When Controlling The Story’s More Important Than The Marriage

I’ve seen several marriages ends in divorce because one spouse is more concerned with the public perception of them as a spouse than making the marriage work.

Disaster is at hand when one person feels looking good, innocent, or like the victim, is more important than actually having a good marriage. Rather than putting their energy into the relationship, they spend their efforts spinning what is happening. Be it selective truth, exaggeration, or full out lying, they do what they feel they must to avoid being seen as the “bad one” in the marriage.

A common scenario of this for women is sharing with their friends only the bad things he does and only the good things she is doing. This makes him look far worse than he is and makes her seem to be the victim. This can cause her friends to say things supportive of leaving him or setting boundaries that are inappropriate. If her marriage starts to improve her friends may think she is giving in to her nearly abusive husband and try to pull her away. Her spin becomes a false version of her marriage that she may find difficult to leave.

The truth is we have all done things wrong in our marriages, and very few bad marriages are all or mostly the fault of one spouse. If someone is sharing a narrative about their marriage that makes them look great and their spouse look horrible, the odds are good they are being less than honest. A true friend gently challenges such things. Our goal should be to bring out all the truth, not what feels good for our friend to share. Wanting to control the story is human nature, but it’s wrong and destructive to a marriage.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and my story is my wife is better than I am.

Links may be monetised
Image Credit: © Marek-AdobeStock | stock.adobe.com

Shop Amazon ♦ Shop to give links page
We’re donation supported Thanks for your help!
Where we’re going Contact us about speaking

21 Comments on “When Controlling The Story’s More Important Than The Marriage

  1. I used to control the marriage by spinning it to seem like it was good. The whole, “never say anything bad about your spouse” that floated around the internet Christian message boards and advice columns. It got to a point where I was so distraught, I finally sat down with a couple older ladies from church and poured out all the bad. It really was all the bad he was doing and all the “good” I was doing.

    Yes, his bad was bad. But my good was codependency and enabling. Not so good.

    There was very much this undercurrent in the christian women’s groups that we ought to make our marriages look good on the outside. And that faking the good could make it good, “winning him without words.” Frankly, it left me feeling enslaved in a near-abusive marriage.

    When I gave up trying to make it all look good and work and started speaking truth and telling select people, authorities how it really was, then it got better.

    • I think that there is a huge difference between talking to a couple of spiritual church women and “spilling your guts” in a gripe session with a group of other gripers. My mother lived in an abusive marriage that few could match, but I never heard her talk about it indiscriminately. On a few occasions she would go talk to our pastor, and there wree some things that had to be apparent, but she was very circumspect. Sharing our burden is one thing, looking indiscriminately for sympathy among a bunch of women who run the gamut from innocent to more guilty than their husbands but accepting no blame is another.

  2. So this isn’t necessarily a control thing, but I’m looking for an answer as to why my husband reacted this way… I’ll try to keep it brief.

    I went shopping yesterday. For me. For clothes. Which I almost never do. I hate shopping. I have a hard-to-fit body type and I get frustrated. My husband is very generous and would like for me to have nice clothes. So that’s not an issue.

    Last night, I was trying on my purchases to show him. Dress one he says “I like that a lot.” Dress two he says “that’s nice.” Outfit three he says “I like that”. I saved the best for last. The dress I really felt confident in. The one I really thought flattered me. I put it on and walked inot the living room. Silence. He’s looking at the dress, and not saying a word. Just silence. More silence…So I said “it’s okay if you don’t like it. I can take it back.” And I did NOT say it with an attitude, I was being nice. He’s like, “what? Why? It looks nice.” But he says it in his voice that I know is his “what is the right thing to say in this situation voice.”

    I told him, “no, it’s totally okay, if you don’t like it, I’ll take it back.”

    He starts getting frustrated!!! He’s like, “I told you it looked nice.” Really? After three minutes of silence? I think we ALL know what that means.

    The thing is, I’m not mad about the dress. I’m disappointed because I did really like it and I thought it looked nice on me, and almost nothing ever flatters me because I’m built so weird. So yeah, internally I was very disappointed. But I know I’ll never wear it because I now know he really doesn’t like it, so why should I waste the money to let it sit in the closet? And even if I ever do The whole “empowered woman, who cares what my husband thinks, I can wear whatever I choose” attitude – which I won’t – and wear it anyway, I’ll be sad the entire time knowing I’m wearing a dress my husband thinks I look ugly in.

