In the days and weeks ahead I will be addressing certain ways that “control” manifests itself in marriages. And one of the more insidious and almost unrecognizable ways that control shows up is by the act of “smothering.”
My first experience with smothering was not at the hands of my husband, but rather my mother. In my teen years, she had a fear that if she didn’t hold a tight reign upon me and my sister, we’d abandon or reject her. This often fueled bouts of jealousy over my relationship with my sister and my other friends. My mother’s smothering had a huge impact on me, drawing me almost inextricably toward relationships where smothering was an element.
This kind of control doesn’t feel like or even look like control to the controller. He or she feels that smothering is simply showing a deep love for a person—a desire to be near that person. And for the victim, there are times when he or she may believe that distorted view as well, until it becomes oppressive.
You can’t go anywhere without permission from your controller. You can’t do certain things because your controller believes you’ll be hurt or do something wrong. And in time, your controller can become paranoid, accusing you of crazy things that in an even crazier way propels you toward the forbidden fruit.
That’s because there’s a dangerous dynamic that occurs when a controller begins to smother you in a relationship—you want to escape. You may have been perfectly happy being in that relationship or doing whatever you normally do with your spouse. But the moment your spouse tells you that you have to do something his or her way or can’t do something you want to do, you’ll instantly want to tug in the opposite direction!
Think about it. What happens when you’re in a tug of war with someone? They grab one end of the rope and begin to pull. So you grab the other end and pull in the opposite direction. But the moment your controller drops his end of the rope, you have no need to resist. But since your controller isn’t dropping his or her end of the rope anytime soon . . .
How do you deal with this smothering?
1. Take your frustrations and resentments to God
Release your feelings to Jesus. He can give you the clarity and wisdom you need to see beyond your frustrations. Then be sure to forgive your spouse for this intrusive and smothering behavior.
2. Don’t take your Smotherer’s need for control personally, nor try to cure him/her
Realize that you aren’t the issue. Your Smotherer has insecurities and misperceptions that are fueling his or her actions. And trying to “fix” or change your Smotherer will only frustrate both of you.
3. Seek counsel on how to confront/deal with your “Smotherer”
Confronting or setting boundaries with a tried and true Smotherer is a tricky balance. If you come across as too harsh, your Smotherer will try to control you more. On the other hand, if you don’t hold strongly to the boundaries you’ve set, you’ll lose any ground you’ve gained.
Finally, if you are the Smotherer in the relationship, drop your end of your rope. And when you do, don’t be surprised if your spouse actually moves closer to you than ever before!