Do you feel like you’re being controlling? Putting consistent unreasonable expectations or demands on your partner? Are afraid of things not going your way? It’s actually more common than you think, you know, and is led by fear and anxiety more than anything else. But it’s not a good way to be, so we’ve got to tackle it head on to become a better partner and to build a healthier, more balanced relationship that will really last. Here’s how to stop being so controlling in a relationship…
Signs You’re Being Controlling in a Relationship
So first up, if we want to know how to stop being so controlling in a relationship, we need to first recognise how we’re being that way. This is not always clear. After all, in our head, we’ve found ways to justify the way we’re behaving.
So, have a read through these key signs and see how many of them sound familiar to you. If it’s just the odd thing – you’ve probably got nothing to worry about. It’s more cause for concern if you’re finding multiple truths in, that you do pretty regularly – or every time when it comes to a certain situation.
The most important thing is to not be in denial, okay? You can get better. You don’t have to be like this. But it won’t happen unless you own up to your faults.
Some Of The Signs You’re Being Controlling…
- You try to dictate what your partner does and when.
- You interfere with their friendships or other relationships.
- You seem to be isolating them from other people (sometimes unintentionally.)
- You seem to want them with you at all times and don’t understand or respect their need for alone time.
- You’re often quick to criticise and always want your partner to meet your standards.
- You make acceptance / love / care / attraction conditional.
- You guilt-trip your partner to get what you want.
- You get angry or overreact when you don’t get what you want, which often results in arguments.
- You might cross the line with invading their privacy – spying or snooping.
- You make always make plans for the two of you without even consulting them.
- You’re always the default decision maker and definitely say you ‘wear the trousers’ in the relationship.
- You don’t like to compromise and aren’t willing to meet in the middle. You don’t ever really listen to their point of view.
- You try to dictate your partners future to match your own desires.
- You always want to know where they are and what they’re doing and need constant disclosure.
- You want them to focus on you instead of others, and take it personally when they’re not.
- You worry a lot when they’re doing things without you or making decisions without you.
- You ask an excessive amount of questions.
- You use a scorecard or hold things against them to give yourself more power. They’ll often have to ‘earn’ trust or other good treatment.
- You make them feel beholden to you because you give them all you can. It’s almost like they owe you something, are unworthy or don’t quite ‘measure up.’
- You often feel jealous, throw around accusations or get paranoid.
Pretty heavy right? It’s not nice to hear, I know. But just because you’ve been acting in ways you’re not proud of, doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. I mean, the very fact you’re here, reading this article right now – shows you want to do something about it. So this is a good thing, trust me.
Why Are You Being Controlling in a Relationship?
If you’ve realised you’re actually pretty controlling in a relationship – don’t worry, you’re not crazy. Like I said, it’s actually more common than you think. So why are you like it? Well, it could be down to a number of things.
- You might have low self-esteem and be afraid of losing your partner, so you end up holding on tighter, without realising that’s probably going to push them away. (This is a common one.)
- On the flip side, you may just like certainty and safety. In fact, this is a strong need for you in your life and relationships. Because of this, you might be trying to control others to fall into predictable patterns and behaviours, so that there are no unexpected surprises or deviations from what you expect.
- You might also be trying to avoid any issues or conflict, so you simply head off any present or future problems – without realising that that has in turn made you become overly controlling, which will only create problems anyway.
- Another reason, may be because you’ve been hurt before. You’ve trusted someone and they’ve let you down – lied, cheated, gone behind your back. So this controlling behaviour is a defence mechanism against that, for fear of something similar happening again.
- What’s more, if someone has been controlled by someone else in their past or is being controlled by someone else now – sometimes they then overcompensate, to try to regain control back into their life. But, it comes at the cost of developing a healthy, meaningful relationship with their partner.
- There are many deeper reasons too. In fact, it’s not unusual for people who had a hard upbringing to develop controlling tendencies and anxiety about maintaining their life. A child that grows up in this situation may try to fill the gaps left by parents that couldn’t fulfill their role well.
There are no end to reasons, which is why you need to find and identify why it’s happening for you.
In my situation for example, it was due to a traumatic past experience – which again, is not uncommon. I’d been in a situation where I was so out of control (and hurt by someone I thought I could trust), I thought I had to put my guard up, make sure I saw any potential ‘threats’ or ‘harm’ to protect myself. That sometimes came out as controlling behaviour, but this leads me onto my next point because…
If you can recognise WHY you’re being controlling, you can then do something about it.
