Controlling Husband

December 10, 2013 Updated: April 24, 2016

Dear Kathy,

     My husband is so controlling that I feel like I can’t breathe sometimes. He wants to know where I am at all times. He quizzes my  mother and sister when they call me. And he’s driven away several of my friends over the years. 

     All we ever do is fight. I feel numb inside. I’ve stayed as long as I have because of the kids, but I’m starting to think more and more that they’d be better off in a peaceful home with divorced parents than growing up in a war zone.

     Can men as controlling as my husband be helped by therapy?



Dear Sharon,

     Your question about whether or not your husband can be helped by therapy reminds me of an old joke. How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change. Anyone who truly wants help from therapy will get it, their motivational level is the key factor.

     Generally speaking, controlling people feel out of  control. In order to address their anxiety, they attempt to exert their control as much as possible over their own lives and the lives of those with whom they have formed an attachment.

     I advise you to seek out a marital therapist certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). EFT is a highly effective, research-based therapy modality based on attachment theory. Most couples working with an EFT therapist are eventually able to identify their negative cycle of interaction, their emotional triggers, and their partner’s emotional triggers.

     Once their cycle is understood, each individual works toward understanding his/her primary emotions and how these deep emotions drive the cycle. Eventually, they see their cycle while it is occurring, rather than after the fight happens, and they relate better to one another, strengthening their bond. 

      I wish you all the best regarding your difficult marital situation. Please let me know how things work out!