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How to Stop Being Controlling in a Relationship

The "I Was Just Trying To Help" Syndrome

For a lot of us women, when it comes to our husbands, we have an unconscious refrain jingling in our heads that goes like this: “I know better than he does—I will help him do it right.” With this background music, we quickly develop an air of superiority. We feel qualified to instruct our husbands on how to vacuum the carpet, talk to the children, and negotiate with his colleagues. All the while we tell ourselves that we are simply helping.

For years I truly believed if I could just get my husband to be tidier, more romantic, and more considerate everything would be fine. I told him as much, and while that didn’t improve things at all, it did create wall-to-wall hostility and tension in our home.

For a long time I didn’t even realize I was controlling. I thought I was just being helpful, acknowledging how I felt, and being honest. Little did I know I was shooting holes in the bucket of our intimacy and romance.

On the road to learning how to stop being controlling, I tried to make modifications, tried to be more subtle and even thought I was improving at times. But all of it got me to the same lonely spot: wondering why my husband was withdrawn, distant and defensive.

It wasn’t until I learned to recognize my controlling behavior and make a different choice that the romance returned.

So here’s the choice:

You can choose intimacy or you can choose control but you can’t have both.

If you choose to try to control someone, the intimacy will disappear. If you choose intimacy, you won’t be in control. Control and Intimacy are opposites. You can only ever have one or the other.

Today I have the ability to ask myself, would I rather be intimate right now or would I rather try to control the situation? And most of the time, the answer is that I would rather have the intimacy.

The scariest part about surrendering to your husband is that it may seem like you’re never going to get your way, but just the opposite is true. When you give up unnecessary control of things your husband does-how he drives, what he wears, what he does at work, and how he loads the dishwasher-you actually gain power in the relationship and in your life.

Doing all the work is not what makes you powerful-it’s what makes you exhausted. On the other hand, relaxing and enjoying yourself while someone else takes care of things is a very powerful position to be in. Certainly the VIP who rides in the limousine is more powerful than the chauffeur who controls the vehicle.

Even if it’s just for a few days, or a week if you’re feeling brave, try to be the VIP instead of the chauffeur in your relationship by relinquishing control to your husband and see what happens. Let him do what he thinks is best and the respect he feels from you will foster more intimacy and romance than any amount of “just trying to help” ever could.

By Laura Doyle

Hi! I'm Laura.

New York Times Bestselling Author

I was the perfect wife--until I actually got married. When I tried to tell my husband how to be more romantic, more ambitious, and tidier, he avoided me. I dragged him to marriage counseling and nearly divorced him. I then started talking to women who had what I wanted in their marriages and that’s when I got my miracle. The man who wooed me returned.

I wrote a few books about what I learned and accidentally started a worldwide movement of women who practice The Six Intimacy Skills™ that lead to having amazing, vibrant relationships. The thing I’m most proud of is my playful, passionate relationship with my hilarious husband John–who has been dressing himself since before I was born.

67 replies on “How to Stop Being Controlling in a Relationship”

I’m not sure 8f I’m the co trolling one or if my husband is the controlling one. I have discovered through my husband’s communication that I hide my feelings, I isolate when he is talking to me , which is normally him telling me I’m not coming to him. And that I avoid situations. Now I admit I do all of these things. I have no idea why I do them. He says I don’t care and I don’t love him because I’m not working on these things and I’m not coming to him first with these issues , and that he always has to come to me first and to point them out.

I need advice on how to overcome these things. So my husband doesn’t feel rejected , unwanted and unloved

Loriann, I hear loud and clear your commitment to your marriage, which I admire. So hearing him say you don’t care and don’t love him must really hurt. And be baffling! Good for you for reaching out for support on how to overcome these things. Let’s get you some coaching! I’d love to share all the details to empower you:

I can resonate with all of this, my issue is with changing my mental state to realize that ‘helping people & being a good wife’ means NOT helping him with things & not knowing what’s going on next. For someone who likes to plan ahead and know what’s going on / going to happen this is really hard to twist in my head. Be the good big sister and help your siblings, a good wife keeps the house clean & takes things off her husbands plate, be independent and be able to do things without reliance on a man… these are all things we teach our daughters so it’s hard to ‘ungrain’ them without feeling like I’m losing a piece of what made me a ‘good person’

Hi Laura,

I have been separated from my husband for 2 1/2 years. Our break up was really bad but we decided last year (August 2019) to give our marriage another chance. Just this year (August 2020), I found out that my husband was in a dating site and seeing other women.. We never moved back in together since the original breakup because of other issues. My husband has now told me he is no longer in love with me and really cares for the new person that he is seeing. He went as far as to get counsel from a lawyer on getting a divorce. I was very controlling in our relationship and he told me how much he hated that. Is there anything that I can do to get him back?

When do you tell your controlling wife the spr. Right after she tells you how to do something or do you wait a while then say thank you for telling me how to do something like how to empty the dryer lint vent.?

