I'm Being Controlling =(

Updated on April 10, 2017
O.L. asks from Long Beach, CA
18 answers

Does your spouse ever tell you that you are being controlling? As a mom, sometimes it's tough to "turn off" the caregiver part of us--we are busy parenting and helping those around us all of the time. I've helped my husband for the last 15 years with various weight loss plans and now he's basically told me that he doesn't want me asking questions and "controlling" him (Last night I asked him how much chicken he's supposed to be eating on this plan because I noticed that he was eating more than the plan said). He got realllllly upset with me. He basically told me that he's doing this plan for him (which is obviously the right focus), but for some reason I find myself feeling overly concerned about his success on this plan. He's in a 10 month program and has lost 45 pounds. He's working out 4-5 days per week and has decided to not follow the plan to a "t" anymore because he's content with where he's at. We got into a heated discussion and he kept referring to me as controlling. He told me that he needs to find his own way with his eating plan (reintegrating foods back into his diet). He's just not doing things the way that I would do them and i'm finding myself feeling anxious and frustrated about it at times.
We said some really hurtful things to each other--gosh, in some ways i feel like we've come so far and in other ways, I find myself stumbling.

I'm being honest. And I'm curious if other people can be honest too about their challenges in their marriages? Sometimes I wish we could fix certain issues for good, so that they don't come back =(

And to answer this question ahead of time, yes, I am seeing a therapist. I'm just looking for support from a community of kind people.

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J.C.

answers from Anchorage on

I used to do similar things, I am so used to being mom all the time that I found my self "momming" my husband as well and wanting him to do things the way I would. I had to realize that he is a grown man and he is fully capable of living his life without me telling him how to do the dishes or what to eat, know what I mean? Things have been better and we have both been happier and had less stress since I finally started treating him like an equal adult capable of making his own choices, even when I don't always agree with his choice.

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T.F.

answers from Dallas on

Marriage is a partnership. You are not his mother or gatekeeper.

I get that it might be hard to differentiate sometimes and it's good you have recognized this and are seeking counseling. You are his cheerleader... not mom, not boss.

I've not been in that situation but I'd be very resentful and lash out at my last husband or anyone else who questioned me about my dietary or other habits.

Actually, I've stopped communicating with my mother as much since my husband passed away (18 months tomorrow) because she asks me everyday "what did you eat today". I know deep down she cares because I've gone through hell and back. She knows when I'm stressed I don't eat but my God it has driven a wedge.

Don't do this to your husband.

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

My husband grew up in a family where the men told the women what's what.

Every blue moon, this weird archaic type neanderthal appears and I'm left wondering what the heck...

I walk away. I won't even engage.

When I do that, he knows he has crossed the line.

Do you have a sign like that - that he can do if you've gone too far? If not, maybe come up with one.

Added:

My husband used to smoke. I don't think I mothered him so much as my thing was watching that I didn't nag. His mother nags. So this would have been very annoying to him because he grew up being nagged to death.

What worked for me was just being honest but kind, at an appropriate time. So if you do have concerns, and you will, find a different way to express them. Make them about you - not him. It's all how you word it.

I doubt very much if you're a controlling type of person that you will be able to change that entirely, even with therapy. That's ok. I have a sister we call Monica (off the character in Friends). It is who she is. Your husband married you and loves you, so he knows who you are. This is part of you. Instead, work on delivery. Say "I have a concern ...". Leave it at that. You've voiced your opinion. Try not to do it right when it's happening (deal with it later).

Then let it go. You did what you felt you had to do - which was to mention it. Have him tell you when you've gone too far - so that it does not turn into an argument. Know yourself (work on this) when you're upsetting him. Find a way to leave the room - go somewhere and decompress if you have to.

I have a son who I used to stress over. It was my problem. He was just living his life, his way. I did see a therapist a few times (as did he). I was concerned about him - but too much. My stress added to his stress. So you're not really helping your husband by being concerned about his weight/food. He already is stressed/concerned about his weight and food.

