Advice for a Controlling Mom
Christina says the reason she chooses the family's weekend activities and makes her children hang clothes up by sleeve length is because her family needs direction: "If I'm not in control, my house will fall into complete chaos." Her husband, Dustin, says, there's only one direction to take...hers! "If she doesn't get her way there's hell to pay. The whole household is tense. No one can be happy."
Christina admits, "I think it has gotten a little out of control. I think we need a little bit of help." Life coach Harriette Cole discovers that Christina's control extends beyond the household: "I pull in the reigns on our sex life too," Christina says. "We have four kids, I work part-time and the fact is I'm tired. When we get a free moment why would I want to spend that little bit of time doing something that doesn't excite me?"
Harriette first wants to understand the origin of Christina's behavior. "I grew up like this. My mom was very controlling, and as I got older I thought she was too strict," Christina says. Rachael adds a warning of her own, "if you're going to be like this with your kids, as they get older they are only going to rebel."
But it isn't just Christina who is struggling with control issues. Harriette tells Dustin, "You need to start stepping it up too. Because lack of control isn't allowing you to step up and be the husband you could be to Christina."
Harriette believes that not only does Christina have to learn to trust her husband; she has to pass some of the household duties off to him as well. "Have family meetings occasionally. Both with the kids and without. Find out where you all are standing when it comes to chores and family activities and what needs to be done. And you should both be meeting about family finances, because that is too much for just Christina to handle--and you need to let your husband have some control here especially! You don't want your marriage to end because your husband blows up at a certain point and decides he is getting tired of this," says Harriette.
What can this couple do to help keep their marriage on track? Harriette advises, "Plan date nights. Go out more. And Dustin, call Christina during the day and tell her how much you love her. Take control and plan some of the date nights on your own." Harriette also opens up Christina's eyes to another problem: "Part of the reason you aren't so interested in relaxing and being intimate in your world is because you built up so much rigidity around everything else, you feel like you have to control everything else. If you relax a little and share your responsibilities with your husband, I think you will have more fun in every aspect of your life."
As for the kids, Harriette warns Christina and Dustin that if they both don't give the kids some control and responsibility, there won't be any spark, creativity or energy in their house. "It is not just your house," Harriet tells Christina, "it is your family's house; and you are part of the family. Let them in."
Does life coach Harriette Cole get her to loosen the reigns?
Q. Have you been able to resolve some of your issues since appearing on the show?
A. Yes, definitely. My husband and I are doing much better and have grown a lot closer. My kids are also breathing a sigh of relief. I've lessened up on the chores and have worked on being less strict on the whole, especially with my husband. Appearing on the show was great for us. Everyone that needs help like we did should be able to have five or ten minutes on a show to work it all out.
Q. What advice of Harriette's really struck you when you talked to her?
A. Everything Harriette said in terms of loosening up and putting my family's needs before my need for control has really had an effect on me. For example, if my house isn't clean I now realize that that's not as big a deal as having the time to spend with my family. It's all about us having fun together and doing what we want to do as a family.
Q. How has your family reacted to your changes? Are they being supportive and stepping up to the plate, or is your house "falling into chaos," as you imagined it would?
A. My husband has really stepped up to the plate: helping out around the house, in the kitchen, helping with dinner and with the kids. He has really been there. My kids however...they're kids, they haven't changed their behavior.
Q. What advice would you give to other people with control issues?
A. Take a step back and think of how your family sees you--look at the situation as an outsider, in someone else's shoes. Let things around the house go for a couple of days, and spend time with your family instead. You'll soon see how easy it is to give up that control. It's nice to spend time hanging out with your family instead of scrubbing the bathroom.
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