"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."1
A Daily Encounter reader writes to say how his wife seems to listen more to her mother than she does to him. He is frustrated and wants to know what he can do.
Actually it is amazing how many adult children are still being controlled by domineering parents. As long as they allow themselves to be under the control of anyone else—be it a parent, a domineering spouse, or even their children—they have a problem. It is a mark of their immaturity.
I recall having a policeman in one of my seminars who said that the children who were in trouble with the law in his town very often had parents who were afraid of them; that is, the children, and were allowing their children to control them.
People who seek to control others do so because of their immaturity and insecurity. They only feel safe when they are in control. This, of course, gives them a false sense of security as it is a defense mechanism against facing and dealing with their insecurities.
On the other hand, adults who allow others to control them also do so because of their immaturity and insecurity. They are afraid to stand up for themselves and take control of and responsibility for their own life. As adults we are to be our own person—under our own control and direction–not to be independent in relationships, but interdependent.
Furthermore, when adults allow themselves to be controlled by others, they cannot be under God's control or direction. And when people (including some legalistic pastors) seek to control others, they are playing the role of God in other people's lives.
As for married couples who allow themselves to be controlled by either of their parents, they are setting themselves up for major marital conflicts. As the Bible teaches, when we marry, we are to leave our parents and depend on each other. That is, we are to cut the emotional umbilical cord that can keep us tied to and controlled by a domineering parent. If our parents don't cut the cord and let go, we need to cut it ourselves.
The same principle applies to single adults who have a control freak parent whom they are still allowing to control them.
Sure, it isn't easy to cut the emotional umbilical cord that's been connecting us since we were in the womb. Try to cut it and the control freak will get mad and try to put us on a guilt trip—but that's his/her problem and we are not responsible for his/her reaction. Cutting the cord starts by saying, "no," then "No," and then "NO" if called for.
You can practice saying "no" to high-pressure sales people such as some telemarketers. You don't have to give a reason why you are saying "no." In other words, start by saying "no" in the easiest places first. The more you do, the stronger and more confident you will become. It may take a while for you timid ones, but you can learn to do it too. Or take a course in assertiveness training. It will be worth its weight in gold.
Remember, we are only controlled by others when we allow it. Furthermore, and most important of all, if we want our life to be under God's control and direction, we need to take ourselves out from under the control of anyone else—be it a parent, a child, or even a spouse. Marital partners are to be co-equal with each other with neither one controlling the other.
Tomorrow we will discuss how to handle guilt-throwers who use guilt to control even their adult children.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please deliver me from allowing myself to be controlled by others and from ever controlling others. I willingly commit the control of my life to your Holy Spirit. And please help me to give others the same freedom. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. Genesis 2:24 (NIV).