Editor's Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address questions from Crosswalk readers in his weekly column. Submit your question to him at: TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
I have written a series of articles from my book, Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life. While these articles have been informative, from the numerous responses I’ve received I realize there is something I’ve overlooked: How to give constructive feedback to the Control Freak
Here is a letter from a young woman, asking for an article from a slightly different slant.
Dear Dr. David. What I really would like is an article to give to a Control Freak, to read similar to the article you wrote about the person being controlled. My boyfriend fits your description of a Control Freak, but is unwilling to face it. He is in complete denial about his problems. If you have something like that, could you email it to me?
Here is my letter to the Control Freak. Hopefully this is a letter you can give to your boyfriend.
Dear Control Freak:
I suspect that your first reaction to this letter is that it cannot possibly apply to you. That would be typical because every time I try to get you to see your part in things, you turn them back on me. It’s always my fault. You find a way to twist the truth, rationalize, justify and make excuses for your actions. It drives me crazy.
I’m sure you don’t want to admit that what you’re doing is creating chaos in a relationship. No one wants to feel wrong or bad. This letter isn’t about being “wrong” or “bad.” We all have sin and problems in our lives. We all fall short of perfection. But, knowing our weaknesses is an act of humility, and it’s time for you to dig deep and find some humility within yourself.
I want you to know what it’s like living with you. You always have to be “right,” and in the process I have to be “wrong.” I’ve gotten hooked so many times by you, trying to get you to see things from my perspective. I’m not going to do that anymore, but want you to know that I’ve lost myself in the process of relating to you.
I also want you to know that I share fewer and fewer things with you. I don’t sense you really care how I feel, or even how I’m doing. You want things to be your way, so I’ve learned to mostly keep my mouth shut. Every time I do, however, a little more of my love for you dies.
I’m finally learning that arguing with you is pointless. You’re a great debater. You have a reason for everything, an answer for everything, and a black and white picture for every situation. If what I say doesn’t fit into your black and white world, I’m out of luck.
I want you to know that I feel belittled by you. I feel humiliated by you. I feel suffocated by you. I feel exhausted by you.
What I now wish is that you would take a step back and see if any part of this letter is true. Even if you can’t swallow everything, we could start again if you would have an open heart about some of it. Even if you didn’t admit to everything, I’d feel happy if you’d admit to some of it and make a vow to change.
So, please consider the truth of this letter. Please reflect on these truths so that we can have a relationship. If things don’t change, if you don’t open your heart to see where you’ve hurt me deeply, we may not have a relationship in the future.
I do have one caution about sending this letter. Keep in mind, “we teach people how to treat us,” or perhaps more accurately in your situation, people act the way they do because they can! When others’ behavior no longer works, they often give it up. When we let others know their behavior is intolerable, and mean it, people change. Be sure to take responsibility for your part in this relationship.
Controlled: Please let our readers know how things turn out. How did you do at setting firm boundaries, and how did the Control Freak in your life react to this letter?
David Hawkins, Ph.D., is the founder of the Marriage Recovery Center. He has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. He is the author of over 18 books, including Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, Saying It So He'll Listen, and When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His newest books are titled The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Healing a Hurting Relationship and The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Living Beyond Guilt. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.