Controlling Your Partner Kills Your Relationship

  • The more fears and insecurities we have, the more controlling we will be of others.
  • It is human nature to want to control our environment.
  • Freedom from control and the freedom from the need to control is truly liberating.

Many of us have been in controlling relationships at one time or another in our lives. And it is probably no coincidence that those relationships probably were not the greatest. Some forms of control can be a very good thing. We are taught from an early age to have self control. We shouldn’t eat too much candy. We shouldn’t watch too much TV. We should have control over our emotions and act level headed. We all have learned that in order to be happy and successful, we have to have some control over ourselves. Self control, for the most part, is an admirable and necessary trait.

But when that self control bleeds over in to control in our relationships, it most often becomes, at the least, annoying, or at most, toxic. Wherever it falls on the continuum, however, it is negative—especially in relationships with our significant others. We all do it. It is human nature to want to control our environment. However, our environment includes the people that are close to us.  In selecting our mates, we look for things in common. We look for people with the same values, likes and interests. In short, we look for people who fit in to our view of the world.

I would argue, on somewhat of a sub-conscience level, that we choose our partners we feel we don’t need to control—that they would be in sync with us. While it is definitely important to find a partner with qualities and attributes that are common, it is also important to be able to allow the other person to be who they are. We will never find the person that is one hundred percent “correct” for us. That is the beauty of individuals—no two are ever quite the same. But that also presents a problem. Our significant others will be different than us in some form or fashion whether it be financial, hobbies, personal drive etc. And that will be when the issue of control comes in to play.

Life can be a tricky and scary place. We all learn how to adapt and cope. We all develop fears and insecurities. And herein lies the etiology of the need to control our significant other—out of our developed fears and insecurities. The more fears and insecurities we have, the more controlling we will be of others. We control out of the perceived need for survival. The autonomy and independence of our significant others will be a threat to our carefully controlled view of how we are to operate in the world. So we will try to control the other person in an attempt to ease our anxieties.

We may even tell ourselves the control is for their good. As much as this is a natural phenomenon in relationships, it can become toxic to the other person. The other person can no longer function on their own terms and how they view the world. Simply put, the other person can no longer be themselves. The other person can no longer be free to operate based on their values, patterns, rhythms and even strengths. Their spirit becomes diminished over time. And the irony is oftentimes the controlling person will become dissatisfied with his or her partner because the partner, in good faith to the relationship, ceases to be all of the things that originally made the relationship successful in the beginning. They simply become a puppet of the controller—void of the beauty of themselves. And despite the controller’s need to control their fears and anxieties, they will become unhappy because they also want the beauty of a relationship and the uniqueness of their partner. So both people end up being unhappy.

It is important to find someone like minded with similar values with which to become partners. That is essential. That is variable number one. However, within variable number one is variable number two—to allow that individual to be themselves. I’ve heard controlling partners say at the end of the relationship that they just do not have enough in common with their partners. And maybe they are right to a degree. But I would also argue that if one were more flexible, less fearful, less controlling of the world around them, that the “compatibility” variable would broaden. So maybe the problem is not a matter of compatibility, but rather a matter of narrowing the world around them through rigid expectations and a lack of adaptability. Maybe the problem is that the person needs too much control. And when the partner doesn’t comply or live up to expectations, instead of recognizing the control issue, the person blames the partner for not being compatible.

Personally, I’ve been on both sides of the equation. I’ve been the controller and I’ve been the “controllee.” Both are equally miserable. If you are the controller, the solution is to be confident and secure enough not to feel the need to control your partner. And if you are the “controllee,” the solution is to be confident and secure enough not to allow yourself to be controlled. Once fully confident and secure, there is a realization one has everything one needs. At that point, and only at that point, will a truly mutual and fulfilling relationship occur. Freedom from control and the freedom from the need to control is truly liberating. The prices are high however. The price of not allowing your partner to be themselves is having the person you love walk away from you. And the price of freedom from your controlling partner is the willingness to walk away from the person you love. Freedom is rarely free, but healthy freedom in relationships can be.

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Greg Hood

Greg Hood is a freelance writer, a social work professional and a proud father currently residing in Charlotte, NC.


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