It took me a long time to realize that when I came home from work, I need to soften up and eschew the mask that works so well in the work place. I struggle with this all the time and try to smooth out the type A, go-getter side of my personality before I come anywhere near my fiancé. At work it's common for me to bark orders, generally be in charge and make sure that everything is getting done. Not surprisingly, this works horribly once I get home.
Once I realized this was a huge problem for me and hurting my relationships badly, I started noticing how common it is for motivated, career-oriented women to have problems gaining and maintaining romantic relationships with strong, worthy, men. They seem to have everything going for them in the workplace but when they go home, something is missing.
If you set aside a successful career's obvious time demands as a variable and focus on the woman's attitude in their home life, it becomes glaringly obvious that the same traits that are beneficial at work like leading, being the boss, setting clear expectations and generally running things, aren't as effective at home. Bosses are rewarded for just that, being bosses. This is GREAT for the work place. The problem is that what works at home — a cooperative stance, compromise, receiving help and picking battles — aren't exactly prized in the office.
The women who I know who are the most effective bosses and have trouble with their love relationships often say things like "well, I told him what I wanted, what he ought to do, and he doesn't come through for me. I feel like I have to do everything, or it won't get done." Or "he just doesn't help me enough."
I'm automatically suspicious of these statements. I start to wonder if it's really true that nothing will get done and the man isn't trying to help somehow. Is it that what needs to happen really won't get done? Or could it be that it won't get done exactly the way she wants? Is her micromanaging really setting up a feedback loop where she nags, he pulls away, she nags more, he tries to help but whatever he does isn't quite right for her? If she were to abruptly stop nagging, what would happen?
In the end, she finally breaks down and does the task herself "the right way". Resentment and tension build between the couple. This communication break down serves to inadvertently cement her attitude that she isn't getting the help she desperately needs which weighs the relationship down even further. The man starts to feel like a child being nagged to do his homework. He withdraws and begins to feel like his efforts to make her happy are completely in vain.
This leads men to say things like "no matter what I do, she's never happy." This is the kiss of death! I'd be willing to bet that it becomes frustrating when one person has more clear time frames and expectations about what should happen, and when. This goes double for women who work long hours and want to come home to a particular environment after work. If his time frame for say, completing chores, deviates from hers, she often starts wondering if she's being heard, so she repeats herself. Over time, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because of his withdrawal.
Here are some questions to help you determine if you're too controlling:
- Do you dislike accepting help and relying upon others? Do you expect them to fail at doing something the right way?
- Do you have a lot of rules and expectations for your partner?
- Do you find yourself giving others lots of suggestions, unsolicited advice, and what you believe to be constructive criticism?
- If there is a bad situation, are you the first to take over and order other people around?
- Do you insist on being right, having the final word, or making sure things are done your way?
- Do you "over-plan" simple activities?
- Are you a back seat driver?
- Do you become uncomfortable when your personal environment is not how it should be?
- How do you feel when someone makes you late or things don't go according to plan?
All of these are things to consider. If you've actually been told you're controlling by your partner, this is another red flag for me. This might be true in the heat of the moment, or something they said in anger, but there might be a kernel of truth in there. Control issues are something to examine carefully. If you're making your partner miserable with your control issues, check out this article that explains how to stop being controlling.