“Then let her be her.” I placed my thumb on his. “You have to let her out from under your thumb.”

For the first time in our conversation, he showed an emotion other than anger and frustration. He sighed, “I don’t know if that’ll help. Maybe nothing I do can offset what she feels I’ve already done. Besides, I’ll mess up. She has a lot of anger and I think the next time I say anything that she thinks might be negative, she’ll push me away even more.”

“I understand,” I replied. “When we help couples in situations such as this, we have to help them do two crucial things. First, you have to learn in a deep and profound way everything you do that leads her to feel criticized or controlled. We’ll start with the principles, but you have to have an “Aha!” moment where it all falls into place in your understanding. If that doesn’t happen, likely you’ll keep doing it without realizing that you do. Changing the habits of years typically takes some changes deep within.

“Second, she must decide to give you the opportunity to prove that you ‘get it.’ Maybe your wife hasn’t locked you out emotionally so that she no longer wishes to be in this marriage. If so, it will be easier to help the two of you build a better relationship. However, if she has reached the emotional point where she’s made the decision that you’ll never change and she must be free of you, it’s a tougher battle. It can be done, but only when she trusts you enough to try it.”

We talked for another hour. I told him stories of couples with similar situations that changed the way they interacted so that each felt equal, neither controlling the other. I pointed out that in some couples the husband controlled, but in other couples the wife. I helped him understand that his critical nature did not mean that he was a bad man, nor did it mean he was unlovable. I assured him that with our help, or the help of a good counselor, he and his wife could overcome this difficulty and make their marriage a happy and fulfilling one.

I ended with this advice.

“If you don’t do something about this, your marriage will continue to deteriorate. Hoping everything will resolve itself doesn’t work. You must take the action to fix this. If you don’t, I hope your wife does. Sometimes the controlled spouse has to make the demand to get the help to repair the marriage. If you love each other, repair this before it is too late.”

Joe Beam founded Beam Research Center, an organization that provides marriage help to hurting couples strengthen or save their marriage. Follow him on Facebook here. We would love to help your marriage, whether there is abuse, infidelity, or any other problem, please visit us at www.MarriageHelper.com, call us toll free at 866-903-0990, or email us at info@JoeBeam.com.

Publication date: December 21, 2012