What Every Woman Needs to Know
About the Guest
Sometimes life gives you a wake up call. Ron and Jan Welch recall their first anniversary when Jan told him that his controlling behavior was making her feel like a bird in a cage. Even though she passionately loved him, Jan got tired of having to "clock in" with him each time she left the house, and Ron's insecurities made him constantly fear that Jan would leave him. Find out how God finally got Ron's attention through the behavior of his sons.
Ron and Jan Welch recall their first anniversary when Jan told him that his controlling behavior was making her feel like a bird in a cage. Find out how God finally got Ron’s attention.
What Every Woman Needs to Know
Bob: Ron Welch has described himself as a controlling husband. He met the woman who would become his wife while both were in seminary. He says he knew how a husband ought to be treating his wife—he just didn’t live it out.
Ron: I had the opportunity to offer her a picture of a loving Christian husband / I had the opportunity to show her Christ through me. I had been taught principles, growing up, that I could have learned and integrated. What I taught her was: “Okay, Christianity and a Christian husband is a guy who is going to get his way. If he doesn’t, he is going to pout about it or control you and try to make his way happen.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, April 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey. I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to get into the mind of a controller today to learn what happens in marriage when one person has to have things his or her way. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You and I were talking earlier about today’s subject. This may be something that’s going on in more homes than anybody realizes. Don’t you think?
Dennis: I think you’re right. And I think our listeners are really going to benefit, personally, from these broadcasts or they know someone who can benefit from our time together. We have the author of The Controlling Husband, Dr. Ron Welch with us, along with his wife, Jan. Welcome to the broadcast.
Jan: Thank you for having us.
Ron: Thank you for having us.
Dennis: Dr. Welch serves on the faculty at Denver Seminary, and Jan’s a school teacher by trade as well.
I just have to get right after the issue here. A lot of books get written because we have personal needs—that’s true of you guys; isn’t it?
Ron: It is. This is a story that is close to our heart, and it’s a story that we wanted to tell because we have a feeling that there are other people out there who are living the same story.
Dennis: When did you first become aware that you were a controlling husband?
Ron: When you say “aware,” you mean when I was first notified or when I accepted the reality?
Dennis: Well, let’s start with notification.
Ron: Okay. The notification was, I would say, our first anniversary, probably. She was fairly clear in terms of telling me, “This isn’t okay.” I can’t recall exactly how you phrased it, but—
Jan: It was wonderful. He surprised me with going to the same place we celebrated our honeymoon. So, we had a wonderful time. Toward the end of our honeymoon—our first anniversary—I just was honest with him. I said: “Sweetheart, I love you; but I feel like I am a bird in a golden cage. You don’t give me freedom—you kind of set down: ‘You can’t go there. You can’t do this. You can’t go...’” Within that year, I just would sit in the apartment, and it was very difficult. I would bring him food at night—he worked a different shift. That was really the only time I got out—was to bring him food.
Dennis: So, Ron, what did you hear her saying—that first notification on your anniversary?
Ron: I heard her saying that she was not happy and that things might not be the way she wanted; but I immediately went to trying to figure out why she might think that. I came up with 15 or 20 different reasons. It had nothing to do with me because, of course, I wasn’t the problem.
Dennis: Is that endemic of a controlling husband?—he would have difficulty hearing what his wife is saying.
Ron: In fact, I think it’s so endemic that it’s part of the reason women are scared to bring the topic up—because I would usually respond with either anger, or defensiveness, or—I’m pretty good at talking people out of things. I can come up with all sorts of reasons. She will tell me at times—we can be talking about a topic—by the time we are done, she thinks something different because of listening to me. There wasn’t a lot of reason for her to keep bringing it up when it didn’t seem like it was getting through to me.
Bob: Let me jump back, because you guys had a whirlwind—I mean, a whirlwind marriage romance. [Laughter] This beats Dennis and Barbara. [Laughter]
Really, Dennis—you and Barbara—you got engaged and were married how many days later?
Dennis: Well, we dated six weeks, got engaged, and got married six weeks later.
