Am I Controlling In My Marriage?

Morning friends:

Our CONQUER Conference is going to be held this weekend and it will be amazing. Over 600 women from all over the US and Canada are going to be joining together to learn how to become the woman God designed them to be. It’s not too late for you to come. Click here to register.

Next week I will post some pictures of our conference for you.

After this weekend, I have just 3 weekends to finish packing up my entire house. Pray that I am able to get it all done. We have sold the majority of our things but still have a treadmill and some collectible things to get sell as well as a bunch of garden things.

I’m speaking in Chicago November 3-5 so pray that I can focus and give 100% to speaking.

Question: One of the chapters in your new book on The Emotionally Destructive Marriage addressed control regarding looking at emails and texts. I never did this before until I had caught my husband in a lie about his whereabouts and he was acting differently for several months and protective over his phone.

When I looked at his phone without his knowledge I saw texts with co-workers and customers that were flirtatious. Then I looked at emails and also found emails that made me feel unsafe and uncomfortable as a wife. He said he could see why I thought that way and would take a look at his actions. I hadn't looked in a long time but several texts would appear when I was near him that I saw that again were the same flirtatious exchanges.

We are in counseling and he did admit to being deceptive regarding his whereabouts. I hadn't looked in a while but started looking again at his texts, because I felt he was again not being truthful but maybe he never has and that the only way I could find out the truth is if I looked.

Is this wrong and controlling as you mentioned in your book? Or is it different when you have reason to look because I hadn't looked until that point. Again, I love this book and can't put it down. He is attentive to me when we are together.

If I didn't look I might not realize what is going on. He is meeting with a counselor regarding his inability to express emotions (dad died when he was 6 yrs old). My counselor feels he is being emotionally promiscuous. He feels he is in control and not doing anything wrong. Recently I saw 3 texts in over a year from a co-worker that he said were not meant for him. One said listening to this song thinking of you and another said, “Me too Babe, it's been a long time.”

He said she texted back and mentioned it was not intended for him. I want to believe him but it’s getting harder and harder. If I didn't look, on the surface things appear normal.

Answer: I’m sorry you’ve discovered that your husband has a secret life. That is painful to you and harmful to your marriage, although apparently he is also confusing you. On the one hand, he’s agreeing that his behavior might make you feel unsafe and uncomfortable. Yet he is also minimizing the damage when he states he’s in control of his emotional promiscuity and not doing anything wrong. If he’s not doing anything wrong, why is he hiding his behavior?

That said; the question you’re asking is “are my behaviors controlling when I keep checking my husband’s cell phone and e-mails to see if he is lying or sneaking around”?

Let me ask you a question. Why are you still checking? If it’s to find out if he’s lying to you, you already know the answer to that so what’s your purpose? To find out if he’s still lying to you? You already know that answer too. So what do you want to do with the information you already have? That is what you need to focus on right now.

You indicate that overall you have a good marriage and you would have no idea what’s going on if you didn’t check. From that I assume that you want your marriage to stay intact, minus the emotional promiscuity. What does your husband want? If he wants the same thing then what will he need to change in order for him to stop his secret life?

First, he might commit himself to counseling to figure out what he’s trying to get out of his flirtatious behaviors. Next, he would initiate accountability for himself so that he will be less likely to fall into those same behaviors, you will feel safe, and you both can rebuild trust.

That means he will invite and allow you and/or other people such as a good male accountability partner to monitor his e-mails, phone messages or texts whenever you want to. You will not need to sneak to check, you will have full access to his passwords and be able to verify that he is doing what he says anytime you feel anxious.   This is not to control him – as he must learn to control himself. This is for you to rebuild trust that he is doing what he says he wants to do – stay married to you and stop flirting with other women.

However, that doesn’t mean that if your husband wants to, he still can’t find a way to flirt and lie about it.

