We all have our foibles in relationships and we all have our baggage, but when you realize that YOUR behavior may be ruining relationship after relationship, it is probably time to stop looking at everyone else’s faults (which is always so much more fun) and start looking at yourself for some answers. How can you tell if you are too controlling in your relationships?
Chances are, if you are too controlling then one or more of your exes have mentioned it as reason for the demise of the relationship. People who are controlling in relationships are often the same way in many different parts of their lives. Being able to control your environment is incredibly important for many men and it has long been a trait that is nurtured as “masculine.”
But the traits that may move you ahead in the business world, that characterize men as ambitious, in charge and in control may not reap the same benefits in your relationships. While you can chart your own course and take responsibility for it in your professional life, when you are dealing with relationships, you are dealing with the lives, feelings and egos of not one, but two people.
Are you controlling?
People who are controlling often are not consciously controlling their mate because of her behavior, but because they see their life in a certain way and try to work towards that goal. The problem with this arises when you ignore the goals and needs of your mate in an effort to satisfy your own. Relationships are about compromise, and if you are not able to see that your way of living isn’t necessarily the way that everyone should or needs to live, then you could run into problems in your relationships.
There are some red flags that you can look for in trying to measure whether or not you need to loosen the reigns on your love life. In general, if you have an important task (or even more telling, an unimportant one), are you comfortable delegating it? If you make a mistake, is it difficult for you to admit it? Or do you not make mistakes because of careful planning?
Being able to trust others is an important step in being able to accept them and situations as they are. No one is expected to be perfect or perform perfectly all of the time. Everyone makes mistakes, and most people realize that. And if you don’t feel that you make mistakes, then you are probably in more trouble than you realize. No one is perfect. If you demand it of yourself, that is your own cross to bear (and good luck with that), but if you demand it of others then you are always going to be disappointed. People will let you down if you don’t give them the room to make mistakes, and forgiveness and understanding when they do.
One thing that you may need to realize as well, if you are indeed a controlling person, is that situations, attitudes and interactions that you may deem as unacceptable are not necessarily so for others. In other words, behavior is a matter of perspective. If your mate has behaviours or makes choices that you see as foolish or wrong, you have the right to your opinion, and they have the right to their own. Choosing how we live our lives or how we relate in relationships is our own choice. If you don’t like the choices your partner is making, you are fully within your right to express it. And they are fully within their right to disagree. If it is something you can’t live with in your blueprint of life, you might have to consider moving on.
If you are unable to accept your mate’s decisions, then you may have to look for another red flag that you are controlling: do you have a concept of personal boundaries? By this, I mean, are you able to see a separation between her life and yours? As someone who likes to be in control, you most likely have very clear rules as to how you govern your life. You like, and demand, a certain amount of order. When you are thrown out of this order, it causes you anxiety and you don’t like the out-of-control feeling.
If you are lacking a concept of boundaries, this means that you feel the need to impose your rules of order on the people close to you in your life. In order to make them fit into how you see your life, you need them to act a certain way or stop certain behaviors that you deem disrespectful or illogical. This is where boundaries come in. You have every right to control your life and live it how you want, like or need to. You also have the right to tell your mate when something they do makes you feel uncomfortable or upset. What you do not have a right to do is to demand certain behaviors of your mate. You cannot demand or put limits on your mate’s behavior simply because it is not your place to do so.
You have a right to express to someone how their behaviors affect you, and you have the right to ask them to stop certain behaviors. For example, if your girlfriend is going out partying several night a week and coming home late, you can let her know that you feel neglected and you wish you could spend more time alone with her. You cannot tell her to stop going out. She is not your property. You do not have the right to demand, bully, manipulate, intimidate a person into doing what you want. If she loves you and cares about the relationship, she will work within her capacity to make it work. If she doesn’t, move along.
If you find yourself feeling frustrated to the point where you feel yourself losing control (of yourself, not of the situation and the relationship), then you need to take a big step back. Controlling behavior moves into abusive behavior when your frustration level rises to the point where you feel yourself turning to tactics like emotional or physical intimidation. Emotional abuse can range from screaming matches to calling her names to criticizing her character because you don’t like her behavior (for example, calling her a whore for staying out late). Physical intimidation can range from throwing objects in anger to pushing, grabbing or striking her.
Your controlling behaviors may stem from any variety of causes. You could be stinging from a previous relationship that has left you untrusting or suspicious of your current girlfriend. You may have a fear that your girlfriend is going to leave you and this is the only way you know of to try to prevent it. Or maybe you just think that you’re always right. No matter what the cause, trying to control another person is a sure way to build resentment and insecurity in a relationship. Your constant “disapproval” of your mate’s behavior sends the message that you feel that you are morally superior to them. At best, that will build resentment, at worst, you could turn her into a self-fulfilling prophesy. When it feels as though you are always being judged, and always coming up short, eventually you are going to wonder why you should remain in the relationship.
Relationships are not about keeping score, they are about seeing if you can grow together enough to make each other’s lives rich and happy. If someone is pulling away from you, if you feel your grip on them slipping, then instead of trying to tighten that grip, as is your natural impulse, take a look at what it is about the other person you love, what you appreciate about them, and weigh that with what you feel you can live with. Look at how you can change and try to be honest (or get someone else to be honest with you) about what your role is in the struggles. Problems in relationships are never one sided. If you feel they are, then maybe it’s time for you to get out, but more likely it is time to take a good, hard look at your imperfections and own up to them. Starting with this one.