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I can't give up control (potential TW)(26 Posts)
I'm hoping someone on here can give me some useful insights, I have a problem that I am so struggling with. I'm ashamed to even write it but I hope that by doing so I can get some help with it.
In a nutshell, I cannot stop controlling my husband and at times children. When I say control, I mean how they do things. For example if my husband is making dinner I will get really cross inside and snappy with him, because he is not making it how I think it should be made. I know this sounds ridiculous and you may be thinking just make it yourself but this is just one example. It's almost everything he does or how he is. Somedays I want to change everything about him and leave quite frankly. Other days I can see that he is a kind man who I love and want to build a long life with.
With the children, I can sometimes get quite snappy when they don't get ready for bed in my timescales or when I have to ask them for the hundreth time to brush their teeth. I know alot of this with children is just their different priorities but it literally drives me insane and my reaction can sometimes be cold as I'm trying not to express the intense rage inside of me. My 2 year old is very needy at the moment and the control that I feel she has over me by constantly needing me if she is upset, which thankfully is not too often) makes me stir crazy.
So as to not drip feed, I have already undergone extensive counselling (over 15 years with different therapists) due to a difficult upbringing. I know where the control issues come from, violence and anger in my family home and being sexually abused as a child. i carry around with me the instability of that home and so now I am trying to create that stability by controlling my home and those in it. I feel so sad writing that. I know the problem, but just can't move on from it and build anything stable and balanced. This is now really affecting my marriage as I;m not the easiest person to be and I am terrified of giving my children a bad childhood. WE have done some marriage counselling which was good but i go back to my old ways as that's what I need to do to feel safe. I honestly don't know where to go with this. if anyone has any experience of this and what they did to get out the other side I would be grateful to hear of it. I need some hope and practical solutions to work towards before it is too late for my marriage and I can't turn it around with my children. thankyou in advance
Have you tried antidepressants?
Not sure if this is something you might have tried before (and apologies if it is!) But if after 15 years you still feel unable to resist this urge to control, have you instead considered trying to address the associates feelings? For instance, accepting you have this deep urge to control how your husband cooks, but deciding to address how you react with tools such as anger management, instead of treating the root cause.
My amateur armchair psychology would suggest that perhaps seeking to come to terms with your childhood is not something you are able to do yet, but what you can do, is seek out techniques to remain calm, address your anger and alter your behavior, regardless of the cause.
I hope you find a resolution, sending you best wishes.
You sound like my brothers OH.
Do you let others outside of your DH help much?
thankyou everyone for your replies. To answer your questions, I have not tried antidepressants yet. i have considered them but I am frightened they will make me feel worse. I have spent so many years putting on different faces to people to cover this up that I am exhausted by it and can't bear the thought of feeling even more worse. I have two young children (5 and 2) so there is quite a bit of chaos in my house which has made things alot worse for me but looking back I have spent my whole life controlling everything. I am 46 years old so its been a long term habit.
re: addressing the associated feelings, no i haven't and thankyou for your suggestion. I wonder if this is my problem, trying to control the awful feelings I get when things are out of control. as though something just awful is going to happen, so its imperative that I control what ever it is. It's literally like my life depends on controlling whatever is out of control. I had always assumed that if I treated the root cause that the associated feelings and reactions would go. They have not. Only last week someone I knew brought up my past and the abuse and I burst into tears. It's all so raw, despite 15 years or thereapy and nearly 40 years after it started! I will look into this further, if I had some tools to help me deal with those awful feelings then I think I would not be so scared of them. Thankyou very much for your suggestion.
re: letting others help, no, not at all. I have alot of really lovely friends, I feel very blessed on that front but I really don't let any of them in so to speak. It's only my best friend really who I have let help me. I don't trust anyone else with my children. No one is good enough to look after them how I want them to be looked after. I feel like a lost cause writing that, hopefully I'm not! My best friends has babysat for me once but that's it. She has asked many times if she can help but I always decline. If someone does help me I am incredibly grateful, almost unhealthily so. And when someone is not equally as appreciative if I give help then I do feel very hard done by.
I think you need to speak to your gp. You are clearly struggling and I know feeling normal can feel completely unachievable when you are in that constant anxiety but antidepressants really are life changing. They don't work over night but give it time and one day you will realise you're feeling normal. It's a huge relief not to be bogged down by your own thoughts!
I agree about the anti depressants and recommend you give them a try.
Is the need to control coming from anxiety? If so, can you treat the anxiety?
Have you tried something like EMDR for the trauma?
Sounds like you need the "how" rather than just the "why". CBT can help with this if you haven't had it already.
I am a controller by nature too. For a multitude of reasons. Like you probably partly trying to create safety and stability which I didn't have growing up. I have had to work super hard to change it. It's not easy but I didn't want to be that person any more. Not sure it will ever go completely but it's within a reasonable tolerance level now.
1. Pick my battles. I chose the things that were really important to me and had calm discussions about those things and agreed a way forward on them. I try to put anything else to one side and leave him to it.