I absolutely LOVE this article. I have not gotten through the entire book, but just implementing this as you described has revolutionized my marriage. We are playful again, and my hubby is so much more affectionate. My question is, now that I see how controlling I have been toward my husband, how do I relate this to my mother in law who lives with us, and is in a constant power struggle. She is “right” about everything under the sun. I do all the cooking, cleaning, shopping in our home. She is passive aggressive, so she never actually says what going on in her head, but makes snide comments when I do things in my home the way I do them. I like to fuss at holidays and made nice meals, I prefer to rinse my dishes before putting them in my dishwasher, etc… but since she never did things the way I do, she makes comments and tells my children I fuss to much and worry to much. She does not help any more because she would, either act the mayrter, undo or purposely do things in a way that would drive me crazy. In an effort to help she comes along and does things that I have specifically requested to be done another way. I am exhausted from biting my tongue and being made to feel like my ways are all wrong.
Perhaps you could write a blog on how do deal with living with your in laws under the same roof, as they age. I would say I have been shown how my husband must have been feeling this whole time. But I am having trouble seeing how to apply this to my mother in law as she is not my husband and Is not doing anything but standing in judgement and a position of ridicule.

Defeated Daughter in law

Good read, Laura. As a man reading this I can say this is every bit as applicable to us men as well. I struggle with these micromanaging tendencies and have been trying to work through them. In my experience, it is mostly done out of fear.

“You can’t have both control and intimacy” seems like just the paradigm shift I need. Thank you!

[translated using Google translations]:
Hello. I am French, I am 60 years old and I just read “the Surrendered Wife”. I try to put my reading into practice and really am surprised to see my husband change since I respect him, be more generous, have more ideas. I continue but I regret that only this book is translated into French because I read English badly. Thanks to the translators. Thank you Laura for helping me discover my husband and improve my marriage even after 40 years together.

Bonjour. Je suis française, j’ai 60ans et je viens de lire “la femme soumise” . J’essaie de mettre en pratique ma lecture et vraiment je suis étonnée de voir mon mari changer depuis que je le respecte, être plus généreux, avoir plus d’idées. Je continue mais je regrette que seul ce livre soit traduit en français car je lis mal l’anglais. Merci aux traducteurs. Merci Laura de m’aider à découvrir mon mari et améliorer mon mariage même après 40 ans de vie commune.

Laura my man seems to flirt a bit with other gals and he watches women when we are sitting in a coffee shop. He says he is not ogling them, he just watches movement. However one of these women notices him watching her and seems to be flattered by it and think he is attracted to her. I hate how friendly he is to her and he has seemed overly curious about her although he insists he has no interest in her. He will tell another gal that she looks lovely today now and then as well which I don’t really care for. These things have made me feel threatened and insecure in the relationship although in other ways he is a good guy and has asked me to marry him. What do you think?

And what if he is the controlling one? What if he is the one that is always criticizing and suggesting “helpful tips” to run the household? What if he is particular about everything and has an opinion on everything? And I can’t always listen to his advice as it isn’t always so practical though he claims it is? Then what?

Hi Laura,
What about after an affair, you do want to have some sort of control so he can prove that you can trust him again. Like passwords and checking phones and such. How can you let go of control and still gain his trust after an affair?

Hi Laura, thank you so much for this program it really helps the only thing I find hard is specific situations. I am a “stay at home fiancé” which I love! My fiancé takes care of all the bills and let’s me Pursue my passions and hopefully turn them into a business one day! The hardest thing I have run into lately is groceries and anything extra that we might need. My fiancé is very protective of the money he works hard to make and always wants to tag along at the grocery store and not let me go on my own. He loves when I find new recipes and cook him food but I can’t when the only time I can shop is with him after he gets off and he just chooses everything. Nothing belongs together and we end up hungry and with weird choices! I know he prefers me to do it and just have dinner ready for him but for some reason he keeps waiting till the last min and then frantically trying to buy random things. He has told me before “babe seriously all you have to do is say ‘hey I need $100” but I don’t want to seem mothering…In my strange situation how can I ask him for grocery money without seeming controlling or needy?

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I first read your books trying to save my marriage but I was never allowed to put the intimacy skills to practice because my husband refused to live with me or even talk with me on the phone. We divorced, yet I still kept reading and learning how to be an excellent wife for my next husband to be. Well we finally met and I started practicing the skills immediately.

Oh my gosh! What a BEAUTIFUL relationship we have. I am on cloud 9 with all the love, care and respect this man gives me.

We are getting married in September and he was talking about putting in a vegetable garden when I move in. I agreed. Well today he texts me and says ” what if we put rocks in the garden with pots instead of rototiling the ground?” Now Laura my first thought thought was YUCK! I hate rocks and vegetable plants grow too large for pots.

So I thought about the intimacy skills and said, ” whatever you think honey, but I would prefer mulch instead.”

He then says, “yes, mulch would be good”and then told me how much he loved me.

It really hit me right then and there how good your skills are. In the past, I would have told him how much I hate rocks and how the pots wouldn’t work. Not even thinking I was insulting him and trying to take control over the garden he suggested. But now I realize he would take my words personally and would slowly be degraded over time as I simply expressed my opinion.

