Many people ask “How do I stop being controlling in my relationship?” There is no right way to arrange who controls what in a relationship. Controlling the childcare, the funds, the sex, the socialising or the levels of cleanliness.
How controlling is done can spark extremely sensitive relationship issues. Rights, responsibilities, gender, equality, trust. As well as different meanings for the word, love. Fights about these things must stop.
Wanting to be controlling tasks means you want it done “my way.” Whether you are doing it or not. Controlling people tend to ask “How do I stop this when my way is the proper, safe or right way?”.
Their partners may often then feel they are being told they are: “improper, unsafe, wrong.” This can undermine their belief in being loved in the relationship or held in good regard. Anger may follow. “Stop controlling me. It’ll be fine – the way I do it”. This is how Conflict or withdrawal begins.
If it is not fine for one of you, it’s not fine for the relationship. So how do you stop and reach a compromise?
In arguing about the “right” or “wrong” way it is easy to forget the accumulation of underlying resentments. Good sharing of who and how controlling things is arranged brings trust, connection and security. But when it goes badly it means fear, resentment and anger.
For those feeling their partner is over-controlling, control looks like selfishness, dominance, command. Yet people with a tendency to be controlling in relationship often feel discomfort, threat, fear. So stop and think about your underlying more vulnerable feelings. Tell your partner about them instead.
When we are vulnerable and feel discomfort or fearful about how things are done in a relationship, blame comes easily. ”You won’t do it correctly, safely .. ” etc. This kind of blame hides our fears and vulnerabilities. It is how we conveniently put these uncomfortable feelings outside, as “bad behaviour” by our partner. Friction surely follows.
Couples must frequently check about how the controlling works in their relationship. Is it OK? The fact that one partner does a task. How s/he does it. And the relationship feelings that the controlling, or absence of it, arouses in both of you.
We must reveal some of our inner fears and vulnerabilities in our relationship. Only then can conflict stop. Compromise can then be reached and arrangements about the controlling of tasks can be agreed.
So both sides must stretch themselves outside their comfort zones.
*Note. This is not about extreme controls: bullying and violence, which often require outside help and/or separation.
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