Controlling Control

Control issues in relationships can cause huge problems, often associated with extremes of behaviour including intense anger which can sometimes spiral into abuse. So how do you identify that control is an issue in your relationship?

Can you or your partner answer yes to any of these questions?

  • Do you often get annoyed at your partner when they do things differently from you?
  • Do you frequently shout at your partner for expressing a different opinion to you?
  • Do you regularly get annoyed when your partner makes choices that you wouldn't?
  • Do you often tell your partner they can't do something, go out or dress in a certain way?
  • Do you ever make threats to try to change your partner's behaviour?

If you or your partner find yourself answering yes to several or all of these questions then that person prefers to be in control and is, consciously or subconsciously, trying to control their partner.

Trying to control someone against their will is bullying. It can frequently have the opposite effect of that intended. Constantly trying to control someone creates an atmosphere of resentment and an unbalanced relationship, often resembling that of an adult and child. This unbalanced relationship can end in abuse if the controller uses physical and emotional abuse in an attempt to maintain control.

The underlying cause of control issues is often insecurity and fear. If you can control the other person then you can predict their behaviour and know how to react to it. Not being able to control a situation leaves some people feeling insecure and scared.

Generally the submissive partner will be the one feeling unhappy and be most likely to want to change the balance in the relationship and gain the skills to cope. However this is one of the hardest skills to develop and talk about because fear is at the root of the problem; the submissive partner fears the anger or actions of the controlling partner and the controlling partner fears losing control of the submissive.

So how do you address issues of excessive control by one partner?

  • It is important to involve your partner in establishing that there is a problem threatening your relationship and your determination to make a change.
  • Try to establish why one of you feels the need to dominate the other and why one partner allows themselves to be controlled. Can you talk about what are you afraid of?
  • Try to reverse the pattern, even if that means starting with something small.
  • The submissive partner may need training to help to rebuild their self confidence and gain more assertiveness skills.
  • Depending on how out of balance the relationship has become you may need professional input to get to the root of the problem.
  • Sometimes this requires getting help outside of the relationship through
    counselling.
  • You can read more about control in relationships here