Long-term intimate relationships are created through a healthy balance of two committed people. Throw a control freak or controlling behavior into the mix and the possibility for lasting intimacy in a relationship vanishes. What is the difference between control freaks and the rest of us?
Most of us will admit that we like being right and getting our way. Many of us will confess that being right and getting our way are so important to us that we will even make special efforts by reinforcing our point with ‘facts’ and debate. But then there are those folks who go over the top with being right and aggressively pursue getting their way. Their self-worth and sense of security seem to ride on it. They say they are not controlling, but right.
Control-focused folks may insist and persist until others cave (to shut them up) or acknowledge their way as right. Blind to appropriate limits on pushing, they travel too far into others’ boundaries. These individuals are the control freaks.
When is a controlling person not just a control freak?
Despite jumping over personal boundaries, control freaks do not cross all lines with others. Many control freaks are likable and lovable with good intentions. Some controlling people are not easily dismissed from our lives due to specific circumstances, like family or job. There are also controlling people who seem impossible to leave behind because of the toxic power they possess.
These are the people who are dangerous to us because they escalate their controlling behavior with powerful threats, verbal abuse, or physical violence. This discussion does not describe these relationships.
Aggressive and dominating people who cause harm or create the fear that they may do so are not control freaks. Relationships with threatening, abusive, and violent behavior call for immediate safety actions and require professional and/or legal intervention.
Is everyone with a strong opinion a control freak?
Although many people have stubborn opinions on just about everything, they do not expect agreement from others. Not so for control freaks. For truly controlling people, having the right answers provides order. Any conversation that blends viewpoints (gray positions) leaves them unsettled in their black-and-white tinted world. They cannot listen because listening challenges their sense of order, control, and comfort. They cannot bear being wrong. Life and decisions are simple: “You are either with me or against me.”
Clearly, all highly opinionated people are not control freaks. Control freaks are not simply people who hold on to strong ideas. The act of forcing one’s opinions, values, beliefs, and ideas on another or harshly judging, ridiculing, or criticizing dissenting views are what separates control freaks and otherwise undesirable levels of controlling behavior from non-controlling people and behavior.
Can’t we express our views about what we think is right?
We all need a basic set of ideas to guide our lives, our sense of Good-Bad-Right-Wrong (GBRW). We label people, events, and things as being good or bad and right or wrong for us through a set of GBRWs – our cluster of values, opinions, beliefs, feelings, thoughts, actions, and patterns.
By adding “for us” at the end, we do not get bossy or controlling with them. GBRWs are the basis for our life decisions. We take action based on them. At another level, we have our Preferences-Likes-Dislikes (PLDs) to steer our choices. Controlling people fail to respect the unique GBRWs and PLDs of others.
Where do GBRWs and PLDs come from?
Our GBRWs and PLDs come from both our direct experiences and outside influences, like family and social environment. GBRWs/PLDs are healthy when we understand that they belong in the ‘what works for me’ category. (Marriage and parenting do allow for special influential use of our GBRW/PLDs with our spouse and children.)
We naturally attempt to influence people with our GBRWs/PLDs. Controlling people attempt to control with theirs.
We may validate or beef up support for our own system of GBRWs, for example, through government and religion. Government laws, which only apply geographically, outline a version of GBRW – legal and illegal, but application of the law is still determined in the field by law enforcement officials. Interpretation and consequence are decided later in courtrooms.
Religious beliefs and codes are another type of GBRW – moral and immoral, but moral values vary among religions. Even governmental and religious GBRWs are not set in stone. Controlling people believe theirs are the stone.
What if the controlling person in my life is my spouse?
Special problems arise when our spouse or significant other is controlling. Intrusive opinions, interrupted conversations, disrespectful criticisms, ridicule, judgments, bossiness, nagging, and overbearing presence are only part of the burdensome daily interactions in life with a control freak.
We frantically seek strategies to contain our frustrations and regain our own control. Unfortunately, we often try to control them in a desperate response to end their control. Trying to control a control freak can turn us into one. It takes one to control one. Relationship problems intensify because of controlling behavior.
What happens if I just ignore all the controlling behavior instead?
It may seem like common sense that ignoring or just tolerating controlling behavior would reduce the impact of the behavior on your relationship. After all, tolerance is a good trait. Ignoring and tolerating small or unimportant differences is a positive adjustment in most significant relationships.
However, tolerance is not a successful tool for dealing with a controlling partner or spouse. Generally, this strategy defeats keeping a balanced give-and-take in a relationship. Control freaks struggle with the giving part of give-and-take. Ignoring and tolerating become equal to giving-up and giving-in with a control freak.
All people are different, so why shouldn't I just accept my partner's controlling ways?
People can enjoy a healthy, satisfying, and intimate relationship when they are different. Going with the flow and rolling with differences are healthy skills, but only with a two-way balanced flow and roll. If you consciously choose to be tolerant, accepting, or laid back in a relationship with a control freak, after a while, the relationship quality gets busted by that one-way flowing and rolling.
When the topic of disagreement is significant (excluding how to install the toilet paper roll or whether to alphabetize the cans in the pantry), couples need to work toward more than fragile tolerance or calm acceptance. Daring to have a discussion or even a mild argument on the important differences can build understanding, cooperation, negotiation, collaboration, and compromise, which are the skills essential to a long-term, intimate relationship. These skills can seem like an impossible challenge for controlling people.
How does controlling behavior affect relationships and intimacy?
Intimacy or closeness is severely affected in a relationship dominated by controlling behavior. Typically, the controlling person smothers the other one who becomes emotionally absent, numb, defensively passive, or simply withdraws. Over time, emotions deaden due to repeated criticism, ridicule, disagreement, and simple aggravation with the controlling partner. How can anyone continue to feel intimate or close under those circumstances?
If your spouse or significant other is a control freak (or you are), ignoring, tolerating, or accepting the controlling behavior has a serious side effect: discouraging or eliminating intimacy. Too much of these passive behaviors toward a partner, especially a control freak, creates lopsidedness in the relationship. This imbalance will not satisfy the relationship needs of the tolerant, accepting, or laid-back person very well or for very long. Distance and dissatisfaction grow silently. The controlling person may not recognize it.
Control freaks and their partners, who over-tolerate long-term controlling behavior from them, conspire together and can easily wipe out loving intimacy in their relationship.Powered by Sidelines