It’s so great to have this knowledge before I walk down the Aisle. We are going to have a beautiful, wonderful, incredible marriage and I have you too thank for it. God Bless you and keep up the excellent work!


Hi Laura
I am new to your programme. I really want to learn how to be intimate, especially now my husband call me”Boss”, whenever i ask him of anything.

Hi Laura
My name is Arlene
My husband is an active alcoholic. After he has been drinking he will drive impaired. Flirt and hit on other woman. In the last couple of months he has stayed out over night a couple of times and has started to frequent bars. His behaviour makes me angry and I don’t have a problem expressing that. I know I’m a control freak and always think I’m right and am continuously telling him what to do, how to do it, when to do it. Correcting him and things he’s done. I know his behaviour when he is drinking triggers me, but then I think my behaviour towards him triggers him to drink, stay away from me, ignore me etc. and it has become a vicious circle. I recently asked him to leave our home and he did. I am heartbroken. We have been married 23 years and I truly love him. I have had time to think of my behaviour toward him and how aweful I am to him. I think to myself, that if someone talked to me the way I talk to him I would be devasted. I want him back and don’t know where to start. My mother was very disrespectful toward my dad all my life. Please help me.

Hi, Laura
My lroblem is it’s difficult for me to communicate how overwhelmed I am in my marriage. I feel like I left alone to do all the chores. My husband rarely steps up to help me with the kid. He spends most of his time doingforex trading and other thing on the internet. I don’t know how to get him help me. Help me….how can surrendered wife help me to safe my relationship. All I read here wives who try to control their husbands. I think I have different prob
E s.

Hi Laura! I wish I had seen your book earlier, The Empowered Wife. Wow. My husband thankfully is still with me, but we’ve been through so many ups and downs, and we tried marriage counseling, but frankly it was way too complicated and our health insurance would never cover more than a couple of sessions- useless. We’ve also been through some awful therapists/counselors that were much more interested in making money off us than really helping our marriage. After reading The Empowered Wife, I am just amazed how SIMPLE your solutions are. But all this time I just didn’t understand what the secret recipe was. I was not in many relationships before I met my husband, and I just didn’t get it. I had idea what the secrets of a strong marriage were, and what I read from what’s out there made no sense to me or was so vague or broad that I could never apply anything to my own marriage. With this book, it’s all laid out for you. And I am so thankful and lucky I found your book! Thank you for the clear, simple, insights that you point out that I just didn’t have the experience to understand or decipher before. You’ve taken the mystery out of marriage, and I am so grateful for that. I couldn’t find this information anywhere else, except for your book (and believe me, I have looked EVERYWHERE) Thank you so much!

You’re welcome, Carissa! Thank you for sharing your inspiring experience! I’m so happy to share this path with you.

Hi Laura
I read a lot your blog and your helped me a lot.
But again i was controlling husband is bipolar and its difficult to manage.sometimes i feel that i need to be the captain of the boat…that without my plans all will be a disaster.
We had our ups and downs but some days ago told me that its over that i am not a good wife because i never obey him.
I felt devastated. Also because he is at hospital and he doesnt allow me that i go to see him. And he will have a surgery soon i feel Very guilty if something happen to him and i am not there.
All for the fact that the problem is my headstrong and being unable to leave the control in his hands.
Laura do you really believe that my marriage will have a future? Another chance?
I dont believe in divorce.i prefer to repair my beautiful place than changing to another.
I love with all my heart to my husband.and in this situación….i dont know what to do.
I apologized but he thinks i will never change.
Please Laura will my marriage have future?
Thanks a lot

Pamela, I hear your struggle in feeling like you need to be captain of your marriage, even when you want to relinquish control of your husband. I can see why you’re feeling devastated, especially not being allowed to be by his side in the hospital. I love your awareness and commitment to your marriage.

I didn’t think my marriage had a future but didn’t want to divorce either. I was a control freak, and my husband was pushing me away. Then I found the 6 Intimacy Skills, which made me feel cherished, desired and adored.

With your commitment to practicing the Intimacy Skills, I know that your marriage has a bright future! I invite you to my upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at

If I give up control then I’ll be left doing it all. My husband stays at home and I work. He is so childish that even when I try to talk about it he gets his feeling hurts like a baby. It is so hard to keep my nagging under control and if I just do it all my self then he knows I’m mad and it just makes it worse.

I hear you, Ann! Thank you for sharing this so honestly and vulnerably. It sounds like you are working so hard. It is exhausting having to do it all.

That’s how I felt when my husband was acting like a child. I didn’t feel very dignified myself with all the nagging, but I didn’t know any other way to get him to help me. The 6 Intimacy Skills turned all that around so today he loves to please me (no nagging required)! I now have the playful, passionate marriage I always wanted.

