My wife controls me

Monday, November 05, 2012

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Dear Counsellor

My marriage is in trouble. My wife and I dated for four years while we were in college. After graduation, she terminated the relationship. She met this guy, dated for a month and then got married. They had a beautiful baby girl but four years later she divorced him.

We linked up again and continued where we left off. We got married and everything went well until she started to display very controlling behaviour. She does not want me to talk with any of my female friends unless she approves. She even wants me to delete them from my phone. When we go out together, she monitors my every move and restricts whom I speak with. She even instructs me to come home at a certain time after work every day and frequently checks my phone. I feel as if I am imprisoned. She now says she is tired of the whole marriage thing and wants a break. She keeps saying she is not the marrying type. Counsellor I love my wife dearly and would want us to work it out. We have a son together. What should I do?

The most instructive statement in your letter is, "She keeps saying she is not the marrying type." Therein lies the crux of the problem. If your wife was married twice, divorced once, and seemingly wants out once more, this suggests that she was, and is still not ready, for a marital relationship.

Getting married to someone after dating him for one month was not a wise move. One needs to spend some time to get to know the person before one commits to a marital relationship. It is even more fatal if the succeeding relationship is a rebound one. Marriage is a serious life decision and ought not to be entered into flippantly. It is more than just dating someone and ought to be given the highest honour it deserves. It is for this reason that premarital counselling is highly recommended.

It would be interesting to know what caused the termination of your wife's first marriage. Was she just as controlling in that relationship? Did that contribute to the dissolution of the marriage? Surely this type of intimidating behaviour displayed by either party in a relationship will cause interpersonal conflicts as there will either be passive or overt resistance. In your case, it appears that you are taking a passive resistance response to the dictates of your wife.

Anyone who displays controlling behaviour in a relationship is suffering from psychological insecurity and distrust. In your case, your wife may have been cheated on by partners in the past and so she is safeguarding herself from emotional hurt. It could well be that this is how she was socialised from a child as she observed her mom "policing" her dad, and she believes that by keeping close tabs on you, she can maintain full control of you and the relationship.

Did you give your wife any reason to distrust you? Were you unfaithful to her in the past? It could well be that she is ensuring that you do not go down that road again. Whether or not this is the case, your wife has certainly gone overboard with her acts of control. Restricting which females you should speak to is absurd and counterproductive and will only create more harm than good.

When two adults decide to be involved in a relationship, every effort must be made by both parties to ensure that they relate to each other on an adult level. In your case, it is the latter that exists and that is why you feel so uncomfortable. It is as if you are still living at your parents' house and being told of your curfew time. This cannot be good for the growth and development of a healthy and wholesome man-woman relationship.

Your wife has entered the marriage with some obvious unresolved issues coming out of the last relationship which has negatively impacted the present marital relationship. Her claim that she is tired of married life is an indication that she has certain expectations of the marriage that did not play out in either of the two marriages and so frustration has set in. It could well be that her expectations of the marriages were too unrealistic and idealistic.

As you both contemplate the future of the marriage, don't forget that there are two innocent children in the picture whose interest must be attended to.

So the suggested course of action is for your wife to receive individual counselling to address her personal issues and for both of you to engage in marital counselling to address the issues that affect the relationship.

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