Skip to main content
civalias-kune-332510

The Pain That Pushes Us to Try to Control

Photo by Civalias Kune on Unsplash

In my experience with women who feel they have to be in control of situations and other people, there is usually some level of trauma or hurt in her past. The level of trauma can vary. But usually something happened that caused her, as a young girl, to develop the following kind of thinking:

  • The people who are supposed to be in charge are weak. (Maybe they are incapable, absent, traumatized, or addicts.)
    • My parents can’t even take proper care of themselves. I have to be the adult and take care of them.
      • I have to be the savior for my parents.
    • My parents can’t/won’t take care of the household. I have to take care of it.
    • They are not able or willing to take proper care of me. So I have to take care of myself or no one else will meet my legitimate needs.
      • I have to be the savior for myself.
    • I have to protect my  younger siblings or something awful will happen (maybe something awful did happen, and I felt I should have been able to prevent it but I failed).
      • Our parents have failed my siblings.
      • My brothers and sisters need me.
      • I am the only one who can help them.
      • I am responsible for their lives, safety, and wellbeing. I am the parent now.
      • I have to be the savior for my siblings.
  • I am responsible for other people.
    • I am responsible for my parents.
    • I am responsible for my siblings.
    • I am responsible for other people in the world.
  • I have to take some of God’s sovereignty on my shoulders because if I don’t, everything will fall apart.
    • People who are in positions of authority in my life have failed me.
    • They seem wimpy and weak.
    • Everything is up to me.
    • It is my duty and responsibility to be sure things go right.
    • It would be irresponsible of me not to take care of other people because I am the only one who can.
    • I can’t be irresponsible and cause other people to suffer like I suffered.
    • I can’t be irresponsible and cause myself to suffer again.
    • Yes, this weight of responsibility for everything and everyone is way too much, but if I set it down, it will result in catastrophe like I have experienced before.
    • Stress, worry, anxiety, and bitterness are just the price I have to pay for having to be in charge. There is no way around those things. This is what love is.
    • I can’t trust anyone else. They will fail me.
    • People in positions of authority represent God to me, and so I have to conclude that God must also be weak, incapable, or absent.
    • I can’t really trust God.
    • I can only trust myself.
    • I have the wisdom that people need. Only I can help everyone.
    • I have to be the savior for everyone.
  • I am not secure financially, emotionally, relationally, or physically. 

Some Things That May Have Been Triggers:

  • Someone got hurt and she took full responsibility and believes it was completely her fault (even if it really wasn’t). She can’t forgive herself. She feels compelled to prevent something like that from ever happening again. She feels overly responsible for other people because of this.
  • Perhaps her dad was very passive or absent and her mom was completely in charge and had a controlling personality and being a controlling woman/wife/mom just seems “normal.”
  • She may have been the oldest child and was given, or felt she had to take, extra responsibility for her siblings and felt she had to act like a parent more than a sibling.
  • Her pastor or parents may have taught, or she may have misunderstood, that people’s free will is huge and God’s sovereignty is very small.
  • She may have heard that she is responsible for making sure people go to heaven or it will be her fault they end up in hell.
  • She may have witnessed some horrific tragedy or accident at school or somewhere else and blamed herself for not being able to stop it or for not being able to save everyone.
  • She may have been taught that God does not exist and she can only depend on herself.
  • She may have personality traits tend to lean toward being a fixer, doer, and in charge.
  • Her sinful nature is happy to help promote control and pride.
  • She may have bought some of the messages of radical feminism, even if she didn’t study it, just by absorbing it from our culture.
    • Women should be in charge.
    • Men are evil.
    • Women are goddesses and are always good.
    • Men are idiots.
    • Women are very wise.
    • God either doesn’t exist or He is a woman.
    • You can’t depend on the God of the Bible.
    • The Bible has no authority over our lives as women.
    • The Bible is not true.
    • The church has no authority over our lives.
    • No God-given authority in scripture has any right to guide, lead, or direct women.
    • Everything rests on your shoulders as a woman to take care of yourself.

The bottom line is this:

  • She believes she must make sure everything turns out okay and that it is her responsibility to do so.
  • She has a small, wimpy, or non-existent picture of God and a picture of herself as big, strong, and powerful.
  • Self is on the throne of her life, not God.
  • She is ensnared by pride and unbelief.

She develops some skewed thinking about God, others, relationships, and herself. That skewed thinking becomes the foundation of her understanding for how to relate in marriage and family later.

When someone’s core beliefs about God, other people, relationships, and themselves get skewed (and all of us experience this to some degree) – the only way to heal is for that person to be willing to examine these core beliefs against real truth. We must learn to take our thoughts captive for Christ. That is a scary thing. A painful thing – at first. But it is a necessary pain that leads to healing. Kind of like the pain of having a wound full of gangrene debrided. It is necessary to get rid of the toxins and the lethal infection. As we tear out the faulty foundations in our thinking, we can invite God to help us build all of our fixed beliefs about important topics on His Word and truth alone.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matt. 7:24-27

 

We all tend to develop wrong thinking as children. Then we build our lives on those messed up beliefs. But when we build on anything other than the truth of God’s Word, we are building on sinking sand. Things begin to collapse the farther we go along in life because the foundation of our belief system is faulty.

It takes great courage to be willing to examine our fixed beliefs and to question them. And to allow the Lord to show us His infinitely higher way of thinking. We have to tear out the old foundation and rebuild a new foundation for our belief system on Jesus and His Word. It is hard. But it is worth it.

As we do this, we have the incredible blessing and gift from the Lord of finding spiritual, emotional, and relational healing in Christ.

Next week we will dig further into the cure for a compulsion to control.

SHARE:

If you struggle with control, is there a specific event or situation in your past that you can link to this struggle? You are welcome to share with us.

Much love!

RELATED:

Identifying the Lies We Have Embraced (My new book, The Peaceful Mom, will have a whole chapter on this issue with a chart of lies we tend to believe vs. the truth of God’s Word – the book releases March 27th, 2018).

Healthy VS Unhealthy Relationships

Fear Fuels Our Need to Control

The Spiritual Healing That Is Available to Each of Us in Christ – by Radiant

25 Ways to Be a Safe Place for Your Husband Emotionally

Taking Our Thoughts Captive for Christ – VIDEO

Facing Our Deepest Fears

Experiencing God’s Victory over Fear

But I’m Right! I’m the Better Leader. I Should Be in Charge.

