The Christian Broadcasting Network

  • Give To CBN
  • Partners
  • Jobs
  • Log In or Sign Up

The Relationship Café

The Controlling Woman

When it comes to issues of control, we most often think about men being the controllers and women being the victims of that control. While I believe that men are often guilty of being controlling, I receive many emails from men who feel controlled by their mates. 

Are these isolated examples of controlling women, or are there more cases than we might want to admit? It’s a topic that is understandably uncomfortable because it flies in the face of our gender stereotypes—men being more dominant and women being more passive. 

While I’m not prepared to offer any generalizations on the topic, I do want to respond to some of the emails I receive from men who feel their mate has issues with control. I’ve received many responses from my book, Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life, where I outline traits of Control Freaks. 

Let’s review some of the traits of the Control Freak:

• Black and white thinking
• Control of conversation
• Must be “right”
• Attempt to prove you wrong
• Rewrite history to make their point
• Use of intimidation
• Rigid
• Coercion and forced agreements
• Shaming

Control Freaks are not only domineering, but tenacious as well. They are like a bulldog with a bone—there is absolutely no way you will dissuade them from their point of view. Any attempt to do so will only lead to frustration on your part. They are relentless, narrowly focused, and doggedly determined.

We might expect a man to have these characteristics. But, what if these traits fit a woman? Is it even possible for a woman to have these traits?

Consider this email message from one woman:

Dr. David,
I read your article about the Control Freak and I noticed that a lot of what you wrote was me!  Now I am worried that I have caused my husband to shut down when it comes to his feelings and point-of-view. When trying to figure out where this destructive behavior stems from it seems that I grew up in an environment with the same type of behavior.  How can I reverse this, so that my husband can feel comfortable and open with me?
     ---Recovering Control Freak

 Dear Recovering,

I am impressed that you are taking responsibility for behaviors that are destructive to both you and your marriage. You notice, appropriately, that your controlling behavior has probably caused your husband to shut down emotionally. In fact, controlling behavior and attitudes will do just that—cause others to feel unsafe in our presence. They will hold back from sharing their feelings and opinions because those feelings and opinions will not be safe from judgment, and no one wants to be judged. 

What can you do now? You have taken a huge first step by acknowledging the behavior. While it may be important to understand where you learned such behaviors, it’s more important that you practice reversing thse patterns—what I call pattern interruption.

Practice the opposite of controlling behavior, which is accepting attitudes and behavior. Share your sincere apology with your husband and let him know you are endeavoring to be more accepting, tolerant and filled with grace. Encourage him to tell you when you step across his boundaries, and create a space in your relationship for forgiveness and growth. 

Are there other women who believe they have been controlling? What have you done to rectify the situation?

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Tuesday, August 12, 2008 2:22 PM

Comments on this post

# RE: Controlling Women

It seems to me that Spirit-filled Christians like those in the CBN commumnity should recognize that such problems as addressed in this article on "Controlling Women" should also consider demonic involvement. In this case it is well-recognized that the spirit of witchcraft or the Jezebel spirit may be involved!
Left by Phulax on Aug 13, 2008 9:10 AM

# RE: The Controlling Woman

I know that I have been controlling...and as I have grown in my walk with the Lord it has been revealed to me. My situation has been a little different though. After having had abusive relationships in my past and having married an alcoholic/addict, I have practically been a single mother since I was 22. (That's nearly 20 years for me.) My husband and I have only been married for going-on-four years. We have a 2-year-old together. My older children are 19 and 18. My husband has been through rehab twice and is currently not living at home. If I had to say something to excuse my controlling behavior, I'd say it has been to maintain some kind of order for my children in an environment that otherwise would be unstable. I have had to draw many lines in the sand and stand by what I say. Perhaps it's apples and oranges to apply this to life with an addict - it's just a different animal than normal life/normal marriage. I have been studying grace, asking God to help me grow in that area.
Left by sandykane on Aug 13, 2008 11:07 AM

