Note: As you might imagine, this situation can happen with a husband or a wife being the one that is bossy.

Question: Sometimes my husband tries to tell me how to do stuff and this really gets on my nerves; how can I tell him?

Though it may appear minor, this indicates a possible major flaw in your relationship that can lead to extreme trouble. Often when one spouse continually tells the other what to do, or how to do it, he seldom realizes the destructive effect on the other. Every couple in crisis I have helped had one spouse attempting to control the other’s actions, thoughts, feelings, or beliefs, apparently never grasping the resentment swelling within the other until it finally exploded into rage, violence, adultery, separation, or a demand for divorce.

Ephesians 4:29 provides the solution. In the NIV it says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Key on the last half of that sentence to get the point. In the Contemporary English Version it reads, “Say the right thing at the right time and help others by what you say.” In The Message it says, “Say only what helps, each word a gift.”

Your reaction to your husband’s unwanted instructions make it clear that his unsolicited advice is not perceived by you as helpful, beneficial, filling your need, or a gift.

We all occasionally interrupt our spouses, friends, and even complete strangers with our instructions, methodologies, or preferences. When we commit that all too human intrusion regularly with a specific person, whether we intend to or not, we communicate to that person that we feel he or she is not competent to think for him/herself. That molehill grows quickly into a mountain. In my work with families I hear bitter complaints about how demeaning it feels and how it crumples self-image. Teens resent parents who insist on making all their decisions for them; adults avoid elderly parents who try to direct their lives and criticize any deviance from their demands; singles drop out of relationships with boy- girlfriends who control; and marrieds gradually despise their spouses who act as parents rather than partners.

While this may happen with either gender, I most often see it in the way a husband treats his wife. During our workshop for marriages in crisis, LovePath 911, wives drag me aside to tell me how their husbands constantly instruct them or discount their thoughts. It finally destroys their self-confidence. It’s not just that they are told how to do things, but what to think and even what to feel. If she says, “I like our new neighbors,” he responds, “How in the world can you think that! He’s an idiot; she’s a bigger idiot.” If she tells him she intends to vote for one candidate, he marshals his verbal skills to wear her down so that she agrees to vote for his choice. In nearly every disagreement, he wears her down until she capitulates outwardly, but rebels in her heart. I’ve heard many wives say, “He doesn’t have to agree with me. I’d be so happy if he just would say that he understands why I see it that way and accepts the fact that my way is just as good as his.” Usually, the woman telling me this sobs quietly, in unbelievable pain that her husband doesn’t even realize she feels.

How do you fix it? These seven steps work well in answer to your question. Remember that in this process you must model for him what you want from him. You must say beneficial and helpful things to him, just as you want him to learn what words help and benefit you. Keep that in mind as you follow these steps.

  • First, analyze how you feel when your husband tells you what or how to do things, when he wears you down with arguments, or when he tries to tell you what to feel. When alone, write them until you’ve exhausted your emotions and then let the writing sit a couple days. Come back to them and read them aloud, asking yourself if they adequately explain how you feel. Rewrite them if they don’t. Repeat the process over several days. If you have an objective friend, ask her to listen to your words and ask her what she heard, understood, and felt in response. When you become comfortable with your wording and the message you want him to grasp, it’s time to tell him.
  • Share this with him when you are both at ease, calm, and have no conflict occurring. Tell him that you have something very important you want him to understand about you, and ask if he agrees to talk openly with you until you are able to explain how you feel.
  • Begin by praying together and then reading and discussing Ephesians 4:29. Your goal in this discussion is to model that verse to him, so that he will follow the teaching of that verse with you. Ask him his understanding of that verse and specifically how it applies to everyday life. When you are ready to lead him to understand how you wish him to apply that truth in his interactions with you, phrase every word in terms of what you feel, not in what he does. “I feel like I’m in the third grade again,” is much better than, “You treat me like a child.” If your goal is to help him understand how his actions affect you and then get him to change them, you have a far greater likelihood of success if you do not phrase things in a way that makes him feel attacked. Remember, as you share what you need, keep focused on what he needs that will benefit him. Make sure you don’t do to his emotions what he has been doing to yours.
  • Keep the conversation going until he understands and adequately explains to you what you feel. If you have trouble getting him to understand, read your writings from step one to him, or have him read it.
  • If you reach an impasse, ask if you can try again with a mentor couple, pastor, or professional counselor.
  • If during the conversation, he purposely or inadvertently takes a “parenting” role and your negative feelings rise, calmly tell him what you feel and what he said that gave birth to them.
  • When he does “get it,” ask him what he will do differently, then get his agreement that you may use the code phrase, “I wish to do (think, feel, etc.) this my way,” whenever he forgets and again starts telling you how to do things. Use that phrase from now on.

