Understanding the delicate balance of control will result in a more satisfying relationship.
Denise Wade Ph.D.
Every human being on the planet wants control over their own life. This is empowerment. The trouble comes in when your partner also wants control over you, or you over them. Are you a control freak? Is your partner? Each time you or your partner set your energy, focus, or attention on the other party or in the name of care taking, rescuing, or fixing, whether unsolicited or invited, you are breaking healthy relationship boundaries. Believe it or not, these are all low level forms of control. Here are some other subtle forms of attempt at controlling another person: playing the victim to gain your partner’s sympathy or attention, manipulation, intimidation physically or intellectually, blaming your partner, temper tantrums, using guilt, making decisions for “us” or “we”, over helping your partner so they will become dependent on you either financially, domestically, physically, medically, legally etc.
The most successful, thriving relationships all have one thing in common: both parties have control over their own choices, decisions, and actions. Now I understand that there are some relationships that function just fine with the Alpha and Beta complimenting each other. For most couples though, such is not the case. In most relationships one party will consciously or unconsciously feel the need to “fix”, “control”, “rescue”, “dominate”, or “care take” the other. To visit the animal shelter and rescue our furry little friend is great and admirable, rescuing your partner, not so much.
Understanding the balance of control will result in a happy, healthy relationship. All human beings are driven by the need to be loved or the fear of not being loved. This simple awareness alone, can free you up from unwanted control, the need to control, and balance out an unfulfilling relationship. Locus of Control, formulated originally by Julian B. Rotter in 1954, is where you voluntarily place your power, to influence how you feel, think, act, and love another or attempt to gain someone else’s love. Most importantly it influences how you feel about yourself. Locus of Control is either external or internal.
• External Locus of Control- is when you give away your power to your partner in an attempt to be loved. Your acceptance, approval, affirmation of self worth depends upon what he/she thinks of you and circumstances outside of yourself. This puts you at risk of being controlled by his/her thinking, emotions, opinions, and actions. You will tend to be more reactive and feel you have no say over your circumstances. You will not feel “at choice.” This results in dissatisfaction, resentment, and anger. The risk here is these individuals may use blame, anger, infidelity, and play the victim in an attempt to take back their power, be loved, and get their need for met.
• Internal Locus of Control- is when you give yourself power. Your acceptance, approval, self worth is only defined by what you think of yourself and how you love yourself. You rely solely on yourself for care, to feel valued, accepted, and to make a living. You feel “at choice” and fully responsible for your own thinking, emotions, and actions. The risk here is these individuals often times, may feel so empowered that they may dominate the relationship or be insensitive to their partners.
Either form of control was most likely a learned behavior from a role model or parent.
External Control is dangerous in an intimate relationship in two ways:
• Fear - You or your partner may dominate, manipulate, influence strongly, or make all the decisions for you, as the couple, without consent from the other party. This usually comes from individuals whose childhood circumstances felt out of their control. This is a means, in adulthood, to claim what or who they fear they will lose. Such as fear of losing their freedom, fear of losing control over their own choices, fear of losing money or having to financially support someone, fear of losing their children, in the case of divorce, or fear of losing a loved one, such as in the case of a break up or divorce. This may result in physical, emotional, or mental abuse.
• People Pleasing- You or your partner may submit, over please, neglect own desires or needs to make the relationship work or please a partner. This usually comes from individuals who, as children, were expected to play parent to their parents in a role reversal or expected to over please and perform for an unfulfilled parents’ love in childhood. This almost always results in resentment or repressed anger and may manifest itself with infidelity, an abrupt break up, a partner who keeps one foot out the door at all times.
The reality of the dynamics between a controlling partner and the controlled partner in a relationship actually creates circumstances that become out of control. One party is not exercising free will or taking personal responsibility for his/her own choices and actions. This will eventually lead to resentment of the dominating party. Half of all break ups and divorces occur when one party feels controlled, manipulated, and not at choice.
Several studies reveal that many individuals who control their intimate partners experienced attachment issues as infants. Control, very often, is a form of unhealthy attachment. By releasing control over your partner, you are detaching and allowing him or her to make decisions for themselves. This creates a better balance of power, a healthier relationship, and removes the resentment and parent/child dynamic.
Love is letting go of the uncontrollable and accepting the unchangeable. You and your partner both possess inner reserves and gifts of knowledge, competence, skills, and abilities to make your own choices, to represent yourselves and your own needs, to care for your own selves, and to solve your own problems. That includes the decision to be in a relationship. Holding someone hostage in a relationship or marriage, by control, does not make them stay. Keeping a partner in the parent/child dynamic does not assure you get what you want. In fact, most of the time controlling people end up not getting what they wanted…a willing partner. Ask yourself Who’s Controlling Who? Is it time for a healthy shift in empowering yourself?
Copyright © 2011 by Denise Wade, Ph.D. All rights reserved in all media. Used with permission.
Denise Wade Ph.D. is a Dating and Marriage Mentor, Transformational Author, Researcher, and Relationship Expert. Denise empowers, teaches, and inspires individuals to release emotional baggage, heal past pains, and identify unhealthy relationship patterns and triggers. She is passionate about helping singles and couples create positive, loving, long lasting relationships. www.sweetharmony.net