Virginia Beach resident Robin Radcliff had control issues. Her sensational 1991 murder plot against her husband James included an extramarital affair, her pregnancy by the other man, a faked burglary, murder for hire, and (steady, now) Robin rolling around in James’s blood. All of this is recounted in a new episode on Oxygen television and may be an extreme case of a controlling woman. Had she just followed a few simple steps, perhaps she could have avoided a life sentence.

Signs of a Controlling Spouse

You or your spouse could be attempting to control your spouse, contributing to tension and frustration within your marriage. You may not recognize the signs, but these 15  indicators may mean one of you is trying to control the other, according to a licensed professional counselor on MomJunction:

  1. Frequent criticism
  2. Monitoring the spouse’s whereabouts
  3. Refusing to acknowledge one’s own mistakes
  4. Laying on guilt
  5. Acting victimized
  6. Isolating the spouse from family members and friends
  7. Quick, profound temper
  8. Invading privacy
  9. Reinterpreting basic rights as exclusive gifts and favors
  10. Bragging and boasting about oneself
  11. Displaying jealousy
  12. Stubborn, obsessive refusal to compromise
  13. Making the spouse feel indebted
  14. Spying on the spouse
  15. Threatening the spouse

Remember, either one of you could be doing these things to the other. If you find yourself ticking off some of these behaviors, you may be the controlling person. Relinquishing that control gives you enormous gifts and can revitalize your marriage.


Once you acknowledge your attempts to unreasonably control your spouse, you can work on giving up that control. What do you get from making a conscious change? Relationship counselor Laura Doyle lays out the bounty:

  • You gain dignity, as you toss off the detective’s cap and start to focus on your own life
  • You feel energetic, restoring to your own body all that diverted energy you wasted on attempting to control your spouse
  • Your sex life improves as trust is rebuilt between you
  • You look more handsome, since a genuine smile and a hearty laugh are universally appealing
  • You gain friends and find deeper relationships with family
  • You gain confidence

Being Self-centered

A clear line must be drawn between relinquishing controlling behaviors — no longer micromanaging your spouse — and becoming self-centered. Think of your marriage as three elements:

  1. You
  2. Your spouse
  3. The marriage

All three must be acknowledged, fed, nurtured, and loved for your lives to intertwine successfully. As you stop focusing on your spouse for negative reasons, you can increase the time you devote to improving your marriage.

What does that look like? Experts writing at Symbis provide some tips:

  • Curb your urge to criticize your spouse — which is more important, the direction of the toilet paper roll or your marriage?
  • Loosen up your schedule — Deliberately set time aside for constructive activities to strengthen your marriage, whether that means appointments for sex (yes, it’s a thing!), taking in a Norfolk Tides baseball game even if you don’t like baseball, or calling your spouse’s parents just to chat
  • Be mindful — If you are not self-regulating by checking on your stress level, breathing patterns, heart rate, or emotional health, you cannot possibly support your spouse or contribute healthily to the marriage
  • Accept the good — Neither of you needs to be perfect, neither of you needs to stock the pantry in some mathematically perfect way; let go of perfectionism and enjoy the present
  • Ask for help — Delegate tasks to your spouse, to family members, to anyone who can help you to devote more energy and focus to your marriage

If you shift your patterned reactions away from your spouse, you still have two other entities that need your attention: yourself and your marriage. The flowers you buy to put on the dining table are not just for your spouse, they are a signal that you want to brighten and improve both your lives.


When we are out of esteem — an insane boss, an overbearing sports coach, a stand-up comic who zeroes in on you alone — we shrivel inside and out. When the person who makes you feel bad is your own spouse, you can never feel fulfilled.

If you have left your spouse in that position, if you have stripped your spouse of dignity, independent thinking, or esteem, your marriage is unhealthy.

When, though, you relinquish control and celebrate your marriage, your spouse can reawaken. The rewards for both of you are many, but author Daniel A. Miller enumerates a few:

  • Once you realize you are powerless over forcing change on another person, you accept each other for who you are
  • Realizing neither of you will be an ideal mate makes both of you happier
  • Giving up unreasonable expectations allows you to celebrate pleasant revelations and small joys
  • Confronting your mutual fears together makes your bond stronger

Your spouse is supposed to be your most intimate, strongest relationship in your life. The secrets, surprises, and sufferings you share can make your marriage genuinely healthy.

The Firm For Men supports Virginia’s men in all areas of family law and domestic relations. We handle separation and divorce, yes, but we also encourage the preservation of healthy, happy marriages. Contact us today to learn about our complete range of legal services to protect your rights, financial stability, and bright future.