You cannot control him or his behaviors. The best you can do is to decide what you are willing to live with and what you are not willing to live with and then let him know what the consequences will be to your marriage if he continues to lie and flirt (Click to Tweet).

You cannot control him or his behaviors. The best you can do is to decide what you are willing to live with and what you are not willing to live with and then let him know what the consequences will be to your marriage if he continues to lie and flirt.

So many women obsessively try to change their husband’s sinful behaviors by playing detective and drive themselves crazy in the process. If your husband wants to be a liar and a cheat, you are absolutely powerless to stop him. All you can do is work on yourself and decide if you are willing to put up with that behavior or not. If not, then what do you need to do instead of continuously monitoring him?

Friends: How have you been able to let go of the compulsion to check up on your spouse’s behaviors?

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  1. caroline on October 18, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    Q: How have you been able to let go of the compulsion to check up on your spouse’s behaviors?

    The freedom to check emails and texts and anything else is a very important boundary to us, and part of why we are still married. Ill never let it go!

    As for being a compulsion I really don’t think it is. Probably because it’s something we both do, now, but I have always been totally open with all my exchanges, virtual and otherwise. It’s the same with him now. We are each free to scroll through phones, computers etc, and click on anything we find there.

    Knowing your spouse (and even kids) can see your words is a reminder that God sees ALL (and google sees most).

    When you are married everything one does effects the other, because you are one. Not just disease, but matters of the heart as well.

    Nothing we do is even really hidden, but we get into serious trouble when we believe we can compartmentalize our character and get away with it. .

    Most people I know check up on someone because they sense there is something there. But even in recovery from betrayal it can be used as a reassurance that there isn’t something there.

  2. Free on October 18, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    Leslie, Great job selling so much stuff. Did you use Craigslist? I often end up just giving everything to the Salvation Army because getting buyers to the house can be such a hassle. I have also found the process of sorting through years of stuff to be a reflective experience. Hope you are enjoying it to some measure.

  3. Amy on October 18, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    That last paragraph about driving yourself crazy by playing detective is the truth. I did that, and it was a nightmare time in my life. Through therapy I realized I couldn’t control my husband, but I could put up boundaries and work on my own well-being. So much better these days, and my head is clear again.

  4. Leonie on October 18, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    I know now that the hiding behaviours were indicators of my ex h’s guilt.
    Every time I confronted him about his addiction, I would see more hiding behaviours. I think the checking up continues until you find or are convinced of the truth. Obviously a person who is a cheater or has any other addiction is not going to tell the truth so it up to the spouse to figure out the truth. Yes, trying to control a person with a serious addiction is a futile endeavour! At first the discovery is a shock so I definitely think it is valid to keep your eyes open to the observe truth.
    I also agree transparency goes a long way to rebuilding trust.
    Fake transparency or pretend
    transparency about things that are not relevant to the truth or the true issue as a guise does not.

  5. Anewanon on October 18, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    That question doesn’t make sense to me after reading this in your blog above..

    A man who wants you to trust him will be fine with giving you access..

    • Nancy on October 19, 2016 at 7:04 am

      Ya I agree, the question doesn’t make sense to me either. It seems to put the owness on the one who has had their trust undermined.

      Hiding behaviours result in distrust. The only way to regain trust is transparency. Accountability is key ( as you suggest in your book). Maybe I’ve misunderstood the question?

      • Leslie Vernick on October 20, 2016 at 11:39 am

        The question the writer asked was she being controlling by checking on her husband and trying to hold him accountable to purity. And my answer was yes, she was. You cannot hold someone accountable to purity who does not have that standard for him or herself. If they do not have that standard for themselves and are willing to be accountable to others to help them keep to that standards, then they will only get sneakier.