So - take a sec and have a wife-moment, before you speak. I still worry about my son, but I don't voice it. I voice it to my husband, and then I let it go. Over time, I've noticed he can handle life well enough on his own. Your husband will be able to also. Trust him. You can't make a difference either - not really. Even if you want to. Accept that. :)

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J.C.

answers from Philadelphia on

Have you put yourself in his shoes? I know your heart is in the right place because you want your husband to succeed but he must do this himself. You are his partner not his gate keeper. Be his cheerleader not his guard. I am quite certain I would be upset if anyone questioned the amount of chicken I was eating. Wouldn't you?

I frequently ask myself how fun I am to live with. I certainly want my immediate family (husband and daughters) to think I am as fun and pleasant to be around as my girlfriends. 😉 We all get in bad moods sometimes but if I can control myself not to take it out on the mailman or the cashier at the grocery store then I can control my moods around my family who mean the world to me unlike the mailman. You can change your controlling ways. You just have to see the value in it and want to change.

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J.B.

answers from Boston on

I think that you and your husband should agree in advance on a code word that means that you will stop whatever it is that you are doing that is crushing his boundaries. It's great that you're in therapy and can recognize these patterns, but you actually have to put A LOT of effort into stopping them or you're going to drive him away. You spend time and energy micro-managing all the ways that you think your husband isn't following his commitments...maybe instead of that, you commit to changing your behavior? I suspect that given your pattern here, this is something that's not in your control - so let him help you. Rather than let things blow up, commit to following his cue and when you're being controlling - and let's be frank, you 100% are - he can say the word or phrase and you will immediately stop what you're doing. If you need to walk away in that moment and meditate or do a breathing exercise or say the serenity prayer or whatever, then do that until you can calm down and own that your disrespectful behavior towards him is a result of your own anxiety and not because he's doing anything wrong. This puts your focus back where it should be, which is on what you can control, which is just your own attitude and behavior.

Let's reverse the roles and pretend that you are the husband and he is the wife. The wife comes on here and writes to us that she's been working on weight loss, has had some success, is on a program, working out and is happy with her progress but her overbearing control freak of a husband is questioning her portion sizes and choices and treats her like a child. Wouldn't we all say "wow, he has issues. Tell him to back off! You don't need to take this...is this a pattern for him? Maybe he's emotionally abusive, you don't need to live with someone who tries to control you, this isn't what a healthy partnership looks like" and so on and so on.

I hope this doesn't come across as critical - I'm rooting for you, I really am, but you have to stop before you find yourself single. You crash your poor husband's boundaries in serious ways, repeatedly. Leave him alone! It's great that you have the insight to see that what you're doing is hurtful, disrespectful, and inappropriate and that you're working on it in therapy but your actions have to change.

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C.N.

answers from Baton Rouge on

Mr. Fuzzy had a heart attack a while back. He has been told by his cardiologist that he needs to avoid greasy, salty foods. Of course he loves greasy, salty food.
Most of the time, I cook the kind of food he is supposed to eat. And sometimes, he opts to go to McDonalds, orders a pizza, or comes home from the grocery store with a bag of Cheetos.
He's a grown man, I'm his wife, not his mother. I am not the food police. If he chooses to eat a Big Mac and fries, it's on him.

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D.D.

answers from Boston on

Personally if my hubby asked about the quantity of something I was eating I'd tell him to butt out and stop. Really you think you are being helpful but really you are over stepping. His diet and weight are his issue not yours. Really if you want to be helpful you'd work celebrate how far he's come instead of fixating on how far he has to go.

As far as my own marriage? My hubby tends to over explain the most simple things like we're all too stupid to figure out how to do things like put dishes in the dishwasher or rake the yard. I've been married too long to change things so I just nod and do it however I want anyways. He needs to say it; I don't feel like I need to listen. Every marriage is different and what works in one doesn't work in another.

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R..

answers from San Antonio on

I agree with some below about you both went down the wrong path. You commenting on one of his sensitive topics and he snapped saying things he normally wouldn't.

This happened to me this week. My husband shared about something at work and it really worried me for him. I made a comment and he flew off the handle. I was making a suggestion from a place of love and concern and he saw it as a criticism because as with a lot of men their work is a close part of their identity. He took me to lunch the next day and we were able to discuss it. He didn't really mean what he said it was one of my hot button topics and he so he "went there to deflect". Really we were both wrong I should have let him handle it and he should not have gone off on me.

