The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Controlling Wife

How can I deal with my controlling wife?

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner:      Alfonso, is that you?


Alfonso:          Yes.


Dr. Kenner:      You’re trying to figure out how to handle your wife?


Alfonso:          My controlling wife.


Dr. Kenner:      Your controlling wife, okay. Give me a little snapshot of what happens that just drives you buggy?


Alfonso:          It’s the fact that, okay, we have two cars and she has to have control of both cars. She has to control my credit card, my bank account, when I eat, what I do, who I talk on the phone with. Just about everything.


Dr. Kenner:      How long have you been married?


Alfonso:          For about three years.


Dr. Kenner:      And was it like this from the beginning?


Alfonso:          A little bit, but I for some reason thought it was going to change, I guess.


Dr. Kenner:      You mean, you thought she would relax?


Alfonso:          Yeah.


Dr. Kenner:      How do you make sense of that?


Alfonso:          I don’t.


Dr. Kenner:      But it sounds like she’s not trusting you?


Alfonso:          I think that’s a little bit. She had a bad marriage before me, and had a rough childhood, so I guess she’s taking it out on me.


Dr. Kenner:      Okay. My guess is you’ve brought that up to her?


Alfonso:          Yes. It always turns into an argument.


Dr. Kenner:      How so?


Alfonso:          She turns it around, saying that I’m the one that is the problem. I need therapy and it’s never really an actual conversation. It turns always into some type of argument and I’m trying to figure out what am I saying wrong that triggers the argument.


Dr. Kenner:      What have you learned? When you look at what are the triggers, what have you discovered?


Alfonso:          Sometimes I’m not saying anything bad. I’m bringing up, I guess, the truth sometimes, and I guess she doesn’t like it.


Dr. Kenner:      Ah. That’s a different story. What would be one truth – give me an example of a truth you brought up and that she’s pushing away and refusing to talk about.


Alfonso:          The fact that she claims that her ex-husband was very controlling to her, but I see how she is toward me and I tell her, who was actually the controlling one? I really don’t think he could have been that controlling because of the way you’re treating me. And she gets upset about that.


Dr. Kenner:      And so when you say to her, these are the examples, this is what I’m seeing, I don’t have a choice of cars or when to use it or my credit card or my bank account or who I talk to, you’re tracking everything I do. And this is, I feel, controlled. When you share that with you and say, “I don’t see how your ex could have been that controlling because you’re actually the one that is controlling,” and what does she do at that point?


Alfonso:          She gets upset about it and starts an argument.


Dr. Kenner:      Where does she go with that?


Alfonso:          She says that she’s not controlling me. I don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s all in your head and this and that. I try to stop it, saying that yes, you’re right, and then she tells me that I’m being – I can’t find the word right now. When I’m trying to stop the argument and trying to say, “You’re right, maybe it’s just me or whatever,” and I can’t find the word right now off the top of my head.


Dr. Kenner:      It sounds like you appease her. You give into her just to keep the peace?


Alfonso:          Yes. Basically. Because it gets really out of hand and I’m like, okay, I don’t want to argue anymore so I try to get away from it.


Dr. Kenner:      Did you ever experience that in your own childhood?


Alfonso:          No, never. And I guess sometimes I wonder, I say, “I’ve never been through anything like this ever in my life,” and when I bring up how my parents are, she says that, “You can’t have what your parents have. Every marriage is different.” One time she said to me, “Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you have to be happy.” I couldn’t believe she actually said that.


Dr. Kenner:      I’m very glad you retained that, because it is your life, Alfonso, and you’re gauging the quality of your life. Before I go further, do you have kids?


Alfonso:          Yes.


Dr. Kenner:      With her?


Alfonso:          Yes.


Dr. Kenner:      How many?


Alfonso:          Just one.


Dr. Kenner:      How old?


Alfonso:          2-year-old.


Dr. Kenner:      Okay. Because if you didn’t have kids, guess what I might suggest?


Alfonso:          Yeah.


Dr. Kenner:      I’m still going to suggest … she’s invalidating your firsthand experience, and that’s never fun. If you’re going through this pain and she is closed to reason, she’s not listening to you, she’s not for example sitting down and saying, “Oh, yes, I know this is a problem I’ve had in previous relationships. Let’s figure out a way. Will you stay with me and I’ll try to work through this problem? We’ll go to therapy together and I’ll try to become less controlling.” If she were to say something like that, then how would you feel toward her?


Alfonso:          I would feel a little bit better, that she’s willing to work on it.


Dr. Kenner:      Plus she’s not telling you what controlling people typically do. They tell the partner, they’ll beat up on the partner in subtle ways or not so subtle ways, and she’s showing signs of emotional abuse of you. When they start restricting who you can talk to, where you can go, when they start controlling your cell phone, when they start checking up on you, the bank account, everything else – when you keep giving in, capitulating to her, appeasing her, it makes it worse. Because you don’t experience your own self as having a backbone. It’s like losing your backbone, your self esteem. And she keeps winning by default, but your giving into her. It’s not that you battle with her, you just say, “Listen. I do want a happy marriage.” That sentence, what was it that she said? Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you have to be happy?


Alfonso:          Yes. She told me once.


Dr. Kenner:      And I would beg to differ. I wouldn’t even beg. I would say the only reason to be married, to have a soul mate is to have a soul mate. To have someone who shares in your life, shares in your joy, who is supportive of you, who understands you, where you can iron out differences by listening to one another, really hearing one another, and working through – every couple has some issues to work through – and if she’s controlling to you, can you imagine it with your child?


Alfonso:          Yeah.


Dr. Kenner:      I would get the book – one of my favorite books – is the Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Or there’s another book, Loving Life, by Craig Biddle. Those are books, you can go to my website, One is a novel. But I would not want you to be with an abusive woman. I would want you to have the courage to leave her if necessary, but before you did that, to really hold your own and tell her that this is not working. You do want a happy marriage like your mother’s, and if she is wiling to work on it, you would try counseling. Listen, thank you so very much for the call and I wish you a very happy life and a happy marriage.


Alfonso:          Thank you.


Dr. Kenner:      Thank you Alfonso. I’m Dr. Ellen Kenner.