The Goals of Controlling Behavior In Relationships

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 The Goals of Controlling Behavior In Relationships
Do you try to control how your partner behaves or how your partner feels about you?

All of us are controlling in one way or another, yet many of us are not aware of what it is we are trying to control in our relationships.

I've found that there are two major areas in which we may try to control others:
• Behaviors
• Feelings

Sometimes we try to control what people do, and other times we may try to control how they feel about us and react to us. I've discovered that many people who do not often try to control others' behavior do not see themselves as controlling people because they do not realize that they are trying to control how others feel about them and respond to them.

Let's take the example of Jeff and Pam. Jeff tends to focus on what Pam does — how she spends her time and who she spends it with, how much money she spends, how well she keeps the house and how she looks. When Pam doesn't behave in the way Jeff thinks she "should", he becomes angry, judgmental and withdrawn. In Jeff's mind, he will feel loved and safe when Pam behaves the way he wants her to behave, and he feels justified in attempting to control her when she is out of line. Love for Jeff means someone doing what he wants, and he wants control over this.

Pam, on the other hand, tends to focus on Jeff's reactions to her. Pam wants control over Jeff being warm, accepting and understanding. When Jeff is judgmental and withdrawn, Pam feels unsafe and tries to control Jeff with her niceness and caretaking, Pam gives herself up and tries to do what Jeff wants her to do in order to control his feelings about her and his reactions toward her. Eventually, when Jeff does not give her the acceptance she desires, she will get angry, but niceness and caretaking are her first lines of control. Love for Pam means someone being accepting of her and she wants control over this.

It's easy to see Jeff's controlling behavior. His anger, judgmentalness and withdrawal are quite obvious. It's harder to see that Pam is actually just as controlling as Jeff — not about what he does, but about how he reacts.

Since most people hate being controlled, many people will covertly resist whatever it is the other person is wanting. For example, Pam may consistently be late because she knows it really bugs Jeff and it becomes her way of not being completely controlled by him, and her way of punishing him for trying to control her. Jeff may act accepting, yet his energy is anything but accepting. Not wanting to be controlled by Pam, he may refuse to give her the acceptance she is seeking. It can become a crazymaking interaction when Jeff acts like he is giving Pam what she wants, yet energetically Pam still feels judged.

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission.
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Dr. Margaret Paul

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Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a best-selling author of 8 books, relationship expert, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® process - featured on Oprah, and recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette. Are you are ready to heal your pain and discover your joy? Take our FREE Inner Bonding course, and click here for a FREE CD/DVD relationship offer. Visit our website at innerbonding.com for more articles and help, as well as our Facebook Page. Phone and Skype sessions available. Join the thousands we have already helped and visit us now!

Location: Pacific Palisades, CA
Credentials: PhD
Specialties: Anxiety Issues, Couples/Marital Issues, Depression
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