Did you know that you cannot control your spouse? Think about that for a minute. We strive for control all the time in our lives. We want to control as much of our worlds as possible. The thought of a boss, parent or significant other controlling us is sometimes a difficult pill to swallow, especially if you are married. In marriage and in life, I believe that the driving force behind control is fear.

Fear of losing, fear of failing, fear of being hurt, fear of repeated abuse, fear of being cheated on, fear about your kids…the list of fears goes on and on. However, while working with another couple and then later talking to my wife, my eyes were really opened to how much about our spouse is out of our control. At the same time, it also opened my eyes to the power of what we can control.

Controllers tend to use control as a means to get our spouses to do what we want them to do. Control says “I am afraid of that relationship” so I’m going to try to negatively influence and/or impact that relationship. Control says “I’m afraid you are going to cheat on me” so I won’t let you go anywhere or do anything.  Control says “I’m afraid you won’t do it the way that I want you to” so I’m going to micro-manage every aspect of what you are doing. Here’s the truth, you can’t control the way that your spouse thinks or control who their friends are. If you try to, they will find ways to go around your “controls” without you knowing or blatantly go against your wishes. You can’t control the things they may say when you are not around (or vent about you to that fiend, I mean “friend”, you don’t like). You can’t make them love you.  You can’t make them love God.  Whether you like it or not, there are some areas in your marriage and in your spouse that you cannot control. Unfortunately, we can get so busy trying to control people, situations and things that we stop living. What I find is if we would back up from our control and deal with the real problem—our fear—we just might find ourselves happier, free and better than we ever thought we could be.

Check out this scripture from 1 John 4:18 in both the KJV and The Message:

There is no fear in love; but perfect love cast out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” -KJV

There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.” -The Message

Verse 10 of that same chapter says something I think is pretty amazing;

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins.” -KJV

The point is, since I can’t control her, I have to focus on the one thing that I know I can control…ME!  We didn’t come to God loving Him from the beginning, He loved us first and that love draws us to Him. The more we get to know Him the closer we get to Him and the more we come to love Him back. Over time we build a bond of love and trust, mutual respect and intimacy. We have to do the same with our spouses. We have to love them first and trust God to make the changes that need to happen. When we love our spouses the way God shows us to and trust Him with their lives, we win. We can be sure that God will work it out in them or in us (usually it’s a combination of the two). Either way, we win.

David McIntyre