Bob: Alright; now, let’s put them up against you guys. How long did you date before he proposed?
Jan: Actually, what’s kind of funny is—we were at DU [University of Denver]. There is a class that we took—I had noticed him in other classes. He’s a very bright and very personable young man: “I really like this guy!” We finally did a project together. I started flirting with him—kind of giving him the eyes. He said, “If we go out to dinner or do something next week—that would be nice.” I was like: “Yes! Yes!” and that was our first date. Saturday, actually, is when I said, “You know, after church, what do we want to do?” Ron said, “I think we need to go look at wedding rings.” I was like, “Okay!”
Ron: So, we got engaged five days after I met her.
Bob: I’m just wondering, “Did you notice anything that caused you to say,—
Bob: —“Maybe there are some things going on here”?
Jan: One of the first things—we were somewhere, and we were meeting. He was—we were going in different cars. I’m like an hour ahead of him. I’m just like,
“I won this thing!” He gets out, and he’s very upset and angry. He was worried that I was taking risks, and that was really the first time I ever heard him kind of get upset about something. It’s kind of what happens when you really worry about something or someone. He just wants us all to be safe, and he’ll think of everything he can do to keep us safe—which kind of sometimes limits what you can do.
Dennis: This is one of the things you can point out in your book, Ron, is that a controlling husband can be very proficient in getting things done.
Dennis: He can be highly protective—in fact, to the point of being jealous.
Dennis: When was the next time you noticed, Jan, your husband’s controlling nature?
Jan: I would say throughout the—before we were getting married and even afterwards—he was very uncomfortable if I hung out with friends that I knew before him. Whenever that’s kind of a conflict in your relationship—your relationship is a little bit more important, right at that point, than your friendships—
—because you’re still in that rosy part of “I’m in love, and this is wonderful.” I was willing to let go of those friendships / I was willing to not see those people and be around those people. As you said—just kind of leave that—now, everything revolved around just us.
Bob: Ron, what was going on with you that you were trying to get her away from her friends and get her exclusively with you?
Ron: What was happening, largely, was insecurity. I think this is one of the biggest things that I want to contribute to the understanding of what a controlling husband experiences; because the idea is: “These must be really bad guys who love to control women. They must be guys who are pretty much jerks.” People will ask Jan: “Why did you stay with him? He was such a jerk!”
She has some interesting responses, in terms of why she stayed; but my experience was, “If I don’t control it, bad things are going to happen.” I think this is one of the keys, looking inside the mind of someone like myself is—it’s not just because we enjoy controlling other people—
—it’s because “If we don’t, we don’t think that things will be okay.” You can guess what that means about my limited ability to trust God because—if I can’t trust my wife, if I can’t trust you guys for this interview to work out okay, if I…—I have all sorts of reasons why I can tell myself, “I better do something to fix this because, if I don’t, then, worry, anxiety, insecurity kicks in.”
My mom was a wonderful lady; but for her, the glass wasn’t just half empty / it was draining rapidly—if that makes sense. She taught me to look for all the possible things that could go wrong in the future—I do everything I can to keep busy and stop those bad things from happening.
Dennis: In college, you had some interactions with young ladies that exacerbated your insecurity—
Dennis: —and how you didn’t feel confident around the opposite sex.
Ron: Yes; I started feeling like, “If they had the opportunity, they probably would choose someone else.” Believe it or not, there was a part of me—
—even in asking her to marry me as quickly as I did—that thought, “I better do this pretty quickly; because if she gets to know me, I’m not sure she’s going to like me and she probably won’t love me.”
Dennis: So even the proposal was driven by insecurity.
Ron: I’d have to admit that now. Looking back, 28 years ago, I think there’s a lot of truth in that. I don’t think I’ve ever had anybody phrase that to me before, but I think that’s exactly what happened.
Bob: You said insecurity is a big factor here.
Bob: You also talk about anxiety and anger being contributing factors. Unpack the anxiety issues and the anger issues; can you?