This is the key. Know what’s driving this behaviour. What are you so scared of? What’s causing you to act this way? Is it just bad habit? Is it just a negative characteristic (that you can change by the way) or is there more to it than that? What negative past experiences may contribute to the way you are and the way you think now?
The need for control usually stems from different types of anxiety and fear, so look particularly at what those are.
Once you’ve done this, we can then start to move forward with the more practical tools for how to stop being so controlling in a relationship.
Five Steps To Stop Being So Controlling in a Relationship
1) Write A List Of Your Habits
So you know how I outlined the signs of controlling behaviour above? I want you to pull together your own list, but specifically write out the things that you tend to do which comes across as controlling.
Discuss this with your partner. It’s important for him / her to see that you’re working on it, and you’ll find you then also have the support you need from him / her to make it easier too.
Jot down everything and then highlight the things you seem to do the most. This is important because you’re going to become so familiar with this list, that when a controlling behaviour creeps in, you’ll spot it and stop it before it escalates!
2) Get Clear On How You Feel In That Moment
You should now know what you’re doing, you should know the ultimate reason why you’re doing it – but I now want you to get clear on how you feel in that moment.
When you’re putting unreasonable demands on your partner or are about to tell him what he / she can’t do – think about what’s going through your mind.
What thoughts are rushing through your head? What state are you in? You know your intention, but is that driven by fear, anger, negative thoughts?
These are emotions driven by our thoughts and for some of us, it’s about learning how to better deal with these emotions. We’ll run through that next…
3) Change Your Reaction
Once you know how you typically react in that moment, and what it comes out as – decide what you can do instead. Let me give you an example.
- Let’s say a key habit is making sure your partner is always texting you when he’s out with his friends… And if he’s not or he gets too busy and doesn’t reply, you’ll hold it against him.
- You notice that when you’re not with him and he’s out with someone else, you feel very anxious. You also feel like you don’t matter to him / her. (Unreasonable to think this, you recognise that – but it doesn’t stop you from feeling it because you’re very insecure and afraid of losing him / her.)
- When you don’t get a reply back from your partner, you find yourself getting angry, which results in the incessant texts to him / her and then the arguments once he’s home.
In this situation, you would need think about how you can better manage the emotions that drive the two key behaviours:
- The need to keep texting them when they’re not with you (due to anxiety).
- The reaction of getting angry or overreacting if they don’t reply.
Create new habits for things you will do when you feel these certain ways. So, when you’re worrying in a certain situation – instead of putting all that worry on your partner, write it out in a diary. See the situation for what it is instead of what you think it could be. Process this anxiety properly instead of acting on it.
Similarly with the anger, try anger management techniques – like counting to ten, or fifty, or one hundred. Or working on your breathing, walking that frustration out, using visualisations etc. You don’t always have to act on the way you feel. Sometimes it’s better to just feel it, work through it and then act once you can think more clearly.
4) Find Things That Help
So let’s carry on with my last example with this one: the texting situation. If you know that you feel uncomfortable when your partner is out with friends, and you know that this is not even justified – find things that will take your mind off things during that time. So you might:
- Plan to do something with your friends when he / she is doing something with theirs.
- Keep your phone out of reach so you can’t text and you’re not constantly checking to see if they have.
- Plan something that the two of you can do together a couple of days later so you have that to look forward to instead.
You might think that this sounds silly or excessive, and when you’ve completely removed your controlling behaviour – you will actually look back at the things you had to do for situations that really shouldn’t have been a problem – and think, boy… look how bad things got!
But that’s the thing, because you’ve recognised your controlling behaviour and are addressing it head on, so it won’t stay like this. You won’t need to do things like this forever, because you will have changed and grown yourself. But it will get you through it in the meantime and make it easier.
This is also why – alongside managing your reactions in the meantime – you have to work on building yourself up.
5) Work On Building Yourself Up
Learn more about how you’re using control as a defence mechanism and the fear that’s driving you. Read books, talk to a coach or therapist. Knowledge is power my friends and the more you understand it, the more you can do about it. When you’re satisfied with your knowledge specifically in this area and are readily applying it to your life, look at the other things you can do to help.
Stress management, dealing with anxiety, building that confidence up. Work on the areas that you identified you struggle with, not only in a relationship but in everyday life. Focus on growing as a person and being the best version of yourself that you can be.
Relationships are amazing, but they’re not everything. You are still your own person. You should still live your own life. And as much as you love this person, you need to know that you would still be okay without them.
But you won’t be unless you can get the balance right and learn to focus on you too. This actually eases the intensity in the relationship, puts less pressure on things and makes everything far more natural.