Whatever you do, don’t put this conversation off, thinking it will get better on its own. Fix it now before it becomes a major problem in your marriage.

If your marriage is in danger of separation or divorce, call us at (866) 903-0990 to speak with someone or use the form below to request more information about our Marriage Helper workshop for troubled marriages. We can help you save your marriage even in cases of infidelity, loss of trust, anger, sexual problems, and other issues. (If you’re thinking your spouse would never come, contact us by phone or the form below and we’ll tell you what others who felt the same way did to get their spouses there.) We will keep everything you tell us completely confidential. Our motivation is to help you determine if this workshop is right for your particular situation. We also offer solutions for couples who can’t attend the workshop.



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13 thoughts on “Bossy Spouse

  • December 22, 2014 at 2:10 am
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    In regard to speaking with my husband about how he makes me feel when he shoots down my ideas immediately, takes on the role of my parent, or no matter my efforts states that he does more; it simply ends in a huge fight. I’ve tried to talk to him about this but now I just leave the room, go for a run, or ignore him until I can calm down. It hurts so much when he dismisses my feelings. I am unsure of my role here. Why am I the one in charge of the meals, kids and house?

    Bri in Texas

    Reply
    • December 27, 2014 at 2:06 pm
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      Bri, this is a great comment. We will do a future podcast about this issue. Look for it in the next couple of weeks!

      Reply
  • March 26, 2015 at 4:04 am
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    Valuable information. Lucky me I discovered your site
    accidentally, and I’m shocked why this accident didn’t took place in advance!
    I bookmarked it.

    Reply
    • March 26, 2015 at 5:08 pm
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      Awesome! Glad to have you.

      Reply
  • April 22, 2015 at 10:55 pm
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    I’m a retired Air Force Master Sergeant and current federal employee with lots of authority. My wife continuously challenges me with every thing I think, say, or do. She is not educated like me, so I find it demeaning when I’m told to make a turn at an intersection I’ve turned at several times before. Its like I cant think for myself without her making a comment or a dig, etc. She is very frugal, so we are rarely on the same page when it comes to purchases, finances, etc. She is a very bad communicator, as she doesn’t finish her sentences, refers to everything as a “thing”, or “whatever”. the bottom like I’m supposed to take orders from a :dumb ass”. I really love her, but don’t know how to tame her without hurting her.

    Reply
    • August 6, 2015 at 1:57 am
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      Don, wow. How would you feel if someone, let alone your spouse, called you a “dumb ass”? As a husband, you are an equal, not your wife’s superior, tamer or trainer. Treat her as such, and you may see that both of your viewpoints should have EQUAL weight.

      Reply
  • February 17, 2016 at 10:14 pm
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    I’m so glad I ran across this website. My husband and I have been married for almost 2 years and he has expressed on multiple occasions that I am bossy. My whole life I have been told this. I used to wear it as a badge of honor until I realized that it’s not a positive attribute. I was bullied alot growing up, sexually abused as a child and felt abondonment from my parents who did not raise me. I felt helpless and not in control. I guess for me being bossy is a way I can control my life and that became a natural habit. I also realize that this is not how God wants me to live and treat my husband. My question is how do I break this habit? He and I have talked about how it makes him feel and although it breaks my heart at what I do to him I fall back into my behavior even when I have good intentions.

    Reply
    • June 12, 2016 at 4:41 pm
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      Fear of abandonment is the biggest enemy of healthy personality. It makes the difference between being humble and being a narcissist. The opposite of fear is – love. Therefore, learning how to love, and feeling the love of GOD is the best way out of that predicament. However, that is not easy. Most people fail as it is much easier to just stick to old patterns than learn new ones. It takes humility to learn to love and be loved, and people who suffer from subconscious fears cannot allow themselves to be humble – they feel an urge to always be in control, which the exact opposite of humble.
      “Blessed shall be the meek” refers to the importance of humbleness – only the humble shall be blessed. In the end, only when you accept the possibility that, yes, you may be abandoned, and you may end up alone and sick and dying and all the worst things that are driving you to be controlling, only then when you say “It’s OK, come hell or heaven, I love God all the same” will you be able to become humble and learn to love and be loved. Not before. The best weapon against fears is to accept that fear and say “I can take that, I don’t care”. Then, devil looses hold over you because that is how our souls are controlled by the devil: through fear.

