Wednesday, February 08, 2006

When Is A Control Freak Not A Control Freak?

NEVER, that's when. This thought process began with this post of BusyMom's. I think my entire family does it. I really do. The only difference is in how we deal with it; by that I mean what form of manipulation we choose.

The idea is this: "I will let you make all the decisions you want, as long as the results are the same as if I had decided." In other words, "I would like to create the illusion, for your sake, because I love you and value your feelings, that you have some control over this metaphorical car we're in together, but I am the one operating the actual controls. Your steering wheel and pedals aren't really hooked up to anything."

Alex and I BOTH have this personality, and I would say it accounts for 95% of the strife between us. I don't know what his excuse is, but I grew up with it, watching two very strong people, who did respect and adore each other greatly, jockey for control. What was great about them was that they both had it, or both thought they did, and so were mostly happy.

One of the memorable exceptions from my childhood was the Sunday after-church restaurant choosing ceremony, which we went through every week, for most of my life, and even after I was grown, and it was our two families going out together. It went something like this:

Dad: " Where would you like to go for lunch, my lovelies?"

Mom: "How about Franke's? I'd like some vegetables."

Dad: "Oh, no. They were terrible last time I went there, and it would be too crowded."

Me: "Cancun?"

Dad: "Nah, too greasy."

Andrea: "Chopsticks?"

Dad: "I had that yesterday."

All the "lovelies" together: "Anything but Cody's! or Ramada!"

Dad pulls up to the Ramada, where none of us wanted to go.

Mom: "Zane, can I ask you a question?"

Dad: "Why, of course, Dumplin'." (pronounced, for some reason, "dump-a-lin")

Mom: "WHY do you do this every week?"

Dad: "Do what?"

Mom: "If you already know where you're GOING to go, why do you bother to ask where I want to go?"

Dad: "Because, Sweetness, you might guess right! And then you'd be so happy!"

Also, inevitably, whenever by some fluke he was swayed by the wishes of one or more of us (usually we three had to be unanimous to influence him), at some point during the meal he would say, "NOW I remember why I said I would never come here again."

The man I married does the exact. Same. Thing. And will even say to me, "Hey, you mighta guessed right."

And I married the single most opinionated, hard-headed, unmovable block of granite on the planet, Janet. And tied with him is the man that my sister married. You know that immovable object/unopposable force thing? Yeah, that's us. Maybe if we have the gift of another few decades together without self-destructing, we'll figure out how to work it without stomping all over each other's feelings, like my parents and grandparents did. (Awkward sentence, that last one. What I meant was that they, my parents and grandparents, figured it out. Not that they stomped.)

Oh, and the other thing my sister and I both managed to do? We reproduced it, so that our homes would be forever saturated with stubbornness. Yeah. Good times ahead.

Also? Rest of my family and people you married/are about to marry/will marry? You know it's you, too. Quit laughing.


  1. I love that, "because you might guess right." That's one of the few joys of being single: I am the driver, the only driver, and I'm not stopping so you can get out of the car. Now stop hitting your brother, we're going shoe shopping!

  2. Interesting. I think I see this more than I would have guessed. What happens when one control freak just drops her/his end of the tug-of-war rope, saying "it really doesn't matter, you're choosing in the end" ? (Then again, perhaps that just doesn't happen.)

  3. *i* am by FAR the bossiest of bosses in my house. you can pull ahead belinda! i have faith in you.

    if not, you could start dropping those 'until death do we part' hints that seem to work so well for me...

  4. I think that your blog just self diagnosed me. Especially when it comes to choosing a restaurant. AND I LOVE the 'You might have guessed right' HYSTERICAL

  5. ahh another reality check for me regarding marriage - it is hard work!
    I hope that red dog gets fostered, he is so cute!

  6. Love it!!!

    And, I can just hear Zane saying those things! He was one in a million!

    Re: RED DOG - Becky is part of the Basset Hound Rescue group--email me if you want me to contact her about him!


  7. Well, at least one of you guys ends up making the decision. My conversation is usually more like this:

    C: Where do you wanna go?
    S: I don't care - where do you wanna go?
    C: I don't care.
    S: I don't care either. What do you want?
    C: I dunno. I don't care. What do YOU want?

    By far eaiser to just pull up to somewhere. At least you're pulling up! :)

  8. I'm pretty bossy, but I usually use guilt or passive agressiveness to get what I want. That's sort of my family's MO. LOL!

  9. We go out to dinner every Saturday night. We've been married 34 yrs and we consider that our "date night".

    Many years ago we decided the way to end the "where shall we go to dinner" problem was that we take turns. One week I pick, then the next week my husband picks. We also do this for the mid-week eating out too.

    But you know what, we both HATE it when it's our turn to choose!

  10. my parents were big on "think for yourself." but i learned early on that this really was a veiled threat-- "you can think whatever you want, but you'd better end up where we want you to be."

    you say it much better with your car analogy.

    good post.

  11. Yes yes, so true here. My mother was that way - your opinion was only valid if it was her opinion also. Unfortunately, I learned from it and grew up the same way. Very stubborn and hardheaded. :D Now me on the other hand, I married a guy who is the opposite! As long as he doesn't absolutely positive have a strong opinion against it, he will usually go with my way :)

  12. WWK--I don't think it's being disloyal to my husband to admit that I have times of nostalgia for my single days, when things were so simple...I'm sure he does, too. I wouldn't go back, but I remember it fondly.

    Oh, yes, Mike--that happens, and depending on the other person, opens up an opportunity for either anger or a whole martyr act. Ask me how I know. ;-)

    nita--there ain't a threat in the world that works on this man. When I say "hard head," I mean HARD HEAD.

    britt--there's a little control freak in all of us. I think we trust ourselves more than any other person, and that's not such a bad thing, in itself.

    VG--And sometimes it's just tiring and frustrating. And sometimes it's great. Just like the rest of life, I guess. Look at how much you get to travel, unencumbered!

    Lisa--you bet! I know they've been looking for a spot for this guy for some time.

    cmc--we have a LOT of those, too. Alex will get mad at ME for not making a decision, when HE can't make one, either!

    jess-that's Alex. Where I am more into direct confrontation (I don't like game-playing), Alex's nature is to avoid that. Which isn't all bad, but he makes up for it in just the ways you describe. Like, if I won't go make him something to eat right when he wants, I'll hear something like, "That's OK. I don't deserve good treatment." PLEASE!!!!!

    Judy--I think that would work, except that every week Alex would SWEAR that it was MY turn. And he'd believe that, too.

    ally--isn't it fascinating? To quote the oh, so wise Tears For Fears, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."

    stephanie--that sounds like a dream to me, although my mother swears I'd never respect a man who always gave me my way. I'm not so sure any more. It sounds miiiiighty nice!

  13. OK. This is hard to explain. Although Zane had to be in control, there was nothing that pleased him more than to see me happy. Therefore, if it was something he knew was important to me, he CHOSE to do it, BECAUSE HE SINCERELY WANTED TO DO IT. Conversely, I knew that "When Daddy was unhappy, the whole family was unhappy", right, Belinda? So if it was something I knew he would hate, I NO LONGER WANTED IT!
    Is that too confusing? Hey, it took a long time to perfect the "mutual love and respect" aspect of our 41 year marriage. Maybe no one else could understand our system, but we did it pretty darn well. Guess all couples have to design their own unique system. Keep on workin' at it, rookies!

  14. Did you all see that? She called us ROOKIES. I'd be irritated if she weren't right.

    Starting to wonder if I should have told my family about this blog...