Ron: For a lot of controlling men, the anxiety starts by suggesting things that can go wrong. Then, you start taking action to prevent anything that might go wrong. I already know that, if I can see it coming early enough, I can try to fix it; because a lot of us men are fixers. We like to try to prevent the bad things from happening. For insecure men, they have a choice between fixing it or waiting until the bad thing happens.
Well, guess what happens when the bad thing happens?—they get angry. They yell, or they scream, or they try it, or they get overwhelmed and scared. That’s part of the thing we want most to avoid—is that experience. We are afraid bad things are going to happen to people around us. We may have had loss or times in our life when we’ve really not been able to trust God. This idea of saying: “Well, just trust God. He’s got your back,”—when, so many times, I had taught myself, “I had better do this myself, because I’m the only one I can rely on.” It creates a problem.
Bob: Were you a Christian at this time?
Ron: Yes; I grew up in a very Christian home. My parents taught me from an early age. I was part of church from as early as I can remember. My dad was a pretty strong guy, who was definitely in charge of the household—but he honored Mom / he respected her—but he made the decisions. There wasn’t really a lot of give and take oftentimes. My mom would always tell me, “I have a lot of input in the decision”; but I always felt what I saw was Dad kind of made the decisions.
Dennis: You talked about your mom, watching the glass drain. Your dad had a way of kind of punching holes in the glass—
Dennis: —because of his anger that you watched all the time from your childhood.
Ron: Yes; yes. I certainly knew what I could do to provoke that if I wanted to. I tended to be someone who kind of tended to push the envelope at times. I would realize it was coming and think, “Okay; what can I do to prevent this?” Then, I would find ways to prevent it. I saw my mom do the same thing—I learned from her ways that she could avoid the bad thing as well.
Bob: Jan, you’d grown up in a Christian home as well?
Jan: I would say, “Yes,” in the early years; but when I was born—or six months after I was born—my older sister died of a brain tumor cancer. That kind of disintegrated the family, pretty much, at that point. My sister—and as I said—recalls us going to church more when we were very, very young; but by the time my parents separated and divorced, it was something you went at Christmas---maybe Easter---and you didn’t have it in the home. God was not talked about / the Bible wasn’t read. It wasn’t a part of our lives—a significant part. I did go to Catholic schools.
I learned about God in those ways, but it was not something I would bring back home to the family; because it was just not something that was relevant.
Bob: So, I’m just wondering about the first year of your marriage, where you’re starting to experience a husband who is saying—what was he saying?—“I don’t want you to leave the house.
Bob: “You stay home. You bring me dinner,” and then, “You go right back home”?
Jan: Pretty much. I mean, it was like---if I wanted to go out and do something, I felt I needed to call him; but we didn’t have cell phones then. If I was running late, I needed to make sure I would let him know. It was just—you kind of felt that you tried your best not to provoke that anger—if you could just fall within these guidelines of making sure you are there on time / if something happened, you needed to call and just be aware of that. It wasn’t like you could go out and have—do stuff. I was still—we were still in our 20s.
Bob: So, if you just said, “I’m going to go to the store and do some grocery shopping,”— if you didn’t have his okay to do that—he would have gotten angry with you?
Jan: Probably not the grocery store—but if I wanted to go meet friends and do something, or if I wanted to go downtown—and it’s not safe, necessarily, downtown. So, any place that could be potentially—harm could come---he would—it’s not like he would forbid it; but he would come up with reasons: “You know, it’s really just—that time of night, there’s just so many people. Things could easily happen.” He could always use your safety as an issue that you can’t fight. You can’t fight: “If you go and you do it, and something happens…”
Jan: And you’re like, “Oh, yes; you are right, but…”—it was just not worth the risk, I guess, in my mind.
Bob: So, my question is: “Where was God in the midst of any of this in that first year of marriage for both of you?”
Ron: This is one of the saddest parts of this story for me. It’s just really hard to realize that I had the opportunity to offer her a picture of a loving Christian husband / I had the opportunity to show her Christ through me. I had been taught principles, growing up, that I could have learned and integrated.