    Now he’s frustrated with me. He keeps trying to backtrack and say he didn’t not like the dress…he was tired….blah, blah, blah. Why does he have to play games? Why is it fun to make me crazy? Shouldn’t he just be happy that I’m willing to take it back and get his money back? This is why we argue all the time. I honestly want him to be happy, and he gets mad. We have such a weird relationship.

    Again, not looking for pity or control. This isn’t even about this post in particular. What I’m looking for is to understand what In The world my husband is thinking and why he is so into mind games that make me bonkers, because once he gets frustrated with me he doesn’t want tot talk about it anymore.

    • Ok, so this is pure speculation here, but here’s what I think. I think he gets frustrated because you just won’t let things go. Like, even if he doesn’t like the dress much himself, he could probably tell that you really liked it, and doesn’t want you to not wear it just because of what he thinks (I think he like you to do more of the “empowered woman” thing, if only so his every little thought won’t utterly destroy your self-image). So, maybe during that space of silence, he was trying to find some detail about it that he did like, so he could given it an honest compliment, and not make you feel bad and not wear the dress you clearly love. Trying to be considerate of your feelings.

      But then he took a little too long doing that, and so you called him out on it, and predictably interpreted his silence in the worst possible way, as you always do. His experience has taught him that being honest isn’t an option, nor is lying, and even silence, his ONLY other option, gets him in trouble with you. So just what is he supposed to do, exactly? He can’t even smooth things over afterwards, as you never believe a word he says. Rather, you superimpose your own interpretation of his actions over him, and nothing he says or does will make you change that or let it go. You cling to your negative view of him and his words and actions, and you never let go of things. He is powerless to do anything to change the situation. And that’s frustrating.

      • Thanks for taking the time to reply. I’ll think on what you’ve said. There could be some truth here.
        One thing I’d have to disagree with, though, is where you said I’ve not taught him being honest isn’t an option. In my opinion, SILENCE is always the wrong choice. Silence means one of two things. 1. I really don’t find you worth the effort of talking – or – 2. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Silence almost always, I’d say 99.8% of the time, indicates negativity.

        I’m totally fine with him being honest. Will I always like the honest answer? No. And that’s okay. He’s entitled to an opinion, and so am I. I do not need to be made happy. I’d much much much rather him be honest with me, even if it’s not what I was hoping to hear – as opposed to him lying to spare my feelings or choosing silence. All silence does is leave a blank that needs to be filled in.

        What he needs to get over, is if his honest answer makes me sad. That is totally okay. I will thank him for his honesty. Seriously, I’d rather have honesty and feel a little hurt, than be lied to or ignored. Being lied to and/or ignored is far, far, far more hurtful. Honesty is always best in my opinion. It may not always be the most comfortable, but it is always best.

        And I’d be honest with him. Why on earth would he not want me to not wear it if he didn’t like it? My goal is to please him and make him happy. I want us both to enjoy what I’m wearing. I don’t want to walk around with a false sense of thinking he thinks I look nice, while all the time he’s thinking I look ridiculous.

        If my husband came out in a ridiculous looking shirt, I would tell him “honey, that’s not your best look.” If he chose to wear it anyway, that’s his prerogative. But I would have the courtesy to tell him.

        I have no desire to embarrass my husband or walk around in a dress he thinks is ugly or makes me look stupid, no matter how pretty it made me feel in the dressing room. It’s totally okay. I’d much rather know the truth. AND I’d much rather have him tell me the truth and stop worrying about whether it makes me happy or not. If he could find a way to understand this, we’d both be a lot happier.

        • Hmm, I’m not sure expecting him to “get over” wanting to not make you sad is a realistic or even reasonable expectation. No one wants to grieve their loved ones. I don’t think he’s gonna get over that one, that’s not happening anytime soon (if ever). You’re gonna need to find some way to work with him the way he is, instead of wishing he was different.

          It’s either that or separate and/or divorce. Which would not be the worst thing in the world for you, I don’t think. Better to be separate and a little lonely than together and completely miserable; loneliness is a lot easier to deal with long-term. I don’t really know what’s keeping you two together, honestly. He’s bad at communicating, and you’re bad at listening. Which would be a terrible enough combination even if you DIDN’T have other marriage problems to factor in, such the sex drive imbalance between you two, or his wandering eye. Not to mention the fact that you feel convinced that he doesn’t really love you. That last one alone would do in most other people’s marriages. So it’s quite puzzling to me, the fact that your marriage has lasted as long as it has, quite a head-scratcher.