Why Won’t My Husband Lead?

My Husband Is Not a Good Enough Spiritual Leader

Ways Husbands Lead That Wives Often Don’t Notice

48 thoughts on “The Pain That Pushes Us to Try to Control

  1. Hi April,
    This post is very useful. You really are a brilliant woman. Keep up the good work!

    I would like to share my story with you and your readers. I want to shout from the rooftops what God has done for me!

    When I was a teenager, my Dad got involved with another woman and just stopped paying the bills of my household. My mom was working but her salary was not big enough to make up for it. We began to suffer emotionally and also materially. It was a struggle for my mother to pay basic bills and put food on the table. We almost became homeless several times. My mother responded with weakness – crying constantly and running to me for advice every 5 minutes (advice she would completely ignore). She was too ashamed to talk about it with her friends or relatives and only came to me. She acted needy, helpless and completely dependent on me. She was too weak to make the slightest effort to improve our situation by for example, looking for a part-time or weekend job to supplement her income. Seeing her in that state and dealing with the pressure to take care of her and guide her was more painful, frustrating and stressful than words can even begin to describe.

    I felt abandoned emotionally and financially by both of my parents. I could not depend on them to support me or be there for me in any way. My Dad was never around and could not be trusted to take care of me. My mother was constantly around but reversed the parent-child role and expected me to take care of her and find ways to resolve her problems, with my advice, guidance and support. I responded by studying constantly with the goal of getting a scholarship to go to university so I would not have to depend on them for even a dollar. In other words, I had to be my own savior. That feeling of having to depend on no one but myself was very painful and caused me years of pain, heartache, anger and depression. I spent years in a deep hole of darkness and depression.

    Growing up with a weak mother also made me become a “rescuer” – always trying to help, guide and rescue others and ending up frustrated, hurt, angry and disappointed each time because no matter how much advice, guidance and support I give to others, there’s absolutely nothing I can do to save anyone. Trying to save others caused me nothing but pain, heartache, anger and depression.

    I sought therapy through seeing a variety of counsellors. Through the amazing grace of God, I found a Christian counselor who encouraged me to read the Bible and re-build my emotional house on his Word. She said that only the Word of God can effectively transform me, change me and heal me. I have grown leaps and bounds emotionally since I started picking up the Bible and reading it every day. Getting into the Word of God has caused more transformation and healing than hours upon hours in prayer and worship. Nothing can replace the role of God’s word in my life.

    I no longer try to be a savior – to myself or to others – and I’m much healthier emotionally and spiritually that I have ever been. I didn’t even know that I could feel so free and happy.

    Jesus is the Saviour of everyone in the world world. Because of that, I don’t need to save anyone, not even myself, and that feels absolutely AMAZING!

    Lots of love,
    Nikki

    1. Nikki,

      Thank you so very much for sharing. Yes, when a parent is unfaithful and doesn’t provide well – that could absolutely impact a child’s thinking about people in positions of God-given authority which also reflects on a child’s understanding of God, Himself. And if a mom seems so weak, and a child has to take over, that also contributes greatly to a child feeling she has to be big, strong, wise, and in charge.

      I’m so very sorry for the pain you have been through as a child. 🙁 My heart breaks over the situation you faced growing up.

      I’m so thankful to the Lord for the counselor He brought into your life who encouraged you to rebuild your life on the Word of God! PRAISE GOD!!!!! Even if our parents have failed us, even if we had skewed thinking growing up that hurt us and impacted us adversely even as adults, God can heal us as we turn to Him and His truth. His truth will set us free!

      Isn’t it the most amazing step toward peace to realize you aren’t anyone’s savior? That Jesus has that role completely covered?

      WOOHOO!

      Much love!

  2. Hi April,
    I really connected with your message today, and can relate very very well to Nikki’s story. I had a similar situation growing up, leaving me emotionaly scarred.

    My alcoholic (and occasionally physically abusive) father abandoned our family when he got a woman from church choir pregnant. He moved in with her about 20 blocks away. My mother was depressed and kept a messy home. She did not fix herself up, which I attributed to why my father left. I took on much of the responsibility as a child. I was ashamed of our situation because we were very poor and because no one else I knew had divorced parents (and the whole town knew of our situation). When my mother pulled it together after a few years and went to college to enable her to support us, I became a Latchkey kid, and missed out on a “normal” childhood (carefree, fun, happy). All I wanted was a regular mom and dad. I vowed to make the best life I could for my children.

    I am in therapy, working to recognize my co-dependent and controlling behavior. I try to fix everyone, but am left feeling helpless when they don’t take my advice after I have put so much effort in! I am perfectionistic in many areas. I have so much pain and sadness, and never feel happy. I choose men who are either very controlling or passive. My first marraige ended after my “best friend” and husband of 16 years left me and my children for a man.

    My older son knows his father is gay, but not my younger son. I have tried to do everything in my power to allow my boys to have a “normal” family, and despite my insurance policy to marry my friend (no romantic feelings for husband #1), he did to me and my kids a similar thing that my own father did to me and my mom and brother. He abandoned us and humiliated us. I was sacrificing a romantic marraige for what I thought was a secure marriage that would never end in divorce. A month after my first husband moved out, I met my now husband (13 years older than me) who I fell crazy and madly in love with. We have been together 11 years, and married for 3. We argue a lot and fight behind closed doors frequently. He accuses me of being controlling.

    I try to follow your advice in The Peaceful Wife, but I feel taken advantage of when I submit to my current husband, because I feel that he does not do the right thing for me and my children. He can be Mr. Wonderful at times, but just as often, he actions are troubling. He gambles excessively then relies on me to pick up the pieces financially. He does not help me much, and I am the only one working. He is retired, and hangs out all day with his friends while I work, cook and clean. He will cancel our plans to go see a friend. He leaves in the middle of the night to hang out with his younger (gambling) buddies. He is addicted to watching tv, and has decreased interaction with the family as a result.

