The Addiction In Marriage No One Talks About

Kate says . . .

I have an addiction. It’s real, it’s hard and it threatens to take me over.

It is something I have wrestled with since the beginning of our marriage, something that makes me angry; angry for wanting it and at the same time angry when I don’t have it.

I want it and will find sneaky ways to get it. I think about it daily, sometimes in direct ways and sometimes in ways you wouldn’t even think were an issue. It is one of those addictions that is easy to hide and fake with a smile. Those outside of our home and close friends will not know it or see the signs of it. They may however see the effects of it on our marriage.

The Addiction

I have an addiction to control. kates-control-post-2

You heard me right, I am Kate and I am addicted to control and it was seriously damaging our marriage.
The definition of an addiction is: “The fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity. Synonyms: Dependency, dependent, habit, problem.”

The definition of control is: “The power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events.”

Life was easier if it was going my way, everything had an order and made sense. I had a routine and ways that I did things, anyone coming in and messing with my routine -well that just wasn’t acceptable. Usually the person trying to mess things up was Brad. Not because he was trying to upset me, but because he was trying to be a part of our family.

The Truth is Revealed

I’ll never forget the day; it was a Saturday at home with our three toddler kids. I can still see where I was standing in the kitchen. We were heading out for a family outing and Brad stepped in to get the kids ready. Soon after everything fell apart. There were kids crying, a dad who was very frustrated, and me asking “what is going on?”

Brad explained how he tried to handle a situation and I immediately gave him that look. That look of “Well, if you had done it the way I do, this would not have happened.” I took over the situation and calmed things down. I was so frustrated and said to Brad, “When you are home, you mess everything up!

I still can’t believe I said it and yet, it was how I felt at the time. He looked at me dumbstruck and deeply hurt. I was too deep in my own addiction of control to really care. The kids were with me all day and so knew what I expected of them. When Brad was home, they had no clue.

Having an Open Heart

In one of those moments when my heart was open; you know the times where you deeply want God to come in and break all of you, rebuilding you from the heart out. In that state of open heart, break me Lord moments; I saw my addiction for what it was. Control was devastating my marriage.

  • Control to have my family be the way I wanted them to be.
  • Control to be the leader in my house, because I felt my husband was not and had no desire to do so.
  • Control to keep my kids and family in a certain box so that I didn’t have to deal with the messiness of life.

It was a rules and religion mentality that sounds a lot like a Pharisee!

In order to have victory over any addiction you have to deal with the root. For me the root went back to my expectations of my husband when we got married. I expected that he would naturally step up and be the strong, head of the family that God was calling him to be. I say that not to point the finger at Brad. No matter how much Brad did or did not step up as our leader, I had the choice to take over control or to support and lift up Brad as the leader no matter what.

Control was my choice. It was also my choice to continue to go back to control when I knew it was bad for all of us. Control gave me a false sense of safety and stability. It started a cycle of Brad just staying out of my way and me needing more and more control over my family.

The Day God Spoke to My Heart

It was one of those heart rending moments where the Holy Spirit whispers to you. He whispered “How can Brad lead, when you are standing in his way?” It was then that I began to pick up the crumbled pieces of who I was as a wife. I sought God’s word on who I should be as a wife. I did not focus on who Brad should be as a husband. Only on what God was asking of me.

I began saying things like “we need to wait and talk to your dad when he gets home before we make a decision on that.” Not for things like, “do you want peanut butter or a ham sandwich?” that’s just ridiculous!

I started to step back anytime Brad was talking to our kids and just be a support. There were many times I practically bit my tongue off, but it was what God was asking of me. It was amazing the freedom I started to feel in letting my husband lead.

I needed to step back and allow him to lead, but also I needed to encourage him as he led. I tried to be his biggest cheerleader in all that he was doing. It was amazing to watch him flourish as the leader of our family. It was nothing like I had expected, and yet it was better than I had ever imagined.

He is a quiet, yet assertive, deeply sweet leader. He is full of God-given wisdom and I am so thankful for his leadership. God designed him to lead us and it is a beautiful thing.