          • @Amazing Ace – Wait, are you really suggesting B would be better off divorced? Do you have any idea what a divorce does to a person – and their kids, and their family? Even when a divorce is right and necessary it’s a horrible thing that hurts everyone involved deeply.
            Please don’t suggest something so drastic if you don’t know the people and the situation or there is clearly abuse or danger.
            Paul Byerly recently posted…Maybe It’s You?My Profile

            • Not one word of what I have said is untrue, and you know it. Or you would, if you had bothered to take time to read any of what I actually said, instead of just seeing the word “divorce” and charging at it like a bull at a red flag. What I said, in a nutshell, is that she will either need to find a way to work with the husband she has (instead of the husband she wishes she had) or separate. If she can’t (or won’t) do the former, then the latter option IS better for them both, long-term. It’s better by far to be alone than stuck in a miserable marriage you can’t fix (for any reason). It’s not necessarily good (nor is it inherently bad), but it is better than the alternative, and comes with a much greater chance of finding happiness and peace.

              You said it yourself, sometimes divorce is right. And while I don’t know for sure that it is right for them, by the same token, neither can YOU know for certain that it ISN’T right for them. Ultimately, that is between them and God. But I am not wrong, or out of line, to merely speak of it as a possibility. It’s not as if “divorce” is a dirty word, so quit acting like it is. Even if it WAS a dirty word, you’re a grown man, you’re not a child who’s tender ears are much too delicate to hear such things. Or . . . at least I THOUGHT you were. Seems I may have to rethink that assumption. At any rate, B is a grown woman, she can take it, even if you can’t.

              • @AmazingAce, wow. I just said a prayer for you. Your comments make it sound like you’re having a bad day. It’s okay, I have bad days, too.

                I’m not going to get divorced. I can see why it might not sound like it from the comments I make when I’m bummed about something, but my husband and I are very much in love. We each have our own unique brand of crazy. We drive each other nuts, and yet we are still crazy about each other.

                I have my issues, he has his. It was the grace of God that brought us together, and the grace of God that keeps us together.

                It was crummy of me to complain so much about something as silly as a dress. I still feel like he should be honest, but it’s also not as huge of a deal as I made it sound.

                I won’t go into it here, but he and I have been through many trials together and we are very much in love. If anything, this conversation has made me stop and think about how right we are for each other. We are not miserable. We are both passionate people with strong opinions, but we are very far from miserable.

                I’m sorry if my venting gave the wrong impression. Praying your day gets better. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

                • Thanks, appreciate it. Can’t ever have too many people praying for ya, I think. I’ve just said a prayer for you as well. Yeah, I have been having an abysmally lousy day, it sucked big time. I don’t even want to talk about all that happened, that’s how lousy it’s been. Thank GOD it’s almost over. You ever have a day where everything that could go wrong did, and you’re in such a foul mood, and you simultaneously want to lash out and vent, but also just want to be left alone? It’s a weird set of conflicting emotions, let me tell you. Like, why couldn’t everyone see how bad a mood I was in and leave me the heck alone, let me scream my frustration into the void in peace? Everyone just needed to back away today, but they did not, they just HAD to step on my toes. Which just made things even worse. So, that’s been my day, it’s been pretty craptastic. Thanks for picking up on it, BTW, no one else has. It helps just have it acknowledged by someone else, so thanks for that.

                  Well, I’m glad to hear that you aren’t miserable, that’s very good news! I guess it just seems that way when all I hear about is the bad stuff in your relationship, and hardly any of the good. It kinda skews my perception, make it seem much worse than it is, evidently. And I’m glad that this conversation could help remind you of the good, and . . . help to put things into perspective a bit, I guess. It means that at least ONE good thing has come out of my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, so that’s a blessing. Of sorts. Wish the rest of the day could have been good as well, but you take what you can get on days like today.

                  I’m very tired now, so I’m turning in shortly. Good night, all. I know very well that I’m a cantankerous old pain in the you-know-what, that I’m often obnoxious and disliked, but I do wish you all the best. Sleep well. You’ll need your rest, if you want to fight me tomorrow! JK, lol. I’ll need at least two days before I’M rested enough to wrassle you all again, after today.

