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Mistress of the Universe: Learning to Let Go of Control

Releasing your grip on the circumstances in your life and the lives of others is healthy for everyone.

Oops. I did it again. The words shot out of my mouth before I could stop them. My need to micromanage my 15-year-old son took over the rational part of me that knows trying to control him doesn’t work.

“Mom, I can handle it!” John shot back at me. My reminder to put his lunch in his backpack, meet with his teacher after school, and take a coat was met with annoyance.

I’ve attempted many times to remind, nudge, suggest, motivate, direct … okay, control my husband and three kids. I’ve tried to affect the outcome of nearly every circumstance, and secretly wanted to control the entire universe. I know that some of you reading this article are “Mistresses of the Universe” just like me.

While I think my crown fits quite nicely most of the time, when I try to dominate the people I love or work with, arranging their schedules and managing everything, I wind up exhausted. I usually feel frustrated and resentful too, because I’m working harder than everyone else.

For you nearly perfect women who don’t struggle with control issues, I want to give you a glimpse into the inner life of a Mistress of the Universe. It might help you to understand us and extricate yourselves from our clutches should you happen to run into one of us. For those of you who are Mistresses of the Universe, I’m going to share some things you can do to diminish your fundamental need to manage others.

Mistresses of the Universe (you know who you are) feel compelled to be in charge of everyone and everything. You take responsibility for making sure things go smoothly and are done properly. When you see a job that needs to be done, you usually do it yourself rather than risk it being done less perfectly by someone else.

Mistresses of the Universe say things like “I feel so stressed out all the time. Everyone expects me to do everything. If I don’t take care of things, they don’t get done.” Or “I’m just trying to help.” “Let me show you how to do that.” “How many times have I told you…?” “Why are you wearing that tie with those pants?” “Don’t you think it would be better if you…?” “I just want you to be happy!”

A Mistress of the Universe feels stressed out when her toddler is wearing mismatched socks. She feels enormous concern when she comes home at night to discover that the father of her children has put them to bed in their clothes without a bath. She gets very nervous when she assigns a project to an employee because she wonders if it will be completed on time and done well.

Why do we feel so responsible for everything? Why do we want to control everyone?

In general, women tend to feel more pain associated with their relationships, so some of us use control as a means of avoiding that pain. We try to manage other people and circumstances so we won’t feel hurt, nervous, stressed, disappointed or worried.

Dr. Michael Kragt, a licensed psychologist at Grace Counseling in Denver, says that women who were abused as children or who grew up in repressed homes may try to control in order to protect themselves from being hurt again. It’s a means of overcompensating for the lack of control they experienced as kids.

Sometimes women mistakenly believe they can get more of what they want by controlling. They believe that no one else will take care of them the way they need to be cared for if they aren’t in control of everything. Some perfectionists just want others to comply with their high standards, usually to avoid feeling pain.

“We all want control in some areas, Dr. Kragt says. “But control creates problems when we can’t separate what is trivial from what is truly important,” he warns. “If control issues and structure take precedence over relationships, then they become problems.”

Kragt adds that men feel emasculated when women try to control them. When we try to guilt them with criticism and correction, manipulate them with our hurt feelings, or use our children in power plays to get something we need from them, men feel like failures. When they feel like failures they either lash out in anger or withdraw. Women feel ignored, rejected and disconnected when their men withdraw, but men won’t attempt emotional intimacy when they’re made to feel incompetent. It’s just too risky.

Even our kids can feel hurt by our control, says Kragt. “The difference between controlling and setting appropriate boundaries for kids lies in the answers to two questions: Do your kids get to have unstructured time to be goofy, playful kids? Do you allow them to have their own likes and dislikes?”

Not allowing someone else to make decisions they’re perfectly capable of making is controlling. Expecting others to like what you like and do things the same way you do is controlling. Criticizing with the intent of provoking shame in others in order to get what you want is controlling.

If you are a Mistress of the Universe who wants to take off your crown, try the following suggestions:

  • Practice good self-care. Getting plenty of rest, scheduling play time and pursuing your own interests will help you feel more satisfied with your life overall and less dissatisfied with those around you.
  • Be honest and direct when you present a request or offer an opinion to someone else. Be aware that you might try to control surface issues when there is something deeper that should be dealt with.
  • Encourage and praise your husband, children, friends and employees. Encouragement will draw them toward you, whereas criticism will push them away.
  • Trust others with the successful outcome of the tasks for which they are responsible. Hovering over them and checking their work is demotivating. Discern between what is important and what is trivial before deciding whether or not to get involved. Trust others to make good decisions, even when you aren’t sure they’re on the right track.
  • Share your frustrations and concerns with a trusted friend or pastor. If your painful feelings persist, talk to a professional counselor.
  • Most important, learn to trust God and give Him ultimate control over the people and circumstances in your life. That trust will increase the more time you spend with Him and study the Bible. When your relationship with God is in place, the need to control others will lessen.

When I took off my crown and gave up my title of Mistress of the Universe, I didn’t lose power. I gained it. And I gained more self-respect and dignity. My ability to positively influence my husband and others has increased, while my level of frustration has decreased. God has done some amazing things in my life. He has met needs that I thought would never be taken care of when I gave Him control, and I know He will do the same for you.

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Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Thank you for committing to pray for the pre-born!

Sign up below for your free seven-day prayer guide. This daily guide will help give direction to your prayers for the pro-life movement. We will be praying with you! 

Focus on the Family

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