Marriage Help: How to Deal with a Controlling Wife Like Kate Gosselin

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    Paula’s husband and friends have nicknamed her “Kate.” Not because it’s short for Katherine or because she reminds them of the Princess, but because she acts like the famous controlling wife Kate Gosselin from the TV show Jon & Kate Plus 8.

    It’s a joke, she told me, as she laughed it off, but it looked to me like, underneath the laughter, the name really hurt her.

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    Paula acknowledged being controlling and knows that’s what the name means.

    Like Kate Gosselin, she says, she likes to get her way.

    She also says there are many reasons why “getting her way” is important to her. It’s not purely selfish, which is what most people assume.

    In Paula’s mind, she’s trying to do the best for her family, but her husband, Brian, doesn’t always see it that way. In fact, they argue about her intentions quite frequently.

    They’re not alone.

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    Controlling behavior causes problems in many marriages and, taken to the extreme, is a form of abuse. In fact, when it comes to abuse perpetrated by women, controlling and manipulative behavior are the primary forms.

    Could your wife (or you) be guilty of being a controlling wife like Kate (and Paula)?

    What A Controlling Wife Can Look Like

    Brian says he hates how Paula treats him. It makes him feel like less of a man and as though she has no respect for him.

    This is not only painful, it’s also embarrassing.

    She’s constantly,

    • Correcting him in front of their friends

    • Telling him how do things

    • Claiming he’s done something wrong and needs to do it over again

    • Blaming him for things that go wrong

    • Belittling him

    • Redoing what he’s already done because it needs to be “done right”

    It makes him feel like she thinks he’s an idiot and incapable of handling life in general.

    And it also makes him feel like there’s no way for him to make her happy.

    Not knowing how to deal with his controlling wife, he just started calling her “Kate.”

    Initially, he said it to lessen the tension and get her to back off, but then it stuck, and the implications became more serious and more hurtful.

    Not surprisingly, Brian’s sarcastic humor hasn’t helped change Paula’s behavior. In fact, it’s made her angry, and she’s lashed back at him by being even more of a control freak.

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    His sarcasm and her need to control the world around her, making sure everyone is “okay,” has only made their marriage ten times worse. So, Brian and Paula eventually came to marriage counseling for some help.

    Why People Are Controlling And What To Do About It

    Controlling behavior can seem manipulative and abusive. And at times it can be one or both of these.

    What people don’t often understand about controlling behavior is that it usually is a form of self-preservation.

    An individual’s desire to control their environment can be driven by the need to make the world feel right and safe.

    This need and the resulting actions can significantly impact the people around them and not in a positive way. No matter whether the intentions are good or not, controlling behavior isn’t healthy or okay. In fact, it can be the cause of a lot of pain in a relationship, as is evident in Brian and Paula’s situation.

    Does any of this sound familiar?

    Control issues in a relationship aren’t uncommon.

    If you think you’re married to a controlling person too, here are two things you can begin to do:

    1. Understand Why

    Controlling behavior is usually a defense mechanism which is a method our minds develop to deal with circumstances that make us uncomfortable.

    In the case of controlling behavior, it's a way to cope with living in a chaotic and unpredictable world. There's very little in this world that is within our control. That can be difficult to accept.

    People who exhibit this behavior often attempt to calm their emotions by trying to control things around them.

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    Most controlling people are fearful and anxious about the world they live in. They try to lessen these uncomfortable feelings by imposing their will and wishes on everyone around them. Knowing how the person likely feels on the inside can help you see past their outward behavior and be more understanding of what's happening.

    Controlling you is really about controlling their feelings.

    2. Set Boundaries

    Boundaries are limits you place on how that person can treat you. The natural world around us requires boundaries, and we need them to function properly, too.

    Setting boundaries can be very unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Keep in mind that control freaks aren’t used to dealing with boundaries, so they usually rebel against them. And setting boundaries can be seen as lacking empathy or just another form of control, even though they’re actually neither.

    What To Take Away

    Controlling behavior is difficult for everyone involved, which is why it’s important to recognize the underlying reasons people who are controlling act that way.

    A controlling wife like Kate or Paula is likely to have internal issues that need to be dealt with and may need your help and support to do so. Helping them will mean you’ll need to go slow and be patient. These behaviors don’t change overnight.

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    Remember,

    A controlling wife can change, but she will need to find the motivation to do so.

    • Using sarcastic nicknames or responding with anger or belligerence isn’t likely to help her.

    • Trying to recognize the underlying reasons for her behavior will help you to be more understanding and effective in helping her change.

    • If you’ve been prone to name calling or anger in response to your wife’s controlling behavior, you’ll need to change too.

    Controlling behavior shouldn’t simply be accepted. Left unchecked it can slowly cross the line and become abusive. If that happens it will compound the problems and correcting the behavior becomes more difficult.

    If you’re dealing with a controlling wife you’ll both need time to learn new rules and that playing by them can be better for everybody -- even for your "Kate."

    Got a controlling wife in your life? Please tell us how you deal with her behavior in the comments below.

    Editor's Note: This post was originally published October 10, 2009, updated June 19, 2018 and December 31, 2019, and has been updated again with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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