It's All About Control

Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Scripture: Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.  Romans 14:19 (NKJV)

Observation: Jewish people often spoke of the perfect future time of God’s kingdom (see 1 Cor 6:9), when the Spirit would be made available and all people would be at peace with one another (Rom 14:17). For Paul, the coming of the Messiah and the coming of the Spirit have also inaugurated the working of the kingdom, hence believers should be at peace with one another (14:19).

Application: Here’s a riddle: Everybody wants it.  But if you use it in your marriage you could lose everything.  What is it?  The answer is control.

One of the easiest ways to destroy a marriage is for one to attempt to control his/her spouse – or for both partners to try to control each other.   Sometimes the couple is not even aware of what they’re doing because control takes many subtle forms.  Here are a few ways that spouses use in an attempt to control one another – whether consciously or unconsciously.  As you read this list, and it’s description, consider whether you may be using it to control your spouse.

Persistence – which usually means begging, insisting, expressing your expectations or demands. The objective is to wear down your spouse until they give in.   It’s like a child who repeatedly his/her  parents until he/she gets what he/she wants.

Nagging  – is similar to persistence with the added characteristic that it virtually always takes a very negative tone. The goal is also to wear your partner down – but it does so specifically by annoying or irritating until he/she finally caves.

Avoidance - usually takes the form of physical or emotional distance. This happens when you withdraw yourself by refusing meaningful communication, by being emotionally unavailable, or even by physically evading one’s mate. A common form of avoidance is utilizing the silent treatment or stonewalling.

Passive-aggression - similar to avoidance in many ways, but it is generally marked by specific behaviors including: apathy, procrastinating, stubbornness, creating chaos, sulking, obstructing reconciliation, and so forth. All of these are marked by a negative, although passive, disavowed resistance to interpersonal situations in the relationship.

Punishment  – which typically takes two forms. The first is withholding something that one’s spouse needs or upon which they have come to depend. This can include sex, fulfilling duties/responsibilities (i.e. household chores), favors, and so forth. The second form is inflicting something negative or hurtful upon one’s mate. This can include intentionally arranging circumstances to make their household duties more difficult, and so forth.

Withholding love can also be a form of punishment. This takes place when a spouse denies affection, intimacy, closeness, kindness, etc.  It deserves special mention because it is a particularly destructive. Because affection is a genuine need that we have as human beings, with it is withheld this can put extreme pressure on a person to conform to your wishes, but at a high cost to your  relationship.

Rewarding  – which generally takes the form of providing gifts and favors in an effort to control. It doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with giving gifts to your spouse; these are a positive way to express your love for them if done with the right motivation. Rewarding, however, becomes a form of control if the intent is to manipulate. Sometimes rewarding is done as a type of appeasement in conjunction with intimidation, punishment, or other methods of control.

The apostle Paul provides us with a better way to have a good, healthy marriage: “pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”  Avoid all desire for control and instead do everything to have peace and to build each other up.

A Prayer You May Say: Father God, help us that instead of having a desire for control in our marriage we may desire peace in our relationship and the desire to help and build each other.

Used by permission of Adventist Family Ministries, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.