    I have prayed that God would change his heart and move him to step up and be the man he says he is. I would love to trust his judgement, but in many areas, I feel I cannot. I catch him in lies (usually related to gambling). I love him, and am trying to make our volatile relationship work. He gets easily angry and yells a lot, but is never physical. I have become a spy, tracking his whereabouts via GPS, looking in his phone to see who he is talking to. I am so controlling, but I justify it because I do not want to be a fool (again).

    Please pray for me to be healed emotionally. I am in therapy 1x per week with my female therapist and I have brought The Peaceful Wife book to my therapy sessions, to help my therapist understand my desire to follow your advice. My husband goes one time per week with his own therpist to help him primarily with his anxiety/panic disorder, and we go one time per week together (to his therapist) for marraige counseling.
    Just sharing my experience so someone out there might feel that they are not alone. Thanks to Nikki for sharing her story.
    Jen

    1. Jen,

      Oh, wow. 🙁

      My heart aches with you over your childhood and your parents’ painful marriage and all the trauma that happened with them. How I long for children to have a godly, loving, secure family environment where they can grow and thrive. Of course, I actually did have a loving, stable, pretty godly home – and I still got a lot of skewed thinking from some things that happened. So – we all do have healing to do as adults. We are all in the same boat in many ways. We all need Jesus and His power desperately!

      I have a number of posts about the issues you are describing.
      Perfectionism
      Insecurity
      Security

      I’m so glad you are working on the scars you carry from your childhood. I, too, developed codependency and felt that everyone needed my advice and couldn’t understand why people didn’t want and appreciate all of my amazing wisdom.

      With the situation with your current husband, I believe The Peaceful Wife will be helpful in a lot of ways relating to your walk with the Lord, but I would also very highly recommend Nina Roesner’s eCourse Strength and Dignity to help you navigate some of the issues with him and how to set appropriate boundaries in a healthy way. Not a controlling way.

      Lord,
      We lift up Jen, her husband, and her boys and invite Your Spirit to burst into this family and situation. Bring the healing they all need in Jesus. Let Your Spirit sweep through like a flood and transform and heal everyone in this family. Set them free from the enemy’s snares and dungeons. Let them yield fully to Christ and to Your abundant spiritual life that You have already provided for them.

      Amen!

      1. Thank you so much, April! Please know how grateful I am for you and your perspective in my life. Thank you for your beautiful prayer! God Bless you always.

        1. Jen,

          I’m honored to be here and that we can walk together on this road to encourage and bless each other.

          May the Lord greatly bless your walk with Him and help you grow by leaps and bounds to become the woman He calls you to be.

    2. Hi Jen,
      Thanks for sharing your story. It’s very encouraging to know that I am not alone in the way I was raised and the things I went through as a teenager.

      The part of your story that struck me most deeply, which is: “I try to fix everyone, but am left feeling helpless when they don’t take my advice after I have put so much effort in! ….. I have so much pain and sadness, and never feel happy”.

      I used to do just that – expend loads and loads of energy trying to fix people. I just ended up feeling helpless, frustrated, emotionally-drained, hurt, angry and sad. Not only do I have a 100% failure rate in fixing/ changing/ helping others, I always end up deeply broken and wounded each and every time. After years upon years of suffering in this way, I have learned my lesson and I have just stopped trying to help/ change/ fix/ control others.

      The truth is that you cannot fix anyone. When you realize that, it will be the most liberating and wonderful experience of your life. Only Christ is a savior. Not You. You cannot control or save anyone from anything ever – not your mother, your husband or even your children – so you shouldn’t even try. You truly are helpless to help/ change/ fix others. It’s not your job or responsibility to do so. It is only Christ’s job.

      What really helped me to embrace that truth is the passage from Jeremiah 17:5-10. When someone trusts in my human flesh to save them, they end up “like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives”. People can only flourish when they put their trust in God.

      These days, when people who act weak and needy approach me with the expectation that I can help or save them, I just point them to Christ and/or give them the number for the Christian counselor who helped me. I don’t bend over backwards trying to help/ encourage/ change/ control them with my advice, guidance or support. It has made a huge difference in my life and I’m so glad that I have embraced that beautiful truth.

      God is amazing and he wants to set you free. Only his truth (that he is the savior and you are not) can set you free.

      Lots of love,
      Nikki

      1. Thank you Nikki, for being courageous and sharing your story. I have been praying so much about God coming in and changing me. I loved the scripture you shared in your reply to me. It was enlightening what was said about the person you are helping does not realize the gift of your help, or the “prosperity” it may bring. I spend a lot of effort trying to counsel others, and it leaves me drained. Funny how I think I can advise everyone else with the “right thing” for them to do, but I can’t even fix my own life, relationship or parenting! God Bless you today and always.

        1. Hi Jen,
          Your comment made me laugh because I can relate so well.

          When I was always trying to help/ fix/ counsel/ save others, I was an emotional wreck and my own life was a mess. Since I’ve stopped doing that, I’ve been able to take care of myself and give myself the love and support I need.

          God will never allow us to prosper emotionally when we are trying to take over his job as saviour.

          What helped me a lot was a book called “Codependent no more” and reading about the victim triangle ( Rescuer – Persecutor – Victim). Look it up online when you have time.

          Much love,
          Nikki

        2. Nikki and Jen,

          You know something that is interesting? I used to spend tons of time giving people advice, telling them what they should do, trying to make them understand, trying to force them to do what I thought was best. All in the name of “helping” and “loving them.” But they didn’t appreciate my help, and I was totally exhausted.

          I spent about 3.5 years pretty isolated from other people at the beginning of my journey, just focusing on God and my family. Allowing Him to transform my thinking, my mind, my heart, and my perspective. It was kind of like Paul’s 3 years in the wilderness.

          Now, I have a ministry where thousands of women come and I hear many problems every day. I am giving advice, in a way. But I am not burdened. There is a huge difference now.

          BEFORE:
          – I thought I was the key. I thought people needed ME. There was a lot of pride going on.
          – I felt responsible FOR people to try to make them do “the right thing” and I felt responsible if they didn’t follow my advice. I felt that it would be my fault if something bad happened to them.
          – I tried to do all of the counseling in my wisdom and my strength.
          – I tried to carry the weight of other people’s problems, burdens, decisions, and eternity on my shoulders.