# RE: Controlling Women

I grew up in, and still live in a house with a controlling mother. I know and I have heard, "That just goes along with a mother/daughter relationship." While this is true to an extent,it's not just between she and I.She is reckless with her words,and sometimes her actions.This makes it REALLY difficult to trust her with any kind of converstion.My mom doesnt know The Lord which makes it worse. She can be fine one moment but totally flip the next. I have majorly separated myself from her and feel terrible about it, but everytime I get close to her she hurts me.
My point to this: I DONT want to be like this! My boyfriend and I are about to get married (within the next year God Willing.)and, Im afraid of being like her (I know that sounds bad). I also dont want to have to be so separated from her.
Any advice and prayer would be great
Thank You,
In Christ
Cncerned daughter,and future wife.
Left by ETernalyBound on Aug 13, 2008 11:11 AM

# RE: The Controlling Woman

I believe that yes, the wife "can be controlling sometimes," but at the same time, "the husband can be controlling at some times," I think it's stupid to argue about "control," because I think that God might want us ALL to be in control! I think seeking forgiviness from your mate is the best way to go, and hopefully the mate can forgive and try their best to forget, but, at the same time, I feel it is so important to "communicate" most of your feelings when you are discussing (some call it "arguing") with you mate, just so we don't have to "end" without "understanding."

Me and my husband seem to "discuss" (which he calls arguing, I thin) ALL the time. Stupid things. Just today, he held his hand a "certain way on his face," and I asked, "what are you doing?" Maybe I was a little stern with my tone of voice when I said that, but, he got defensive, it seems, and showed me his hand on his face, like a child who was being at yelled at unfairly, no fight, just doing what was told.. (con't
Left by CarolineJKennard1 on Aug 13, 2008 12:01 PM

# RE: The Controlling Woman

Hello Everyone! Please read the following again with me:
"Let’s review some of the traits of the Control Freak:

• Black and white thinking
• Control of conversation
• Must be “right”
• Attempt to prove you wrong
• Rewrite history to make their point
• Use of intimidation
• Rigid
• Coercion and forced agreements
• Shaming"
I am not this woman in my own house.
I have kicked, screamed, argued senselessly and the rest of it driving my loving Father almost over the edge. Do any of you recognise yourselves here? Wanting your way when you know that "Father knows best"? I am so happy to acknowledge this erroneous stuff, because I have been working very hard on myself to better myself. I still have a long way to go, but this AB FAB article opened my eyes, and I am so grateful for it.
Come on everyone! I know some of you are guilty of the same. Doesn't it feel good to own up to it? PRAISE THE LORD and God bless you all!!!
Left by vmw7777777 on Aug 13, 2008 12:47 PM

# RE: The Controlling Woman

To the wife of an addict: It is very hard not to become controlling in an abusive, chaotic environment. The critical issue is, control what is your business to control, and let go of what is not your business. Yes, easier said than done, but that is our path to health. This also involves entrusting to God what belongs to God. So, how about if we all sit back and take inventory--whatever kind of relationship we're in, are we managing what has been given to us to manage, and nothing more???

Share your thoughts!
Dr. David
Left by drdavidhawkins on Aug 13, 2008 7:12 PM

# RE: The Controlling Woman

I automatically take control! I know I have a problem but my husband will not tell me when I am steping over the bounds! I do it without thinking. I can't seem to stop! Please pray for me!
Left by Loveall on Aug 13, 2008 9:47 PM

# RE: The Controlling Woman

I was raised by a very controlling mother. Thankfully, my personality is so different from my mother and I am a much different wife. I have prayed for God to help me to become the woman that my husband needs and desires and he has answered my prayers. I also ask for wisdom from God in my prayers as the bible directs in how to be a wife and mother so I won't follow in my own mother's footsteps! I have been married for over 30 years and am extremely happily married with three wonderful children who have all given their lives to the Lord! God is so wonderful!! He will give you what you need if you seek him first and pray in all things!
Left by princessesp on Aug 14, 2008 1:16 AM