If I can do it, I know you can inspire your husband to take more initiative and support you too. I’ll show you how in my upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at

Great article! I want to give up making my man feel controlled, but I don’t know how to start. We’ve reached a point where he isn’t himself and he doesn’t do things when or how he wants to do them. Instead he does them the way I want him to do them, which keeps him feeling resentful. How do I break this cycle and communicate to him that I want him to do what he wants/needs to do and that I’ll be on my end working on myself? We’ve talked about this, but it doesn’t seem like it’s resonated. I’m afraid I’m losing him and I want to fix it before it’s too late.

Liv, I hear how scary it is to feel like you’re losing him when you don’t know how to fix it. I admire you for your vulnerability and your commitment to relinquishing control of your man. I remember how undignified I felt when my husband would stand at attention, afraid to give the wrong answer. It wasn’t very conducive to intimacy either. The 6 Intimacy Skills brought back the man who wooed me–and empowered me to be my best self. I want the same for you! I hear your commitment and know that the Intimacy Skills will make you cherished, desired and adored too. I’ll show you how in my upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at

At first, i wasnt controlling at all, and not too attacthed to my boyfriend. But early on in the relationship he became clingy and jealous and now, 2 years later, I feel very attatched and controlling – I feel jealous and uncomfortable about the relationship he has with his mom, I ask him about “which girls talked to him today” and I like to know what he watches and if it’s appropriate, I hate what I have become . I make him feel afraid to go out or do anything, and the sad thing is that he isn’t controlling anymore, he even says he “trusts me” enough for me to hangout with other guys . Help. I don’t know what to do when I feel these jealous and insecure moments – I wish I just wouldn’t care!! What can I do?

Anon, I love your awareness and desire to change! I hear that you’re unhappy with not being your best self in your relationship. I so relate! I didn’t feel dignified at how I was behaving in my marriage, but unfortunately I didn’t have your awareness. I thought my husband was the one who needed to change. Even so, the 6 Intimacy Skills allowed me to become my best self AND made me feel cherished, desired and adored. If I can do it, you can too! I invite you to my upcoming webinar: How to Get Respect, Reconnect and Rev Up Your Love Life. You can register for free at

Hi Laura! Ur book the surrendered wife is life changing! I’m forever grateful for the concepts you opened my eyes too. I’m wondering what the difference is between ‘the surrendered wife’ & ‘the empowered woman’?

Perl, I’m thrilled that my work has been life changing for you! The Surrendered Wife was my first, New York Times bestselling, book. The Empowered Wife, my latest book, offers a more distilled, updated discussion of the 6 Intimacy Skills and a step-by-step guide to revitalizing your marriage. If you’re debating which to read or share, I invite you to check out the newer one. Here’s a free chapter:

Hello – I heard your interview on KFI Wendy Walsh show on March 12th. I was wondering if you can provide me a link to that interview or tell me where I can find it? It was fantastic! You said some things I wish I wrote down.

Hi Laura. I love what you said about not having intimacy and control at the same time. I’m in the process of rebuilding a relationship with my kids’ dad and it is not easy letting go of bad habits. He said that my controlling behavior is the reason why he we have problems and I never realized that I was a controlling person until reading the signs? This has put me into the right direction though. Thank you

Shea, I’m happy to hear you’re encouraged, and that I’m not the only controlling woman on the planet. Welcome to the community of women who are creating amazing relationships!

After reading these I think is where I have been growing wrong . I was the one who did everything , I criticised my hubby when he did something as he never did it right. I thought his ideas were wrong, I thought he couldn’t think for himself . He has gone left me and the kids there is no going back he says he doesn’t love me anymore . How can I make a him realise I can change when he’s miles away with work and staying with his mother only visiting the kids once a week without me present

Hi Laura
Do you think the six skills will help me?
My husband becomes verbally abusive when he feels he has lost or has no control.
He says it is my fault as I am always trying to control him. Hence coming across your site as I am willing and hoping to change as I am aware my behaviour is controling but can’t stop myself.
The issue is that with things that don’t matter to me I do let slide to keep the peace, and do respect that he does things differently. However when things really matter, or have a direct impact on me I can’t not say anything.
For example money is super tight right now and for the forseable future and we are moving house in 2 days time. When packing today my husband says he is going to throw away perfectly good items that I think we need (chest of draws, dining table, stereo, microwave etc) and buy new with the credit card because he doesn’t like how they look. I am happy to replace in time, when we can afford it without getting into more debt but he is happy to go without them but im not (as i need to store my clothes somewhere) but by me saying no is controlling….
Also he cleaned the microwave and then wanted to put it on for 10 mins empty (to apparently get rid of the germs) I argued with him not to do that as it would break it and sugested to put a cup of water in there, but again I’m shut down for being controlling.
I’m all for learning not to control as much but how do I stand back and watch him throw money we havent got away without saying anything?
I would really appreciate your advice and suggestions as to what I could read to help me. Many thanks.

