Mom is a Control Freak: How Can I Help Dad?-Part 1

By Dr Coach Love

Throughout my teen years, my mom was a serious control freak, but did not believe she was.  I live on my own now, but my Dad and little brother still get the brunt of her controlling behavior. My brother isn’t at home much any more. My dad stays silent and walks away from Mom instead of confronting her. It does not work. She follows him and starts arguments whenever she might disagree with him. If he puts the groceries away, it’s wrong or if he stacks the papers, it’s not the way she likes it. She can really get mean to him—but there has never been violence. With people outside the immediate family, she’s not too bad and they put up with it.

Her controlling was damaging to my relationship with her when I lived at home and now I think it’s hurting their marriage. I can stay away or leave if she tries to control me, but Dad is stuck with her. I know he really can’t tolerate her much anymore. Mom must be worn out. How can I help?


First, your concern for your parents is understandable. But let me suggest that your responsibility begins and ends with your relationship to your mother and how you handle it. Your responsibility is to understand the impact of growing up in that controlling marital dynamic and manage how it affects your adult partnerships. The marital relationship issues between your parents are for them to tackle— or not.

That said— here are ideas to consider about controlling behavior in a relationship. Levels of controlling behavior (and our other bad behavior) commonly vary among relationship groups. Individuals outside of our intimate circle of friends and family hold a ready-made exit card and we know it.  Many of our friendships are ‘boundary contingent’ and not based on ‘anything goes’. Bad behavior in a relationship does not sit well with too many people. Although they may care about us, we know our friends are not stuck with us. This reality is what often keeps the level of controlling (and other) behavior in check. They will only put up with so much from us. If we cross over that boundary, the friendship will likely collapse.

Boundary setting can be more difficult to recognize and enforce within close connections. In marriage and other intimate partnerships (also within family systems), the commitment level and unconditional love create different lines for what feels controlling.  With couples in particular, what starts as positive interpersonal differences can evolve into destructive, habitual sequences. What appears to be a controlling relationship, likely has roots in the couple’s history. A precursor pattern of a dominant/passive couple dance emerged early in the relationship.

What do you think? Check back for more discussions and options for change. In Part 2, I will describe what that precursor pattern may have looked like in a relationship 

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 


Dr. Coach Love 

NOTE: If you are in a controlling relationship where there is any violence, please seek immediate support, along with legal, medical and counseling assistance.


v      I invite your comments below.

v      E-mail your relationship coaching questions to

v      Questions selected will be edited as needed to reflect privacy,

            brevity, clarity, and general interest.

v      Sorry, Dr. Coach Love is unable to offer any personal advice through this blog. This blog is not intended as a substitute for therapy. If you suspect any mental health problems, please seek immediate direct professional services as appropriate.

v      Check out relationship coaching services at

 ©       Copyright 2010 P.H. Pickett, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

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About drcoachlove

Dr. Coach Love is the author of the multiple award-winning book, The Marriage Whisperer: Tips to Improve Your Relationship Overnight, published by MSI Press, a traditional publisher in California.

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