Kristi’s Story: From Controlling Wife to Restored Marriage

If you haven’t done so yet, I invite you to Take the Control Girl Quiz! Each Monday, I’ll be unpacking one of the quiz’s twelve questions. Also, on Thursdays, I’ll be telling your stories in a “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series.

By: Kristi Huseby

“I give up!  I just can’t please you.  It doesn’t matter what I do, it’s never good enough!” 

His words ricocheted off the walls of our tiny bedroom, each one a barb that imbedded itself deep in my soul.  He tossed the covers onto the bed and marched out of the room.  With his words ringing in my ears and echoing in the halls of my heart, I fell on the bed, broken and shattered.  As I began to pluck the barbs from my soul, I wondered, what would cause this good-hearted man to say such hurtful words?

A random thought flittered across my mind, “Could it be me?”  Say it isn’t so!

Being a control freak came naturally for me, I never really had to work very hard at it.  It was in my DNA. I always had to be right.  I knew everything – no one could tell me anything.  I was perfect – well at least I strived for perfection.  I wanted everyone to see I had it all together.  I was at the wheel.  I didn’t need God because I was god of my own little kingdom.

There’s a verse in Proverbs that says, “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death”.  Proverbs 14.12

Being the god of my own little kingdom seemed right to me but it was marching through my marriage leaving destruction in its wake.

As I sat on my bed that day, wounded and bleeding, I took a good hard look at my life and I realized this was my own making.  It wasn’t my husband who needed to change, IT WAS ME!  I realized the words that poured from his mouth that day, were words of desperation! He was at the end, he had tried everything he could to please me but it just wasn’t good enough.  He was right.

I knew if I didn’t do something, my marriage would end up like a ship stranded on the rocks battered by the waves until it broke apart.

How do you change what’s in your DNA?  How do you yank out this insidious sin that has crept its way into every area of your life?

I fell on my knees broken and undone as I saw the destruction in my life.  I cried out to God, “I see the ugliness, the pain and heartache, I’ve caused and I’m so sorry.  How could I be so blind to the destruction?   I don’t know how to root this out of my life but I know You can do it!  I promise, if you point out to me, every time I try to take control, I will say I’m sorry – to You and to the one I am trying to control.”  (One of the hardest promises I’ve ever made but I was sick of my sin and desperate for change.)

What followed was one of the most painful and difficult times of my life but God answered my prayer! It looked like this: I would be in a conversation with my husband and feel God’s prompting that I was trying to control.  I would then turn to my husband and apologize for taking control. (Saying I’m sorry is one of the hardest things for me to do – it’s an admission that I’m not perfect and don’t have it altogether and I hate it!)  Often it would happen two or three times within the course of one conversation!

As I responded to God in obedience, I began to feel God root this insidious, destructive sin out of my life.  In case you’re wondering, yes, I still struggle with control but the power it has over me is gone.  Through my obedience, God has given me the ability to recognize my control quicker, confess it immediately and let go of it.  I no longer have a burning need to be at the wheel of my life.  God’s got it and I trust Him.

Shannon, in her book Control Girl, says this:

“If I give full vent to my craving for control, it will turn me into someone I don’t want to become.  If I let my controlling heart lead me where it will, I’m convinced that someday, a woman in Bible study will ask for prayer about her exasperating mom or mother-in-law who’s making everyone miserable, and it will be me.  But if I start now and don’t give up, if I cultivate a mind-set of surrender, and make a habit of saying, ‘Not my will, but yours, be done,’ transformation is possible.  I can be changed from a Control Girl into a Jesus Girl.”

I have found this to be true.  My need to be in control turned me into someone I never thought I would be but God’s grace has redeemed me and restored my relationship with Him and with my husband.

I’m confident, His grace can do the same for you!  Take the first step – admit your need for Him!  He’ll give you the power to do the rest.

Kristi Huseby is a writer and speaker from Grand Rapids, MI. I’ve had the joy of getting to know Kristi when she was one of our women’s ministry directors at Ada Bible Church. She’s now transitioning into an exciting phase of raising money for full time missions work with EFCA Reach Global. Read more about Kristi and her ministry at her blog, Grace Spilled Over.

 


Are You a Control Girl?

Take the Quiz to find out! Then come check your answers with the “Control Girl Quiz Series”. This series is meant to get you thinking about your own possible struggles with control. As a follow up, I hope you’ll consider my new book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible.