        Let’s put it in another way. Let’s say you were 50 pounds overweight and your husband started holding you accountable for everything you put in your mouth. He monitored what you bought, what you ate, counted your calories, asked you if you went to the gym and how long you worked out? How would that go for you? That would only be helpful to you if YOU WANTED TO LOSE WEIGHT AND ASKED HIM TO HELP YOU. If you were fine being 50# overweight, or even if you weren’t fine with it, but did not actually want to do the hard work at losing the weight, you would not APPRECIATE HIM DECIDING THAT YOU MUST LOSE THE WEIGHT. That’s not his decision to make, even if it would be good for you to lose it and healthy for your body. That is still your decision to make. The only decision he has is how he’s going to handle his own feelings about you being 50# overweight.

        In the same way, a husband who gives his body over to lust and watches porn, doesn’t make for a healthy spouse or a good relationship. But you as his spouse CANNOT MAKE HIM DESIRE PURITY, or even if he desires it, only he can invite accountability where it will help him. If you force accountability where he doesn’t want it, it will not make his heart pure, it won’t rebuild trust and it won’t lesson your anxiety.

        • Nancy on October 21, 2016 at 9:11 am

          Thanks for clarifying.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 20, 2016 at 11:28 am

      I agree. But giving you access is different than sneaking and checking and demanding access. One is from the person who is saying “Of course I want to build trust with you. Here, check. I am willing to be accountable to you so that you can learn to trust me again.” The other is an anxious spouse trying to control the behavior of the other by checking up on him or her. That only produces more anxiety and more sneakiness. Not trust.

  6. Aleea on October 19, 2016 at 7:02 am

    . . .Again, by realizing that I have such limited capacity to really, actually, fully check that I have to accept the truth of what you say here: “All you can do is work on yourself and decide if you are willing to put up with that behavior or not.” . . . But, I think, if we really can get and stay healthy/ holy in the factory of ourselves (our CORE, having the Holy Spirit really live in us) we will self-select people into and out of our lives. A fit, healthy soul—that seems the best way to get people to self-select. Most people don’t like holiness; they find it super-creepy and want to get away from it. That’s okay, maybe, maybe the best way that can happen is to speak the truth as best we know how at all times no matter how much hot water it gets us in. Living with integrity means not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking truth, even though it will create conflict, tension and the loss of some relationships. . . .all the while being radical about grace and relentless about holiness.

    In my limited experience, a healthy relationship isn’t so much about some sense of humor or intelligence or attractive, whatever. It’s about avoiding people with harmful traits and personality types. . . .And then it’s about being with a really good person. A good person on their own, and a good person with you. Where the space between you feels uncomplicated and happy. A good relationship is where things just work. They work because, whatever the list of qualities, whatever the reason, you happen to be really, really good together. That may actually transcend Christianity but I just don’t know. But I do think it is clear that being a Christian does not mean a person does not have the harmful traits and personality types we are trying to avoid. I know we can say/declare people “not true Christians” and what a total mess that is but I do believe that no person can ever be opposed to Christianity who knows what it really is. . .but I understand the No True Scotsman logical fallacy . . .i.e. Any Muslim who does not support women’s rights is not a “real Muslim”, . . . .Anyways, maybe the point is that we can’t let labels keep us from screening for harmful traits and personality types. . . . 1) genuinely loves people and wants their best. 2) generally, a very low level of defense mechanisms (—we all have defense mechanisms, we want level lows of them) 3) gracious and trying to keep their heart as clean as possible 4) broken before the Lord, and thankful, grateful and humble. —I believe all things as they move closer and closer toward God are so beautiful, and they are ugly as they move away from Him. Maybe a fit, healthy soul— all internal, working on ourselves, . . .maybe that is the best way to help people self-select out of our lives vs. the compulsion to check up on our spouse’s behaviors. All the while making sure we are not naive because we are responsible for our own ignorance. . . .I know I sometimes find myself walking through life blindfolded, while trying to deny that I am the one who securely tied the knot. Those times are sad.