      Reply
  • April 22, 2018 at 1:10 am
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    I am a couple years too late to this conversation so I don’t know if what I say will be heard. My husband is from another country where females are worthless and only there to take care of the kids, clean, and cook. Girls are hardly ever offered an education unless they are rich. Anyway, after we had our first child he started bossing me around. And he bosses me around about the most petty things. The baby must wear a bib at all times, the baby must be warm at all times, buckle the baby in his car seat, don’t give the baby a bath in cold water etc. All very obvious things. But now he has started telling me what to do with everything all the time. He tried to force me to vote for someone I just could t vote for and he was livid, and he finally “let” me go back to school but it has to be for what he thinks is right not for what I want to do. I told him how it makes me feel but he says I should put up with it because it makes him feel better. I have quit talking to him for the most part. I always leave the room when he comes in and I get a huge knot in my stomach all of the time when he comes home. I don’t have anyone to talk to about it as he hates my family and he doesn’t like me talking to friends. I am lost. If I try to talk to him he will pace for 3 days and keep me up all night telling me all the bad things about myself. If it wasn’t for our children I would be gone by now.

    Reply
    • August 27, 2018 at 9:24 pm
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      Hello Erika-

      We would love to talk with you! Please give us a call at 866-903-0990.

      Reply
  • August 3, 2018 at 2:21 pm
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    I love my wife like crazy but not long after we married I began to see some things that disturbed me alot and still do. I’ve been married 8 years now and I really do love her – but I don’t like her as much and here’s why –
    First, she started critisizing my mother and making digs about her to me whenever she could – and about silly stuff like she has to omany purses or wears jewelery or dosn’t liek confrontation. We are both 57. We got married when we were 50, so II’ve been my own man for 35 years and my mother is a sweet 83 yr old Christian widow. Butmy wife has nothing good to say about her. She gets very jealous about her in my life and I really don’t even talk to her much on a regular basis but my wife starts saying Scripture says a man leaves his mom. But I explain to her that doesn’t mean I abandon her or no longer respect and honor her or help her now that she’s a widow. But now that shes an old woman she needs to live with us in a our large home and my wife is already setting rules about how and when I can talk to her.
    Second my wife loves to be the boss and when things aren’t done her way she yells and screams. She tells me how to drive. I’ve been driving for almost 40 years and I never needed help or got in any accidents but to listen to her you’d think I was a maniac idiot on the road.
    She confesses that she wants to be the boss. I tell her I don;’t need a boss but a wife. She says she’s just trying to help me. I say yelling and bossing is not help. Then she just gets angrier and says the marriage wont work.
    She IS a Christian but she twists scripture to prove that she is right in her behavior. And it’s impossible to tell her otherwise.
    When she is right she makes sure everyone knows it! Its incredibly annoying. Like she wants a medal or a award. And when you admit she was right she says things like “and don’t you forget it” and makes you feel like a moron for not just doing what she said in the first place.
    I am not one to just do whatever she says and I do do what I want many times because I refuse to be her doormat and becvause I know what I’m doing and that she’s wrong. I don’t obey her slavishly or let her throw her weight around but if shes ever right and I’m wrong I hear about how much better it would have been if I had. And VERY LOUDLY!
    Most of the time she is an intelligent, funny, great woman to be with but this yelling bossiness and this unreasonable dislike of my mother is slowly eroding my liking her. And when you stop liking someone that’s a sign that things are going the wrong direction in a marriage.
    But have no idea what to do. I have no one to talk to except God and he has no done anything to help thiswoman. I need expert advice on how to tame the monster in her without causing a bigger problem.

    Reply
    • August 22, 2018 at 8:39 pm
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      Hi, John. Please call us at 866-903-0990 so we can help!

      Reply
  • December 21, 2018 at 8:45 am
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    In your article, why would a bossy spouse even listen to his spouse? He’d consider it a waste of time, a silly display of emotion, and he’d conclude he had “better things to do.” If wife says it’s important to her, well..it’s not important to him, and he’s not interested in knowing her better. He does not want the marriage to improve; usually, he’s content with things the way they are.
    I wish there would be articles on living in a marriage with someone who does not want to be close.

    Reply

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