          THAT was exhausting. And left them and me empty, anxious, afraid, resentful, and a lot of icky stuff. I was not actually helping anyone. I was making things worse for them and for myself.

          NOW:
          – I know I have to be completely filled up with the Spirit, truth, and have all of my spiritual armor on before I begin to address anyone else.
          – I know all I have to offer that is of value is Jesus, His truth, His gospel, His love, His healing, etc… it is ALL about Him. It is not about me.
          – I see Him as the Healer and Savior. I am just one of the little peons that helps to bring friends to Jesus for what they really need.
          – I know that I can explain something all day long every day for 6 months, but if the Spirit is not involved, no one’s eyes will open.
          – I know I can’t even open my own eyes.
          – I know I am totally dependent on the Spirit of God and the Word of God to raise people to new life, to transform them, and to help them to see.
          – I know I can’t carry the weight of other people’s lives, problems, and pain. I can empathize and sympathize. I can mourn with them when they mourn. I can pray for them. I can meet some physical needs. But most of all, they need Jesus. I MUST lay all of the spiritual weight at His feet. Then I am free of the weight and He will handle things.
          – I let people make their own choices. I know where their responsibility begins and mine ends. My responsibility is simply to share the good news, the truth, the love, the hope of Jesus. My responsibility is to share what He has shown me and to love others with His love. It is up to other people what they do with that. And I can invite the Spirit to work in them and trust Him with all of the heavy lifting.

          Now, I can minister, but I don’t feel weighed down. I feel light, peaceful, joyful, and hopeful as I wait and watch in eager anticipation of all that God will do. It is all about His power and His glory. It is not about me.

          Perhaps this may be helpful.

          Much love!

          Much love!

              1. Hi April and Jen,

                I just got the most amazing insight. No weapon formed against any of us can prosper. That includes weapons formed against us in the past. All the pain from our childhoods or past relationships and current challenges are tiny compared to God’s healing and transformative power.

                God makes everything work out for our good (Romans 8:28). God has control over everything.

                We don’t need to brood over past hurts as if they can still damage us now or if they will keep us in bondage and pain forever.

                God redeems, transforms and heals everything.

                God is ALWAYS victorious in ALL things and he works everything out for our good.

                The world teaches us that childhood trauma will affect us for the rest of our lives but it just isn’t true.

                Regardless of how much pain we have experienced, God will use our experiences to benefit us, strengthen us and transform us into powerful instruments to bring more healing and peace into the world.

                We don’t need to cry over our childhoods or relationship challenges. We can rejoice in the knowledge that God will work it all out for our good.

                Praise God!!!

              2. Nikki,

                YES!!!!!!!!!!!! This brings the biggest smile to my face. YES! Our parents may mess up – and they will to one degree or another. And we will mess ourselves up to some degree. And our sinful nature always needs the cross of Christ and all of His power and healing. No matter what may have happened to us, we are all on level ground at the foot of the cross in need of the same Jesus and His healing and new Life.

                And YES! He can absolutely heal our childhood wounds and scars and use them to make something beautiful. No weapon formed against God’s children can prosper. He will take all that Satan intends to use for evil against us and turn it into a masterpiece of beauty, goodness, joy, and blessing.

                You don’t have to freak out about the challenges your son is facing. God will give you wisdom. You will love him through it and pray him through it. And God will direct you and your husband. You have access to the Holy of Holies in the throne room of the highest heaven. You are already seated in heavenly places with Jesus!

                We are not orphans. We are not spiritual paupers. We don’t have to live like that anymore. We don’t have to live in constant defeat and discouragement. We have JESUS!!!!

                Love this!

                And YES! PRAISE GOD!

  3. What a great article . I am a mother a retired military wife and a Nurse . It’s in my nature to take control and fix – with my husband gone on and off for the 20 yrs he was in the Army. I had no family so I just became used to doing everything . I have spent many years trying to fix especially when it comes to my job as I am a manager and in my marriage. I use to be weak not seeking out to God when resentment built up. It was and is hard.

    I used to try to do it all to impress my husband for his acceptance but then when I got my nursing license things changed. I realized I can’t do it all and I gotta let go and let God take control. Now that I have some that a great deal of stress has been lifted. The only thing these days I try to fix is my husband. He is not saved. While he goes to church with me once in a while I know he enjoys it but he can’t submit. He is angry, short-tempered and negative most days. He doesn’t recognize this is how he is. I find myself still trying to control and fix. I want to lead him closer to the Lord and I try hard to do that by being a good example but I can’t fix it and that is hard for me to accept. Right now, I just pray a lot. I know I am not the only women out here who is going through the same.

    1. Hi LP,
      My husband isn’t saved either. He sees God, church and the Bible as good things but he has no interest in pursuing them for himself. From my experience, trying to rescue/ control/ fix/ help others results in nothing but devastating emotional damage, pain and suffering. Because of that, I know better than to preach to him and control/direct his relationship with God. I just try to live with lots of respect, kindness, generosity, mercy and forgiveness in my heart and win him over without a word (1 Peter 3:1). I don’t want him to come to Christ because of me. I want him to feel the call of Christ in his own heart to commit to Christ by his own will.

      Please stop trying to lead/ control/ fix/ direct your husband’s spiritual path. God can call him in the most amazing way ever. Leave that job to Christ. It’s his job and his job alone. Your only job is to love, honour and respect your husband.

      God is all-powerful and will speak directly to our husbands’ hearts.

      1. Nikki,

        Thanks for sharing with LP. It is very true that we can’t make a husband come to Christ. And that preaching, talking about spiritual things, nagging, lecturing, etc… only repel them.

        I have some posts here that may be a blessing.

        Also:
        My Secret Idol
        6 Things I’ve Learned from Having an Unbelieving Husband
        Why Doesn’t My Husband Appreciate My Helpful Suggestions?
        Signs Your Husband Feels Disrespected and Unloved
        What Is Disrespect in Marriage?
        What Is Respect in Marriage?
        My Primary Goal As a Wife Has to Be This One Thing
        23 Signs Your Husband Is Beginning to Trust You Again
        25 Ways to be an Emotionally Safe Place for Your Husband

        And, some women may benefit greatly – especially in situations like this – from taking Nina Roesner’s Strength and Dignity eCourse.

