I’m Married to a Control Freak. What Do I Do?

Is your spouse a control freak?

Being in a relationship with a controlling person–especially a marriage–can be quite a challenge. No one knows that better than you do. Before we jump in, the first thing you need to know is that there’s hope, and it’s possible for your spouse to get a handle on their controlling tendencies.

First, you need a little more insight into what factors might be driving their controlling nature. You’ll also need some tools for communicating with them. And of course, they’ll need to keep an open heart.

I (Les) admit that I’m a recovering control freak–at least, to some degree. So, Leslie and I absolutely have some insights and empathy to share with you. Let’s start by talking about a possible reason why your spouse might be controlling.

Understand Why They’re Motivated to Control

Many control freaks are motivated by anxiety. They’re laser focused on getting their environment under control because they believe it will help them feel better. It’s incredibly hard to struggle with anxiety, so sometimes people do anything they can to get in control of that feeling.

If your spouse is anxious, this might explain why they might act like a bossy, pushy supervisor rather than, well, a husband or wife. Consider the possibility that your spouse is overwhelmed. Then, allow yourself to feel empathy for them.

At the same time, it’s normal for you to feel frustrated or angry with their controlling behavior. After all, your control freak’s actions affect you directly. That’s where the next step comes in.

Let Your Spouse Know How Their Controlling Affects You

People sometimes need a little push into self-awareness. Pick a time that works well for the two of you to sit and have a chat, and let your spouse know (as tenderly as possible) how their controlling behavior is affecting you. The setting, time, and atmosphere need to be as non-threatening as possible to put you both at ease.

Try to open this dialogue with something like, “Hey, I’d like to talk with you a little bit about something. Sometimes, it feels like you’re overly controlling toward me. I don’t want to fight; let’s just talk about it.”

Keep in mind that this will be a conversation opener for you. It will likely not be the only talk you’ll need to have about this. And, it’s possible that it will take some time to work through both of your feelings about this–particularly if your spouse doesn’t see themselves as controlling. You may need to have several conversations to get on the same page, but it’s possible! Just lead with kindness and love.

It’s Possible to Create More Peace With a Controlling Spouse

Once you’ve opened a dialogue with your spouse, you can explore ways to address the anxiety they may be feeling and the reasons why they control. With plenty of thoughtful communication and some ongoing effort from both of you, it’s possible to create more peace in your marriage. We always recommend seeking professional counseling if you’re having a difficult time handling these issues.

If you need some additional guidance to get started, I wrote the book! Leslie likes to joke that The Control Freak is my autobiography, and this resource is available to help you and your spouse get on the right path. You can find your copy here.

Is your spouse controlling? Are you? Whether you’re the control freak or have lived with one, we’d love to hear your stories. Share how you’ve overcome controlling behavior in your marriage in the comments.


  • Rickie says:

    For 7 years, I was in a relationship with a control freak. Initially his controlling behavior was on the mild side: rearranging the dishes in the dishwasher, asking me to always wear socks in the house, deciding where/when we would eat. It escalated to grabbing my arm when I spoke to someone in the grocery store, grabbing my arm when I put coins in the offering at church, choosing my clothes. Discussing how this made me feel (dismissed, disrespected, hurt) only received more scorn and ridicule. For some people, control is everything. I left and worked on regaining my sense of self and worth.

  • Gwen says:

    Like the comments. glad to know that feeling stressed can be a factor.

    • Anne says:

      I’m am 70 now – recently retired. As bad as it was before I retired – the emotional and angry verbal abuse that would go on for hours- being with this guilt manipulating controller is beyond belief . I am not allowed to go anywhere except at church once a week . That’s it I know I don’t sound like a Christian but at this point I am so depressed . And in despair. All thoughts of fun are out the window. I have to do what he wants and that is his default after every conversation. I am done.

  • Stephen V says:

    As someone who struggles with a desire to control, I resonate with the anxiety that underlies much of this, with a desire to get things perfectly right, all the time. Letting go of control is an act of faith in God, and trust in those around me. I am humbly grateful for the patience and grace shown by my family, as I journey into greater enjoyment of the freedom that Jesus paid for!

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