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The Control Charade
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's! You may want to email it to your husband (or share it on Facebook below, hoping that he'll see it!)

As I’m writing this, my family is preparing to depart for two weeks on vacation (we’re back by the time you’re reading this). I am desperately tending to my email, ridding the fridge of any stray produce, washing all the laundry, heading to the bank, and somewhere in there I’m packing. And I’m managing to pull it all off while still barking orders at my kids. I am the very model of a modern wifely drill sergeant.

Few can issue orders as effectively as women when we are in control freak mode. We want the house cleaned because company is coming, and even though we’ve ignored the mess for two weeks it is now absolutely imperative that everybody drop what they’re doing and polish something. We want to get to work early, so everyone must hurry up and grab breakfast and by the way has anyone seen my purse? We have our agenda, and everybody had better get into line.

What men may not realize, though, is that when women get into control freak mode, it’s not because we particularly want to control people.

Let me get psychological for just a moment. A woman’s biggest fear is that she’s going to lose those things that she loves most. She wants to feel like her family is close-knit, her kids are safe, and everyone is secure. When something threatens that—because the kids are pulling away, or everyone’s too busy, or you’re distant—we feel out of control, and start issuing orders to compensate. Or, even worse, if we feel that we’re not doing a stellar job at caring for the family, then we really lose it, because we’re afraid that if the family falls apart, it will be our fault. We may imply again and again that it’s yours, but it’s only to deflect the blame we feel. We’re afraid we’re not good enough.

We’re not control freaks; we’re just scaredy cats! Perhaps that doesn’t sound like a big improvement, but it is, because once you understand that, you can help us bridge that sanity gap and end up in relational bliss once more. For you men in a relationship, here’s the key to helping your beloved relax and calm down: realize that when she gets stressed, it’s not because her primary goal in life is to stifle you. It’s because she’s scared things are falling apart. And the more scared she feels, the more she tries to clamp down.

That creates this strange situation in many homes where the wife starts running everything—the kids’ schedules, the doctors’ appointments, the educational plans, the finances, the housework—while the husband pulls away because she so obviously doesn’t need or want him involved. Don’t look at the situation logically, though. Look at it lovingly. Sure she’s doing everything. Sure she’s got a to-do list for you a mile long. But this doesn’t mean she wants to run everything; more than likely it means that she wants you to start taking more of the reins.

Don’t react to what we do; react to what’s going on inside. And then step up and be a man. Start talking to us about decisions. Get involved in the family. Listen to our concerns. And then develop your own opinions about what you think is best. Show us you care. Show us you’ve thought about it, too. Relieve us of the burden of messing stuff up, all on our own. That’s what we really want you to do, regardless of what it may look like.

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At 7:13 AM , Blogger Cherish said…

AAAAAH! That's my marriage!


At 9:32 AM , Blogger Megan said…

"Don't look at it logically. Look at it lovingly." That is a GREAT way to put it!


At 10:23 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Thanks, Megan! And glad you can relate, Cherish!


At 5:28 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

This resonates with me.. I was in a bad marriage for years (that was falling apart) and yes, I did run everything. When I look back it seems obvious that what you're saying is what was happening... I'd make hubby's dr. appointments and when he came in and said he needed gas for the car, I'd stop and write him a cheque and hand it to him! Control or what? At the time I felt it was totally justified (due to hubby's bipolar and lack of financial sense) but now, I think I could have given a bit more leeway! Certainly my new hubby wouldn't tolerate not being able to use his bank card on the joint account...

Thanks for the glimmer of enlightenment into what was actually going on...!

Denise in Saskatchewan

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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