    2. LP,

      It is so wonderful to hear from you! Your story reminds me of my grandmother. She is going to be 98 in 2 weeks!?!? Her husband was in the Coast Guard and was often out to sea for 6 months at a time or more with no communication at all. She had to handle everything at home. Then my grandfather finally retired. They built a brick house and finally had a real house instead of living in a small trailer. A few months later, Hurricane Camile hit and devastated them. Not long after that, my grandfather died of a massive heart attack in his early 50s. She went back to school to become a respiratory therapist. And she continued on the rest of her life unmarried, taking care of things herself. She and I have some very similar personality traits.

      It is particularly challenging when you do have to do everything yourself for long periods of time, and then trying to adjust when your husband comes home. And if you are a nurse, you have to take care of things at work. It’s also hard to turn off that mode when you come home. I didn’t turn off “pharmacist mode” well for many years myself when I would come home.

      I’m so glad that you realized you can’t do everything and that you needed God’s help. Praise God for that!

      Would you be interested in some resources that may be a blessing as you seek to minister to your husband?

      Much love to you! I can’t wait to see all that God has in store! I pray for His continued healing and transformation for your life and for your husband’s salvation.

      1. would most definitely be interested in additional resources . Thank you Nikki for your advice . As each day goes by for me I continue to struggle he wakes up angry and negative and he comes home the same I tip toe around him now where as before I would find myself trying to fix things doing anything I could to take the burden and make him happier . He suffers from depression and winter is hard for him but he doesn’t seek additional help . He doesn’t have many friends at all bc he doesn’t know how to be a true friend and tends to be selfish which is easily recognize by others. Besides going to church I volunteer to feed the homeless with a group every Tuesday . He has gone with me a few times but not consistently saying he “won’t have it occupy all his time”. I am having surgery this week will be laid up for 6 weeks which means he will take me to and from work but in his own words he can’t take me church small group because it’s too much for him . When I mention it’s fine I can take a Uber he responded back that it’s just not that easy and will make him look bad bc it will make him look like a husband who doesn’t care . I tend to be respectful when responding always giving a alternate to a situation so I am not going to be a burden to him . But I know I need to continue to follow the path that God wants me to follow.

        1. LP,

          I wonder if he might be willing to take some vitamin D in winter? That may be helpful with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

          How do you usually respond or act when he is negative and grumpy?

          It is possible to try to please our husbands too much, to make their approval an idol, something we want more than God’s approval. That is a big problem. It’s fine to seek to bless our men in healthy ways. But our husband’s happiness is ultimately their own issue. We can do things that honor and bless them. But they are responsible for their emotions, and we are responsible for ours. We don’t have the power to “make” our spouse happy.

          I would also encourage you to check out this post about respecting ourselves. And “I Can’t Have Needs. I Can’t Ask for Things or Have Feelings, Desires, or Emotions.”

          I know I shared a lot of posts. Let me know if you want to talk about any of them and if/when you would like some more resources. God has some wonderful healing in store for you as He helps to expose some toxic thinking that has been holding you captive, and that may have been sabotaging your efforts with your husband, too. I can’t wait to see all that He will do!

          Much love!

          Praying for you both!

          Much love!
          April

  4. What I have learned from God is that when He is having you let go of a situation or relationship it is best to not try and get in the last word, prove a point, or try to make the person stay and force the situation to work but to pray and seek God for a way out of something that He is showing you is becoming a closed chapter in your life, but to willingly let go and not look back! Even a job, friend, etc. or it could be as simple as dropping an argument that someone may be attempting to pull you into for any reason.

    The road to life is narrow and there’s a confidence and security in knowing His plans are safest and best if we keep the path and not demand our way to be known by God and by other people. I will say, when someone actually begins the painful steps towards healing it can seem like everything is falling apart in their life as God prunes and refines in His image as He reshapes your entire life, and its aim is to fill it up with Himself and His good gifts for His children! But it takes lots of “letting go’s”, to quote Elizabeth Elliot! May He get us all to this place of liberty and experience the redemptive power of Christ’s precious, healing blood!

    1. Jamie,

      Ooh! That is an awesome point about not trying to have the last word, prove your point, or try to make the person work things out the way you want it to.

      Yes, when we begin to seek to trust God, we have a very real enemy who is NOT going to be happy about that and who will try to derail us. But God will use all of that to help refine, prune, and mature us to be stronger, and more beautiful in His sight.

      I am using the quote about letting go from Elisabeth Elliot in my new book! Love that quote!

      Yes, may we each experience the power of God’s Spirit and His truth transforming our hearts and regenerating our souls and may we experience His abundant Life and Love!

  5. This is a fabulous post, April! Love it, you’ve described me to a tee, or how I once was rather. I was the family caretaker who had to look after my parents, and God was more like an absent and distant Father who had pretty much abandoned us. It’s a tragic tale and it left me a bit like Scarlet in Gone with the wind, “I’ll never be under anyones authority again!”

    Love how you said this, “I have to take some of God’s sovereignty on my shoulders.” A bit funny, but what triggered the start of my healing was literally shoulder problems.in my 20’s. Turns out trying to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders isn’t healthy physically either.

    God is good and faithful, too.It’s been a long journey, but His healing really is possible. Submission can be really healthy for women in more ways than one. 🙂

    1. insanitybytes22,

      I had some issues, too, that helped me develop this kind of thinking.

      I’m so glad that God showed you that you couldn’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders – that this is His job. And that He opened your eyes by the physical pain you were having.

      God is so good. Submission to God is freeing and healing for all of us! Submission to His ways bring us all Life, Love, Peace, Joy, and fulfillment as we yield to His Lordship and wisdom.

      Much love!

  6. Hi April,

    I’m going to join in a little on this discussion if you don’t mind. A lot of these things apply to men as well.

    These statements are true of me:

    – I have to take some of God’s sovereignty on my shoulders because if I don’t, everything will fall apart.
    – It is my duty and responsibility to be sure things go right.
    – I can’t be irresponsible and cause other people to suffer like I suffered.
    – Yes, this weight of responsibility for everything and everyone is way too much, but if I set it down, it will result in catastrophe like I have experienced before.
    – Stress, worry, anxiety, and bitterness are just the price I have to pay for having to be in charge. There is no way around those things. This is what love is.
    – I can’t trust anyone else. They will fail me.
    – He may have heard that he is responsible for making sure people go to heaven or it will be his fault they end up in hell.
    – He may have personality traits tend to lean toward being a fixer, doer, and in charge.
    – He believes he must make sure everything turns out okay and that it is his responsibility to do so.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on the cure for this control. HH

    1. Humbled Husband,

      I was thinking about how many boys would be similarly impacted in these situations, too. Thank you for sharing some of the issues that affected you and contributed to feeling you had to try to be in control.

