How to Repair a Relationship Damaged by Overcontrol

“That is the mystery of grace: it never comes too late.” – Francois Mauriac

Nothing suffers more from overcontrol than our relationships. Trying to control other people does nothing besides push them away. At the root of all controlling behavior is the desire to control one’s own anxiety. For the controller, it creates peace and calm and a taste of power over everything that seems beyond real control; namely people and time. For “control freaks” compromise doesn’t feel gratifying – a victory does. The result? Relationships are damaged.

So how do you repair a relationship you’ve damaged by overcontrol? Every relationship – those in pain and pleasure – can benefit from a generous amount of grace. Grace offers the gift of being accepted before we are acceptable. It doesn’t demand perfection and it doesn’t manipulate or cajole. Grace frees the spirit to let go and let be.

Ask For Grace

The most crucial step in repairing a relationship you’ve damaged by overcontrol is to ask for grace. This step can be humiliating, it can feel daring, or even make you downright nervous. But it is vitally important. Reach out to the person you love and ask for forgiveness and grace. Apologize for your former actions and let them know you are taking steps to let go of your controlling ways.

It can be tough for anyone to apologize, but especially those who like to be in control. This courageous step of asking a loved one for forgiveness and grace will clear the way for a fresh start and restored relationship. It sends a signal that you are serious about relinquishing your control, and value your relationship.

Give Grace

If there is a behavior you are irritated by in others, look into the mirror and ask yourself if this a behavior that you have not confronted or resolved in yourself as well. Have you ever thought “It’s not me that needs to manage my anger, it’s you.” Or, “It’s not me that needs to quit gossiping, it’s you.” Then chances are this is a projection onto others that you need to fix as well. The first step? Give grace to others.

When controlling people get annoyed by someone’s actions it can be a behavior in themselves that they need to resolve as well. As long as you have not controlled that aspect of yourself, it is likely to be a source of supreme annoyance to you when other people do it. And that’s why you need to give them grace.

Receive Grace

The rebuilding of controlling relationships rests on the spiritual experience of the grace from God. Controlling people spin a web of control so tight it entraps others and themselves. These people need God’s grace to free them. They need grace to sink deep down into their hearts and loosen their fists from their compulsive need to control the things they know they really can’t.

Grace is not a magic pill you can swallow – it’s the experience of being accepted. When you are able to receive God’s grace into your heart, you will receive the balm that soothes the anxious soul. You’ll realize you are accepted with no chance of being rejected. Grace will come free of charge.

When you are able to ask for grace, give grace, and receive grace you’ll be on your way to rebuilding and repairing a relationship damaged by overcontrol.

If you’d like to learn more about coping with a controlling personality, check out the following book: The Control Freak.

Do you have a controlling personality, or are you living with a spouse who does? How do you navigate this?


  • Jean Morse-Chevrier says:

    What does grace mean as in ask for grace?

    • Tom Gozinske says:

      Extend grace to others – as Jesus did (and does). Someone makes a mistake, don’t go the route of judgment, or bring up the past. Rather, calmly and lovingly, talk with the individual and explain what their actions mean or how they (the actions) affected you. Treat others with love.

    • Pax Lisi says:

      My personal fav of a definition for GRACE: A showing of kindness to one who does not deserve it and by its very nature; one not only who is undeserving but one who will always remain so.

  • Susan Larson Alan larson says:

    Does practicing the grace suggestions tend to work well if one partner tries to implement these grace strategies yet the other partner is resisting. Or in interested?
    I am learning that within healthy boundaries of marriage and relationships that you are really responsible to work on yourself and let the other person work on their own issues. It has been taking a lot longer than I’d expected to believe this truth but is is true.

  • Shellie says:

    I was very weak emotionally when I met my husband then some years later my momma of only 61 passed away suddenly. 3mo. after this I had a subarachnoid brain hemorrhage that put me in the ICU for 15 days. God is sooooo good and I lived.
    4 years later from this I feel almost like 100% and I feel rejuvenated again like I can breathe again! You would think my husband would be soooo happy that I am healthy and strong again but I have learned he is a CONTROL freak and maybe what it is ; he can’t control me anymore. As if he is intimidated by my confidence again and strength. Remember, he met me when I was weak. Interesting

  • Susan says:

    I have been married for 51 years, we both used to be control freaks. Now I have no more strength to respond to my husband’s suprême control and constant criticism. I back off, leaving me hateful to myself for walking away. Confrontation is out as he always has to win or another string of venom erupts in him. He is a good man in so many ways but these frequent outbursts have poisoned me. My life is a game of pretending everything is all right while inside I am dead.

  • Gwen Felizardo says:

    I have been married 47 years and found when I am unable to effectively communicate with my husband about behaviors/attitude that are detrimental to our marriage and relationship, I write him a letter affirming my love for him and why, identifying the disturbing behaviors (I list them bullet form and am specific) and how they make me feel (be blunt but succinct), reinforcing Malachi 2:14 and then reinforce my commitment and love, God’s love for him, and that I am not in competition with him and that I don’t want to control him. Then ask him to address his behaviors and attitude and figure out why he behaves this way because his behavior/attitude is affecting our relationship in a negative way. Has worked every time even though he occasionally needs reminders. I add appropriate scriptures (not too many) to keep him focused on his relationship with the Lord.

    Grace vs mercy: mercy is God not punishing us as our sins deserve, and grace is God blessing us despite the fact that we do not deserve it. Mercy is deliverance from judgment. Grace is extending kindness to the unworthy.

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