Mary, It’s the worst feeling to know that your husband is about to make a mistake for which you’ll have to suffer and then to have him ignore you when you ask him to reconsider. I still remember having that happen around here and it left me in a panic. And financial stress is no fun either. We had plenty of that around here also. What made all the difference for me was learning how to honor myself without contradicting him, which sounds tricky but it can be done and it makes a world of difference and feels much better for me. So the short answer is that yes, the 6 Intimacy Skills will completely change the way you look at your husband and the way he responds to you will be much better. You can go back to how it was when you were falling in love. The Skills are all laid out step-by-step in the book The Empowered Wife, and you can read a free chapter here, then read it or listen to it on audio book if it speaks to you:

Hey. Two weeks ago my boyfriend for 5 years walked out. I am so angry and hurt but as the days have pasted I’ve realised why, I feel like such a horrible person. I was constantly picking and having a go making sure everything always had to be perfect. Making sure our relationship looked perfect from everyone else’s point. He told me over and over “you make me feel like nothing I do is ever good enough” and I didn’t listen!! Heartbreaking!! I had this perfect, wonderful, free sprit fun loving man who loved me for me and never tried to change anything about me. I know things are different and it’s over because he won’t even look at me let alone talk to me. We have a beautiful 4 month old baby who is absolutely adorable he loves her to bits. I feel lost and completely hate myself that I didn’t realise what I was doing. I’m still in shock and just don’t know what to do.

Lucy, I’m sorry to hear about your boyfriend walking out and I still remember how painful it was to realize I was the one making my relationship miserable. Ugh! The great news is that now that you can still save your relationship and make it amazing again. I know it seems hopeless but it’s not. I’d love to see you get your hands on The Six Intimacy Skills ASAP–they’re all laid out in the book The Empowered Wife, which you can read a free chapter of here:

I like the article….My controlling behavior came about over me finding porn on my husbands phone 2010 ,too much wine and chopping my left thumb off,..I haven’t trusted him since…and have grown into a angry ,hurt filled woman..It’s just lately I’ve been feeling a change,I want to stop the energy drain toward the a$$hole…sorry,he’s hurt bad…He control me through his $$.He says it does him good to give me money…I look forward when he goes on the road…Dread when he’s home….No sex for over 2 yrs…don’t care to…I need to work on my survival….I realize that now..

P, I hear how hurt and angry you are with your husband, and that you’re ready for a change. Have you read The Empowered Wife: Six Surprising Secrets for Attracting Your Husband?s Time, Attention, and Affection? It’s available on audio, paperback and ebook. You’ll find it incredibly valuable.

Hi, Laura. This morning I just realized that I’d been controlling my partner. I had many expectations from him. I kept thinking that I do what I do because he’s not enough–yet, and that it’s for the better anyway. I wanted him to be someone that fits to my idea of a man. I wanted him to realize his unthoughtful and lazy behavior (which I think were projections) and start treating me well.

Because of this controlling behavior and other toxic things that I’d done, he cheated on me. They got really intimate and did even “it”. (Sorry, I can’t say it, it’s still painful). The affair definitely scarred our relationship. But we’re currently working on it. Of course, being the betrayed one, I initially demanded more things from him. More vulnerability, more honestly, more, more, more….

But as I said, upon reflecting about the affair, I just realized that I’d been controlling him… And even very needy. Realizing this just recently is very, very, painful. The idea of being controlling never even crossed my mind! Now, I want to change. I want for him to know how I appreciate him for all the sacrifices that he made for me. I want him to know how beautiful he is and how I accept him for who he is not how he must be. I also want to forgive and learn to love myself again… I have many things to work on.

Thank you for this article. It helped me realize more things that I have to work on myself. Definitely going to bookmark this page!

Leah, This is such a hopeful post. I get that you’re going through a lot and it’s been painful, but I also identify with your sense that it’s opening a new door for you to grow and become the Leah you really want to be. That’s exactly what happened from the breakdown in my relationship too, and I’ve never looked back or regretted taking the trip to becoming my best Laura. So I’m excited for you.

If you haven’t read The Empowered Wife yet, I think you’ll find it validating, and get some good specific how-tos from it.

this morning i googled “my husband thinks i’m controlling but i think i’m making suggestions” and came to your site. my confusion lies in the area between controlling and suggesting. what if my husband doesn’t like hearing suggestions from women in general? b/c he has a complex from his mom? maybe he sees controlling wherever he sees a woman, b/c that’s his lens? i don’t want to become a silent, suggestion-less partner but i don’t want to control either. can’t i make suggestions about things i’d like/ to do, our family to do? i honestly don’t think i’m a hounder…just can’t picture what the balance looks like. oy veh! i do think i can control so maybe it’s more that the examples he used, are ones that don’t seem like controlling to me. am i that far deep in this that i don’t see it?