      I’m excited about next week’s post, too! 🙂

      1. Yes, it is something that effects us all, male or female! I know that I still have a LOT to learn, in so many areas.

        I found that even once I realised that I am not responsible for my ex-wife’s decisions and was able to let that go, I still carry a sense of blame in my own heart because of what the children are experiencing. I do find it hard to let THIS go into God’s hands, particularly when I hear the kids so often express their wish for us to live together as a ‘family’. I wish that I could ‘fix’ it all for their sake….it’s a painful thing to see their pain and know that I can’t change it. HH

        1. HH,

          It would be so painful to watch your children hurt and want to see the family healed – but you don’t have control over your wife. I can definitely appreciate that a parent in such a situation would be very tempted to feel guilty. However, let’s look at scripture:

          – If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
          But if the unbeliever leaves, let him leave. A brother or a sister is not bound in such cases. God has called you to live in peace. 1 Cor. 7:15
          “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he doesn’t pay attention to them, tell the church. If he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you.” Matt. 18:15-17
          The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline. Prov. 1:7
          Every wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands. Prov. 14:1
          A person’s own foolishness leads him astray, yet his heart rages against the Lord. Prov. 19:3

          I am fairly familiar with your situation, with all that you have done to seek to heal the marriage, to honor the Lord, and to repay evil with good.

          Scripture instructs us in ways that will lead to LIFE not shame, not worldly grief:

          1. God does not hold you responsible for your wife’s desertion and her sin.
          2. You are responsible to live in peace with your wife as much as it depends on you. But it does not entirely depend on you. If she will not also work at living together or work at peace, you can’t make her live with you. God didn’t force Israel to stay with Him. He let her abandon Him many times. He was always faithful. But He had healthy boundaries and He did not blame Himself for her sin.
          3. You followed Matthew 18:15-17. Because of the unrepentant heart that came out of that experience, you know that you are dealing with an unbeliever.
          4. If an unbeliever leaves a marriage, God does not hold the believer responsible for the unbeliever leaving and encourages them to let the unbeliever leave and make their choice if that is what they decide to do.
          5. You and your wife, and every other person on the planet, have to make your own individual choices about whether to be wise and fear the Lord and serve Him or whether to rebel against Him and be a fool. You made your choice. She made hers. I pray she will repent while there is still time.
          6. Again, she is responsible for the damage she has done to the marriage and family. You are responsible for your sin. She is responsible for hers.
          7. Foolishness leads us to rebel against God. Sin and foolishness are things we own as individuals. We can’t blame our spouse for our own foolishness or our own sin. We each carry total responsibility for our sin.

          We will continue to pray for the Lord’s intervention and for Him to set your wife free to know Jesus as Savior and Lord, that He might wake her up from spiritual death into His glorious life. And we will continue to pray for His wisdom for you as you seek to love and lead your children in God’s ways and for God’s healing and for Him to compensate to them all the hurt they have experienced. I pray God will use this time of great trial in their lives and your life to result in much good. I know it already has in so many ways. And God is not done yet!

          In Him,
          April

          1. April, I agree with all that you have written in your response to me now, thank you. And yes, there has been a LOT of good through these trials ☺

            I was reading through one of the links you posted in this thread called “Insecurity”. It is good and right. I want to ask a question though, I read this from the link “I truly believed it was my job to make everyone’s lives turn out right. That is TOO MUCH PRESSURE!” and this “I believe that when we put ourselves in the place of God in our lives (idolizing self), we think we should be able to be perfect, and when we discover we cannot be perfect, that can definitely lead to “low self esteem.”  We see we are not “good enough.””

            I have experienced this a bit, the pressure and the sense of not being good enough. An example would be recently my daughter said “Daddy I want to sing you a song I made up”. She then proceeded to sing “Daddy and Mummy walked across the road together, they came back holding hands. They never ever left ever ever again and loved each other for ever”.

            Do you know how hard it is to hear that? It just drains the joy and peace right out of me when I hear things like that from her little mouth, I want to make it right. It definitely makes me feel “not good enough” as a father and I certainly feel pressured by these comments to hold the door open to a reconciliation, which truthfully is the last thing I actually want after all the adultery.

            How does a father (or mother) in situations like this maintain the joy that is given in Christ? I often feel a huge burden at the pain of the children, is even this burden something that can be lifted, do you think? I agree that we shouldn’t carry others burdens, but it is difficult for me to see how I can not carry a burden over this.

            In Christ, HH

            1. HH,
              Your kids know what marriage should be. They know it should be “happily ever after” because it is supposed to be a picture of Jesus and the church. I am sure that hearing that hurts VERY much. But – Satan would love to use that to try to destroy you and to kill your joy and rob you of what Jesus has given you. When they say that, perhaps it would be a good time to stop and pray for your wife together. And to let them know that yes, marriage is supposed to be for a lifetime, and that you did everything you could to try to save the marriage. But that – very sadly – you aren’t able to be together now as a family and they will understand better one day when they are older. It is sad. And it shouldn’t have been this way. But this is how things are right now – so it is time to make the best of the current situation. They can still love Mummy and they can still love Daddy. And God is awesome at taking broken things, even broken families, and making something beautiful. And God is able to heal their wounds and make up for anything they have lacked.

              I don’t think you can take that pain off of their shoulders. It is a consequence of your wife’s decisions and sin. But you can be there with them through it. You can pray over them. You can lead them to the hope and healing that is in Jesus. You can empathize with their pain and mourn with them. And then you can show them the amazing possibilities that are theirs in Christ that no circumstances and no person can ever take away and the true riches of heaven that can be theirs.

              It could also be a great time to sing praise songs to God together and to shift their focus to the picture of Jesus and the church and the happily ever after we will all get to experience with Him.

