by Devora Krasnianski, founder of Adai Ad Institute
In a successful relationship, there is constant negotiation as new situations arise; both the husband and wife hear the other’s points and the decision is made with respect. Even if in the end, the final outcome is not as one spouse had originally hoped, she or he still feels that the process of coming to the conclusion respected their point of view. She or he may not be happy with the conclusion, yet she or he still feels respected and loved by the other person.
If one spouse is controlling – wants everything to go their way, no matter what – there is no mutual regard and esteem, and the other spouse does not feel respected. Controlling people are not limited to male or female. If a husband decides how all the money is spent, without any regard to his wife’s input, then he is controlling. If a wife is verbally critical of his every move, and tries to manipulate his schedule to suit her, then she is controlling.
A strong need to dominate the other spouse and have the power in the marriage – is controlling behavior.
Too often, the controlling spouse isn’t even aware that these traits are abusive. Often, they think that this is ‘normal’ – as this might be what they have observed in their relatives and family. Additionally, they may be rationalizing the reasons for their behavior: “It’s for his good”, “She made me do it.”.
Is it possible that you have some controlling tendencies?
Before you get married and bring someone else into your life, ask yourself if you have enough capacity to love and care for someone, to hear their perspectives, to allow their ideas to prevail, to let your humanness and flaws show, to allow your spouse to have flaws.
It is important to really look within and reflect on your personality and patterns. Do you have some controlling tendencies? Is there something you ought to work on before bringing someone into your life?
Being asked if you are a controlling person is a confronting realization as most controlling people are unaware of their traits. Here, we share a quick self-awareness review, to help you identify concerning patterns. Try to be as candid and honest about yourself as you can. As you answer each question, imagine that someone who knows you well is looking over your shoulder – what would they say? Would they agree with your self-perception?
- Does it always (almost always) have to be your way?
- When in a conflict, what is your process for resolving the issue?
- Would others say this about you: “The only emotions s/he shows easily are anger, dissatisfaction or irritability.”
- When something you did does not have the desired results (ie: when you made a mistake), how do you react? Ex: take responsibility, laugh and move on, pretend it never happened,blame others, blame yourself?
- When someone else does something that did not have the desired results (ie: when they make a mistake) how do you react? Ex: learn from the experience, move on, blame, shame, hold grudge?
- How do you respond when you give (solicited) advice and it is not heeded?
- How do you respond when you are under pressure?
- How do you respond when you have to ‘clean up’ after someone else has made a mistake?
- How good of a listener are you? Are you more of a talker or listener?
- Do you have a ‘good sense of what is good for other people’? Do you often give unsolicited advice or constructive criticism?
- Do you often have a logical explanation for the way you behave – even though many others can’t see it your way?
- In your upbringing, how were financial (budget) decisions made?
- In your upbringing, how were parenting decisions made?
- In your upbringing, how were family traditions and minhagim determined?
Are you noticing any patterns in your tendencies?
Are you more easy going or do things have to go your way? Do you figure out ways to get things to go your way? Do you forgive easily or do you hold grudge? Do you value the opinions of others, or are you smarter than most people (and you let them know it)? In your upbringing*, did you observe joint decision making or was it mostly unilateral with one spouse making the decision and the other just giving in?
Help is not far away – when you acknowledge your pattern of behavior and have a sincere willingness to change. Guidance from a professional like a marriage counselor or a general life counselor, or a very qualified mashpia, before it is too late is the best medicine.
*Even if you identify behaviors in your upbringing that you are determined not to repeat, you must learn other coping skills. If not, it is likely that you will respond to stressors with those very behaviors you hope not to repeat, since those are the responses with which you are most familiar.