Controlling Tendencies

I’m a control freak by nature and love to, want to, and at one time, felt like I had to be in charge of most things. Surrendering doesn’t come easy in my life but I’ve learned how to be pretty good at it now, specifically because I’ve come to the end of myself so many times and had to surrender. Upon disclosure of my affair, I wanted to control how Samantha was going to respond and what choices we were going to make. Samantha was used to me being this sort of control freak for the previous 10 years of our marriage. To say I had a messiah complex was a bit of an understatement as I did consider myself a bit of a messiah for our family, our church, and our church members. I wanted to be at the center of almost everything and felt like I was the leader who needed to be involved in most, if not all, decisions. Looking back, it’s not only humorous, but grievous to see how prideful I was and how ‘in charge’ I wanted to be in my life and in the lives of anyone who was under my leadership and that included my family.

Just after disclosure, something in Samantha decided it was no longer going to be the case. Maybe it was the stored up anger and resentment? Maybe it was the fact that I had broken all trust and completely lived a lie for two years?  Maybe it was the righteous indignation inside of her that was brewing and causing her to finally stand up for herself? If I’m being honest it was probably almost all of those things which were causing her to decide I was not going to be in control of what recovery looked like.

I have a saying that I share with betrayed spouses probably every day. It helps them realize that they have to be educated and empowered on making their own decisions. It goes like this: “Any time the unfaithful is in charge of what recovery looks like, something is wrong.” After all, the unfaithful is the one who cheated, broke covenant and went outside the marriage. To think they, the unfaithful, are the healthy one in this relationship and situation is a mistake. They have been living a lie for who knows how long and have gone on in the affair justifying it and rationalizing it to themselves, and to think they are in their right minds now is ambitious at best. The betrayed is many times in shock of the affair and is often times caught completely off guard, but is in a far better place to know what they need to feel safe than the unfaithful does.

I wanted Samantha to ‘move on’ and let’s start rebuilding things together. I disguised my control with this seemingly heroic sense of “here we go, it’s you and I against the world and we’re going to heal and move on.” If that was my mantra or hearts intent six or nine months into recovery and we had had enough time to process things, it would have been a huge win and a wonderful sign of my willingness to do whatever it took to save the marriage. At this point though, just a couple weeks into disclosure and new found life changing trauma, it was a subtle way of controlling how Samantha was going to respond.

She was having none of it. She was going to decide what we did, when we did it and if we did anything. Samantha would look at the marriage in a new light and one day would deliver a crushing, yet truthful blow to my persona when she said to me “You don’t get to choose what recovery looks like. After all, look what you being in charge has brought us to in our marriage and in our lives?”

I had no retort or rebuttal. I had to own it. She was no longer going to be led by me in this situation. She wanted to weigh her options and she wanted to decide on her own what she wanted to do.

I know in my situation, I wanted to control Samantha’s emotions. I wanted to keep her from over reacting and from having reminders, etc., as it helped me feel in control. When Samantha had a reminder or a trigger and felt incredible waves of emotion, I then felt out of control. I then felt like I was helpless and couldn’t heal her, fix her or control her. I was left feeling as though I wasn’t in charge and that scared me. I felt like if I was in charge I didn’t have to trust anyone else but me. Yet, it was this incredible paradox as I had completely ruined our lives by being in charge. It was pure self-reliance and fear which were driving the bus, so to speak. This entire experience helped reveal how self-reliant I was and how afraid I was of not being in charge. It revealed how much I really just didn’t trust God or the process within this whole experience.

I had become a master at control and looking out for number one, myself. I’ll never forget the time a friend said to me “Samantha has every right to be angry and divorce your good for nothing self. Stop trying to limit what she gets to do, say or feel. You can’t control her. You can’t control this situation. You can only control what actions you make and how you respond.”

It was a punch in the gut. It was true. I had tried to control her and her reaction and I was doing it now. She needed to be respected and loved even though she was acting crazy at times and was unreasonable in her anger or her reactions; the fact was she was traumatized. I had to give her the right to be angry and upset and not judge her for it, or distance myself from her or alienate her in her pain. After all, she was in pain due to my choices and my actions and my affair. She was the victim of my choices and she was the victim to the actions of many others in the church. So for me to try and control her responses was the epitome of harsh, controlling and falsely messianic on my part. She needed freedom and she needed love from me: unconditional love from the perspective that she was in pain, not acting rationally and the best thing I could do was love her as she walked through this pain of betrayal while also not knowing if she wanted to stay married to me. She didn’t need any more control by me. She needed the freedom to feel without me deciding how she was allowed to feel. 

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Samuel, once again appreciate your soul-searching honesty about your experience. Isn't it ironic how much the unfaithful partner calls the betrayed partner "controlling" in affair situations, especially when in the fog? And they use the fact that you were controlling as to why they broke vows and went outside the marriage? I can't tell you how many times my unfaithful wife has called me controlling during this 3+ year ordeal. It is sickening for me to hear that! Telling lies, deceiving, omitting, gaslighting, stealing time, money and attention from the family unit, committing the ultimate betrayal of your committed partner, those are truly controlling. Aren't they?

Samuel I'm just about to run

His two year affair was just discovered 11 months ago. My life has been blown up like an atomic bomb. However, we both got help fast! ESMO and EMS Weekend. Ive also done Harboring Hope.We still have our calls and have made amazing friends through this. But, I'm still devastated. He goes to 12 step at our church & a mentor group. My question for you is that despite all the efforts my husband is making (and he is getting closer to the Lord each day) there is this zipped lip mentality when it comes for me needing some answers. His lack of seeing I need this for myself to move on and decide to really give him my heart back is something he doesn't see the value in it. Its gone.He has only shared about the things he sees necessary. I am trying my best! Giving him love, and a home to stay with our children. Throughout our marriage if he didn't want to do something he just wouldn't. He took off tonight and I texted please come home and he won't. It was regarding the questions. I'm so tired of being sad. I'm the one who never runs or hides that is why I can handle some of the questions I have to ask.

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