Food is a very sensitive topic for a lot of people. My husband has lost between 85 to 95 pounds...because he decided he wanted to be healthier. Now he comments on what I eat a lot (I for sure have a sugar addiction)...but it doesn't ever bother me because I am 5'10" and 130 pounds. I wear a size 6 and he can tell me all day I need to eat healthier and I will agree with him then still eat a candy bar. If I commented on his food it would really hurt him...he really struggles not just with food but how he looks when he is overweight. I love him no matter what he looks like but he doesn't like himself when he is too heavy.

So you see the difference...some things can be talked about and commented on and others are a "hot topic" as we call them and are off the table as damaging to our happy marriage. Some topics it would take a special talk to talk about them probably including a therapist (if they were negative topics). And none of them are so big that we need to talk about them. Big hugs to you! It is great you are working on giving your husband the correct level of support with a therapist.

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D..

answers from Miami on

Here's where you're lucky, Mom. He's actually on a weight loss plan. He's actually had some success. He isn't totally ignoring his weight problem and pretending it doesn't exist. There are plenty of people out there who do ignore it, including those who have diabetes. So consider yourselves lucky.

With that being said, he is the one that has to manage his life. Not you. When you try to micromanage his health, all it can do is foster resentment.

I'll also say that there are people who want someone else to take on the responsibility of helping them. My own husband blamed something on me because I don't "remind" him to take his medicine. I asked him how many times he had reminded me to take MY meds? How many times did he remind me to take my birth control? The answer? ZERO. Just because I'm a woman, I'm supposed to dole out his medicine to him and take responsibility for it? NOPE. After that discussion, he stopped that stuff...

If you are the cook in the house, if you cook the proper foods, buy the proper foods, if you don't sabotage his diet by having junk in the house, then you have done enough. He is an adult and needs to take the responsibility AND consequences of his actions. And you need to stay out of it.

He shouldn't have said ugly things to you. You shouldn't have tried to mother him so relentlessly. Apologize for your part in this, and then step back. If he gains weight, it's all on him. Meanwhile, you should go your own way in walking/exercising. Let him go his. He may find that he actually misses your involvement. If so, he will need to come to you and he needs to apologize for being mean to you about it before you become a part of his routine again. If you don't demand an apology before helping him, he will continue to feel that he can blame you for when he is not successful in his dieting. Don't accept this. It puts too much power in one side of the relationship.

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

Both my husband and I have dieted in the past.
We've learned - we are not each others keepers in this area.
Dieting/eating more healthy - you don't want to be nagging anyone (nor do you want to be nagged) - the will power has to come from within - or it's not going to work.

Look at this as - not a source of anxiety - but as permission to not have to worry about this.
He's got this - for good or for ill - his successes or failures are HIS successes or failures - and neither has anything to do with you (and yours are yours and nothing to do with him).
My husband likes doing some things his way - and I like doing some things my way.
It's just good to be in a relationship where everyone is free to be who they are with no pressure to be anything else.

Have a carrot, go for a walk - or treat yourself to a hot fudge sundae - but let this go and relax!

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J.B.

answers from Dallas on

As with most marital spats, you both committed an oops. You hit a nerve for him, and he apparently said rude things to you. I think everybody goes through this sometimes. It's the one person you love to pieces and would hate to ever have to do without, but who has the unique ability to get under your skin because you are that close. I've found that for my marriage, the follow-up conversation usually starts best with the words "I'm sorry." Sometimes he says it first, and sometimes I do. It doesn't mean you're accepting all blame. It just means you're owning your part of it. Hopefully that gives your spouse the opportunity to apologize as well, and both of you the chance to explain your intentions/feelings better. Sometimes for both parties, other stresses can play a part in our moods and how we speak to each other. So if there's something else going on, that has to be factored in as well. It's best to simmer down before talking again, but don't wait too long, because it gets really uncomfortable when things are unresolved. It may not play out that way for everyone, but it's what I've learned myself.

