Most couples agree that your spouse can never love you too much, as long as it’s healthy, pure and channelled in the right way. However, what happens when your love for someone becomes too affectionate to the point it suffocates you and you feel ‘imprisoned’ in the marriage?
This type of ‘love’ is known as smothering and is overwhelming and highly controlling in nature. It’s never about love, rather it’s about YOUR selfish needs. When you truly love your spouse, you always want what’s best for them and what’s best for the overall outcome of your marriage.
When you smother, you don’t care about what’s best for your spouse. Rather, you focus on your needs and wants more than anything else. Unfortunately, this kind of love makes your spouse feel manipulated and is exhausting to live up to. Constantly having to give your attention to your spouse who is highly demanding in their need for you is a major cause of misery in a marriage.
Some may argue that for example, it’s a husband’s Islamic right to have his wife whenever he desires. Women might argue that it’s a man’s responsibility to give her complete love and attention because after all, that’s what nikkah is all about.
Both these arguments are true, but people misunderstand what they mean for the long-term success of a marriage. So here’s 11 signs that you’re in a controlling and ‘smothered’ marriage:
- Smothering is ALWAYS selfish – When you smother, you’re don’t understand or even consider your spouse’s feelings and desires. You may feel like you’re showing love, but if you’re being motivated by your own insecurity about the relationship or your own fears about losing this person, then you’re a high candidate for smothering your spouse.
- Love Is Generous – Love values your spouse and is considerate of their needs above your own. It feels amazing to see a smile on your spouse’s face because you do something for them. Plus, you care more about their needs and favour them above your own. The complete opposite of smothering.
- Smothering Seeks Attention – Constantly demanding attention or reassurance from your spouse is exhausting. From a psychological perspective, a person who does this wants to make themself feel better and to feel as if they have full commitment from you. For someone who smothers, it doesn’t make any difference that they are married to someone they love – it’s simply not enough for them. They seek attention to feel important. It validates their ego with little thought to the marriage.
- Love Is Patient & Flexible – When you love someone, you remain patient with them through life’s trials and problems. Sometimes there will be times when your spouse can’t give you a lot of time for whatever reason – family, health, work etc. However, when you love your spouse, you simply re-adjust your expectations and work around what’s best for them and for the current situation. You don’t get upset when your spouse is preoccupied with other things, because you understand it’s just temporary.
- Smothering Is Impatient & Inflexible – When you smother your spouse, it’s all about YOU. If you don’t get their time for whatever reason, you become angry, agitated, frustrated, irritated and irrational. You’re impatience and unwillingness to allow your spouse to deal with whatever they are trying to deal with will come across as clingy and will smack of desperation. Women are particularly guilty of this, and then wonder why their husbands avoid them or get angry at them for no reason.
- Love Is Natural & Carefree – When you love your spouse, it’s a natural and warm and fuzzy feeling in your heart – not contrived or forced in any way. Simply being in the company of your spouse without having to constantly ‘force’ love out of them is what true love is really about. You value each other and understand one another enough to know when to hug, when to say ‘I love you’ and when to hold back.
- Smothering Suffocates & Overwhelms – When you smother, you overwhelm your spouse because you operate from a place of fear of losing them. You constantly check up on them, you need to know exactly where they are at what time, you’re always calling and texting and you hang around them and follow them everywhere like a lost child. Point to note – if that’s you, then it is NOT sweet or endearing – it’s suffocating and can make your spouse feel as if you don’t trust them. For your spouse, it doesn’t feel like you love them when you say you do – rather, it feels like they’re imprisoned.
- Love Helps Set You Free – True love lets you be who you are in front of your spouse. There are no worries that your spouse will judge you, or the stress of having to keep up appearances. Smothering on the other hand is crippling and restrictive because everything you do is viewed under a microscope of criticism. Simply put – you can’t be who you want to be because it always has to be on the terms of your smothering spouse.
- Smothering Is Controlling – Smothering prevents you from being able to spend time with those you want to – like friends and family. A smothering spouse will constantly be watching who you are with and where you’re going as well as having issues with people you interact with. In other words, your spouse wants to control you and will even manipulate you to get you to behave in certain ways.
- Love Fosters Growth – When your spouse loves you, they encourage you to be your best self and constantly help you to be the best you can be. They’ll push you to do the things you dared to dream and live life the way you want to. In other words, they support your dreams and encourage you to grow intellectually, emotionally and in every area of personal development. Smothering on the other hand stifles growth and hinders or shuts down your dreams because your dreams don’t match with what your spouse wants from you. Many times it stems from insecurity that your spouse might end up better off than you, and therefore no longer need you in their life.
- Love Is Secure And It Trusts – Love for your spouse should always be based on trust and respect for one another. You should feel secure that your spouse loves you. However, smothering is the exact opposite and almost always stems from poor self-esteem and confidence, fear of loss, or even jealousy of you being better than they are. A troubled childhood, difficult parent-child relationships and other emotional issues can often be at the root cause of smothering behaviour.
Remember one thing – it doesn’t matter how much you love your spouse, if you are smothering them, they will begin to feel resentful and ‘constricted’. Sisters – if you smother your husband, you need to realize that your over-demanding and clingy or needy behaviour will push your husband away. He will most likely do everything in his power to want to get away from you. Men love to feel in charge, and when they are being smothered, they feel manipulated and it challenges their authority.
Brothers, if you smother your wife, she will feel hurt and angry – she WILL NOT feel loved! If a woman is not supported and is restricted in everything she does because of your demanding behaviour, it will make her confused and resentful and can lead to depression and loss of the ‘self’ in order to please the husband.
In both cases, it’s vital that if YOU are the one smothering, you need to STOP before you destroy your own marriage. No one wants to feel as if they are being locked into your world – no matter how ‘lovingly’ you do it. Give your spouse the freedom and space to do their own thing without your controlling influence over them. Trust them – after all, they married YOU not anyone else. If that doesn’t work, get professional help BEFORE you lose your spouse forever.
Even though you want your spouse with you at all times, understand that this just isn’t possible or practical. Children, work, family etc will all get in the way of life at some point. Your job is to adapt when times are hard and trust that your spouse loves you – even if they are temporarily distracted with other things. They are your soul mate – NOT your cell mate. Your spouse should never feel imprisoned around you, rather your love should liberate them to be who they truly are.
A healthy relationship allows one another to breathe by giving you space to do your own things. It’s not about whether you love your spouse too much – rather, the point is in realizing whether or not what YOU are doing is loving and understanding and understanding how YOUR actions are making your spouse feel.
Finally, remember this golden piece of advice: By trying to control too much, your spouse will resent being with you and will (given the chance) want to STAY away from you if you don’t stop. In short, the things you do most to hold onto them will be the very reasons that will eventually drive them away.
May Allah SWT grant us all the wisdom to love our spouses for the sake of Allah and not for our own selfish needs ameen.
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