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5 MINUTE THERAPIST ‘He is awfully controlling’

22-7 BIG 5 Min Therapist Mental Health

THE PROBLEM: Hi, Christine. I’m Sarah. I met my fiancé Matthew three years ago, when we were both 31. His parents are well-off and he’s seriously good looking. We’re supposed to be getting married in September, but I feel miserable about our relationship and I’ve got no confidence about anything. He’s very controlling about the wedding arrangements. In fact I have no say in anything. For instance, when I plucked up courage to tell him I didn’t like the music he’d chosen, he just said:  ‘Sweetie, you don’t have any taste.’

I’m sleeping badly. I’ve put on weight because I keep eating chocolate to cheer myself up, and I’m making mistakes at work.

This morning he got really nasty. I was crying, and he shouted at me to ‘get a grip’. He was so furious that I felt frightened. I feel I’m losing all sense of myself. But I also feel that I have no alternative but to go through with the wedding.

Christine:  Sarah, what I’ve learned as a therapist over the years is that most people who come to me actually know the solution to their current problem.  What they need help with is implementing it.  And I suspect, deep down, you know the solution to yours.

Sarah: Well, my gut instinct tells me to break up with him. But it’s hard.  

Christine: I’m sure it is. So, let me ask you this: were you lacking in confidence before you met Matthew?

Sarah: No. I felt happy and capable. People always said I was a very bubbly person. I’m not now, though.

Christine: OK, here’s another question: if a friend confided in you that her fiancé was a very controlling man, and that he could be really unpleasant, and that sometimes she didn’t feel safe around him, would you advise her to go ahead and marry him?

Sarah: Absolutely not.

Christine: And yet you’re still thinking of marrying Matthew. Why is that?

Sarah: Christine, you should see him. He’s gorgeous. I’m quite average looking. My parents think he’s a great catch.

ChristineDoes everyone think he’s good for you?

Sarah: Well, no. My brother doesn’t like Matthew at all. He thinks he’s a control freak.

Christine: Do you value your brother’s opinion?

Sarah: Yes, We’re twins, and very close.

Christine:  Does anyone else dislike Matthew?  

Sarah: My two best girlfriends hate him. To be honest, Matthew is often rude to people I’m close to. I used to think it was because he loved me so much, he wanted me all to himself…

Christine: And what do you think now?

Sarah: I don’t know. Sometimes I feel it’s like he wants to keep me away from others who care for me.

Christine: Is that good? Do you feel wrapped in Matthew’s care and love, and as if you don’t need anyone else?

Sarah: Maybe I did to begin with. But not now – especially after this morning.

Christine:  Is Matthew very controlling about things other than the wedding?

Sarah: Very. I like apple juice at breakfast but he always pours me orange juice. And if I change it, he sighs and rolls his eyes.  It’s small but it gets to me.

Christine: Is that a loving way to behave?

Sarah: Not really.

Christine: Let me ask you this then? Do you think that he’ll stop being controlling after you’re married and that you’ll have a happy marriage together?

Sarah: Well, I think that he’s tense about the wedding and that when we’re together afterwards he might be so pleased to be married that he’ll be all romantic and lovely …

Christine: I wonder how much you really believe that. If you had to rate that belief out of 100 – with 100 meaning you’re certain he’ll be romantic and kind after your wedding and that you’ll live happily ever after – what figure would you put on that?

Sarah: Oh … I don’t know … 20 out of 100. No, less I think. Perhaps 15.

Christine: Are you saying that you feel it’s only 15 per cent likely that Matthew will be lovely and romantic to you, and a good husband, after the wedding?

Sarah: It doesn’t sound good, does it?

Christine: Looking at it another way, are you saying that it’s 85 per cent certain that he WON’T be nicer after the wedding?

Sarah: I guess I am saying that. I can’t really marry him, can I?

Christine: What do you think?

Sarah: I think that this relationship is bad for me.

Christine: Well, it doesn’t sound very mentally healthy does it?

Sarah: No.  But how can I get out of it? He’s going to be angry. And people have bought presents …

Christine: Presents can be returned!  Who could help you if you decide to call off the wedding?

Sarah: My brother and those two friends I told you about. They’ll be thrilled! And they’re all good organisers. They’d send the presents back.

Christine: Could you stay with one of them until all this blows over?

Sarah: Yes, and I’d like that. Do you think that I’ll ever be again the confident and bubbly person I was?

Christine: I see no reason why not. Of course, it’s a big thing to call off a wedding. You might feel rather emotional for a while, which is one reason you should stay with friends and let people who love you look after you. But maybe you’ll also feel a sense of relief …

Sarah:  I think I already feel relieved. You know what you said about people knowing their own solution? Well I think I knew I had to break it off with him. But I kind of needed to talk it out and be sure. Does that make sense?

Christine:  Completely.

Sarah: Thanks, Christine. I need to get my own life back now, don’t I?

Christine: Yes, I think you do!


Christine Webber is a former TV news presenter. Since 1995, she has been an award-winning health writer. She is also a psychotherapist with a practice in Harley Street. She holds diplomas in integrative psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy. And she also has numerous coaching qualifications.  Christine is the author of 12 self-help and therapy books.  Find out more at

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