2. My husband and I agreed that we would not talk to each other horribly. This was a big one for us. We love each other and agreed that we would always speak to each other and respond to each other as if we love each other! So even if bringing up something that's annoying us we do it nicely and kindly. We are human so we to slip but the other person reminds us and that's usually enough bid it isn't we take some space. It's been revolutionary in our relationship tbh and its made us and home so much nicer and better to be in for both of us. Home feels safer emotionally and it feels as we if we really support each other and are a team.
Your control is keeping him away and at a distance. It's hostile and horrible to be on the receiving end of. Having more loving communication will make you start to feel safer and supported and heard. And you will in turn feel less need for control if you feel safer. I'm not suggesting it's a magic bullet btw. You are dealing with a lot and it will take time and a multi faceted approach. IMHO anyway.
3. Don't bottle things up. You sound a lot like you are trying not to say anything and it's boiling up into rage. Say things but refer to points 1 and 2.
4. Get husband on board with the above. It works both ways and if you get to say your stuff, he gets to say his. But again refer to 1 and 2!!
5. Walk away! If he is cooking and the way he's doing it is annoying you for no good reason other than it's not what you would do. Don't look at it. Don't go in the kitchen at all if it's going to drive you mad. If you can't see it you have no idea how he's doing it so it can't annoy you! 😊 what you can't see and all that.
And that's it pretty much.
It hasn't fixed everything. I still have mental health issues and low self esteem that I am struggling with but it's made our relationship and home so much better. My home and husband are now a refuge and most of the time he makes me feel very safe. Which is a new feeling for me that I am still processing and working on feeling like that's not going anywhere.
Anyway hope this is in some small way helpful to you. If not that's ok too.
Good luck with your mental health journey 💐💐💐
Given that you're 46, I think you should consider the fact that you might be in peri-menopause which makes everything, anxiety, fatigue, emotional imbalance even worse. You might find that HRT helps significantly.
As for just one of your issues, your husband cooking, have you not simply stayed out of the kitchen while he is cooking? If you know how controlling you'll be, remove yourself from the situation.
If you're 46 could you be menopausal?
I ask because i felt so irritable/angry with everyone until I got hrt.
Combined with your childhood it may be a factor.
I left my husband because of his controlling behaviour, and I draw many parallels between your behaviour and his. He would go ape shit if I popped the wrong pill out of the packet... according to him.
Please keep talking to your husband and explain how you feel... and I also think a trip to the GPs would be an excellent idea.
thankyou everyone for your posts and advice. They have been very helpful to me as it's forced me to really think about what is going on here and how abnormal this situation is.
To answer some of the questions in turn, yes, the need for control is coming from anxiety. Basically when something happens that I don't expect/don't want to happen I start feeling very anxious and stressed and then I react to that anxiety/stress by controlling the situation. part of that controlling is to be snappy, nag, criticize etc as I am desperately trying to gain the upper hand and I don't realise the hurt my reaction is having until my flight/flight response has calmed down which can sometimes be minutes, more often hours and sometimes days. This movement from anxiety to control happens automatically. I've been doing it for so long that I can't seem to intercept it. I definitely need some tools so that I can find another way.
@MiniMum97 thankyou for you comprehensive post. It's been helpful and no, I have not tried EMDR but I am exploring it. I have bought a book recently by the founder of EMDR to try and understand it a bit more. I'm nervous about starting yet another therapy (I've already done CBT, schema, and psychodynamic therapy) albeit would give it a go if I felt could move me forward.
yes, I have considered I could be perimenopausal. I've been using nutrition alot to try and balance my hormones and that has taken the edge of things some months but mostly it's the same reaction. I do need to pick my battles with my husband and keep my mouth shut when he is doing something I don't like, such as cooking. I find that so hard, having had to keep the abuse hidden for so long, it's like I refuse to keep stuff inside now that I don't like but also aware I can't keep being like this otherwise my husband may well leave me. i don't want to be in those shoes. I feel like a complete mess writing this. This post has been a real eye opener for me nevertheless. thankyou all for your ideas and experiences
Sorry you had such a bad time when you were younger OP.
I’d keep away from difficult situations.
If you can’t see him doing stuff ‘wrong’ in the kitchen then you can’t correct him. Learn to walk away when you see the start of something that will kick off your controlling behaviour and control yourself into going to fold some laundry in the bedroom or whatever instead.
Let your friend babysit for short periods of time. How much can she do wrong in half an hour when she (presumably) has knowledge of childcare. Yeah you may do a better job but half an hour will be fine. Eventually, and only if you do it often enough, you will feel more confident. Repeated exposure to trigger situations helped me (blood phobia, couldn’t even look at pictures in a book, I’m much better now). You just have to persevere. Use your control gene to control your own behaviour instead of everyone else’s.
Mental illness is shit. You've had good suggestions so far to explore and I thoroughly recommend EMDR for trauma.
Without sounding rude, in regards to the dh cooking bit, have you ever just removed yourself from the kitchen before he starts.... If you can't see it, you may not get irritated. Take kids on a walk around the block or something. Don't enter kitchen til it's on the table.
