Early in our marriage, Karen and I almost divorced because I was a controlling husband. In an emotionally healthy relationship, you don’t control each other.
Why is a controlling spouse so damaging to a marriage? Remember the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When Eve sinned, God pronounced a curse over her: “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your labor pains…You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you’” (Genesis 3:16).
This is not a gender-specific curse, because domination and control is gender-neutral. There are as many controlling men as there are women. Adam and Eve rebelled when they tried to remove themselves from under God’s authority, then tried to take authority over each other. Why do people try to control each other?
One reason is pride. One spouse may just believe he or she is better. I grew up in a family system in which the men were chauvinists. From childhood, I thought men were better than women until God broke through to my heart and made sure I understood that Karen was not my inferior, but my equal.
Chauvinism is a sin. It’s a sin for men to believe they’re better than women, or for women to believe they’re better than men. Husbands and wives should be equal.
Another reason is deception. Any teaching that tries to use the Bible to say that men are superior to women is wrong teaching. Everywhere I go, as often as I can, I teach that we are equals. Men may be the head of the home, but they are in that position to sacrificially serve their wives as Jesus does (see Ephesians 5:25).
The only way you’re going to have a satisfactory marriage is if you understand that mindset of equality.
One reason for domination is an unsanctified strong personality. It’s not wrong to have a strong personality. That’s my natural personality! The problem is when this personality is not submitted to God. Only then will you be filled with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control.
Without these traits, a naturally strong personality can go off the rails and begin to dominate a spouse.
One last reason we control is a lack of trust. When you don’t trust God with your life, and the people, problems and issues in your life, then you end up trying to take charge of all those things. Rather than trusting God, you try to manipulate, intimidate or dominate the elements of your life into submission.
Control is a curse, and it has to be broken. The only cure for it is for a husband and wife to both come back under the authority from which they first rebelled. They both have to submit to the leadership of Jesus Christ.
The person being dominated must stand up to the dominant spouse. Together, they must submit to each other as it says in Ephesians 5:21. Only then will your marriage be on the path toward intimacy and emotional health.
Jimmy Evans // Marriage Today