Dealing With the Real Causes of Controlling Behavior in Relationships

Controlling Behavior in Relationships
It is not hard to find someone telling their partner what to do, where to go, and how to behave. In fact more often than not, you'd realize you're noticing that in your own relationship! The dilemma is whether two people can ever overcome this conflict and develop a genuine bonding.
"A codependent person is one who has let another person's behavior affect him or her and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior."
Melody Beattie
Pain, anger, and frustration are common for you if your partner is a bit of a control freak. Dealing with a dominant partner can be very tricky at times -- almost a choice between retaining your personal space, or the relationship itself! Controlling friends or colleagues don't affect us just as much; however, they definitely add up to the frustration.
Though such a relationship can be suffocating, it's not the end of the world! At times, people tend to overreact. Genuine concern and protectiveness can also be misunderstood for controlling behavior; there is a very thin line differentiating the two. Learning to tackle such people is one way out, otherwise it's only a matter of time till you get best of them.
Is Your Partner Taking Over Your Life?
controlling partner
Ask yourself the following questions to check if your partner is really holding the reins of your life or is it just you getting worked up over nothing.
  • Does your partner lose his/her temper at the drop of a hat?
  • Do you feel like you have no personal space whatsoever?
  • Are you afraid of telling your partner something because of his/her reactions?
  • Are you constantly told to change things about yourself?
  • Is it unacceptable for you to do several things that are perfectly acceptable for him/her to do?
  • When you disagree, are you told that you are often 'incapable' of understanding?
  • Do you constantly feel inadequate, like nothing you do is ever good enough?
  • Are you frequently told by your partner that you are good, but not good enough at most things?
  • Are you cut off during conversations as though your opinion counted for little or almost nothing?
  • Is he/she always moody and inconsiderate about his/her radical behavior towards you?
  • Do you feel distanced from your friends and family since you met him/her?
  • Does he/she feel free to insult you irrespective of who's around?
  • Are your accomplishments belittled versus his/hers?
  • Do your friends and family have a bad or rash opinion about him/her?
  • Does your partner feel he/she is always correct?
If your answer is yes to most, or all the above questions, then your partner is most likely to be controlling you. If you are unsure, check if he/she follows these behavior patterns.
Telltale Signs of a Controlling Partner
controlling partner
Following are the signs of a controlling partner:
  • Short-tempered and moody to an extent that you might find yourself scared of their mood swings
  • Abusive -- either physically, emotionally, or both
  • Your feelings, decisions, and problems amount to little for them
  • Willing to go to any extent to get his/her way
  • Your relationship always circles around their priorities
  • Commits the same mistake every time, only to relentlessly apologize later without meaning it
  • Hates the idea of you being independent and self-sufficient
  • Breaks down as soon as you threaten to break free, emotionally blackmails you into staying
Reasons for Controlling Behavior in Relationships
The first step to finding out the cause is noticing your partner. Observe and put in a thought to his or her actions and thought process. Unless you understand his/her issues and concerns, merely cribbing is not going to help.

This also includes judging such people fairly; ultimately, all this is pointless if your feelings make you completely blind to a side of theirs. Being dominant could be a person's character trait, but mostly such behavior is triggered -- for a short or long while -- by any of the following reasons:
Insecurities and Possessiveness
Almost everyone whose partner is controlling will agree that he/she is insecure and possessive at some level. Before you start complaining about feeling strangled and restrained, try to understand the other person's point of view. Merely mud-slinging and blaming each other is going to take the relationship nowhere.
Psychologically, a man's basic instinct is to protect and control! They are hardwired to call the shots and be the 'alpha' in a relationship. Women, on the other hand, usually make more sacrifices and mend their ways to build a relationship and thus are bound to feel 'pushed over' or neglected at times.

So feeling insecure is natural in any relationship. One needs to be careful that it doesn't turn to irrational over-possessiveness that eats up your personal space and suffocates you.
Has He/She Always Been Dominant?
If the person has always been the more controlling and dominant one, then it is a strong part of his/her personality itself. As a character trait, dominance need not be overpowering. However, if your partner uses this as an excuse to get away with saying or doing unacceptable things, then it is a serious concern.
Past Experiences
Trust and faith are the most important aspects in any relationship. If your partner has faced betrayal in the past, chances are that he/she will be apprehensive about trusting anyone again.

These experiences could be with anyone close to them; their previous partner, family members or even trusted friends! With these trust issues and conflicts targeted towards you, you would tend to be frustrated.
Here, there's a good and a bad side. The bright side is that your partner will not hold out on you forever. He/she is scarred from a previous relationship; with enough love, compassion and time they are sure to overcome these feelings of insecurity and betrayal. The not-so-good side is that even after being extremely patient and understanding, it may take them extremely long to start trusting you.
Constantly Seeks Love and Approval
People, who are extremely dominant or controlling are undoubtedly the biggest attention seekers. With such a partner, your life is bound to circle around his/her needs and priorities. On a subconscious level, they seek someone's approval and praise. This could be because of a childhood trauma, the feeling of not having accomplished much in their life, or their fear of abandonment.
How to Deal with Them?
Communicate
Talk to your partner; assure him/her of their value in your life. Let them know that you are willing to go an extra mile to help them, even if you have to make some personal sacrifices. Talking can take you a long way in resolving this issue.
Be Patient
Remember that your partner could be truly hurt and disturbed by a certain issue -- from the distant or recent past. He/she might find such instances too personal to be shared. Don't get hurt and disheartened. To sort this, you will have to be tremendously patient.
Earn Trust
Just saying things will not truly affect someone. Let your actions reflect your thoughts. Take that extra effort to show them you are faithful; be honest and completely transparent about each detail of your life. Remember, trust is a subconscious phenomenon. If they feel that genuineness, then it is just a matter of time before they let go of their insecurities!
Always Have Options
Don't give in to your spouse's demands just because he or she is dominating. Ensure that you always have an option in every argument, or decision. It cannot simply be their way or the highway.
Learn to Say No
The first step in standing up to the bully in a relationship is to say "no." Tell them when something is unacceptable and irrational. This is crucial because it lets the other person know that you are going to take a stand for what you believe, no matter how much they undermine your opinion, or belittle you.
Be Strong-willed
Such people get desperate when things don't go their way. They will try manipulating or threatening you so much that unless you agree, they might do something rash. Don't fall for any of this irrespective of how much they intimidate, or emotionally blackmail you. One instance of weakness will eventually mean giving in to their demands always.
Respect Yourself
Put your foot down whenever he/she crosses a line; like telling you to behave in a certain way or commenting on your clothing. Unless you respect yourself, no one out there is going to respect you. So it is important to stand up for yourself and never give in to irrational demands. Don't let him or her trample over you time and again and get away with a mere superficial apology.
As the submissive one, you need to introspect as to what you seek from the relationship. If you are looking for a faithful and long-term commitment, then is your partner looking for the same goals as well? If yes, only then it is sensible to invest so much effort in improving things.