Control Girl to Jesus Girl

Have you checked out the inspiring, real life stories in the “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series? Come learn from other women who are on the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Learn from their mistakes and take hope for the future.

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(Control Girl Quiz) Are you undisciplined?

If you haven’t done so yet, I invite you to Take the Control Girl Quiz! Each Monday, I’ll be unpacking one of the quiz’s twelve questions. Also, on Thursdays, I’ll be telling your stories in a “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series.

Here’s Question 8:

Are you undisciplined? Do you regularly eat too much, spend too much, stay up too late, or spend too much time on social media? Are you constantly late? Do you struggle to live within any sort of boundary lines or limits?


I wonder if you’re asking yourself this question: What does discipline have to do with control? 

Let me help you make the connection. Control Girls love control, right? They like to have and keep and take control. And the one thing they despise most is losing or giving up control.

Control Girls like to be the one deciding for themselves, Read more

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Kari’s Story: “The Other Woman”

In this “Control Girl to Jesus Girl Series”, I’m sharing stories of women who are on the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Like me, these women would not say that they’ve arrived. They can’t claim to be perfectly Christ-like. But they are heading in a new direction.Here’s Kari’s story:

I didn’t realize that there would be two parts to my story of betrayal.

Part One

The first chapter unfolded over ten years ago, when I learned of my husband’s deep deception and unfaithfulness. Read more

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(Control Girl Quiz) Do your kids think you’re nagging them?

 

If you haven’t done so yet, I invite you to Take the Control Girl Quiz! Each Monday, I’ll be unpacking one of the quiz’s twelve questions. Also, on Thursdays, I’ll be telling your stories in a “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series.

Today, we’re tackling Question 7:

Do your kids feel like you’re nagging them? Do your young children have closed hearts toward you? Do your grown children withhold information or try to avoid your questions? Do your kids bristle when you come in the room?


“Mom, you’re guilting me, and I haven’t even done anything wrong!” my daughter said with great exasperation.

Guilting her? I didn’t think I was guilting her. I was trying to remind her.

My friend, Dawn, had accidentally left her purse at our house. A purse is a big deal! Life without your purse is like life without oxygen!

But there was an additional problem: Read more

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How Her Husband’s Porn Addiction Taught Jen to Trust (not Control)

In this “Control Girl to Jesus Girl Series”, I’m sharing stories of women who are on the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Like me, these women would not say that they’ve arrived. They can’t claim to be perfectly Christ-like. But they are heading in a new direction.


Welcome to my friend, author and speaker Jen Ferguson, who today shares her “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” story. Jen is from Texas, but is a regular workshop leader for our Speak Up! Conference in Grand Rapids–which is how we met. By the way, Jen also gave a beautiful endorsement of Control Girl (you can read it here.) She’s been an huge blessing and encouragement to me.

Here’s Jen:

“Has porn been a struggle lately?” I asked my husband during a rare, home-by-ourselves dinner.  Read more

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(Control Girl Quiz) Does Your Husband Feel Disrespected by You?

If you haven’t done so yet, I invite you to Take the Control Girl Quiz! Each Monday, I’ll be unpacking one of the quiz’s twelve questions. Also, on Thursdays, I’ll be telling your stories in a “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series.

Quiz Question 6:

Does your husband feel disrespected by you? Does he get angry because you interrupt? Does he get frustrated when you give suggestions or tell him how to do it? Does he often become sullen, explosive, or withdrawn? Has he opted out of parenting because you’ve corrected him so much? Has he started spending more time out than in?


You know that type of guy who just loves another home improvement project? Every Christmas, he asks for a new saw or drill or wrench set. He loves the smell of sawdust and his favorite outfit is coveralls. He lives for a completely free Saturday so he can get back to work on building the deck or hanging the drywall.

That guy? That guy is not my husband. Read more

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Control Girl to Jesus Girl: Jennifer’s Failed Marriage

In this “Control Girl to Jesus Girl Series”, I’m sharing stories of women who are on the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Like me, these women would not say that they’ve arrived. They can’t claim to be perfectly Christ-like. But they are heading in a new direction.

Jennifer has always tried to be perfect. She obeyed her parents and teachers. She got straight A’s. She was compliant and followed the rules.

Jennifer graduated from college with an accounting degree, but she never wanted to be anything but a wife and mom. When she and Rob got married, she tried to be a perfect wife. Oh, how she tried to be perfect. As she and Rob added children to their home, Jennifer worked even harder to maintain the equilibrium of perfection in their home.

