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Dr David Christian Marriage Advice

When One Spouse Has All the Power

When One Spouse Has All the Power

We were created in God’s divine order to have dominion over the rest of creation. God’s power is in us and in the Universe and permeates all of creation. It is in Him that we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17: 27-28)

Power is, thus, not a bad thing. To want to rule over creation, to seek adventure, and even to win the heart of a damsel in distress. John Eldridge, in his popular book Wild at Heart says of a woman, “She’ll make you want to charge the castle, slay the giant, leap across parapets. Or maybe, hit a home run.” 

Power is not a bad thing. It is when people abuse power that problems occur. It is when power is used to gain and maintain control over a victim for abusive purposes that the problem occurs. It is when the goal of the abuser is to control and intimidate the victim that there is a problem.

I have found this problem to be insidious, rampant within Christian circles as well as outside of them. However, few abusers of power and control wake up in the morning with the express goal of overwhelming their mate with power and control. Rather, through the use of “thinking errors”, they believe their way is the right way. Their use of money is best. Their plan for the marriage is “right.” The way they want to run the marriage and family is “best” and they have all the justifications to back up his position. 

Sadly, when abuse of power occurs within Christian circles, that place most want to believe is the safest place for them, spiritual abuse and victimization occurs. Few spiritual leaders intend to inflict harm when they quote Scripture and direct their congregation in the specific direction. However, when any person inflicts their power over another, diminishing and weakening them, the result is disastrous. 

Sometimes we consider these people with a need for power as control freaks. They are often perfectionists. They want things to go their way and have little ability to tolerate frustration. Like young children, they hate things to go against them. These people manipulate and pressure others to change to get what they want without changing their behavior. Tragically, they may, and often do, resort to other “crazymaking” tactics to maintain that control, such as intimidation, arguing, diminishing, rewriting history, and invalidation. The result is the same: You feel smaller while they become larger and more powerful. 

Let’s consider what you can do if faced with someone who seems to relish power and control. What are steps you can take to balance the power?  

First, tell yourself the truth. We cannot change what we do not own. While it can be painful to consider the abuse of power and control, you must see the problem for you to have an impact on it.

Second, speak up. Don’t allow yourself to have your reality dictated by another. Consider what you think and feel and don’t allow that voice to be silenced, as tempting as that might be at times. Find places of support and listening ears to your reality.

Third, define your boundaries. “We teach people how to treat us.” Again, while it is not easy to speak up, this is critical. It is also imperative to define what is important to us and stand up for it. We need not be militant or aggressive, but must be assertive.

Fourth, respond in a kind manner, according to your desires for yourself. We never need to respond in a  similar manner. Scripture tells us, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (I Peter 3: 9) 

Fifth, maintain respect for yourself. As you live your own life, being the person you choose to be, you will feel a sense of respect. As you strive toward being the person God called you to be, you will feel a sense of self-respect and being blessed by God.

Finally, see God’s work in the small places of life. God cares about every detail of your life. Keep watch to notice the small victories as you set boundaries, respond from a clear and decisive place and refuse to fight. Notice God at work in your heart and in your marriage.    

Have you suffered from the abuse of power and control? If you would like further help, we are here for you. Please send responses to me at and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives as well as our newly formed Subscription Group for women struggling with emotional abuse. 

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