              1. April,

                This is a good thought. I can see how that would be of benefit to them to pray together for her and I know that whilst they want to be a whole family they do understand that we can’t be. Actually, I’m going to change my name to Humbled Father! 🙂 In Christ, HF

              2. Humbled Father,

                One of my favorite musical groups is The Gettys. They have a song called In Christ Alone.

                Check out the lyrics:

                In Christ alone my hope is found
                He is my light, my strength, my song
                This Cornerstone, this solid ground
                Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

                What heights of love, what depths of peace
                When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
                My Comforter, my All in All
                Here in the love of Christ I stand

                In Christ alone, who took on flesh
                Fullness of God in helpless babe
                This gift of love and righteousness
                Scorned by the ones He came to save

                ‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
                The wrath of God was satisfied
                For every sin on Him was laid
                Here in the death of Christ I live

                There in the ground His body lay
                Light of the world by darkness slain
                Then bursting forth in glorious Day
                Up from the grave He rose again

                And as He stands in victory
                Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
                For I am His and He is mine
                Bought with the precious blood of Christ

                No guilt in life, no fear in death
                This is the power of Christ in me
                From life’s first cry to final breath
                Jesus commands my destiny

                No power of hell, no scheme of man
                Can ever pluck me from His hand

                ‘Til He returns or calls me home
                Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

                No human, no demon, and not even Satan, himself, can rob you of your position in Christ and of God’s will for you and His GOOD plans for your life. When you seek Him first, as I know you have been doing, He will lead you on the narrow path that leads to real Life and real Love. He holds you in His hands and no one can snatch you away from Him. No one can rob you of the spiritual blessings Jesus has already provided and the work Jesus has already done on your behalf. No one.

                You have Jesus’ victory over your life. You have Jesus’ complete and total victory over all of your sin, failures, and mistakes. There is no condemnation awaiting you now. When God looks at you, He sees the holiness and righteousness and perfection of Christ. And He will continue to work in your life to conform you to the image of Christ.

                When you are submitted to His Lordship and His will, He will do amazing things. You can’t miss out on His best for you.

                He will use all of the sin against you and all of the pain and even the unwanted divorce and all that your children are going through – for something beautiful and good – as you continue to trust Him.

                It is ALL about Him and what He wants to do and what He can do.

              3. HF,
                I think, too, that this could be a wonderful time to explain that sometimes people fail us. Especially people who are spiritually hurting themselves. But even when people fail us, and people definitely will sometimes, God will not fail us. Not ever!

                Then you can lead them into the place of victory, joy, peace, and fulfillment that you have found in Jesus. Whether their parents’ marriage is perfect or not – there is every reason for hope for them in Christ. God may even use them to help lead their own mom to the Lord in the future. Who knows?

                Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. Psalm 27:10

                I know that verse isn’t completely perfect for this situation. But I think it conveys an important message. Ultimately, the Lord has and is all we need. He is enough.

                Maybe your kids won’t have the example they should have had in a human mom. But that can’t stop God and His work in their lives. God is sovereign. Not their Mama. And God is sovereign, not their Daddy. And God is able to restore the years the locusts have eaten as we seek Him and trust Him.

                He doesn’t cause people to sin. But He can use the 14+ years of sin in my marriage to bless and edify thousands of people around the world and to strengthen marriages and families. He can certainly do the same in your life. Invite Him to make something glorious from the ashes. He is an Expert at doing just that.

            2. HH:
              I’ve read some of your comments here over the past year or so. I can’t imagine being in the situation you are with your children. The example of your daughters song is almost too much. Know that I’m praying for you, your children and your wife, specifically that you can have Christ’s joy in the midst of this!

              1. ByGrace,

                Thank you for your prayer for us all 🙂 I put some comments on this blog when there are particular things that are on my mind as a part of my thought processing so my comments may sometimes reflect that everything is always awful.

                The truth is that although there ARE huge amounts of obstacles and trials in my life there are also HUGE amounts of ways that God has shown His provision and care over the past few years, and I have many, many blessings that I am grateful for. One of which is the fellowship of the body of Christ. Thank you again for your prayer!!

                I do wish to say that she is not my wife any longer. We have been divorced for many months now, her name has been legally changed back to her maiden name and she is in a relationship with another man. I consider myself to be an unmarried, single father now 🙂 In Christ, HH

  7. Great blog April…as an eldest daughter of a needy mother and abusive and later absent father, I really relate to Nikki’s story…Unfortunately I am now estranged from my family as my mother refuses to allow me to make my own life. I think this is because she became accustomed to me always being there solely to be her parent and pick up the pieces….. When I became a Christian I came into contact with Christian families in the church and gradually realised that I wasn’t responsible for her choices and started to pull away.

    Since concentrating on my own life and choices it became apparent that I really didn’t have any healthy relationships within the family or in my friendship groups. It’s a struggle to know, on my part, how much to share, give and receive in a healthy relationship.

    I am the only Christian in the family. It’s been really hard to walk away with all the associated guilt that I should be able to save or rescue the relationships. In reality I have to admit that only God can change people and bring them to Him. I would appreciate prayers also.

    Thank you

    1. Toria,

      Sometimes when a family is extremely dysfunctional, it can be necessary to limit contact with them, especially as you are healing. It’s very sad! But we will pray together for God’s healing and transformation for them. I actually have quite a bit of info about situations like this in my upcoming book, The Peaceful Mom – Building on the Foundation of Christ As Lord. A Fellow Wife, who has quite a few guests posts on my blog wrote about how to handle a situation with a very toxic mother.

      Also, http://www.leslievernick.com has a free resource section and her background was dealing with a toxic mother, as well.

      There are many moms who idolize their children. I have a chapter about that, too. It is extremely damaging to our children and to our family relationships when we idolize them. Some moms expect their children to meet needs that really only Jesus can meet. And it is super easy for children who have “needy” moms to end up extremely codependent and not understanding healthy boundaries and relationships. Your mom didn’t purposely do this, of course. She probably doesn’t know any other way to think or live. She is ensnared by the enemy and needs the healing and salvation and transformation of Jesus.

      But you can’t save her. You can’t fix her. You can’t meet her deepest needs. And you will have to set healthy boundaries on her because it is not her place to dictate your life to you. You can love her, but you don’t have to dance the old toxic dance with her now.