If you work through these steps, I promise – they will really help you to become less controlling in your relationship. But you must, must, must stick with it! Don’t just try it once and expect instant results. Keep doing this. Keep working on things. Because that’s what will create a lasting impact.
Ten Tips To Stop Being So Controlling in a Relationship
So what else can you do? To finish it off, here’s some quick-fire recommendations for things that will help you to become less controlling…
1) Talk to your partner about it.
You’re a team remember? This isn’t something that you have to tackle on your own. It’s something you’re both aware of and working on. You’re not putting any demands or expectations on your partner. You’re just being honest with how you feel, why you’ve been acting the way that you have and allowing them to be there to support you.
2) Shift your mindset from entitlement to appreciation.
When you have an ‘attitude of gratitude’ as they say, it completely changes your state. Instead of thinking about yourself and thinking about what you need – stop putting yourself above your partner and think about how lucky you are to have them… How much you love them and how important this relationship is to you. It will make you re-think things more if this is at the forefront of your mind, because you know your controlling behaviour isn’t making them happy.
3) Similarly, focus on what you can GIVE instead of what you are GETTING.
You should strive to be the best partner that you can be, because you love this person. You want them to be happy, which means allowing them to live their own life. If they let you down, you have the self-respect to walk away. But don’t sabotage things for yourself by excessively demanding from them. Work on giving more love and joy to them, and you’ll find you get even more back.
4) Remove those negative thoughts.
The ones that assume the worst is going to happen. The one that makes you think everyone in life ends up letting you down and love is only going to break you. If you have any limiting beliefs, work through them with this method. Similarly with that negative self-talk, tackle it head on!
5) Work through those insecurities.
Like we said previously, insecurities often contribute to controlling behaviour because it causes us to not value ourselves the way we should and question the intentions of others as a result. Don’t let these self-doubts fester because they will end up driving you crazy and running your relationship into the ground.
For a complete guide to destroying insecurities, subscribe to this blog below as we’re going to run through that in more detail in an upcoming post.
6) Let your guard down.
I know it’s scary, I get it. But constantly worrying about the thing you don’t want to happen – doesn’t stop it from happening. It just means you keep experiencing the impact of them before they’re actually reality, and makes them MORE likely to happen in some ways.
If you’re scared of feeling vulnerable, I want you to read this. It will open in a new tab so you can still come back to this article, but I think it’s going to really help you.
7) Turn demands into questions.
But questions with no hidden agenda! How you communicate actually makes a big difference in how you come across and therefore how controlling your partner feels like you’re being. Being curt, direct, and unyielding is going to be perceived as controlling, whether you’re trying to be or not. There’s a time and place for this, of course. But don’t make it your primary method of communication. Instead, be softer, show that you care, show that you don’t mind what they say, that it is down to them.
8) Open your mind a little.
Learn to take things as they come. This doesn’t mean you have to drop your standards and accept anything. It just means you’re going to see that it doesn’t have to be ‘your way or the high way.’
You won’t compromise on the things that are really important to you in a relationship (and if you feel like you have to, you may be better evaluating if this is the right one for you and you are truly compatible with your partner.) But you will see that just if things don’t go exactly how you thought they would or should, it can still be okay. It doesn’t have to always be such a big deal.
9) Work on getting a healthy balance in your relationship.
Consciously encourage your partner to do things without you and make sure you’re doing things away from them too. It won’t pull you apart, it will bring you closer. You both need space to move and breath.
10) Understand that it’s okay you’re different.
You are not your partner. Your partner is not you. They aren’t going to look at life through your eyes. They will have their own thoughts, opinions, preferences, and beliefs about life and how it should be conducted. When you learn to accept and celebrate these differences, you can start to better understand and appreciate what you both bring to the relationship.
A healthy relationship includes respect for a person’s flaws and quirks just as much as their positives. By accepting these differences, you can demonstrate that you respect and value your partner instead of trying to make them think, act and live the way you would and therefore want them to.
So that’s it for now guys…
I really hope this will help you to stop being so controlling in a relationship. Remember, it’s not enough to just read this article. If you actually want to create a change, you have to implement it. So write down a few things you will do based on what you have read here, then commit tot it and do one thing right now to actually work on it.
The first steps are the hardest, but have faith. You can do it! I know you can. This is not you. You will work through this, coming out the other side – far happier and stronger.
Still struggling? Use the pain-pleasure theory of motivation to drive the action and change. Click here to read more on that. In a nutshell, you want to stir up heaps of pain around what will happen if you DON’T do anything about this. Then on the flip side you need to become conscious of all the things you’ll gain, how much better your relationship will become and how much happier you will be if you DO. Hope this helps. Best of luck!