How To Confront Control Issues In Your Relationship

Photo: getty
How To Confront Control Issues In Your Relationship

Do you have a controlling husband or wife? Are control issues a constant part of your relationship?

It doesn’t feel good to be controlled in a relationship. On a soul level, it doesn’t feel good to be controlling someone else, either.

Unfortunately, it happens all the time and often continues until someone has had enough and wants out of the relationship.

RELATED: 15 Signs He's Not Caring — He's Just Insanely Controlling

Over time, people can get used to being controlled and feel like it’s the only way to get by in their relationship. They go with the flow, but within that flow, they're collecting and carrying resentment with them.

Controllers can get fed up, too. They can feel burdened by the responsibility of taking charge of certain areas, and stop finding those who follow them attractive.

They often lose respect for the person they're controlling, despite wanting them to dance to their tune at the same time.

Long-term controlling behavior destroys relationships and marriage.

The issue of power and control in relationships is often hidden to the outsider. Yet, within a marriage or close family relationship, it's likely an ongoing battle that affects a person’s self-esteem, happiness, and sense of identity.

Are you being uncomfortably controlled? Or are you being too controlling?

There are 2 types of control in marriage.

1. Overt control.

This is demanding, dictating, bullying, and aggressive behavior, along with subtle forms of control, like shutting down, disappearing, silent treatment, and passive-aggressive behavior.

2. "Pursue-withdraw" control syndrome.

One of the most common destructive patterns of control, this is when one partner keeps approaching the other about an important need or problem, while the other becomes overloaded and withdraws or superficially complies.

The pursuing partner becomes more and more frustrated leading them to increase the pressure, while the withdrawer becomes more and more overwhelmed by it, resorting to flight-or-fight response to escape the pressure.

Both partners feel caught in a trap that just keeps replaying. Neither feels like they have control, and both see each other as controlling.

This can happen in any area of a relationship, like sex, communication, and household tasks. It makes the control issue further and further away from being resolved, leaving both partners feeling irritated.

Now, here are the 2 most common forms of control conflict in relationships.

1. Communication control.

This is when one person in the relationship refuses to engage in discussions on certain topics and dictate what can and can’t be brought up.

This is often a defense mechanism as a result of selfish thinking, refusal to admit wrong, or fear of being attacked.

In order for closeness and connectedness to be present, you need to be able to discuss what is on your mind. If you cannot, then frustration or resentment can build, damaging the relationship.

I see this time and time again with marriages after infidelity. After a spouse has discovered an affair, they want the cheating husband or wife to go over what happened. They want all the details several times, and they always need to know why.

However, the person who had the affair wants to move on, put it behind them, and forget about the infidelity.

As much as the other person wants to let it go, they struggle, because they have so many questions, thoughts, and images going round in their head and want to talk about.

The control in this situation is different and needs to be addressed before the affair does further damage than it has already caused.

Successful relationships are all about making sure that no topics are off-limits. Any uncomfortableness or uneasiness is a sign that you need to face something. Talking about it is an opportunity to grow and work through it.

So, what can you do if your husband or wife, parent, or other close family member refuses to discuss an issue?

It's tempting to get angry and push it, but empathizing works best. Their refusal usually indicates fear — fear of getting attacked, being embarrassed and losing face, confrontation, or admitting they were wrong.

You need to help them to open up by being as gentle and as kind as possible, making it a safe place where no one is attacked.

RELATED: If He Does These 7 Things, Stop: He's Trying To Control You

2. Control of free time.

Who organizes what you do in your free time? Is it you or your spouse?

Many men and women like to be controlled in this area because they don't have to think about what they will do that week or weekend, or where and when they will go on holiday — it will all be done for them.

It's rare to find balance in this area in marriage because, over time, one person usually ends up going along with what the other person wants.

Quite often, it's easier that way and therefore accepted that one will take over such activities, and both are happy with it.

However after a while, what typically happens is one person gets fed up with always organizing everything, and feels like the whole relationship is driven by them, especially with men.

Their partners are frustrated. They're sick and tired of being the one to arrange everything from their own birthdays to their anniversary.

It doesn’t always work out like this, though. Some people like to hold on to control of leisure time and refuse to do anything they don’t want to do. They may refuse to visit family over the holidays, or organize all the family trips to suit their interests.

It’s hurtful when this happens, but the best and only thing to do is to not give in. Both people need to make themselves happy to have a happy relationship.

If someone gives in completely, it's highly likely that regrets or resentment will build — and life is too short for that.

Other control issues that can come up can be about sex, housework, and how the home looks, parenting, physical appearance, and finances.

The best way to deal with control issues is to stand up for what you want in a non-aggressive way. Be willing to negotiate until you can agree on a middle ground.

Bringing such issues up in a lighthearted way — such as a joking comment when you're both in a good mood — can work well enough to let them know that you want it to change.

Hinting is always a good strategy, at first. If that doesn’t work, then try using, "I feel..." and, "I would like..." statements to get your point across.

For example, "I feel upset when I'm not part of the decision-making, and I would like to be more involved."

Or, "I feel rejected when topics I want to discuss are brushed under the carpet. I would like it if we could discuss this issue, please. Let me know when is good for you and I'll be ready."

It's not attractive to be manipulative. It's also not attractive to be passive-aggressive when you're annoyed but not speaking up.

It's far better and more effective to influence your partner with love and kindness than to demand, control, and beg.

Control issues can be managed. They won’t go away on their own. Left unattended, they can endanger otherwise strong relationships.

Now, if your partner really is an "It’s my way or the high way" kind of person and you've been feeling unhappy for a long time, consider getting some support to work out how to change this.

And if you recognize yourself as the controlling one and are trying to make it up to your spouse, then you'll want to say and do the right things now to change this before it’s too late.

What's needed on both sides is a positive and proactive approach to control issues in marriage. Overt and covert control is chronic and entrenched, which can cause serious trouble in the marriage.

Relinquishing control is the best gift you can give yourself and your relationships. It's a gift because it doesn’t feel good to be controlling. And it's certainly not empowering to know someone is doing something because you're making them.

When you allow your partner to be who they are and who they want to be, you attract them to you and inspire them to reciprocate and love you for who you are, too.

RELATED: 9 Signs You're Waaay Too Controlling In Your Relationship

Nicola Beer is a marriage-transformation specialist and founder of the Save My Marriage Program. To book one of her free ultimate connector consultations, email her or read the 7 Secrets to Saving Your Marriage, get your Free Report, visit her website.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.