Is It Normal to Feel Controlled by My Wife?

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 26, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Controlling behavior from a spouse can have a significant negative impact on a relationship. It is essential for both partners to have agency in a marriage. If you feel controlled, you're likely struggling to assert your wants and needs. You may also perceive that you cannot communicate with your wife about how you feel as a result of her actions.

A desire for control is not unique to men. Women can and do exhibit controlling behaviors that can impact a relationship. No matter the gender of the perpetrator, someone who controls their partner is, at best, bringing resentment into the relationship. At worst, controlling behavior can predict more severe behaviors later in the relationship, including violence.

If you or someone you know is experiencing dangerous or abusive behavior at the hands of their partner, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can help. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. You can also seek assistance through the hotline's online chat.

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Is your wife controlling you?

What is a controlling relationship?

Defining exactly what behaviors are considered controlling in a relationship is difficult. Ultimately, how each spouse feels determines if one or the other interprets that they are being controlled. In some cases, one spouse may consider requests that are typical in a healthy relationship to be controlling, like asking to prioritize quality time or complete household chores.

You should first determine the degree of controlling behavior you see in your wife. It's important to ask yourself whether your wife is being overbearing or whether you are too sensitive to typical requests. If the common themes of controlling behavior listed below resonate with you, it's likely that your wife's behavior is not appropriate.  

Isolation tactics

You deserve ample time with friends, family, and other loved ones besides your spouse. Keeping you from seeing others in your life is not acceptable. If you believe that your wife is isolating you, evaluate the situation thoroughly. Does she get angry when you visit with friends? Does she downplay your relationship with your family or get upset when you lean on them for support?

It is important to distinguish isolating behavior from simple requests for your time. If your wife gets angry at you because you canceled plans with her to go and hang out with friends, that's not controlling behavior, nor is it isolation. You may need to improve the communication in your marriage to get to the root of the issue. Isolating behaviors are consistent; if your wife constantly gets upset when you see friends and family, that's controlling behavior.

Stalking or monitoring

Stalking refers to a pattern of unwanted attention or communication. If your wife follows you or monitors your arrival at certain locations without your consent, that's not OK. You have a right to travel freely and a broader right to feel safe and secure in your relationship. Your safety and security are not intact if you are constantly being monitored.

The same principles apply to electronic devices. If your wife insists on going through your phone, installing tracking apps, or installing any other monitoring software, your safety is being violated. Excessive monitoring indicates a lack of trust, and you deserve to feel trusted by your spouse. Part of mutual trust is an expectation of safety; your wife needs to be secure enough in her relationship with you to trust that you have nothing to hide. Reasonable adjustments to this theme are understandable if someone has violated the agreed upon parameters in a relationship, though. You must be trustworthy in order to expect to be trusted.


Financial control

If your wife controls the finances in your marriage and limits your access to money, she may be financially controlling you. It is important to note that financial control only applies to assets that would normally be shared; if she doesn't share her own money with you freely, that's not financial control. An example of financial control might be if you and she deposit your paychecks into the same account, but she insists that only she can access it.

Your wife may use phrases like "You're not good with money" or "I'll take care of the finances." Financial control is more likely if she doesn't allow you to make reasonable purchases or gets upset when you do. Financial control does not include becoming upset at frivolous purchases, anger at not discussing a major purchase, or sharing her opinion of how you handle finances.

Threats or violence

Women can and do enforce control through threats and violence. If your wife hits you, throws objects at you, or breaks your possessions, it is just as serious as if a man were being violent. If you identify as a man, you may believe that your wife's behavior is excusable. Over a quarter of men in the United States have experienced some form of intimate partner violence. Stigma surrounds the victim status of men who have experienced violence at their partner's hand. When women perpetrate violence against men, it is not always perceived as abusive behavior.

The double standard of men's victimization at the hands of women perpetrators is slowly changing. No matter your gender, if you are experiencing violence at the hands of your spouse, that is a serious violation of your safety and security. It is not OK to remain in a relationship with a spouse who treats you violently. If you need help, regardless of gender, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can provide immediate assistance.


Gaslighting is the intentional distortion of reality to try to make you feel that what you see or feel isn't real. Attacks on sanity are common in gaslighting. If your wife calls you crazy or otherwise makes you doubt your reality, you may be the victim of gaslighting. You may also perceive that your marital situation is surreal – like it's happening on a different plane of your life. This is termed the "Twilight Zone effect" and is a hallmark of gaslighting.

The common techniques used in gaslighting, as well as example phrases, are below:

  • Withholding. The gaslighter pretends not to understand or refuses to listen. "I don't want to hear this again."
  • Countering. Questioning your memory, even when you remember the event accurately. "You never remember things correctly."
  • Blocking. Changing the subject or questioning your thoughts. "Is that another crazy idea you got from [friend/family member]?
  • Trivializing. Making your needs or feelings seem unimportant. You're too sensitive.
  • Denial. Pretending not to remember events that occurred or promises they made. "You're just making stuff up."

Can my marriage improve?

If your wife frequently demonstrates behaviors like those listed above, your first consideration should be whether you wish to leave the relationship. Abusive relationships may not respond to interventions designed to improve marital satisfaction, including couples counseling.

Severe controlling behavior takes a toll on the person being controlled, and you may need time away from your wife to regain a sense of self or perspective.

However, if your wife rarely or never behaves in a severely controlling manner, there is likely hope for your marriage. If you feel controlled, but your wife's behavior doesn't match what was described in this article, you should focus first on improving marital communication. Your wife may be having trouble expressing her needs, or you may have difficulty communicating yours. Things like nagging and repeated requests don't amount to being controlling, but they do indicate a potentially harmful communication pattern.

You should take time for self-reflection to ensure you know your own needs and are able to communicate them. What is making you feel controlled? Are there specific things you want your wife to do differently? Be sure you can answer those questions before discussing the issue with your wife. Your needs matter just as much as hers, but it's important you can adequately describe your perspective. When bringing your concerns to your wife, do so politely and constructively.

Is your wife controlling you?

How can online therapy help?

If you're considering leaving a potentially abusive partner, a therapist can help you plan your exit from the relationship and help support you after you leave. If problems in your marriage are not that severe, visiting with a therapist online can help you better understand your own wants and needs in the relationship, as well as how you may be contributing to marital concerns. Couples counseling is also an option; you and your wife can work together to improve your marriage from your home. Online counseling removes many barriers to accessing therapy, including traveling to a physical office or being restricted to nearby therapists only. Online therapists use the same evidence-based techniques as traditional therapists, which are just as effective when administered online.  


If you're feeling controlled by your wife, the first step is to evaluate the level of controlling behavior. If she is threatening, hurting, isolating, or monitoring you, you should strongly consider leaving the relationship. If her behavior is less severe, you can improve the situation by working on your assertiveness, developing your self-esteem, and working with your wife to increase the quality of communication in your marriage.

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