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V.B.

answers from Jacksonville on

I don't know the history, so I can't speak for the specifics of your situation. But I work weight loss plans of my own from time to time. I'm not obese, and it isn't a health mandated (or doctor recommended) issue. I just decide I'd rather wear a smaller clothing size than I'm in, or holiday weight creeps up and prevents me from wearing this things I already own... so I'll do a plan for a while. Husband is extremely supportive. However...
When I know I need to start being aware/careful about my eating, and I verbally announce that I am, he has on occasion said, "I thought you _____." He means well. But it is MY thing. Not something I want to feel guilt over or something I enjoy being told I'm not doing right, or in some way disappointing him by failing to follow things the way I had planned. It's enough to disappoint myself. And some days you just don't give a rip and need to be able to be guilt free and not give a rip without guilt. From yourself. Or from others.

I don't need him second guessing me. MOST of the time, this is a total non-issue. But every once in a while, an innocent comment is just misplaced.

IF you do have controlling issues and are in therapy for this, I would imagine that he is rightfully very sensitive to comments from you on this subject. However, even if there is NO previous control issue, sometimes the comments are just hurtful and unnecessary and seem belittling, as if when we *cheat* we don't know that we are... we don't know what we're doing. Um, yes, we do. We KNOW. We just sometimes choose something else.
Let it go.

It's his body. His life. His eating. His responsibility. Sounds like he's had great success, too. So bite your tongue. Compliment his success and say not one more word of criticism or *help*.

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

After reading this and your prior post on the subject, I have to say that I think you are doing this because you love him and are so concerned about his health.

But it's backfiring. He's lost 45 pounds and is working out 5 days a week, and that's not enough for you. He's done very well, and that's not enough for you. It really sounds to me like you are parenting him - but that's not a relationship among equals. You're in charge of your body, right? (Lots of talk about that in the public arena too.) So why are you in charge of his body too? You're his partner, his wife, his friend - you are not his "caregiver" unless he's down with the flu and you're in charge of chicken soup and fever reducer!

Based on what you've said above, he's telling you in every way that this is his body: he doesn't want you controlling him, he doesn't want you asking questions, he says he's content with where he's at and that he needs to find his own way. Where you're stuck is that "he's not doing things the way that you would do them" and you are "feeling anxious and frustrated." You say that you find yourself "feeling overly concerned" so, on some level, you know that this is excessive. So can you get to the bottom of your own feelings of being responsible for another adult and overruling or questioning his decisions? Is there something in your past that causes you to measure your own worth and contribution to the world by how other people perform? Are you worried that he may die and you will be left alone and also feeling guilty that you didn't do enough? I'm not suggesting that you divulge any of that here on Mamapedia, but that you dig into it with your therapist.

On a practical note, let's remember that people will be more successful in their endeavors if they do it for themselves than for someone else. We see that philosophy on Mamapedia all the time in other ways: kids whose parents nag them and remind them of every chore and homework assignment don't grow up to be personally responsible, and they can't function in college or the working world because their parents did every thing for them. They can't do a homework assignment in high school without Mom on top of them every second, and therefore they fail in college. They can't have solid relationships because parents intervened in every slight, insult, feeling of being left out, or argument between siblings or a child and his/her friend. They can't success in marriages because they've never had to communicate, make a decision on how to proceed with a disagreement, or work out exactly the kind of dilemma you present in your question. We've seen issues where teen girls don't give up their abusive or lazy (or whatever negative you can suggest) boyfriends precisely because their mothers are so hyper-critical of the guy. Based on all the advice we've seen to questions like those, I'd say the surest way to drive your husband back to bad food choices is to take that choice away from him by telling him he's incapable of making it without your involvement, assent and supervision.

I know that's not at all what you want for him. You want him to be successful. But the only way that will happen without him sneaking food is if you leave him alone. The surest way for him to fail is if you make sure he knows he just can't do it on his own.

Letting go is the hardest thing. But it's the only thing.

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H.W.

answers from Portland on

Asked supportively: have you looked into couples counseling?

Many years ago, my relationship with my now-husband had some of these overtones. I was being controlling from a place of anxiety and fear. Very early in our relationship, he made a decision about something very important which I felt was blatantly the wrong one, and it did cause me to question his judgment.

In short, I came to a place where I trusted him, but didn't completely trust him, if you know what I mean. And when you don't completely trust someone, even when they were trying to do the best they could at the time, it clouds how you perceive their actions and decisions.