# RE: The Controlling Woman

Thanks.Here's my take:
After a while of both people being in a controlling state, there is no trust left in each other.Then you both have to declare-Lets start over.Honey, could we pray together? If the unbelieving spouse says no-just remember that the believing spouse covers the unbelieving spouse through their prayer. Then you can take authority and control "IN PRAYER ALONE!"Ask the Lord to choose your every word-Bless the house and everything in it and pray with your young children too.Make sure and include the Lord's prayer for it is perfect-see how each word is perfect.How many times God has showed me,if I hold my tongue and just go off and pray;when i come out of my "prayer closet," the atmsophere is a hundred times better and most of my hearts desires are met. Mainly through those silent prayers. The tongue is a powerful "spiritual rutter" in our daily lives..and we can make or break a marriage with it.Pray for the best over your spouse while he sleeps at night too.
Left by laurenann on Aug 15, 2008 12:04 PM

# RE: The Controlling Woman

Wonderful responses! We must prayerfully determine our motives: are we trying to push our agenda, or are we simply sharing our heart? Are we demanding, insisting on our way, or are we willing to share our thoughts, allowing for differing points of view. Do we get into power struggles, or are we able to find places of agreement, cooperation and wishing the best for others?

Every interaction is an opportunity to create a bond of friendship with another. Can you see that opportunity in every conversation?
Dr. David
Left by drdavidhawkins on Aug 15, 2008 3:05 PM

# RE: The Controlling Woman

GOD had to deal with me about my controlling ways, and HE showed me the spirit of Jezebel that was at work. I'm still a work in progress. However, I became a Jezebel through my husband, who the spirit of Ahab was working in. These are two dangerous spirits and they work together. This is how I found the spirit of Ahab in my home. . . II Kings 21, and how these two spirits work together. . . So if that Jezebel spirit is manifested, better believe that, that spirit of Ahab is not far behind.

This is about coveting, and not getting what one wants, then turning around to use someone to get what he wants, in this case his wife. Ahab knew his wife, he knew who she was, and how she operated. Why he went to her to get what he wanted. Ahab wanted a vineyard which belonged to Naboth, who would not give it to him, v4) shows how he went, intentionally into his little funk, knowing Jezebel, his wife, would come and ask him what was wrong. . . read this chapter to get the revelation.
Left by Jesusisthatkindoffriend on Aug 16, 2008 7:13 PM

# RE: The Controlling Woman

If you could please tell me how can I share this with a few women I Know and not sound or come off as being judgemental to them? This type of behaviour is not healthy,our families sometimes get together and when one of these women starts belittling their husbands it makes everyone very uncomfortable and you can't help but wanting to get out there.I do know that praying will ALWAYS HELP!!!!
Left by peacelovejoyandgod on Aug 21, 2008 10:13 AM

# RE: The Controlling Woman

I'm just starting to realize that I am controlling. I didn't even realize. I feel so full of despair right now.
Left by glitter on Apr 03, 2009 4:30 PM

# RE: The Controlling Woman

my father was extremely controlling of my mum. My youngest son is suffering extreme control from his wife akin to the level my mum had to bear.
I have reflected long & hard since my sons torment. It was seeing the effect on my sons mental, emotional & physical health that made me realize I myself had some controlling behaviors. Less so now I'm older and less again since I realize my controlling habit could be the cause for my son picking someone with controlling ways.

To top it all; I discovered for other reasons that I have ADHD and we have family members with OCD some have fanciful denial traits when faced with life's challenges that are too hard to handle (rose tinted defenses)a few with phobias.

I wander if all the above problems all stem from learned behavior. CBT give insight &coping strategies. I have adjusted to the best knowledge of myself over the years but needed and sought further insight via a counselor who helped me appraise my upbringing and parenting

Left by annie on Jul 05, 2012 6:53 PM

# RE: The Controlling Woman

In most cases involving a controlling personality, the controller exhibits the behavior due to a single traumatic event, or series of events which slowly shaped the personality. We have all developed into who we are because events during our life have molded us. We are the lump sum total of our life's experiences. The only cure and deliverance from a controlling personality is the same same as it is for alcoholism, gambling, sex addiction, or any other sin....Surrendering To God.
Once a person lays down their defenses and admits they are not in control of anything, then there is a "joy unspeakable' experience that can be described only as life changing. A newly born creature. You become a new creature in Christ Jesus. You become Spiritually awakened and turn from the things that lead you to those are set free with a new understanding that God is really the One 8 control. You realize that in the end God has everything already worked out for you and all believers.
Left by TheDiscerner on Oct 23, 2014 10:58 PM