Ginny, This cracks me up because you’re adorably accountable even as you’re trying to have it not be so. All I can say is in my case, the control ran very, very deep and I had NO idea. I sometimes joke that the way to know whether you’re controlling is you think you’re not. 🙂 Just a joke, though–you may NOT be controlling. But there’s this book I think you would really find valuable: The Empowered Wife: Six Surprising Secrets for Attracting Your Husband’s Time, Attention, and Affection

Hi Lara

What a great article. I feel I’ve always been aware of how damaging being controlling can be, and how disrespected it can make a man feel. However, for me the problem lies in how to stop. I’ve managed long periods where I monitor whether what I’m going to say is controlling, and then I won’t say it. I manage to be supportive, appreciative and kind instead. Our relationship is heavenly as a result. But when is this going to stop being such an effort? If I go through a stressful period in life, my controlling comments will just slip out, after which I feel terribly guilty because I notice what I’ve done and how they make my boyfriend (who treats me like an absolute princess) feel. My apology cannot undo the fact that I’ve doubted his choice, gone for a second opinion as if to validate his advice, or instructed him on what option I think is better. If I don’t make a comment, sometimes he can see it written on my face. I’m so frustrated with myself – how do I change my inherent need to control, so that I don’t have to exhaust myself monitoring my thoughts all the time and holding myself back? I feel like I became so used to being independent when I was single, that I am incapable of accepting anyone else’s way of doing things, and I’m exhausted from both squashing that need and exercising it.

Kirst, I so relate to you! Most of the time, it’s pretty automatic to be respectful and trust my husband. But just a couple of days ago I was wanting to comment about my husband’s business even though it’s not my concern or area of expetise and would have cost me intimacy.

So even after all these years I sometimes feel the pull to control too. But It helps a lot to have like-minded women to talk to–that’s my secret: Hanging out with other women who practice the Intimacy Skills. It’s always great to get some support when you’re feeling like it’s a struggle. You’re not alone! And it’s so worth it to keep going to have the great relationship you want.

Hi Lara
I think you are amazing!! I have a controlling wife and I feel exactly the way you say a husband will feel. I have read a lot of your articles and wish that my wife would change. I have tried for 15 years to make her understand how the way she treats me drives us apart but to no avail.

Laura, I have been married for 41 years. I’m 61 and my husband is 66. He has tried to leave me once before because of my controlling/micromanaging issues. I did not even know I was being controlling until now when he has finally checked out. He is passive agressive and did not properly communicate what he was feeling. Just told me to stop talking to him that way. I said what way? I dont know what you mean. I want to try to fix this long term marriage but he is not arround to see my improvements. He says he does not love me anymore and is off camping & house sitting for as long as possible. In this situation, how do I show him or what can I say to make any kind of impact on getting him to return, give me another chance. He thinks I sould have just been able to snap out of the controlling/micromanaging. I tried to explain that it ust have come from my childhood, from anxiety and insucurities. Trying to fix everything, since we also had a difficult son to raise. I am desperate to correct my long time issues. He will not forgive & forget the past arguments we have had. Close friends have tried to suggest forgivness but he does not seem to want it. He tells me he does not love me anymore. He also has coped with drinking. Is this a lost cause?
Please respond, Thank You, JoBeth Carr

JoBeth, Wow! I’m so excited for you that you’re here and taking responsibility for making your marriage great! Good for you. It sounds like you’re in a crisis right now, and I want to tell you that this is a place where I see a lot of miracles arise, out of the pain you’re describing. So that’s why I’m excited. If I were you, I would definitely get myself on a Discovery Call here as soon as possible.

There’s a whole family hanging in the balance, and you don’t have to be alone with this. We’ve got you, JoBeth!

Hi my boyfriend told me this morning that I am controlling. I never ever realised this and still don’t quite understand as I’m such a nice girlfriend to him. I wash, cool his tea, clean up. I try to be the perfect girlfriend to him but he said to me ‘yeah I don’t clean up because you never let me!! You just do it all the time’ I feel this is where I’m going wrong. I’m trying to be this ‘perfect loving girlfriend’ whereas in reality maybe it’s me being controlling?! I dunno?! I’m confused and thought I was doing the right thing and it’s just really confused me how he thinks I’m controlling. He said if I’m not in charge of a decision or something I don’t like it?! I really want to change as the last few weeks I feel have been abit rubbish between me and I don’t want to be seen as a ‘controlling girlfriend’. Please give me some advice. Thanks

Hey Sarah,
I can sure relate to feeling like I was trying really hard to be a good girlfriend and wife and not realizing I was controlling at all. I was shocked! And so were 150,000 other women besides you and me who discovered the same thing. It’s actually good news in a way because there’s a much more relaxing, intimate, dignified, pleasurable way to have a great relationship and you’re about to discover it. I suggest you start with The Empowered Wife if you’re a reader, or else The Passion Shift if you prefer an audio program, or both. You can find them both on the home page of this website.

Congratulations on having the courage to look into this and self-examine. It’s not easy, so I admire that you’re doing it.


Hi Laura,

I just wanted to say I’m LOVING your material! A few months ago my pastor got rid of a bunch of books he no longer needed and let me know I could have any of them I wanted. “The Surrendered Wife” was among them. I finally picked it up and read it cover to cover last week. Then I bought your more recent “The Empowered Wife,” and just finished that. I am blown away.

My story is that I am married to an amazing husband. He’s not only one of the good guys; he’s one of the best of the best. And yet, despite that I found myself feeling like there was a lot missing in our relationship. I’ll just say there were a lot of signs of intimacy being strained (which was not helped by me not really knowing what intimacy really is to begin with). I was starting to get bored, among other things. But things have been very low key and pleasant so not easy to figure out a reason.