I am Not Alone

When I’ve shared about my addiction to control with other wives in our community, I find that I am NOT alone. Many wives struggle with wanting and needing control instead of trusting God’s plan for your husband as the leader.

This is an addiction that we can beat. I know for me the want of control still seeks to overtake me. I am thankful that I can be open and deal with it, when I am struggling.

Don’t miss Brad’s follow-up post: Husband Leadership 101

And my follow- up: Breaking the Addiction: The Real & The Raw

How about you?

Do you as a wife find yourself needing control of all that goes on in your household?

Would you say it is overtaking you?

What do you think your husband would say if you asked him the same question?

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30 Responses to The Addiction In Marriage No One Talks About

  1. I can really relate to this article. I’m always wanting to be in control. I often think my way is the best way and never give my husband a chance to lead in his own way. I want him to be head of the house as the bible says but I never give him that opportunity. If I would let go of the need to control it would take a lot of stress off my shoulders. I pray God helps me to remove my need to always have control.

    • Hi Dana, thanks for being open and real. Take it one day at a time, one step at a time. Seek God and he will give you what you need. After my hubby posts his response/companion post, I will post my follow up with way and areas that I surrendered control. Know that I am praying for you right now! Hugs! Kate

  2. Kate thank you for sharing this and being open about it 🙂 I too suffer from wanting to be in control of life around me, and I would say there was a time when maybe I was an addict as well. God has walked me through some times and situations in life to help me realize He is in control and I have to work to trust Him to be, the operative word here is work, strides have been made but I still rear my ugly head once in while. I will be sharing this blog on our page, I think it is honest and something a lot of women can gain from. Thank you for your ministry, I am constantly gaining from your site 🙂

    • Hi Lisa! Thanks so much for your words of encouragement and willingness to share your marriage as well. We are honored and humbled to serve next to you and Greg in marriage ministry. There can never be enough people sharing God’s good plan for marriage. Appreciate you very much! Blessings, Kate

  3. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! For sharing this, and thank you for saying some things that need to be said! The most important of which is that control can be an addiction. I too used to struggle with control. I thought because I wasn’t keeping tabs on my husband and what he does every minute, or bossing him around directly that I didn’t struggle with control. But control can be had in more subtle ways and it allows us to lie to ourselves about our heart and our true motives. My wake up call was a big one. While working with a counselor and pastor to repair our marriage from my husband’s sex addiction our pastor was insightful enough to call out my control addiction. While trying to let go of a control addiction without the discomfort of actually surrendering control, my emotional stability took a hike and I spent a week in a hospital so I wouldn’t take my own life. That is how deep rooted some of these compulsive behaviors can be when we as a society do not recognize them as something we should avoid, and much less how dangerous they can be. To our marriages, to our children (who are watching how we cope with things!) and to ourselves. Thankfully, our church has a very strong recovery program that is not just for drugs and alcohol. I am working the 12 steps for control, I have a sponsor, I attend meetings. I will probably fight this fight for the rest of my life the same as a recovering drug addict does….. but praise God at least now I know the fight exists! I am 18 months control-sober, and I am closing in on 19 months…. one day at a time.

    • Hi Candace! Thanks so much for sharing your journey and how you have surrendered control in your life and marriage. I hope others will read your comment and glean from where you have been and the road you have walked. It takes many voices, being vulnerable and sharing. Thank you! Lifting you up right now! Blessings, Kate

    • I can certainly say AMEN SISTER!! My husband’s addiction revealed to me just how much I did not, would not, and could not control every detail of life. The WORST THING THAT HAPPENED to me has become a WAKE UP CALL/BLESSING…
      We have a few supporters with his SA issues, and a few helping us both. I needed to be reminded of WHO IS IN CONTROL. My husband has his part, and I have mine.
      The Lord will have to show us the way especially since I’ve lost all trust in my husband.

  4. Thank you for this post.
    As another control freak I realize this is a big problem in marriage.
    I hope you plan on a follow up post. I would love to hear some practical applications on ‘now that we know we have an addiction’ what do we do now?
    I know I need to repent and give it to God.
    But that’s not enough… I’ve been this way for 46 years. I’ve repented…. But I constantly fall back into controlling mode.
    I would love to hear how other wives have overcame.