What I taught her was: “Okay, Christianity and a Christian husband is a guy who is going to get his way. If he doesn’t, he is going to pout about it or control you and try to make his way happen.” I know you can’t take the past back; but wow, I have no deeper regret in my life than what they have had to experience because of some of those mistakes I have made.
Dennis: Okay; so we’re going back to your first anniversary, where you had your first notification that you dismissed and didn’t hear your wife, in terms of what she was saying. When did you get your next real notification that caused you, at least, to pause for a moment?
Ron: Yes; yes. For a few years, she had started to make comments or observations at times and say, “Hey, this doesn’t seem like this is okay”; but she started thinking, I believe, that: “My best alternative is just to stay quiet and not rock the boat.” I think that became her m.o.—[modus operandi / method of operation]—was just not to really say a whole lot.
The time that I recall most clearly was when I started seeing my sons treat her the way I treated her. They would tell her: “Go get this,” or “Pick me up now,” or “Do this.” I’d give them the lecture of: “Well, hey, you’re not supposed to talk to your mother that way. This isn’t the right…” I recall, as vividly as if it was yesterday, God just slapped me across the face and said, “Who do you think they are learning it from?!” because I was teaching them not to value women / not to value their mother—to order people around. That was the moment, I think, when I started realizing, “Something has to change,” because there was such inconsistency in what I said I believed and how I was acting.
Bob: So, Jan, you went years—
Jan: —very many years—
Bob: —years with this: “Just keep quiet. Do what you are told.”
Jan: —because, if you rocked the boat, the outcome was worse if he got upset. Because if you tried to—if something bad happened / maybe you got a dent in the car or—that explosion would happen. Then, he’s fine after that. We learned to—
—if some bad news happened—you’d kind of drop it, and then you’d leave or you’d get away from him for 15/20 minutes; then, he processes it and then he’s much better—but it was that explosion. What comes out in that explosion is very hurtful, because it’s their immediate—whatever they are feeling—there is no sensor / there is no: “Is this going to hurt you if I yell and tell you these things?”
My dad was so much like that—that it was just very nightmarish for me. So, I would tread very carefully. If there was a way to get away with not having to say it or to try and say it—you had to make sure he was calm—that nothing else was going on. You would try and find the right time. There’s not always a right time when something immediately needs to happen.
Bob: Why didn’t you either blow the whistle or call a divorce attorney?
Jan: Well, pretty much, my support group was gone. I mean, I grew up not really having a mother or people to talk to about things. Whenever I had a problem, I turned to myself and had to solve it for me or try to.
And I had made a commitment to love/honor—trust each other. I grew up as a divorced kid, and I did not want that. I would have rather been unhappy—which I was—than to be happy and not with him because there were so many other wonderful things—I mean, this—sometimes, when we talk about it, it feels like that was our whole marriage—it wasn’t. He is bright / he takes care of things—but I didn’t recognize it as that—it was just natural.
Dennis: So, Jan, undoubtedly, you guys were going to a church during this time; right?
Dennis: And no one at church could detect anything that was taking place here?
Dennis: So, were you involved in any kind of a small group?
Bob: Would you have been willing to be in a small group?
Ron: I doubt it. I probably would have found a way to see the risk in that—
Ron: —or been fearful of other people confronting me. It wasn’t like other people, Dennis, didn’t have comments to make to me in other areas of my life about being a controlling person, or trying to take over, or thinking I knew everything.
I knew this about myself. It wasn’t just her that was saying it. I just—to be honest—didn’t care. I was much more concerned with trying to get my way, and make things happen, and go comfortably than I was trying to change.
Bob: Okay. So, the woman, who is listening, who is going, “Boy, that sounds like us,”— what does she do, Ron?
Ron: The first step, in my opinion, is she has to decide: “What is actually honoring and acceptable behavior to her?” She has to set some type of boundary because, if she doesn’t draw a line somewhere, saying, “This is what I believe is acceptable behavior,” then, what ends up happening is—the man can just simply keep justifying it. The wife has to be able to say, “This is not consistent with what God has called you to be.”