But one day, after a particularly stressful downturn at work, Rob came home with an empty look in his eye. Read more

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(Control Girl Quiz) Do They Call You the Food Nazi?

If you haven’t done so yet, I invite you to Take the Control Girl Quiz! Each Monday, I’ll be unpacking one of the quiz’s twelve questions. Also, on Thursdays, I’ll be telling your stories in a “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series.

Question 5:

Do they call you the “Food Nazi”? Or the “Seatbelt Nazi”? Or the “(Fill-in-the-blank) Nazi?” Do other people resist your efforts to get them to do what is in their best interest? Are there people at work, home, or in your community who might say that you micromanage, overstep, or insist on your way?


Nursery Nazi

Back when our kids were still in diapers, there was a woman at our church whom my husband privately nicknamed, ‘The Nursery Nazi’.

This woman was incredibly committed to our church and probably worked more hours that then pastor. She was also (in my opinion) a Control Girl. Her passion in life was to enforce the rules of our church’s nursery.

My husband Ken, who is a renegade at heart, could never seem to remember the purple tag required to claim your kids Read more

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Hailey’s Story: Learning to be Dependent

In this “Control Girl to Jesus Girl Series”, I’m sharing stories of women who are on the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Like me, these women would not say that they’ve arrived. They can’t claim to be perfectly Christ-like. But they are heading in a new direction. Here’s Hailey’s story:

I’ve never really considered myself to be a Control Girl.  I’ve always been a “pleaser.”  I like for everyone around me to be happy, and I work tirelessly to make it so. But here’s my problem. I want to do it all on my own, with no one else’s help. I’m learning that this desire to prove that I’m enough on my own comes from a Control Girl heart.

But rather than allowing me to continue in the façade that I can do it all, God has used two unplanned, painful experiences to press me to recognize that I’m not in control! He is. And He invites me find peace in surrender.

Twins!

The first surprise came when we learned that we were expecting twins. My husband, Jack, and I literally did not speak for three days. He was furious.  I thought he was furious with me.  Our three year old son even told me he did not like me anymore because Daddy was mad.  Of course Jack wasn’t mad at me, just in shock.

Me, too.  In just a few months, our twin girls were born and we became a family of five.

New babies require lots of work, sleepless nights, and visits from grandparents wanting to help.  Twins are double that—literally. But this girl did not want the help. I was convinced that if God thought enough of me to bless me with twins, I should be able to care for them both equally: giving them equal time, making them each happy, and bonding with each of them separately by MYSELF.

If I couldn’t do this by myself, then I wasn’t a good enough mother.  This was my mindset.  I literally drove myself, my husband, and the whole family crazy!  It took a loving intervention from my wonderful mother-in-law and my own wonderful mother to help to realize that God hadn’t just blessed ME with these twin girls, but the entire family.

As a family, we were all responsible for loving and helping to care for them.  Bad habits are hard to break, but slowly, I came around to accepting the help I so desperately needed.

Backing Up

The twins are now six, and apparently God decided it was time for me to back up and relearn this same lesson.

We are an active family.  We have a small farm with horses, dogs, and a cat.  Our three kids compete in rodeos.  We grow hay.  I’ve always been fairly active.  My back has never completely agreed to this, but I’ve managed.  (Remember how I like to be independent?)

Back in November, we were at a friend’s house so the guys could go deer hunting.  That morning, while everyone was out, I was making the bed and as I reached across to pull up the sheets, I heard a POP! The loudest, most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt radiated down my back, and my entire left leg contracted all at once. Even my labor with the twins—with contractions stacked and no breaks between—did not compare to this pain.

I fell to the floor and laid there crying, unable to move, for an hour until Jack came in. I screamed in pain as he picked me up and helped me to the bathroom, since that was my most immediate need. Several doctor appointments later, the pain was manageable, but I had to accept help for every single thing I did. I relied on Jack to help me shower. (Not very romantic.) I relied on my twin girls to help me dress.

One morning, when Katie was putting my socks on she said, “Mom, I never thought that when I was six years old, I would have to help dress my own mother.  You are supposed to do this for me!”  Yes sweetie, I know. 