    • Hi Michele! Thanks so much for writing and sharing as well as asking a great question. I had not planned on writing a follow up piece myself, honestly. But after reading your comment, I sat down and let it pour out of me. Brad will be doing the next post, because we always do it that way. We want everyone to hear both perspectives. But after that, I will share my follow up. It is long, real and raw. So it may have to be two posts. Regardless, it is done and ready. Hand in their friend and lean on the only one who can help you surrender control-Jesus! Praying for you right now! Blessings, Kate

  5. Yep, got this problem also, but with being raised by a horribly dangerous alcoholic step father (mental abuse, threatened physical abuse, attempted sexual abuse) … I learned at an early age that if I DID’NT control what I could control then my life was in someone else’s hands and it was never a good outcome … hard to break that longtime habit … but I’m a work in progress and God knows that … just a lump of clay waiting on God’s help and molding … hard to wait and hard to break a habit like this but it can be done and I do it conciously now that our kids are all older but when they were smaller it was my way or no way … lol!

  6. Kate,
    What a great article. I am the director of mens ministry at a large church in Houston. Your openness and honesty is refreshing. I truly believe that leadership is a vacuum. If we as husbands don’t step up and lead in a Godly way, it is only natural that our wives would.
    You really need to write a book on the subject. It’s really needed in the body of Christ. So many men are so frustrated in their marriage relationship because their wives treat them more like a son rather than a husband. God bless you and your ministry.

    • Hi Tripp,

      Thank you so much for your encouragement. My hubby and I often talk of writing a book . . . if God opens the doors! 🙂 Check back on Tuesday for Brad’s response. Whoever starts a blog post, then the other responds from what it was like for them. Just thought you might be interested. You are right, we need all the voices we can get in sharing the truth about God’s amazing plan for marriage. Brad and I are thankful to be partnering with you and so many others.

      It makes me sad when I see wives treating their husbands like another child. When they mention that he IS another one of their children, I cringe!! And yet, I walked in their shoes at one time. I am thankful for brokenness, forgiveness and redemption! Thank you so much for stopping over and sharing your thoughts. Know that I am lifting you up in your role with Men’s ministry as well as in your marriage. Blessings, Kate

  7. What an amazing God we serve! I would like to know how it was from your husband’s perspective. In our marriage, I am the one suffering from a controlling spouse. If it weren’t for my faith, I would have responded to him by now in very ungodly ways….it’s incredibly oppressive, frustrating, frightening, confusing and painful to be the recipient.

  8. I can relate to this so much! My previous marriage had been so out of control that I refused to allow it to happen in my new marriage. In turn, I tried to control situations that didn’t even need controlling. There were numerous ridiculous arguments that if I had just “let go”, they would’ve been avoided. We were almost at our breaking point when God spoke to both of us and we started going to church as a family. God has allowed me to truly believe that if something was going to happen, its God’s will, not because I was in control or not. It is such a refreshing feeling to sit back and watch God’s plan for my husband as the leader of our family.

    • Amen Angel! Thank you for sharing. It is refreshing to sit back and watch God’s plan for my hubby as the leader of our family. There are no words . . .

      Blessings, Kate

  9. I have had issues with control in the past, but actually found sex can be a way to heal from it, or perhaps to balance it out. For instance, if I’m feeling the temptation to control or domineer, I may suggest or even directly ask that we engage in a sexual activity where he’s in control. Doggy style, for instance, helps this a lot. I think sometimes we forget the positive role sex can play in dealing with these other supposed “non sexual” concerns.

  10. This is good and gives me something to think about and work on bc I’ve never thought control to be an addiction. To give a different perspective bc For those of us who have been single moms for years, it’s been us in the lead position and what we’ve known. That’s not to say that we can’t or won’t allow our man to lead. I prefer him to lead, sweetly and gently of course, not dominate. As Pastor Jimmy Evans stated the other day in what women need, one of them was for the men to step up and lead, not dominate. We do need leadership.