        • How can you unilaterally say silence is the wrong choice? He doesn’t have a say in this if you unilaterally declare silence the wrong choice.

          If someone perceives they are punished regardless what they say, or that what they say is disregarded by the other, then silence is their very best choice and only way to avoid punishment for what comes out of their mouth.

          As it was put, there has to be safety to be open and honest. I would say that includes silence. Now I would suggest they say I don’t know what to do, but then only if that is regarded as a safe response and they are not punished for it.

          And I agree, telling someone to “get over” making another sad is not realistic. We scold people for telling them to get over abuse, affairs, the death of loved ones, etc.

          A good portion of Job was telling him to get over his losses or his friends telling him he must have sinned to bring this on.

          I can’t think of too many circumstances where the right thing to say is “get over it.”

    • @B – Many guys see a parade of new clothes as a torture worse than death. By four you may have exceeded his capacity to care.

      You started with “I went shopping yesterday. For me.”. So make it for you – get what you like and enjoy wearing it!
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Under Promise, Over Deliver?My Profile

      • I could, and that would probably be the smart thing to do. But I won’t enjoy wearing it if I know he doesn’t like it.
        I really don’t want to embarrass him, or worse, wear something that causes him to turn his eyes away from me and towards a woman in a dress he does like.

    • B, I’m sorry, but your plight brought a smile to my face.
      Been there, done that.
      I get very excited when I go on a little shopping spree. It’s fun to buy things that make me feel good about the way I look (or find things that actually fit right!) But, I gave up giving my husband a fashion show years ago.
      He has NO attention span for seeing the things I bought. It’s almost painful for him. You probably would have been better off showing him your favorite dress first and leave it at that.
      So, I keep my excitement to myself. When the time comes that I get a chance to wear one of my new outfits, I put it on without saying a word. That’s when he usually notices and offers some ‘form’ of compliment.
      It’s just not worth the anguish it causes both of you to expect him to react the way you would like him to.
      “what IN The world is my husband thinking?” What gives you the idea he was thinking at all?

      • @Jolie, yeah, that’s probably what I should’ve done. Not shown it to him. Now I’m upset that I’ve wasted the money. I can’t wear it, because I won’t ever feel good in it again, knowing he doesn’t like it. I now hate the stupid dress and wish I’d never decided to buy myself something new. He always asks why I don’t buy new clothes, this is why. What’s the point?

        And so, if I return it, he will get upset. I’m not sure why, but he will. Last night he kept getting upset when I said I could take it back. I think it would be smarter to get the money back than to just leave it hang in the closet to avoid a fight. So, I’ll wait until he forgets about it, and then some lucky woman will get a brand new dress from Goodwill.

        If I ever buy a dress again, I’ll just wear it without making a big deal out of being happy about something I felt good in, and all of this nonsense will be avoided. 😜

        • B seriously. Most men don’t give a crap about clothes. I know for a fact in that scenario you described my husband would be napping, or thinking about his car, or the recipe he wants to try. He (and most other men) really just don’t get clothes. I can understand being psyched, but text the pics to your girlfriends or something.

          He’s frustrated because you put words in his mouth and thoughts in his mind and then ABSOLUTELY REFUSE to believe him when he corrects you. Mind reading is a super bad idea. Who doesn’t hate it when someone else tells them what they feel and think? Especially if that someone is someone they love dearly who will INSIST on putting the most HURTFUL POSSIBLE interpretation on their words and actions (and even their silences for heaven’s sake). You have GOT to stop this mind reading of yours.

          You know how you can apologize? Wear the damn dress. Tomorrow. And keep telling yourself he likes it until you believe it. Decide to believe him for once.

    • @B….honey, I have clothes that I know look good on me and I love them, but hubby does not like them. He doesn’t hate them, but he doesn’t like them, either. I keep them,and wear them anyway. I get no compliments from hubby and plenty from other people.

      On the other hand, hubby buys me clothes sometimes that I think look horrible on me! Usually, it is something that looks smokin’ on the model but is completely the wrong style or cut for my body type. It ranges from him liking it anyway, to him looking confused as to why it looks so bad on me. He has pointed out clothes before in catalogs and I have told him, “remember, honey, I am not that body type.”

  3. The proverb comes to mind, “The one who states his case first seems right,
    until the other comes and examines him.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

%d bloggers like this: