The most successful, thriving relationships all have one thing in common: both parties have control over their own choices, decisions, and actions. Now I understand that there are some relationships that function just fine with the Alpha and Beta complimenting each other. For most couples though, such is not the case. In most relationships one party will consciously or unconsciously feel the need to “fix”, “control”, “rescue”, “dominate”, or “take care of” the other. To visit the animal shelter and rescue our furry little friend is great and admirable, rescuing your partner, not so much.

Every human being on the planet wants control over their own life. This is empowerment. The trouble comes in when your partner also wants control over you, or you over them. Not a control freak? Think again. Each time you set your energy and focus on your partner or your partner sets his or her focus and attention on you, in the name of care taking, which is a low level form of control. Here are some other subtle forms of attempt at controlling another person: playing the victim to gain your partner’s sympathy or attention, manipulation, intimidation physically or intellectually, blaming your partner, temper tantrums, using guilt, making decisions for “us” or “we”, over helping your partner so they will become dependent on you either financially, domestically, physically, medically, legally etc.

Understanding the balance of control and what drives most people in intimate relationships will free you up from unwanted control, the need to control, and balance out an unhealthy relationship. Locus of Control, formulated originally by Julian B. Rotter in 1954, is where you voluntarily place your power, to influence how you feel, think, act, and make decisions. Most importantly it influences how you feel about yourself. Locus of Control is either external or internal.

External Locus of Control- You tend to give away your power to other people. Your acceptance, approval, affirmation of self worth depends upon what others think of you and circumstances outside of you. This puts you at risk of being controlled by others’ thinking, emotions, opinions, and actions. You will tend to be more reactive and feel you have no control over your circumstances. You will not feel “at choice.”
Internal Locus of Control- You tend to give yourself power. Your acceptance, approval, self worth is only defined by what you think of yourself. You rely solely on yourself for care, to feel valued, and to make a living. You feel “at choice” and fully responsible for your own thinking, emotions, and actions.

Either control was most likely a learned behavior from a role model or parent.

External Control is dangerous in an intimate relationship in two ways:

• Fear - You or your partner may dominate, manipulate, influence strongly, or make all the decisions for you, as the couple, without consent from the other party. This usually comes from individuals whose childhood circumstances felt out of their control. This is a means, in adulthood, to claim what or who they fear they will lose. This may result in physical, emotional, or mental abuse.
• Submission- You or your partner may submit, over please, neglect own desires or needs to make the relationship work or please a partner. This usually comes from individuals who, as children, were expected to play parent to their parents in a role reversal or expected to over please and perform for the parents’ love in childhood. This almost always results in resentment or repressed anger.

The reality of the dynamics between a controlling partner and the controlled partner in a relationship actually creates circumstances that become out of control. One party is not exercising free will or taking personal responsibility for their own choices and actions. This will eventually lead to resentment of the dominating party. Half of all break ups and divorces occur when one party feels controlled, manipulated, and not at choice.

Several studies reveal that many individuals who control their intimate partners experienced attachment issues as infants. Control, very often, is a form of unhealthy attachment. By releasing control over your partner, you are detaching and allowing him or her to make decisions for themselves. This creates a better balance of power, a healthier relationship, and removes the resentment and parent/child dynamic.

Love is letting go of the uncontrollable and accepting the unchangeable. You and your partner both possess inner reserves and gifts of knowledge, competence, skills, and abilities to make your own choices, to represent yourselves and your own needs, to care for your own selves, and to solve your own problems. That includes the decision to be in a relationship. Holding someone hostage in a relationship or marriage, by control, does not make them stay. Keeping a partner in the parent/child dynamic does not assure you get what you want. In fact, most of the time controlling people end up not getting what they wanted…a willing partner. Ask yourself Who’s Controlling Who? Is it time for a healthy change?

Author's Bio: 

Denise Wade Ph.D. CMRC is a Dating Mentor, Transformational Educator, Author, Researcher, and Relationship Expert. Denise empowers, teaches, and inspires women to release emotional baggage, heal past pains, identify unhealthy relationship patterns and triggers, and be seen and heard in all their relationships. She is passionate about helping women create positive, loving, long lasting relationships.

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Copyright © 2011 by Denise Wade, Ph.D. All rights reserved in all media. Used with permission.