This is a tough subject to look at today but I think it’s something that everyone needs to ask themselves. I hope that you will see what you need to.
by Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D.
Do you ever try to control someone you love?
Most of us, even if we don’t mean to, do at times try to control the people to whom we are close. Here are some subtle and not-so-subtle examples. See if you can find yourself anywhere on this list:
You make it clear how you think your partner should do things, and become distant if he does not behave according to your wishes.
You give friendly, unsolicited advice or “helpful hints” to your friend, and get angry if she doesn’t follow your ideas.
You withhold information from your boyfriend that, if he knew it, would lead him to do something that you would not like.
You act hurt when your girlfriend doesn’t do what you want her to do.
You make plans without consulting your partner and tell him that it is his obligation to join you.
You try to get your daughter to do what you want, without her realizing it.
You develop expectations for your partner and withhold sex when he does not comply.
You try to rescue your mother from difficulties she faces, without being asked, and are irritated that she doesn’t accept your help.
Control is different from influence. When you try to influence someone, it is likely that you have the other person’s permission, and that your agenda is out in the open. People try to influence those they love (and others) all the time, often with mutual benefit. Indeed, allowing yourself to be influenced by a loved one can enhance a relationship.
When you try to control someone, you are attempting to take away or over-ride the other person’s choice of how he or she wants to behave. You essentially ask that person to disregard what he or she wants to do, in order to satisfy your own agenda. Underlying communications in controlling behavior include:
“If you care about me, you will do this.”
“I will only love you if you do as I wish.”
“Because I’ve done so much for you, you should do this for me.”
I believe that trying to control someone else through threats and guilt erodes a relationship.
Sometimes we tell ourselves that we are acting in the other person’s best interest. But inherent in this thinking is the belief that we are more competent to make decisions for the person we love, than is that person. Excepting cases of true impairment in judgment, this belief demonstrates a lack of respect toward the other person.
If control can do so much damage, why do we try to control those we love? Often, we do so in order to manage our own anxiety. Many of us get scared when those we love think and act differently than we do. Also, life can be uncertain, and controlling the behaviors of those around us may seem like a good way to ensure that things go well. So it makes sense that most of us will occasionally try and control our loved ones, even without realizing it. However, relationships work best when each person is free to make his or her own decisions. Therefore, it is worth noticing how you may be trying to control others.
Are you interested in reducing your own controlling behaviors?
Suppose that you were in my office, talking about an important relationship, telling me, “I don’t want to control his behavior, but I can’t help myself. I get really unhappy when he doesn’t want to do the things that are important to me.”
Here’s what I would ask: “What can you do about your unhappiness?”
You might respond, “I can convince him to do what I want.”
If that were your reply, I would ask you, “Do you want to force the person you love to do what you want, rather than what he wants?”
This is a tough question. You might think that your choice was between dominating your loved one, or not getting what you want. Perhaps neither choice would be appealing.
At this point, a new thought might occur: “I can have a happy life and a good relationship even if he doesn’t do what I want.”
With that realization, we would then be able to consider ways that you can take more responsibility for your own happiness, and be less in charge of the person you love.
Have a blessed day
Love & Light