His questionable decision, and my unhappiness with it and subsequent efforts to control things (so I wouldn't have to be upset or unhappy about outcomes) led to our deciding that we would either need to go to couples counseling or break up. We were only 3 years into our relationship or so and it was scary to consider: continue in this flawed way, break up, or have to unpack all of our dynamics and deal with hearing things we don't necessarily like hearing.... and possibly change our perceptions and behaviors. We loved each other, we had both been previously married (so we knew what the hard realities were of NOT getting help) and we were committed. It was a hard process, honestly, but so worth it. A few years later, we had our son (and then, the counselor was SO helpful with this!) and a couple years after that, we were married. We still seek out help when we need it.

The long and the short of it was that we were both able to see what each individual brought to the relationship, to learn 'why' behind each others feelings and actions. The big decision he made that had so upset me at the beginning? He had a chance to change that action, and it made for a huge improvement. That said, we've both had bumps in the road, but now have a very well-equipped 'relationship tool box' of ways to deal with conflict. Empathy, understanding the others perspective, all of this has helped build a very solid foundation for our life together as partners in this world. Consequently, things feel far less out of control or 'doomed to go wrong' than they ever did. I found, for myself, that I needed to manage my anxiety as a separate issue from the relationship (it was a functional issue by the time I realized it was it's own beast) and he realized that if he changed a few of his natural tendency-type patterns, it also eliminated unnecessary conflict. All this to say, couples counseling can work wonders if both people are committed to giving it a try and willing to start with baby steps on changing *just one thing* or two at a time.

It's totally worth it. :)

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S.B.

answers from Houston on

My husband and I are on a weight loss program. He has been very successful. I was and have gained some back. I am very sensitive about my weight. It sounds like he is content to where he is at and would like to bring "off limit" food back into his diet, which is the way you should.

Honestly, it is none of your business how much chicken he eats. Make a certain about of food and be done. Doesn't matter if it is your way or not. This isn't about you, its about him.

I'm glad that you are seeing a therapist. Perhaps you both would benefit from marriage counseling as well.

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M.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

I'm very troubled by this statement of yours "As a mom, sometimes it's tough to "turn off" the caregiver part of us--we are busy parenting and helping those around us all of the time."

It appears that you are making excuses for and trying to normalize your controlling behaviors by suggesting that this is a common thing that moms do. It's not, and I'm not going to pretend that it is to make you feel better.

I suspect that you won't really stop being controlling until you really accept responsibility for your behavior. It's not something moms do, it's something YOU do. I hope your therapist can help you see this.

I suspect this is not the kind of response you wanted to see, but I'm hoping (but doubtful) that maybe it will help you see that you are making excuses to justify your behavior instead of owning it, and that is something you should talk to your therapist about.

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S.H.

answers from Santa Barbara on

Yes and no.

You can say "All I said was ... to be helpful." What he feels is you watching and counting his calories and pointing out any mis-step he takes.

Also, you sound like you are doing the 'ask a question' type thing which has been the appropriate way to speak to people instead of say what you actually think. I find it annoying when someone asks me a question they clearly know the answer to when it comes to pointing out my failures. Now, in your defense you are his spouse and best friend. If you don't say anything then who will? Does he go to a weekly meeting? No matter what dieters say to the coach, they can see through the B.S. if the fat% and scale go up and the muscle % does not.

Based on what you wrote, he might be embarrassed and lashed out.

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M.S.

answers from Washington DC on

Short answer to are you being controlling is yes. But I totally get it! Before my husband's brain hemorrhage I felt like if any of his habits/choices affected our marriage, current family life or future family life, I needed to jump in with my two cents. I felt like I needed to have some sort of control because I really didn't trust him to take control of some of his choices. It was exhausting and stressful for me and it turned him into a little boy keeping secrets from me. I don't think it really helped anything one little bit, short term. And long term, we will never know, because of his disability. Now, when I would LOVE to be able to give up some control in our life and turn it over to him, I can't because I am his full-time caregiver. Now I can't even run errands, go outside to get some work done or, God forbid, be in bed sick without planning ahead for his needs.

Do YOURSELF a favor and let it go. Be his biggest cheerleader, but also let him be an adult and make his own adult decisions. The consequences may directly or indirectly affect you and your life together, but let his choices be his own. I think it also goes back to that simple idea of putting yourself in his shoes. Would you want someone commenting on what you decide to eat?

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