinions and consequently makes different choices than you would? If so, you have encountered some of your own personal control issues and hot buttons in your marriage.  Control dynamics cause marital problems in thousands of relationships and is a leading contributor to marriage separation.

If you want to minimize the risk of an unhappy marriage, here are three important points to consider:

1. Fear is at the root of control issues.

Control issues provoke many a marriage crisis. The emotions you experience at those times can be very strong and may include intense anger at the other person. Most people feel more secure when others around them share their beliefs, opinions, and choices. Your fears and safety needs contribute to your wanting others to be just like you. The old adage, "There’s safety in numbers," refers to this instinctive fear of standing alone.

Also, many people feel in control more when others meet their expectations and when they can predict the behavior of others. Then they don't have to experience the discomfort of changing, growing, or stretching themselves. Instead, they can pretend that their world is logical, predictable, orderly, and safe.

2. Thinking your spouse should be just like you hurts your marriage.

Your control issues can also be triggered by viewing your spouse as an extension of yourself. This perception may result in trying to dictate which clothes your partner wears, who she is friends with, how she wears her hair, what political views she holds, and what she can or cannot do. While your mate may initially make some changes trying to keep the peace, you are in fact creating a parent-child dynamic in your relationship that will eventually foster resentment and rebellion. This is a direct path to marriage problems.

3. Using name calling and insults are attempts to regain control.

While nothing sinister is usually involved in control issues in relationships, pathological behavior can be triggered in some cases. For example, a spouse who is angry that the spouse did not follow his directions could become emotionally and physically abusive. The partner might think he has the right to "punish" the other person. Marriage counselors report that derogatory put-downs and name calling, such as "What a stupid thing to do," are frequently used to re-establish control over the other person.

It's easy to point a finger at your mate and to say that he or she needs to change. It's much harder to face your own unresolved issues face-to-face and take responsibility for how you need to change. But avoiding change instead of nurturing your relationship can be a sure path to relationship crisis, marriage counseling and marital separation.

As you become more aware of control issues in your relationship, the starting place for change is always with yourself and your response to what is happening in your marriage.

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Copyright © Nancy Wasson.  All rights reserved.  Nancy Wasson is co-author of Keep Your Marriage: What to Do When Your Spouse Says "I don't love you anymore!" This is available at http://www.KeepYourMarriage.com, where you can also sign up for the free weekly Keep Your Marriage Internet Magazine to get ideas and support for dealing with marriage separation

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