Recognizing Controlling People
Are you in a relationship that feels controlling? Are you free to think and behave in a way that’s ok for you? Or do you repress what you think and feel because you’re afraid you’ll upset your partner?
I don’t believe we should act on every impulse that we have, but if you notice that you’re controlling yourself specifically so you won’t upset your partner, you might be in a relationship with someone who’s overly controlling. If you think you know a controlling person when you see one, read on. You may be surprised.
Obviously, someone who uses physical abuse has a control issue. People who batter others are usually very good at convincing the victim that they provoked the violence. If you’re in a situation like this, find a way to get help. There are many types of domestic violence perpetrators, but assessing someone’s level of dangerousness is a job for professionals. Leaving your partner may seem overwhelming, but sometimes a crisis precedes change. Be safe. Care about yourself enough to stay safe.
While your partner may not be violent, other controlling people use threats or intimidation to control others. While there may not be a physical threat, your partner may refuse to speak to you when they’re upset. Your partner may leave home for a period of time after a disagreement. There’s some action intended as “punishment” or “teaching you a lesson”. Partners work better as equals. One person acting as a disciplinarian indicates a strong power imbalance in the relationship.
Sometimes, power discrepancies aren’t this bold. Your partner may get angry or annoyed if you behave in a way they don’t agree with. Because we fear breaking that attachment bond, we are willing to compromise ourselves to keep it stable. So instead of saying, “I want to buy the Honda”, we go along with our partner’s wish for a Toyota. Again, certainly relationships require compromise, so there’s a fine line here. But if you constantly compromise on what you’d prefer, your partner may be a bit controlling.
In my experience working with couples, the biggest control issue I see is when one partner tells the other person how they think or feel. Have you ever been in an argument and your partner said, “I know you’re laughing about me!” or "You don't care!". Is that what you were thinking? Maybe your partner is a mind reader, but most people aren’t.
So many couples I work with have one partner who insists they know what the other person is thinking or feeling. Even when that person tells them it’s not true. This is a more subtle way in which we attempt to control or are controlled. The dissenting partner often says, “You’re going to believe what you’re going to believe.”
Have you ever noticed this in yourself? Did you have a hard time believing your partner’s story because you were so busy believing your own version? The truth is, no one can ever know our internal experience unless we share it with them. In the same way, we cannot know another person’s internal experience.
Allowing ourselves to open up and giving our partner space to tell their own truth builds emotional intimacy. That’s steroids for Winning Your Relationship Game!
Action: Recognize controlling behaviors in yourself or your partner. There’s a good article here. Read more in this series to find out how to better handle controlling people.
Have you been with someone who’s controlling? Did you recognize any of these controlling behaviors in yourself? Tell me about it below.