Once I dove into your first book I realized where the problem was. You see, my own mother is pretty controlling and that’s how she relates to my dad. Naturally, that wasn’t the kind of wife I wanted to be so I made a decision to be a much nicer wife. So… I figured out how to (try to) control my husband nicely. So maybe I was a very kind and sweet and gentle control freak… but I guess that still made me a control freak. Bottom line was I had no idea how disrespectful the things I was saying and doing were to my husband. But it totally explains what’s been going on, with my saintly husband still doing his very best to be loving and attentive and all those good things I was (inadvertently) discouraging anyway.

So now I know, and I’m in the painful stage where I’m catching myself a lot and realizing just how much I’ve been disrespectful and controlling and working on mastering the six intimacy skills so that instead of being a hindrance to my husband, I’m actually encouraging and bringing out the very best in him. I’m devouring everything I can get my hands on, watching your videos and plan to attend your webinar tomorrow evening, mainly to reinforce by repetition all this new material–so I can get those powerful phrases like “whatever you think,” “I trust you,” and “ouch” firmly ingrained in my brain so I can think of it when needed. It’s awkward and my husband is probably adjusting (and at this stage I’m finding I have very little to say which is way different)… but I’m very excited about how it will make our great marriage even better. I’m actually starting to daydream about what kind of amazing things my husband will accomplish in his life and in our family once he starts getting used to receiving respect from me consistently. I keep thinking… if he’s this good of a man now, then what kind of totally awesome man is going to emerge once I get the hang of this?

Thanks for showing me just how much power I really have as the woman in the relationship, and thanks for being the one to finally teach me how to use it effectively and to accomplish what it is I truly want in life.

Keep up the great work you’re doing. Cheers to your life’s mission to end world divorce!

Fernanda, so exciting! Congratulations on having the courage to look at how you can bring more respect to your marriage. Sounds like you have a great guy!

Hi Laura,
What should you do if your husband likes to control things that are on your ‘paper’? Like what you wear, how you decorate, what you cook and more if you’ll let him.
Advice please,

Hi. I have a burning question…I have gotten quite good at letting go of control. i feel better, more feminine,and in many ways my guy is pretty responsive in the good ways this works, BUT he really pulls for me to care take, take the lead, give advice, and mother him! UGH! I know in my heart it will put distance between us, but it is tough to navigate. Does this mean we arent a good match? I dont want to feel like his mother or sister etc! Help?

Hi Lily,
I get this question a lot from women all around the world. You probably have a great guy who wants to make you happy and is used to you taking the lead on most things. It can be difficult to hold your thoughts in any relationship, especially when your guy asks for your advice. One of the phrases that I love to use when my husband asks me something is, “Whatever you think” and I sometimes follow up with, “I trust your decision.” This response lets your guy know that you trust him to do what he fees is best, giving him support and respecting his ability to make the right choice.

If you’d like more support in your relationship, click here to book a Discovery Session.

i also have this problem!!
my husband begs me to wake him up, choose his ties, tell him which towel to use, when to shower,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
but then he wont even want to change the toilet paper roll, “i dont have patience, its annoying to do” or put his shoes away from the little spot near the front door where you cant even open the door!
what is this – he misses his mother? he cant stand when his mother tells him what to do. heck, he cant stand when anyone tells him what to do! as religious orthodox Jews, this can make issues when i need him to call our Rabbi due to a complication or if we learned different rules… he flat out refuses, saying i learned this, dont you trust me??
and i bite my tongue ( usually) from answering that were married about a year now and he still cant trust me and i came into marriage with real trust issues….
anyway, what do you say about this, Laura? youre the expert here! my married friend (13 years married) gave me your book when i was engaged and i feel like you found the secret….
please help me here…
he begs me and begs me to wake him up and i dont want to feel like im in charge of him, plus it makes the wrong kind of not his mother!
i bought him a vibrating alarm clock that woke me up but not him…
he told me that he wakes up a million times every morning, looks at hte clock and says to himself, 10 more minutes… ill have more energy, and before he knows it it’s 10:30!
also, maybe this is connected…
he didnt have a job before we got married (again, orthodox jews…he studied)
i had a job for 4 years after i finished school , and once i felt a responsibility to be at work at a specific time, i absolutely never woke up late!
he teaches now, and i wonder if he doesnt feel responsible enough to get out of bed – is this just typical male immaturity or is this something deeper?

What you said is right.I was least bothered about myself.But how can i give more focuz to mysself

I do hope that somewhere on your site (I wish it was on each post like this one) that you put a disclaimer that in cases of abuse this is not a safe thing to do. Controlling another person is never ok, but allowing another to control you is also not ok. The biggest gift that God gave us is the gift of free choice, or autonomy. Jesus said not to lord it over each other. I hope that the word ‘surrender’ as you use it, is not the new ‘submit’, because that teaching has gotten thousands of women terrible abuse. Power over others is very addictive, and to give up our autonomy is wrong. What is wrong with a marriage that is a mutual equal partnership, a win/win friendship, as God intended?