  7. Heather on October 19, 2016 at 7:37 am

    There is a saying, “would you view it,.post it, watch it,.listen to it, say it, or do it with your spouse looking over your shoulder? If yes, it’s not cheating. If no, it most certainly is.”. I enabled by ex-spouse for 30 years to continue with a porn addiction and emotional promiscuity (with much younger women). One day God some me up and convinced me of my worth in Him and my beauty to Him. I divorced my husband and have been free for 2 years now–free to love myself, free from someone else’s addiction , free from the responsibility to try to change another person. I am also free now to find a possible future mate, one who REALLY shares the same Christian virtues I hold. Remember to forgive the person who caused you so much hurt, recognizing this is God’s commandment to us, as He has forgiven us when we did not deserve it.

    • Aleea on October 19, 2016 at 10:05 am

      Wow, Heather. . . that is really beautifully said. Notice how all the freedom starts with internally waking up re:“One day God. . . . convinced me of my worth in Him and my beauty to Him” . . . With the constant pile of past experiences always taking a toll, most people get too scared to see God’s beauty in themselves.

    • Leslie Vernick on October 20, 2016 at 11:41 am

      Thanks Heather. I think that thought is helpful to all of us in stewarding our body, our heart, and our mind. WE cannot steward someone else’s body, heart, or mind. We can share what we observe, or put consequences in place so that their poor stewardship doesn’t impact us as much, but we cannot steward another person. That is their responsibility.

  8. Leslie Vernick on October 20, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Thanks Aleea, I agree. The more humble,gracious, loving, transparent, willing to be accountable and receive feedback from wise people, the better relationships you will have. Fun, charm, sense of humor, hard working, ambitious – all qualities that we admire don’t necessarily lead to good relationships although we tend to be drawn to those kinds of people.

    • Aleea on October 20, 2016 at 2:42 pm

      . . . .Leslie, that’s a very good list 1) humble, 2) gracious, 3) loving, 4) transparent, 5) willing to be accountable and receive feedback from wise people, yes, the better relationships you will have. . . . .Maybe, also 6) forgiveness and the willingness to admit when we have participated in the pain we are now experiencing. It is so hard to swallow the pain and forgive our enemies. . . . and to take the high road, but building on bitterness is so bankrupt.

  9. Leslie Vernick on October 21, 2016 at 8:43 am

    Absolutely forgiveness and the willingness to admit – I see that happening under humble but it doesn’t hurt to specify how humble acts.

    • Aleea on October 21, 2016 at 6:56 pm

      Leslie—your right, it actually is part of humble. I see that now.

      I think that we must be humble, as it is one of the greatest forms of worship. . . . But I really have a hard time with too much humble submission to authority because I don’t know if there are any really authorities. I think there are only wise others who are our trusted sources. Sources of helping us be aware of and correct the sin in our lives but not authorities who define it. . . .

      But, for so many here as they tell their stories, I want them to know that real humility knows how to slam a door closed and say “NO MORE.” You can’t be humble without self-love. Make no mistake about it, no matter how kind, meek, humble and soft your giving heart is —you need to be a warrior when it comes to abuse (—externally and internally too)! A person who is humble would never be abusive or selfish; —so don’t abuse yourself or withhold self-love or self-care. If you are really humble you will put yourself first when you need to take care of you.

  10. Ann L on October 22, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    How have you been able to let go of the compulsion to check up on your spouse’s behaviors?

    When I first realized the extent of my husband’s deceit I went kind of crazy. I burrowed and searched every nook and cranny, box, and drawer corner, compartments in our suitcases, under the mattress, looked at his phone. I was looking for irrefutable proof that he was doing something that would seal the deal, undeniably justify me leaving.

    Why? I already had proof of what he’d done. We both already knew.

    I finally found a flash drive with nasty awful content. But there was no way to tell it was his, as it had obviously thrown into a box during a move.