I had surgery from the ruptured disc in my lower back, two weeks before Christmas. Afterward, I had strict restrictions not to lift, bend or twist.  I had done zero shopping.  Hello, Amazon Prime!  A very dear friend took me to do some store shopping in a wheelchair. Two weeks after Christmas, I hosted our family Christmas dinner. Instead of staying home for six weeks, I went back to work teaching three weeks post-surgery.

This made me happy!  Everything was great! Until I came down with a nasty case of bronchitis in February.  Lots and lots of sneezing and coughing—which caused me to re-herniate the same disc.

Same excruciating pain.  Same surgery. What did I do to deserve this?!!  I’m a Christian wife and mother and a hard-working, well-liked high school chemistry teacher.  (That last part may be an oxymoron).

Looking back, I realize that I’ve behaved much like I did when the twins were born. I never realized that I was controlling. But God did, and He’s been using all of this to teach me some things.

Recovering Control Girl

As of today, it’s been four weeks since my last surgery, and I’m still home recovering. I’m also reading Control Girl.  In the very first chapter, the idea of considering my future self really hit me. I had never thought about the person I will become. Reading Shannon’s stories have caused me to think about my own mothering. How will my children remember me? What kind of marriage am I creating? Where do I go from here?

These past six months have left this Control Girl raw with pain and emotion. The controlling walls that I’ve so carefully built up around me have had to come down. Before, I thought that it was right and good for me to be independent and try to juggle everyone’s happiness. But I’ve had to recognize that our happiness does not depend on me. I can’t do it all. And when I try, I degrade my relationships instead of helping them.

In lesson four of the chapter on Eve, Shannon says, “My culture may cheer me on when I’m pushy, independent, demanding, and domineering, but when I turn on my heel and bring these attitudes to my marriage and other relationships, I inevitably drive in wedges. The more controlling I get, the less happy we all are.”

Thankfully, God has been inviting me to lay down my burden of control. I’m learning to let others in and accept their help. Most importantly, I’m learning to let God in! He wants me to depend on Him. He is using the things I can’t control to transform me from Control Girl to Jesus Girl.


Are You a Control Girl?

Take the Quiz to find out! Then come check your answers with the “Control Girl Quiz Series”. This series is meant to get you thinking about your own possible struggles with control. As a follow up, I hope you’ll consider my new book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible.

Control Girl to Jesus Girl

Have you checked out the inspiring, real life stories in the “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series? Come learn from other women who are on the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Learn from their mistakes and take hope from the future they are embarking on!

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(Control Girl Quiz) Would others say you’re a Control Girl?

If you haven’t done so yet, I invite you to Take the Control Girl Quiz! Each Monday, I’ll be unpacking one of the quiz’s twelve questions. Also, on Thursdays, I’ll be telling your stories in a “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series.

Question #4:

Do friends or family members send subtle hints? Do others give tactful clues that they’d like you to back off? Do they ever roll their eyes and say, “I got it, the first six times, Mom!” or “I can handle it,”? If we cornered the people who love you most, would they privately admit that you are pushy or overbearing?


Some years ago, we pulled into the driveway of the condo that we were renting for a vacation, but before we got out, my husband said he wanted a word with me. He told the kids to stay in the van, and walked with me around the corner, where he said, “Shannon, you’ve got to stop. You are going to ruin this whole vacation!”

I was furious. Ruin it? I was the only reason we were going to have a vacation at all! I had spent the entire morning, trying to get us stocked, loaded, and headed in the right direction. But my husband saw it differently. He said, “You’re completely on edge! You’re barking orders and snapping at the kids and obsessed over the stupidest things. You’re ruining it!”

It was true that I had been completely stressed out. But it all had to be done! I was getting all of the food packed so that we didn’t have to waste half the afternoon looking for a grocery store because we forgot the peanut butter. It wasn’t my fault that someone had eaten the food I was planning to bring! And I was checking everyone’s feet for shoes and everyone’s suitcases for swimsuits, because I didn’t want anyone to miss out on hiking or swimming. It wasn’t my fault that someone had lost their other tennis shoe! And I was obsessed about printing off the details for getting the key (this was before we had smartphones) because I wanted us to be able to get in when we arrived. It wasn’t my fault that the printer was broken!!

My husband was acusing me of ruining our vacation? Maybe if he had helped a little more, I could have had a vacation, TOO!!

I’m sure there was steam coming out of my ears as I told him exactly how I felt about all of this. But he just calmly stood there and said, “Seriously. You need to stop. Stop. It.”