I understand, if the family doesn’t happen to have a faith and the husband has no other reason to behave differently, then we end up in a difficult situation, where there may not be a rational reason for him to think it matters.
He may just say, “Oh, if you don’t like that, I’m going to leave then. Fine!”
In a Christian home, we’ve been called to act certain ways.
Dennis: Yes; yes.
Ron: We state we believe the stuff we read, and there has to be consistency between how we act and how we treat the people we claim to love the most.
Dennis: And you can see how the Bible gets used almost like a club—
Dennis: —to keep a woman “in her place,” thinking she doesn’t have—
Bob: —a voice.
Dennis: —the spiritual right to be able to say to her husband: “No. This is it. I’m drawing a line here, and we’re going to go talk to somebody.”
Now, here is where I have to ask you, Ron: “Is this book written for her husband or for her?”
Ron: The book was written for both. The idea was to be able to say, “If you don’t have hope in the marriage at all, the person who is probably going to hear it first is the wife.” She’s the one who will probably know what’s happening.
My hope was that some of the men would care enough about her experience—then, when she would say: “Here’s what my life is like. You won’t listen to me. So, read this. This is what it is like. This is what I’ve been experiencing, married to you,”—that, maybe, he would be concerned enough to step back and look at what he was doing.
Who would you think would—wives tell me—is the person they have the most pressure from, in the church, to follow what their husband says to do? They are much more concerned about what other women say to them; because women say: “Well, if you would just submit more…” “If you would read the Bible more…” “If you would participate in this prayer group more, then, you’d understand what submission is like.” I have wives, who call me, saying, “My pastor and my husband say, ‘If I could just learn to submit, this marriage would be fine.’ Can you help me to submit more?” That’s a red flag to me. When I come in—and I meet the couple and I talk with them—an awful lot of those times, we’re talking about a husband whose idea of submission is complete control.
Dennis: Well, we’re going to talk more about that later.
I guess, if I had to summarize what your book is about—for both the wife and the husband—it’s about true authentic love—
Ron: Yes; yes.
Dennis: —not love of self—but, first of all, love for God and, then, self-denial on behalf of your spouse to properly love them. To that wife, who is in that situation, one of her first steps ought to be to get a copy of this and begin to go through it because it’ll teach her what real tough love looks like. I think there is going to be a lot of listeners who want a copy of The Controlling Husband.
Bob: Well, of course, we’ve got copies in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Listeners can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order, online; or they can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request a copy. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
I just got back from being in Branson this weekend, where I spoke at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway there. I talked to a lot of couples who are going through a wide variety of issues. It may not have been this particular issue; but there’s a lot that can cause a couple to get to a place in their marriage, where they go, “I don’t know if we can make it.” We had some of those couples with us this weekend in Branson.
I mention that just because we have Weekend to Remember getaways happening throughout April and May, into June. If our listeners have never been, or if it’s time for a tune-up, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to get more information about how you can attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway; or call us if you have any questions at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
I should mention this is not a weekend getaway just for couples who are struggling in marriage. Most of the couples who were in Branson this weekend have a great marriage.
They came to the weekend just to make sure they were doing the right preventive maintenance on their marriage. Again, if you need more information—you’ve never attended or if it’s time for a refresher—go to FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
You know, you think about the conflict that occurs in any marriage—and those conflicts come up when we lose sight of God’s design for marriage or when we never understand it in the first place. That’s the case with a lot of couples who are getting married today. They’ve just never had anybody explain to them God’s design for marriage, but it’s also easy for any of us to let that priority slip in our life / in our marriage. One of the things we hope this daily radio program does for listeners is to keep reminding all of us of what our priorities need to be so that our relationships can stay healthy so that we can continue thriving in our marriages and in our family relationships.
It’s easy for any relationship to slip; and when damage is done, often the repair work takes a lot of effort and a lot of time.
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear about the wall that Ron Welch was building in his marriage—how he and his wife Jan were moving more and more toward isolation because of his controlling behavior. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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