I took your quiz and was told that I have a fantastic marriage. I got 90. It is not. It has been abusive and sick. Only lately as I have gained confidence through learning more clearly how God sees me, and getting closer to Him, have things gotten a bit better, but only because I have stood taller and become assertive and strong in saying NO MORE.

Like in dancing, both partners have to be committed and working on the relationship. Thousands of women have been sucked into thinking that if they only do the right things, and submit (surrender?) that all will be well. Could that be another form of thinking we can control our spouse? Most marriage advice is for a couple who are both trying to dance. Many marriage authors are waking up to the fact that they need to make a clear statement that their advice is NOT for an abused wife, but will make things MUCH worse. Thank you for your consideration of this point.

You’re very right. There is a fine line between submission and allowing for abuse. I’m really sorry about your situation. U deserve better and I hope u get the help u need.

Hi. Very interesting. So does it mean I let go control, respect my husband, honor his way of thinking knowing he’s taking care of me, but that doesn’t mean because he takes care of me, he is allowed to keep me apart from the things I like to do for myself, like being in my space and work doing crafts, or listening to a conference etc, just because he wants me seated al day long watching him play with his five year old granddaughter?
Am I doing wrong spending some time with them and then going to my little space which is in the same apartment to do my little things just because he says I’m ought to be with him and the little girl, just sitting there watching them?

How does the gift of free choice, or autonomy fit with children surrendering to parents, or employees to employers? I don’t think the Bible ever warns against submission or surrender in a relationship. Just the opposite, actually.

Submission or surrendering to your husband is never an excuse for him to be abusive. And nor does it encourage it. In fact, it will usually encourage the opposite. He will usually respond by wanting to care for you and please you.

However, if he has a problem and becomes abusive, submission or surrender does not mean staying an abusive relationship.

Hope that helps.

Very true what you said.I lost the whole intimacy in our relationship.Husband is not feeling any intimacy to me because of my this nature.How can i control myself?How will i get him back in to my life.He is more interested to spent time with his friends even in late hours.

You are not alone in your urge to control your husband- this is a common characteristic for women all over the world and from all walks of life. The urge to control can be overwhelming at times, but if you shift your focus from trying to control your husband to taking care of yourself, you may feel the urge to control him less.

For more information, please visit us here

What about when it is the man doing it? I am the wife being micromanaged. My husband decides what dinner we will eat. If I want something else I got to go buy it. If I say I want a snack he doesnt likr he says “you are not eating that” yet he eats plenty of real junk food I don’t like. He micromanages all the gleaning and organizing I do. He goes behind me, even sometimr rescrubbinh the counters, even though they are gleaming. I will move my own things to basement if they are retired for season and he will bring them up when I am sleep and toss them on my side of the bed. If o stack dishes, he restacks them. This is not even half of the micromanaging. If I complain, he says all you do is complain, why can’t I not say anything. The strange thing is, he only does this to me. He doesn’t micromanage our daughter, or any of his friends when they come. He does whatever his friends say. If they leave a beer can on the table or don’t dump out ashtray after smoking he says nothing.
I am walking on egg shells everyday when he comes through door. He walks around like the warden. He checks the blind to see if I changed them. He even moved all my teas..etc to a cabinet, even the ones i use daily that i do not want in the cabinet. He wants the houde exactly how it is fit for just him. His cigarrette stuff sits right out in thr kitchen though he has a cabinet below them where he can keep them. I quit smoking many years ago, yet he forces me to see the stuff and be tempted. Still, I don’t stuff it in the cabinet below when he is not in the room.
I even once asked him to stop smoking near my face and he yelled saying someone who use yo smoke can not ask that. I realize i am being abused. He has abused me in other ways in the past. Also he has a rule that I cant yell, yet he yells first at me. If i yell back, he says i am not allowed. There are many rules set for me, he doesnt follow. I cant answer my cell and talk on cell doing family time or movie time but he can stop the movie to hang out with his brother for an hour, though he came over without even calling first. He answers the door when ever women neighbors knock, asking for his help which is strange. He smiles in their face….etc. but yet gets an attitude if i speak to any guys that are not HIS friends. I brag his good qualities around friends but if his friends speak about mine, he quickly changes the subject to himself. He says i cant ignore him at parties but yet he continues to ignore me, only seeing if i have food and water. I have decided to move out of the bedroom. His controlling ways has turned me off very much, that I no longer want to be in the room with him. Yesterday was the last straw. He actually took my large heavy coat up 2flights of steps right after I took it down steps but he did it when I wasnt in the room. He tossed the clean coat in the laundry pile upstairs. Who wants their dirty snowy winter coat in their clean cloths. Yet he felt it didnt belong in thr basement near his mechanic old work uniforms. I noticed he removed the chair down there so I don’t put it there.
I am at the edge of purposely changing the entire house to show him how fed up I am. I even had jo say in how the house is to look, where things should go.

Great article, Laura! Love what you said about not being able to have intimacy and control at the same time. So true!

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