“What am I doing wrong?” I asked angrily. “What crime have I committed?”

He said, “Shannon, you are very intimidating when you get like this. We all feel the stress. No one wants to tell you, but I have to! You’re ruining it. You are destroying our family and you’re going to live to regret it.”

His words were shocking, in one sense. I was intimidating? I was creating stress? I was destroying our family?

I was the one trying to make this vacation–and this family–turn out right! 

But though I wouldn’t admit it at first, I knew that he was telling the truth. When we got inside the condo, I went into the bathroom, and talked into the mirror with the same expression I had just used when I demanded that the kids pick up the candy wrappers in the van. It was hideous. What an evil-looking expression. No wonder my family was stressed out.

And how ridiculous to get this angry over some wrappers, some peanut butter, a printer, and a missing shoe.

Finding Out I’m a Control Girl

For me, learning that I was a Control Girl was a gradual process. It took me a long time to look my problem in the eye and see it for what it is. But now I see it much more clearly. Trying to grasp at control never brings peace; only turmoil and conflict. The truth is, I can’t control everything. And when I try, I get really ugly.

Thankfully, God gave me a husband who has been willing to say, “No one wants to tell you, but I have to!” He has repeatedly told me over the years to stop it, cut it out, quit ruining things. Interestingly, I don’t remember him ever using the word “control”. Yet control was at the root of all of our strife.

Do you have strife in your relationships? Is there tension? Do other people send you subtle hints? Do they back away or shake their heads? Is there anyone who finds you exasperating?

If so, I have an assignment for you.

Your Assignment

I know this is the last thing you want to do, but take some time to contemplate the critical things that people in your life–especially the people who know and love you most–have said about you. Consider their complaints; their frustrations. Now, (maybe for the first time) acknowledge that they might be right. Give their criticisms your full attention. For the moment, suspend your arguments, defenses, and rebuttals and listen carefully to their side of the argument. Maybe you’ll even want write down their main messages to you.

I know that they haven’t gotten everything right. People rarely do. But perhaps there is something you need to see about yourself, which you have been blind to.

Next, take these criticisms and complaints and compare them to these words from the Bible. Look for any parallels between what your criticizer has said and what God says:

“Love is patient and kind;

love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;

it does not rejoice at wrong-doing but rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all thing, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.” (I Cor. 13:4-8)

Did you find any parallels? For me, it’s the same, every time. If I consider my husband’s (or someone else’s) frustration with me, almost without exception, God validates their complaint.

 

Confessing the Sin of Control

So what then? What can we do?

In a word: Repent! Oh, the sweet relief of agreeing with God and other people about my sin. This is the pathway to change! There is no other way. Unless I own my sin, I will not be free of it. “Confess your sins one to another that you may healed,” says James 5:16.

Confessing my sin of craving control over other people and outcomes, or admitting that I was selfishly insisting on my own way is counterintuitive, especially to a Control Girl. To say that I’ve been wrong gives someone else control. They can then say, “Aha! I’m right! You’re wrong! It is just as I’ve said!” Yes, there is always the chance the other person might do that. But sometimes they don’t.

I’ve found that when I confess my sin softly and ask for forgiveness, often the other person responds in softness also. This sort of interchange can be life-giving to the relationship. I can’t be promised this outcome, of course. But here’s the good news. If, after I confess my sin of control, the other person mocks me or piles on more judgement, I have even more opportunity to surrender control to God! It’s not easy, but it’s life-changing.

Surrender over time is what turns us from Control Girls to Jesus Girls. And I know of no better way to begin the surrender process than with confession. Confession and surrender are interwtined. You can’t have one without the other.

What do you think? Are you willing to try? Will you open yourself up and listen to others’ complaints about you? They might not come right out and say that you are pushy, overbearing, or controlling, but I’m sure they’ve found a way to file their complaints. Will you consider these criticisms from God’s perspective? Will you admit when you’ve been wrong? If so, you won’t be a Control Girl for long. You’ll be on the path to Jesus Girl.


Are You a Control Girl?

Take the Quiz to find out! Then come check your answers with the “Control Girl Quiz Series”. This series is meant to get you thinking about your own possible struggles with control. As a follow up, I hope you’ll consider my new book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible.

Control Girl to Jesus Girl

Have you checked out the inspiring, real life stories in the “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series? Come learn from other women who are on the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Learn from their mistakes and take hope for the future.

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