      I’d love for you to check out this post. Let me know if you would like to talk about what you find. There is much healing available to you in Christ. I’d be glad to point you to all that is available to you in Him.

      Much love!

  8. I have been on this journey 2 years now. I corrected my husband yesterday, which is hindshight I shouldn’t have done. It was trivial. However the explosion that followed is what is concerning to me and I’m unsure of how to proceed. He verbally belittled me in front of our daughter, told her that I’m pathetic, that mommy doesn’t love daddy, and got her to tell me to go away. Even through this I said nothing. He then asked me to leave for the night even though I’m pregnant and I had no where to go. I ended up coming home and being as compliant as possible, so that there would be no more fighting.
    What do I do? I feel that this crosses a line- involving our daughter and saying horrible things about me to her, and then getting even more angry when I don’t fight back in front of her. I feel like I’m failing to protect my daughter.

      1. That’s weird, I didn’t see an email, but thank you so much for contacting me and reaching out. I must have written my email incorrectly. A lot of detail was left out of the comment, and I do have an update.
        I wanted to say first of all that this is out of the normal behaviour for my husband. We ended up having a huge talk, and I prayed for days for God to reveal my sin and soften my husband’s heart. I felt God wasn’t answering me, but He was definitely working in His own ways. Before this talk, I sat down to write about how wronged I had been, how this behaviour was unacceptable, etc. But the Holy Spirit took over my writing and as the anger was welling up inside of me, I realized that I had said these things to my husband too. I had talked badly to his family very early in our marriage. I began to write what came out as an apology for disrespecting him years ago with his family and mine, and never allowing him to defend himself or have a voice. It came over me how even though this reaction was wrong, sinful, and over the top, I had very much contributed and was continuing on in pride thinking I had been so great.
        We talked for hours and I allowed my husband to really talk- I was defensive at first, but somehow in the Spirit I just began to really listen at how my husband began to soften and tell me how disrespectful I have been and how hurt has been. For once, I wasn’t hearing my husband and immediately snapping back and defending. I just listened, and my heart broke. The things I have said! The words I have used- I was ashamed to be faced with it. My husband admitted that he has been wrong, cruel, critical. But, I was really able to see that in 6 years of marriage I have had this negative image of him. That I’m doing him a great favour by being married to him, and that I’m so great for”respecting” him when in reality, I was just doing surface actions.
        I don’t know how to explain it- my husband was horrible that night he ‘lost it’ on me, but somehow the Spirit allowed me to see it from his broken side, and from a man I have disrespected so many times. The reaction was extreme, but the burden of trying to lead me and having me continually fight over every little thing brought him to a breaking point. It was like being given a supernatural understanding of his hurt and pain, and even though I set out to be defensive and protect myself, I grieved at how little I have thought of my husband. How my respect felt so contrived and fake. It wasn’t no wonder I could do it for a day or two and then slip back into my old ways.
        My husband even took time to explain to me all the financial burden he has been carrying, all the decisions he has made as we are going through a rough time, all the things he doesn’t weigh me down with. All the terrible jobs he works because he loves us, and he kept telling me over and over that his direction is out of love, why won’t I just accept it? I guess I never believed him. I didn’t believe he actually loved me as much as he does. He told me about so many things he does out of love, and for the first time I actually understood and believed him.
        I think worldly wisdom would still have me being defensive, and trying to figure out how to embarrass him for this and prove to him that he’s in the wrong for how he treated me. But, a veil was lifted for me. That’s the only way I can describe it. I hope this all makes sense. I feel strange that such a horrible night brought me to see my husband in a new light, but I really am renewed. I know what abuse is, and I do know that his actions were unloving and abusive. But, I also know that my husband is not reduced to his actions.
        I have been reading the blog for quite some time, but had struggled to put it all into practice, especially when my husband asks me to do something differently (like make sure his socks match when I do laundry, or make sure the car doesn’t get too empty on fuel in the winter) or follow his direction. Maybe I had projected an unhealthy image of who I thought my husband actually was, as I have had a very traumatic past with my step father.
        I would appreciate prayer for our family, that a situation like this would not happen again. That our daughter could continue to see the way we usually act together; extremely loving, and that she would never have to listen to her father become so hurt that he is trying to verbally hurt me in front of her.
        So much love to you. God bless you. Not only has this brought me closer to my husband, but even more so to God and a deeper understanding of His goodness and grace.

        1. Anonymous,

          Well, I am just doing back flips over here from pure rejoicing!

          PRAISE GOD!

          Praise God for opening your eyes and changing your heart and mind. Praise God for lifting that veil. I know exactly what you are describing. That is what God did for me in December of 2008. What an incredible beginning to a brand new chapter in your life spiritually and in your marriage! WOOHOO!

          I pray for your continued healing from the wounds you have carried for far too long from your past. And for God’s continued work in your husband’s life – for His Spirit of unity for you, your husband, and your marriage and family. And for God’s greatest glory in all of this as He continues to help you both to grow.

          I’m SOOO excited about what God has done and all that He is about to do!!!

          PRAISE GOD!

          Much love,
          April

          1. Praise God is right! We serve a GOOD God, that never changes, and I am so thankful for that.
            After I replied to you, I got a text from my husband saying that he was inspired to call his boss and apologize for his own disrespect at work. Him humbling himself in this was a huge confirmation of God working in our marriage, and assuring me to trust in my husband and ultimately Him. I’m thankful you understand the veil being lifted- definitely the most miraculous event I have ever experienced in my walk with Christ.
            Thank you for the blog- I’ve gone back and started working on the respect dare. This blog is such a huge blessing to me, so thank you. Looking forward to the posts to come. Much love

            1. Anonymous,

              WOW!

              I hope you are journalling about all of this. WOW! WOW! WOW!

              You humbled yourself and repented and listened without defending yourself. And look at the fruit God is bringing about! I am so excited that your husband also humble himself and even repented to his boss. That is amazing!

              Yes, I felt very much like “the scales of disrespect fell from my eyes” that day. I have never been the same since. So thankful for God’s work and healing!

              I am rejoicing like crazy over here with you!

              Much love,
              April

Comments will be closed for Lent from 2-14-18 through 3-28-18.

%d bloggers like this: