Control is a very destructive emotional pattern in a relationship. A controller takes away his partner’s right to make her own choices, through over-powering his partner or using guilt, put-downs, rage, zingers or destructive mind-games.
Sometimes a controller is obviously abusive, but sometimes he (or she) is so subtle that you don’t realize what the problem is until your relationship has already been damaged beyond repair.
If you are currently being controlled, you may have already lost the feeling of love you originally had for your partner. When someone continually takes away your personal freedom and your right to be yourself, it often leaves you feeling flat, empty, frustrated and disinterested in that person.
It’s very sad that controlling people generally don’t understand the damage they are doing until it’s too late to bring a relationship back to life. As a psychotherapist and a marriage counselor, I’ve come to understand that controlling relationships are painful to everyone involved.
The Control Freak
The control freak is not in touch with his (or her) own feelings. Because he is terrified of showing vulnerability, he makes you wrong rather than admit that he is feeling hurt, sad, lonely or scared. Generally he experienced something traumatic in his past where he was openly shamed for expressing vulnerable feelings.
I’ve also found that control freaks:
- Generally don’t realize that they are controlling.
- They think they are just doing what’s right.
- They just want to feel loved and appreciated for all their efforts to help.
- They think they’re helping others learn what s/he is missing.
- They blame their partners for their negative controlling behavior.
- They feel abandoned when their loved ones leave.
- They don’t feel motivated to change until they are abandoned.
- They’re broken-hearted when they realize the damage that was done.
Controllers often they don’t realize their problem until it’s too late to save their relationship. This results in feeling abandoned and unloved, which is exactly what they were trying to avoid by always being in control.
Control Can Destroy Your Feelings of Love
Control is very destructive to a relationship. Over time, it can actually kill any feelings of love you had for your partner.
I’ve found that people who feel controlled will generally:
- Want to make their own choices
- Want the freedom to be themselves
- Rebel against or comply to the control in their relationship, but always resent it
- Slowly lose their self esteem or their own feeling of self worth
- Slowly lose the feeling of love they had previously
- Look for ways to escape
- Often eventually leave the controlling relationship
When you are constantly controlled, it begins to feel like the controller’s feelings and needs are more important than yours. When that happens regularly, it no longer feels like your partner loves you, nor do you feel the same love you felt for him or her before.
6 Common Areas of Control
There are many different ways that someone can control you. Some of them include:
- Controlling the conversation
- Controlling joint decision-making
- Controlling what you do
- Controlling where you go
- Controlling your money
- Controlling your friends
Any healthy person wants the freedom to be him or herself and do what s/he wants to do. When that freedom is regularly taken away, it’s completely normal to start looking for an escape route.
Dealing with the ‘Control Freak’
It’s often helpful to get professional help when you are dealing with control issues. If you are dealing with a control freak, your self esteem may already be so damaged that it is difficult to gather the strength to stand up for yourself and for what you know is true in the relationship.
It can also be very hard to see through all the nuances and subtleties of control. Controlling people are generally very charming and convincing when they want to be. This makes it very confusing when they suddenly switch to their controlling behavior.
Even in therapy, a control freak can be so seductive that the psychotherapist himself may not be aware of what is happening. It’s very important that you trust your gut feeling if you believe that you are being controlled and don’t let yourself be talked out of what you know deep inside is the truth.
6 Tips for Dealing With Controlling and Abusive Relationships
It can be challenging to learn to stand up to control if you’ve never done that before. I’ve found that there are 6 primary ways to overcome controlling, abusive relationships in your life:
- Clearly explain to the person who tries to control you that you want to be an equal partner and make your own choices in life.
- Do your best to help him or her understand the long-term damage the control is doing to your relationship.
- Learn to be assertive! Assertiveness is speaking your truth and standing your ground when someone tries to overpower you.
- Practice setting healthy boundaries. Boundaries are the limits that let others know what you will and will not tolerate in your life.
- If the control continues, take a ‘time out’ from the relationship until the controller understands what s/he is doing.
- When your own efforts are not working, get professional help!
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