Marriage and Control: My Way or Ours?

“In my family we did it that way.” Is this a familiar argument in your marriage? Does using this argument help sway your spouse to do things your way? Or if you are the one who is constantly hearing this argument from your spouse, do you end up clenching your fists in silent rage each time it comes up?

While traditions are important to both you and your spouse, they can also lead to clashes if they are not managed well. Sometimes this can become such a problem in your marriage that “that’s the way we always did it” can become instant fighting words.

If “the way we did it” is used for everything from the right way to wash dishes to the correct application of the toilet paper onto the holder, you are setting your marriage up for continual strife. What is this really about? Control. It says, “I want my life to be an exact reflection of my childhood and I want my spouse to jump onboard and get with the program. MY program.

It also says that you are unwilling to examine other possibilities. Your family did not have the corner on the only right way to do things. So if you are interested in opening your mind to new ways of being and doing, consider having a talk with your spouse. Begin by listing three things that are most important to you. These would be things you feel so strongly about that you are hard-pressed to give up doing in a particular way.

Instead of using the tired old argument of “that’s the way we did it in my family,” focus on explaining what makes that particular way of doing things important to you in the present moment. Make sure you tell your spouse that you understand it’s not the only way to do it, but that for you, it’s very important.

Next, list some things that you have insisted on doing a particular way that you can let go of. If you’re having a hard time letting go of anything, you need to work on why this is so before you can let it go.

For example, if you switch off doing the dishes and you’ve been hovering over your spouse to make sure the chore is done the “right” way, agree to stay out of the kitchen when it’s not your turn. Or, if you are unwilling to do that, agree that you will always be the one to do the dishes.

When you let go of trying to fix and control your spouse, you will replace resentment with caring and appreciation. What are you waiting for?

If you are worried about the state of your relationship, I want to help. Contact me to schedule a complementary Get Acquainted session.

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