Created to Control?
The Desire to Control
I’m the firstborn in a family of four. I was the responsible child in my dysfunctional family where I took care of my mom and siblings. I am a choleric (natural leader, strong, opinionated). I am a triple type-A personality with lots of energy. And my name is Karla, which means “strong, womanly.”
I told you all that so you would believe me when I tell you that my natural propensity is to control.
And because of that, I can overwhelm my family. I can think of a plan to fix a situation in mere seconds and tell anyone what to do. And I can do this with intensity.
This has been one of my character traits that I have had to work on throughout my life. I have had to learn to keep my mouth shut with my adult daughters and to speak slower so they can follow what I say. I have had to learn to take the intensity and urgency out of my speech when talking to my youngest daughter, who has severe anxiety.
When Control Causes Marriage Friction
I have also had to learn to do these things with my husband.
For many years, he reacted intensely to me doing or saying anything controlling. He would tell me to stop nagging, mind my own business and keep my thoughts to myself.
We fought over what I said many times. I didn’t like him not listening to me and shutting me down. After all, I was only being helpful and saying what I needed to say.
The other side is that he is sensitive to being told what to do by me (like most men). He gets overwhelmed with my intensity. And he needs me to speak to him in a way that is respectful.
But I also need him to understand who I am and to recognize that what I think and feel is important to me. We needed to find a way to meet both our needs.
Reining In Your Desire to Control
I worked on not being controlling. I have learned that there are times to say nothing at all. I can let him figure things out on his own. I have also learned to make my suggestions as just that–sharing my thoughts without trying to control what he does. And there are times I tell him that I need to be heard, and he listens.
When I slip and try to control, we handle it differently. Instead of shutting me up, he smiles and waits. It is a gentle reminder that I am controlling, and I smile back, stop talking and say, “Sorry.”
This is an example of us working together and making adjustments that give each other support and grace.
Embracing Your God-Given Strengths
I love who God created me to be. I love my energy, my intensity, my quick mind and my problem-solving abilities. I use them in my ministry and people benefit from them. My husband knows that my ability to take care of things benefits our business and our family.
We are all works-in-progress. The more we learn about ourselves and our husbands, the better our marriages will be. Our personalities have strengths, and from those strengths come weaknesses. We can embrace the strengths while still working on the things that harm our marriages, such as the desire to control.
Wife Step: Which of your character traits causes problems in your relationship with your husband? If you don’t know, ask him. Work with him on explaining who you are while also committing to making reasonable adjustments.
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Karla Downing, the founder of ChangeMyRelationship.com, offers Christian marriage help and Christian relationship help as a speaker, author, counselor, and Bible study teacher. Karla grew up in a dysfunctional family and then found herself struggling with Christian codependency in her own difficult marriage. Through her personal struggles, she discovered biblical and practical principles, which she now teaches to others. She also trains counselors, pastors, women’s ministry leaders, church leaders, small-group leaders, non-profit ministry leaders, and individuals to minister to Christians in difficult relationships. Karla’s passion is to see individuals, marriages, and families set free from the chains of dysfunction, misunderstanding, and emotional pain through a correct understanding of what the Bible teaches about relationships.
Karla Downing is the author of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association 2004 Silver Medallion Award winner, 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages. Her second book, When Love Hurts: 10 Principles to Transform Difficult Relationships, applies the same principles to all family members. Her third book, The Truth in the Mirror: A Guide to Healthy Self-Image, offers a unique and life-changing approach to looking at self-image.
She holds a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from Hope International University. Karla also holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Fullerton. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a licensed Speech Language Pathologist. Karla was also the director of Friends in Recovery, a Christ-based, Twelve-Step recovery program.
Karla lives in Southern California. She has been married for over thirty years and has three adult daughters.