Relationship Connection: Can my controlling, angry husband change?

Stock image, St. George News

Question

My husband and I have been married for 13 years. He is very controlling and needs to micromanage every little situation. Everything needs to revolve around him and what he wants at that time.

He is very intense and gets upset and worked up very easily over minor things. He works very hard, however he doesn’t put effort into our relationship. He shows little emotion, besides stress or disproval. He lacks compassion and sympathy for others, mostly me.

He is demanding and critical and does not take my feelings or opinions into consideration. He appears to be obsessive over certain things and can’t rationalize logically. We have three sons who see and feel the contention and division between us, which saddens me greatly. He has little patience with them and expects them to not make mistakes.

When I try to talk to my husband about his cold dictating ways he gets defensive and twist, turns, manipulates, and dominates the conversation. There is no validation or resolve, ever. I recently started to take steps towards moving out with the boys and had our LDS bishop meet with him.

He finally agreed to attend counseling with me, but so far no progress. He insists he is not the problem. I just want a happy peaceful home where I’m treated as an equal and there is give and take. I want a joyful home. When my husband is home things feel stressful, confusing, intense, dark, and unhappy.

I’m lonely and am reaching my limit. He doesn’t have the qualities that I want in a husband. How do I know if he can change or we will ever be happy? Or how do I know when it’s time for me to leave?

Answer

It’s an unbearable feeling to have your heart longing to be close to your husband while simultaneously backing away from him to find emotional safety. You’re caught between protecting yourself, protecting your boys, and giving your marriage a chance. It’s a dilemma no one expects to encounter when they begin their family.

Sometimes a spouse’s behavior leaves you no choice but to create distance so things can change. Even if he continues in his aggressive patterns, the distance will protect you and your boys from the constant assault on your emotional security. Separating isn’t the worst thing that can happen to this family. The worst thing that can happen to your family is his refusal to take accountability for his abusive behavior to you and his sons while committing to create safer conditions.

Even though you might need to pull away and protect yourself and your sons from this aggression, recognize that your peace and clarity will come from acting in ways that match your deepest values. In other words, you don’t have to be aggressive or bitter in order to create safety for yourself or your sons. You’re accepting the reality of his behavior and making adjustments to keep things stable and safe for your boys.

You can eventually forgive your husband for his behavior without having to trust him. Forgiveness frees you from holding onto the bitterness and anger from how he’s treated you. You’re taking the appropriate steps to create safety. You don’t have to turn into someone you’re not in order to create safer conditions.

You may worry that if you’re not tough and aggressive with him that he will have more permission to harm you. Moving toward separation sends a strong signal that you’re not willing to be diminished anymore as a person. M. Catherine Thomas wrote that, “forgiving people, acting kindly toward them, doesn’t necessarily mean letting them abuse us. Sometimes relationships have to be severed to keep one of the parties from being destroyed.”

I have no idea if your husband will do what it takes to be a safe husband and father. I hope he will honestly assess his actions and take the appropriate accountability. Moving out isn’t a threat to your relationship under these conditions. If he is serious about changing, he will eventually understand why you needed to move out and create distance. If he’s not interested in changing and continues to be aggressive, then moving out will offer the protection he won’t give you.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

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14 Comments

  • Terry September 23, 2015 at 8:02 am

    You give him Control, Take it Back????

  • anybody home September 23, 2015 at 9:40 am

    This woman has just described (or perhaps you did the describing, Mr. Steurer) an abusive narcissist. A fully entrenched one, at that. And you counsel her about forgiveness.
    “The worst thing that can happen to your family is his refusal to take accountability for his abusive behavior to you and his sons while committing to create safer conditions.”
    No, Mr. Steurer, the worst thing that can happen to this family is when he turns to violence. And it sounds like he’s right there. Forgiveness can wait. Just get out. Get out today. For the sake of your kids, get out. This man is a walking powder keg and you know it. Stop painting the picture with puffy clouds and pink angels. He’s dangerous!
    Mr. Steurer, you should be ashamed for not advising her of this more strongly.

  • ladybugavenger September 23, 2015 at 10:45 am

    The only one changing in this relationship is you girl. He’s not going to change. Hes been like this since you met him, you just may have been blind to it….You’ve let him disrespect you for years. Stop wasting your time waiting for him to change. You need to get your joy back and not live in a dark spirited home. If that means you leave, then leave. You do you girl and move on!!!

  • fun bag September 23, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    cluck cluck cluck cluck cluck cluck cluck cluck … i just came in to check for eggs. i return later

  • Dexter September 23, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Oh heck. tell him you want to play tag. then have him stand out in the middle of the street while you start up the car.

    • Dexter September 23, 2015 at 9:05 pm

      You want original or xtra crispy.?

  • ladybugavenger September 23, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    I should get paid for my advice

    • Dexter September 23, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      If you did get paid for you advice. you’d be broke

      • ladybugavenger September 24, 2015 at 12:48 am

        If I got a $1 for everytime I’ve given unsolicited advice I’d have like $50,000 🙂 I’d be a millionaire if I got a $1 for everytime I gave my opinion #fundraiser

  • Rainbow Dash September 23, 2015 at 5:55 pm

    First off, stop telling your bishop your family problems.

    Second, read this paragraph again;

    Sometimes a spouse’s behavior leaves you no choice but to create distance so things can change. Even if he continues in his aggressive patterns, the distance will protect you and your boys from the constant assault on your emotional security. Separating isn’t the worst thing that can happen to this family. The worst thing that can happen to your family is his refusal to take accountability for his abusive behavior to you and his sons while committing to create safer conditions.

    Third, Follow Geoff’s advice given in that paragraph, bump up the move out date a bit, find a man who actually respects you as a human being or don’t, be single. yea it might not make your Bishop happy but at least you won’t have to deal with the stress of going home to a man who treats you the way you say your husband does.

    • fun bag September 23, 2015 at 7:44 pm

      why the new name, simone?

      • Rainbow Dash September 23, 2015 at 8:39 pm

        I felt like changing it.

  • htown September 25, 2015 at 9:52 am

    I assume your Bishop is a licensed Therapist or has some professional training, if not, then you should have finished high school at least. Most accountants demonstrate this behavior, it is their training.

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