Is Your Wife Controlling? 7 Signs She Is And How To Address It

It’s official: Your wife is a control freak.

She needs to control everything — and she becomes near impossible to live with when she can’t. 

Fortunately, there are things you can do to help your controlling wife address the fears behind her behavior.

She needs you to love and accept her as she is while also helping her become the person she wants to be. 

If you’re both willing to do the work, there’s reason to hope for better days ahead. 

7 Signs of a Controlling Wife 

Before you can make any positive changes together, you both need to recognize tell-tale controlling wife signs.

woman talking to man on sofa signs of controlling wife

Read through the following and make a note of the ones that stand out for you. 

1. She isolates you from friends and family. 

Maybe she doesn’t plan to isolate you, but she fully expects you to put time with her ahead of time with anyone else, whatever commitments you might already have made. 

If she’s at the extreme end of the controlling spectrum, she might do everything she can to limit (if not eliminate) the time you spend with other people. She wants to be the primary influence in your life. Friends and family might convince you to leave her

She fully expects them to dislike her and to use their influence to destroy hers. 

[Sidebar]: Break the Chains: Are you tired of feeling controlled? Our Emotional Abuse Breakthrough Course empowers you to reclaim your autonomy and build a healthier future.

2. She’s always finding something to criticize. 

She thinks she’s helping you “do better next time,” but your takeaway, so far, is that you can’t do anything right by her. She’s quick to point out anything that deviates from her idea of how things should be. And nothing you do is ever enough. 

At the extreme end, her tendency to criticize may keep you in a perpetual state of tension and undermine your confidence — which gives her more control. 

3. She uses guilt to get her way. 

Call her out for this tactic, and she finds a way to punish you for it, either by playing the victim or by wearing you down with other manipulative tactics. 

The stakes are too high for her to relinquish control, even to someone she claims to trust. And she’ll use anything from your relationship history to get her way. She doesn’t ever really let go of those past offenses; they’re too valuable as bargaining chips. 

couple sitting with counselor signs of controlling wife

Everyone has sinned against her. And she uses that to her advantage. 

4. She makes her love and attention conditional. 

Confront her on her controlling behavior– or refuse to be controlled — and she’ll withdraw her love and attention, leaving you out in the cold. The only way back into her warm embrace is to capitulate, to admit you were wrong, and to obey. 

She expects unconditional submission and loyalty; love and affection are rewards for good behavior. She may not even know how to give them without strings attached. 

Chances are, this is learned behavior. But if you let her get away with it, it won’t change.

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5. She makes threats to scare you into complying. 

They may not be overt — or they may be as plain as the folded arms and the stern look on her face. She’ll use what leverage she can to get you to do what she wants. And she’ll up the ante until she gets her way (or until you leave). 

It’s worth noting, though, that making threats is a sign of desperation. Depending on the seriousness of the threat (i.e., what you stand to lose), it may be time to call her bluff. 

Be prepared to deal with the fallout. A calm counter-threat can also be effective. 

6. She puts you in her debt. 

As mentioned earlier, she never really lets go of past offenses (except her own, of course, which she expects you to forgive and forget). She’ll use those oeld wounds to put you in her debt, and there’s really no way to pay it off and remove the debt. 

woman is upsetting man signs of controlling wife

No matter how she uses that debt, there’s no arguing it away. Every time you cross her in some way, the debt grows. It never gets smaller. And she never lets you forget. 

As long as you agree to be in her debt, she’ll keep using that against you. 

7. She needs to know what you’re up to (and with whom) at all times. 

She doesn’t respect your privacy. And she gets jealous if she thinks you might prefer someone else’s company to hers. She snoops on your phone to see whom you’ve been texting. She snoops on your social media to spy on your interactions with others. 

If she sees anything that bothers her, she lets you know (and expects you to make amends), or she uses passive-aggressive behaviorto punish you for it. 

Depending on your history together, she may have reason to feel insecure. But if not, it’s time to have a talk about her jealous behavior and set some boundaries. 

Ways to Deal with a Controlling Wife 

Now that you’ve read the signs, what can you do if you’re thinking, “My wife is controlling”? Depending on your situation, any of the following might get you both heading in a better direction: 

  • Get down to the why — Since controlling behavior is a defense mechanism (with fear at its root), it makes sense to at least try to understand the reason for it. Talk to your wife about her behavior and really listen if she offers an explanation. 
  • Look at it from her perspective — The more you understand why she feels the need to control you and others, the easier it is to see situations through her eyes. Meet her where she is, and she’s far more likely to lay down her weapons. 
  • Keep calm — Getting angry and loud will only reinforce her need to protect herself. She’s more likely to double-down on her controlling behavior than to see any problem with it. It’s what she does to assert what little power she feels she has.
  • Call her behavior what it is — Use the word “controlling” and be prepared to articulate why. If it helps, make a list of her controlling behaviors and calmly explain what those behaviors are doing to you and to your marriage. 
  • Set and maintain boundaries — For the sake of your mental health and your relationship, you both need to set clear boundaries and respect those set by your partner. Respect for each other’s privacy is essential to a healthy relationship. 
  • Reframe her behavior with a question — For example, if she tells you you can either do what she wants or pack up and leave, you can ask, “How would you feel if, every time we disagreed on something, I asked you to leave?” 
  • Always be kind and respectful — Even when she isn’t kind, the best way to defuse the situation is to treat her with kindness and respect — without capitulating. Otherwise, you’ll just give her more reason to keep the walls up. 
  • Make time to rebuild other relationships — If your wife’s controlling behavior has isolated you from family and friends, renew those connections and make time for them. You need people in your life whose behavior doesn’t keep you on edge. 
  • Commit to counseling — Ask your wife to go to couple’s therapy with you. Once she learns to trust the therapist, she may take it to heart when the latter calls her out for controlling behavior. And you can both take steps to heal your marriage.
  • Be prepared to walk away — If your wife refuses to see her behavior for what it is and continues to make your life with her impossible, be ready to end the relationship. You’re not obligated to stay married to a toxic person. If anyone tells you differently, be prepared to end your relationship with them, too. 

Controlling wives are often a challenge to live with, but they’re not always toxic. What’s your biggest takeaway from this post — and what will you do differently today to help a controlling wife or someone who lives with one?