    Eventually I understood that I was looking for a way to not have to make the decision to leave. As I grew in my CORE through all the materials available through Conquer, the Patrick Doyle videos, marriage counseling, Al Anon, etc, I stopped searching. In 30 years of marriage I’d asked several times why I would stay married to a man who lied like that. I didn’t a smoking gun. I needed the courage to act.

    • Aleea on October 23, 2016 at 5:10 am

      “Eventually I understood that I was looking for a way to not have to make the decision to leave.” —Ann L, that is a brilliant insight. . . . .We all don’t want to know what we already know at some level about so, so many things. . . .
      “I didn’t need a smoking gun. I needed the courage to act.” —Exactly, absolutely. And that courage to act comes from being healthy in the “factory of ourselves” (that CORE) . . . It’s all the same journey no matter the issues. I don’t want to know what I already know at some level. . . . .Lose the overriding will to believe, otherwise known as θέληση να κάνει-πιστεύουμε (—the will to make-believe). We all have this problem at all kinds of levels. Resistance is so easy to spot in other people, it is way more difficult when it comes to ourselves. So when I am confronted with something that challenges me deeply —I try— to be very sensitive to my own reactions, working out whether I am experiencing emotional resistance and, if so, what it is that I am hiding from myself.

      . . .hmmm. . . nothing but the sum of ego defenses, protecting and repairing some ridiculous cracked masks that are in constant need of being pieced together. . . . Truth is not hard to find, —it’s hard to want to find. Our beliefs are defense mechanisms. They often keep us from knowing what we already know but don’t want to act on (—really know). . . . Life is very hard and reality is an even harder road. That said, reality is always the way to go and that acceptance is the only way to get there. . . . even if it is enough to make your sanity hurt.

      —Two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us and between the two stands all that resistance. . . .It comes down to losing the overriding will to believe, again, known as the will to make-believe. —Thank you Ann L, you take a stand, the spines of cowards, like me, are strengthened. The problems are different but the process —the same. I want to be someone strong and brave enough to make hard choices. You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward. So long as we are brave enough to accept the consequences of our actions, no one can take away our freedom of choice. . . . . Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave.

    • Beruska on October 26, 2016 at 10:38 am

      Wow, Ann, you just describe exactly what I am going through for the past 7 months. Thank you for that, as it made me feel that I am not that crazy after all….His constant denial makes me want to finally find the proof of what I already know. But then he says that he wants to save his marriage. Which really leaves the burden of the decision to stay or leave on my shoulder,….and that is a heavy weight to carry…It is a maddening cycle I am trying to step out of….

  11. William on October 21, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    I find this blog very……challenging. I know I have struggled with control because of monitoring my wife’s communication. It was actually not a real problem until she had her first affair. In my struggle with pornography I did desire transparency. I wanted accountability with my wife, but I was advised that was very difficult for a woman to be in that role. I did have other accountability partners that helped me. Through counseling I understood I my wife was not my accountability partner, but the person who deserve honest and full confession from me. Those conversations were so difficult, It humbled me. When my wife was fully honest about the pain pornography caused her I was even more sorrowful. It has not been a simple fix, but understanding the triggers and I have and the hurt pornography causes my wife I have walked in greater victory over porn than ever before.
    My willingness to be open and accountable has given the hope that my wife would be the same way. Sadly she has only gotten better at hiding her emotionally promiscuity. It has definitely caused many restless nights. Our counselor advised me to not inspect and encouraged my to disclose conversations that would that could cause concern to reestablish trust. She had another emotional affair a year ago. This summer, she has used some of Lesile Vernick’s material as the basis for a separation. I have been reading EDM and I definitely see areas where I need to improve. Tragically, she has not left ‘well’. She started another relationship in less that two weeks after leaving. I know I cannot change her. I love her and want to reconcile. Our four children are worth a continued effort from me. The trust I am learning for God in the midst of this is HARD! I am trying to give up the inspecting/investigating. It is not easy.
    I doubt anyone will read this, but I know I need to let go of her choices and let God develop her character.

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