My husband wouldn’t call me a controlling wife; he’d say I’m typically easygoing and pretty darn flexible, albeit with high standards. I mean, our family just spent three months bouncing around Europe with only a single suitcase full of clothes, and I joyfully called it an “adventure.” Besides, my high standards are some of the qualities he fell in love with — my passion for doing the right thing, for being an activist, for trying to raise the bar for myself and others. The thing is, there’s nothing perfect about sheltering in place. And while we’re at it, there’s nothing perfect about trying to keep my child and husband happy, fed, and entertained while we figure out Pandemic Life.
True, it’s not my job to keep them happy. But I certainly want to do my part to keep us all on the right side of happiness these days. Times are tricky enough as it is, right?
What I’ve noticed, though, is that the more helpless I feel in any given moment, the more I fall into the “controlling wife” trap by trying to make something — anything — feel the way I want it to
feel right now.
Sometimes, trying to control just one thing and have it turn out the way I want is my way of saying, “See? We’re going to be okay! I planned this thing and it turned out just fine!”
How it comes out, however, is, “Why did you clean all three toilets when I asked you to do just one? The cleanser gives me asthma! Asthma is scary as h*ll right now! You know I can’t breathe with that stuff. Don’t you want me to breathe?” And then I feel guilty. Horribly so. I know my husband is doing his best to help wherever he sees a need. While my breathing is important, yes, this outburst has nothing to do with the bathroom. It’s my subconscious coming out and whimpering, “Oh, not another thing. My heart was already overwhelmed.”
I just want to go from point A to point B without 15 different emotional detours.
With my child, the controlling wife feelings come out differently. While my husband is out hunting the proverbial saber-toothed tiger (translation: anything that comes from the grocery store, as it’s all scary), I’m using the nurturing words of motherhood. My child hears, “This is hard right now. You can cry all you need to. All your feelings are safe here.”
I’m making sure my child feels loved, at least — but I want to do better. For both of them, child and husband. And I want my husband to hold me and nurture me that way. I really do. I still want him to like me when all this is over. And I want him to understand, now, that I need him and our kid to stay alive.
There’s no mama’s prayer greater than this right now.
I don’t want to be a controlling wife. Controlling people is icky, unflattering territory. People write psych articles about that stuff.
If I’m amping up my anxiety, it’s not to be a controlling wife; it’s desperation for a sense of security that we’re all sorely lacking these days.
So please, husband, if I make you feel “less than” by my controlling behavior, it’s because I’m trying to find some peace in all of this. I’m doing my best to extend the same grace to you that am to the child we’re raising. I don’t share often enough that I appreciate the times you think of me by doing something nice, even if it’s not “up to my standards” right now. I get it. You ARE trying. I see you. I see your efforts and your good heart.
Please also see my fear right now. I’m not trying to be a controlling wife. I’m just doing the best I can to take care of us.
Marriage is easy and hard, just like parenting. Most days, also like parenting, marriage is somewhere in between, back and forth depending on the hour. In the meantime, I’m trying to keep it together for our little one’s sake. I don’t want to scare her by losing it about the pandemic in front of her, so it’s coming out in behavior that looks like I’m an unpleasant and controlling wife.
As it turns out, though, the only thing I control in all of this is my response to it. Here’s how I can work on being less of a controlling wife and more of a grounded one.
I control my peace with the situation. My peace with how I treat others; and how I foster peace within our little familial unit here in our home. Science says all of these things can help:
- Start a gratitude journal
- Go to bed on time
- Eat foods that nourish my brain and body
- Limit my exposure to screen time, news stories, and/or people that trigger my anxiety
- Relax my muscles and visualize the tension floating away in a faraway balloon
- Check in with myself to see whether the stories I’m telling myself are actually true
- Touch base with a friend
- Read a book
- Take care of a task I’ve been putting off
- Step outside, look up, and take a deep breath of fresh air
Maybe there’s some version of perfection in that, after all. This will get easier. I’ll do my part. I promise.
Sarah R. Moore is an internationally published writer and the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. She’s currently worldschooling her family. Her glass is half full.