A dynamic I see all the time that leads to a rotten relationship: Attempting to control someone else.
Put differently: Trying to make the people we’re close to, do what we want.
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.
When you do this, you are attempting to take away or over-ride the other person’s choice of how he or she wants to behave. You believe that the other person should disregard what he or she wants to do, in order to satisfy your own agenda.
This sort of behavior erodes a relationship. And that’s putting it mildly.
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.
Why do we behave like this with people we purport to love?
Often, we try to control or manipulate in order to manage our own anxiety. Many of us get scared when those we love think and act differently than we do. Life can be uncertain, and controlling the behaviors of those around us may seem like a good way to ensure that things go well. But of course, relationships work best when each person is free to make his or her own decisions.
Therefore, it is worth getting a grip on your behavior.
If you think you need someone else to change their behavior in order for you to be happy, you’re in a bad spot.
Want some help getting out of it? Shoot me an email or give me a call. I’ll be glad to assist.