    • Hi Toni! Thanks for sharing! I appreciate your thoughts. Definitely not dominate, that is never how it should be! If that is happening then it is wrong! Thanks again for sharing. Blessings, Kate

  11. I would counsel to be very very careful with this subject, for two main reasons. One, becoming ‘submissive’ as is taught so much in the church, and ‘letting your husband lead’ often causes the husband to take control in very destructive ways. Also, it can be just another form of trying to control him. “If I back away and let him ‘lead’ he will be the hero.” This so often backfires. Some husbands refuse to take the necessary mature responsibilities, but are eager to become entitled commanders of doormats. Our source is in God, not man. We so badly want a close relationship that we make idols of people (husbands, pastors, movie stars, etc.) instead of worshiping God. Insecurity seems attractive at first but can be a huge stumbling block.
    I don’t understand what is wrong with a partnership of parenting and marriage. In Ephesians it says to submit to each other. This means to adapt in humility, not to be under the thumb of another. Then it goes on to say how wives can submit to husbands, how husbands can submit to wives, children to parents, parents to children, employees to employers and employers to employees. Interpreted correctly, the Bible is a leveling field. In Christ there is not east or west…..male or female. Jesus said that the gentiles lord it over each other but with us it is not to be that way. Being the ‘head’ simply means to minister to and to be a source of life and strength.

    Power over others is a very dangerous thing. Please do not encourage something that God never meant to be and that puts others (husbands or wives)in temptations that God never meant us to have.

    I agree not to be controlling, but don’t hand over your power to another. Only God can handle that. His biggest gift to us is our autonomy, our freedom of choice.

    • Hi Sunflower,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts I really do appreciate your being open!. Brad and I have said from the beginning we will not shy away from the tough topics in marriage simply because they could be misinterpreted. There is too much silence in the area of marriage and the church.

      Therefore while I appreciate your caution to me, we will continue to speak light into this dark place in marriage.

      I feel as though you have misunderstood me and my take on leadership and submission. God is always number one, your husband cannot be that and if you put him there, it will crumble.

      We may have to agree to disagree on what the definition of a leader and head of the family is. It is not about power over another, it is about surrender and serving the other. Putting their needs above your own.

      Also I think it is vital to always read both of our posts that go into a series. My husbands post Husband Leadership 101, was posted this week. It gives you a better picture of how this all works in our marriage.

      Thanks again for sharing. Blessings, Kate

  12. I can totally relate to this post. Until 13 years ago, I too was addicted to controlling my husband and his every move. Thanks to Laura Doyle and her amazing book The Surrendered Wife and the following up coaching and support I received from her, I was able to relinquish control and instead respect my husband and restore the intimacy and passion we share today. If you’d like support to overcome this addiction, check out her site and read her book! From A recovered controlling wife, Kathy

  13. Hi,

    Okay, I have read some of the responses and am here to confess that I am a control addict also. But I haven’t seen any one else from the responses I read have a husband who doesn’t want to, or isn’t able to, take control. Unlike me, my husband is not a believer, and he has Asperger Syndrome. We have been married for 30+ years and have two grown sons, the oldest one also has AS.
    I know that the wife is supposed to be strong in the Lord and pray for her unbelieving husband, which I do. But I am getting very weary and on top of that I am having issues with Mental-pause.

    What advice would you give to someone in my situation?


    • Hi SallyAnn,

      Thanks for writing and sharing where you are. I am sure that is hard dynamic to work through. I think the most important thing to remember is that you are Jesus with skin on to your husband. So as hard as it may be, keep seeking to love him, serve him and respect him as the husband. Lift him up, encourage him and be his biggest cheerleader! Seek God on what things in your life you can give up the control to. I totally understand there will be things you have to continue to work on and control, but re-access and see if there are some things that really don’t matter and that you can let go of.

      I hear you on becoming weary. I would imagine it is very tiring. And I think it is a great reminder that we CANNOT do marriage the way God asks of us, on our own. He gave us 1 Cor. 13, not to show us what marriage should be, but to show us that we could not do it without Him! Keep leaning on Jesus! Also if you have another women, a mentor, prayer warrior that you can meet with, that is always good. They can encourage you, challenge you, speak truth into your life and pray for you as you walk this journey!

      Know that I am lifting you up right now! Blessings, Kate