I used to be just like this OP, and it's bloody hard. I'm out the other side now and it feels great to relinquish the control (though it's not always easy). It's a habit you have to break. Kids need you to be in charge but not your dh.
HRT might help if you are going through the menopause but you've got to rationalise things somehow. Hopefully this post shows it's possible.
Yes I will remove myself from the kitchen when dh is doing the cooking and leave him to it. It doesn’t help that he is working from home full time now so my control buttons are really being pushed, hence why I think things are reaching fever pitch. If I can bite my tongue on the kitchen front though that bodes well for the future I guess. Just wished I didn’t have this need to control everything in the first place and to this degree.
Hmmm, it's complicated but I guess it was the effect it had on my DH & children.
Things came to a head eventually and when they did my DH said he was scared of doing anything because he knew when he did it would disappoint me. He also stopped doing things at all, which made me even more frustrated.
I think you've just got to make a conscious decision to let things go. It actually feels good. I feel terribly guilty about how I managed my children & have seen that it has made them have self esteem issues as they too feel they were never good enough. A lot of what I did was trying to help them make the best of themselves and have opportunities and was a reaction to my own mother's lax parenting style but it had the opposite effect. I can see their logic - they feel like there's a way of doing something and a failure if they don't adhere.
I still find it difficult to witness the chaos when my dh cooks and try and stay out if the kitchen. I try & focus on his intention to do something for me. And I appreciate the things he does. I probably don't ask him to do so much too as I used to wish for him to have control whilst always beating him for not doing so.
I think the key is to care less about stuff/the standard of stuff. Try and focus on the objective rather than the process. And keep in mind the consequences of your behaviour. Good luck!
*berating (not beating) 🥊
Your thread reminds me of how I used to be/feel. I have a very similar childhood history. I have had a great deal of therapy, treatment etc. I thought I had it all under control by my early thirties. After marriage and our first child the desire to control returned with a vengeance. I think it is because becoming a mother inevitably makes you reflect and remember what was happening to you when you were their age. I interpret my/your intense, desperate and savage need to control my/our husband's cooking for example as a result of only ever really trusting myself/yourself. Our boundaries and rights were very seriously violated as children. The control is a way in which we think we keep ourselves and our precious loved ones safe. But we end up suffocating and disabling our loved ones.
The single overnight occurrence which helped me to make a remarkably quick change was this. I had a huge wake up call. My mother (my abuser)) died very suddenly and relatively young. Then my dearest, dearest best friend died months later of cancer.
After my Mother died I was flooded by memories of her, her voice and how she made me feel. I remember the night my mother died, vowing not to die and have my childrens' memories of me be a controlling joyless mother. I realised that 'stuff' does not matter. My loved ones matter.
Children really absorb atmospheres in a home. Now I embrace the mess, my husband putting Sabatier knives in the dishwasher, my kids wanting to make slime. I like it when my ten year old spills milk, because it's a chance to model to him to that you just wipe it up! No problem!
I can even leave poo smears on the loo which my kids have left! I really hope this helps. I sensed great isolation from your thread. You are not alone. Pm me if you like.
Also, I found that the more I let go, the easier it became to let go. Even when I would have to act it a bit, it would get easier because gradually it was a habit. When I struggled with wanting to control, I also just did lots of deep slow breathing. This would automatically make me feel calmer.
You have to remember you are an amazing strong woman who has experienced more than other people. You have a marriage and children! Don't anguish about messing up your DC. You could even talk to them about it as they grow and get closer. It also helped that I was open with my DH about it and now it's a loving joke. So when he's cooking I march in and put my arms round him and say "Right I taking control! Surrender your wooden spoons and stop the tomato paste splatter!"
Then he'd laugh and say something like "Get lost, sexy, and stop pinching my condiments." Then it's sort of fun and flirty.
This thread could be your support thread!
I think EMDR or something like that could be beneficial too. You said you had tried other forms of therapy and of course they all have their place but you said fight or flight mode is kicking in, that reaction is happening in your body and that causes your mind to react that way so in the moment it's not so easy to 'think' your way out of what is happening in your body.
It sounds like your window of tolerance is extremely low. You might have came across that before in therapy....this article is very good and you'll notice at the end that the list of things to do to try to get yourself out of either state are physical actions to try to regulate your body.
When you start snapping, nagging or criticising do you ever get to a point where you hear yourself and realise how out of control or over the top it sounds? That's the point where you should try to get into the habit of trying to stop it and then try to go into another room maybe and calm yourself down. You don't need to keep going so that your initial reaction can be justified.
How supportive is your husband?
Could you get him on board and say you realise you have an issue with letting small irritations escalate and you really want to stop...but it's a habit now to do it for various reasons...so it's going to take time but you're going to try to stop yourself mid tantrum (for want of a better word) and let it go.
Tell him that you really need him to be on board with it and to pleas not use this admission that you know you can sometimes go OTT against you in the moment by saying things like calm down or anything that is likely to have the opposite effect.
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