Control in Marriage

woman running controls illustration
Rebecca Green

"Fine!" I screamed.

"Fine!" my husband, Tommy, yelled back.

"Then you put the kids to bed! And don't forget to pray with them — I'm done!"

Evening outbursts like this were not uncommon in our home. With the tension still high, Tommy would go take care of our three young children, and I would stumble into the shower, the only place I could find solitude, to cry. First I'd cry tears of fatigue — then tears of pain, regret and even fear as I imagined our children growing older and more aware of our marital "discussions."

I felt I was the stronger one in our marriage, praying with our children, reading to them and tucking them in at night. But still I wondered, Why doesn't he lead this family?

So I prayed. And then I wondered if maybe I could be the reason that my husband wasn't stepping into his leadership role in our home. What if Tommy was intimidated by my demands or simply sick of listening to my constant griping?

True confessions: I like things the way I like them, when I want them and at the pace I expect them. I like control. Now that may be good for home management, but what was that doing to my marriage? It took awhile, but as I learned to relinquish my control, I found it allowed my husband to freely lead.

As I look back on those battling years, I have to admit that my determination to have it my way was not good for my marriage. The desire for control actually squelched our communication, robbed me of the privilege to pray for my husband and deprived our relationship of grace.

I've come to realize, through my own experience as well as in conversation with friends, that marriage works best when my husband and I labor in tandem. When I push for control in my marriage, however, I miss the opportunity to communicate — and communication helps us work together as a couple.

In communicating clearly with my husband rather than demanding I get my way, I've experienced the privilege to pray for him in his areas of weakness. And praying for him has changed me. I'm learning that showing grace is exactly what God would have me do.

Communication, prayer and grace have tamed the control issues in my home. And our marital "discussions" have proven to be so much more productive when my tone is grace-filled. When my words are not demanding or condescending, the resolution is often sweeter.

Yvette Maher serves as an executive pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and authored her first book, My Hair & God's Mercies . . . New Every Morning.
A portion of this article first appeared in the October/November 2013 issue of Focus on the Family's Thriving Family magazine.
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Copyright © 2013 by Yvette Maher. Used by permission. From the Focus on the Family website at FocusOnTheFamily.com.

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