I grew up in a home where we were encouraged to speak our opinion, especially if we had some helpful insight to share. My wife says I’m controlling and that I’m the cause of our marital problems. What can I do to change going forward?

This is a subject that we deal with a lot at Marriage Helper. Men and women tend to communicate differently. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just different. Speaking with opinion can be a good thing, but quite often, men tend to think out loud (and don’t necessarily mean anything negative by it). In doing this, we may start with a thought here and wind up way up over there. In the process of doing that, we might call some things into question like, “Well, did you think about this?” And if your wife answers and says, “Well, yes, I thought that.” we might respond “Well, no, you should see it this way because I don’t think you thought about that.”

Now, to the male mind, that typically means we’re just having a logical conversation and discussion. Women tend not to approach it the same way. Now, some women do, but in general, they approach it differently. And so the wife feels overwhelmed because she was just trying to share what she thought or felt and rather than hearing her and validating her feelings, you debated her.

After a while, the other person just gives up – not because they’ve come around to your way of thinking – but they give up because they don’t want to continue this anymore, it becomes too negative for them.

What is happening in this particular situation? More than likely in his mind, he is just sharing what he thinks. In her mind, she’s being debated until she’s convinced that she’s wrong. She feels he’s just not going to quit until his wife finally sees it his way. And because she is viewing it that way, she definitely sees it as being controlled.

What should you do in the future?

Listen to her. Listen to what she thinks. Validate that you actually hear her and validate that the way she thinks is okay. As a matter of fact, sometimes, you might say something such as, “Well, that’s not the way I see it, but I understand how you see it that way.” And then rather than trying to convince them of your way, make it a habit of listening a lot more than you speak. You can still share your opinion, but be very careful that as you share your opinion, it doesn’t come across as, “I’m going to convince you that you’re wrong and I’m going to convince you to do it my way.” If you interact this way, inevitably, your wife will then view that as being controlled.

What can this person do if his spouse is beginning to shut down? Is there anything he can do to repair the marriage?

Absolutely. For example, he can go to his wife and say, “I’ve been thinking about what you said about not being controlling and I want to say that I haven’t meant to be that way, but if that’s how I come across then I’ve been doing this wrong. I’m sorry. I ask, if you will, that you will forgive me for that. Will you help me learn a new way to communicate with you so that you don’t feel controlled?”

At first, she may not believe that he’s being sincere and truly wants to change. However, if he does that sincerely and humbly, while truly listening to her, then over time, she will begin to open up and share again. He most definitely cannot pester her about this though. He can’t say, “Okay, I’m trying to change, and you need to help me and begin opening up.” Because if he does this in a way that she hears to be strident or demanding or controlling, it’s not going to work. He has to do it humbly where she sees that he truly wants to communicate in a different fashion.

This is how real change takes place in a controlling relationship. Ask yourself, “Am I controlling my husband?” or “Am I controlling my wife?”

What do you think are some other changes controlling spouses (husband or wife) need to make?

If your marriage is in danger of separation or divorce, call us at (866) 903-0990 to speak with someone or use this form here to request more information about our Marriage Helper workshop for troubled marriages. We can help you save your marriage even in cases of infidelity, loss of trust, anger, sexual problems, and other issues. (If you’re thinking your spouse would never come, contact us by phone or the form below and we’ll tell you what others who felt the same way did to get their spouses there.) We will keep everything you tell us completely confidential. Our motivation is to help you determine if this workshop is right for you and your particular situation. We also offer solutions for couples who can’t attend the workshop.