You might have a picture of what a controlling relationship looks like. However there are many hidden, and often missed signs of control that can cause you to feel like a prisoner to your own actions. Controlling relationships don’t have to include someone determining what you wear, eat, weigh, or who you can spend time with, there are other signs. It doesn’t have to include checking Internet or phone call histories, stopping by where your partner said they were just to make sure, or enforcing a curfew for your adult partner.
Before we get into different signs of control it is important to bring light what might be causing the control. When someone is being really controlling on the outside it might mean that inside they feel completely out of control on the inside. What better way to find security than by controlling the things you can, right? Wrong! These are what some would call “Maladaptive Behaviors”.
Someone who is controlling might also feel insecure in the relationship and try to control their partner to turn the relationship into something they want it to be rather than accept it for what it is. Sometimes it is harder to face the facts that the relationship or person does not meet our needs than to end it and be alone or they are not the same person we may have been with in the past. This sense of insecurity can turn cause you to distrust others and their actions and not accept someone as they are. This is when we might try to control various things to prevent our partner or friends from doing something we don’t want them to do. FYI accepting someone for who they are does not also mean that you have to accept that person as your partner or friend. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
The other signs of control might include:
Being Preventative: This means setting up environments so it is easier for other person not have the choice or opportunity to do what you don’t want them to. This could manifest in an infinite amount of ways. Here are some examples:
- inviting friends over rather than go out so your significant other would be less likely to drink or flirt with other people
- decreasing time out alone or with friends to stay home with your partner because you are afraid they are going to do something you disprove of
- getting them up in the morning so they won’t be late for work when they didn’t ask
This falls along the lines of enabling. Enabling is preventing someone from suffering the consequences of their actions. For example helping someone to avoid cheating by not giving them any opportunity to be alone, but in reality, if they are a compulsive cheater, they will find a way.
Taking responsibility for others when the are capable of self-responsibility. This is quite common with many people and it can lead to resentment when the other person doesn’t appreciate your hard efforts. It can also be really annoying to the person being controlled. Additionally it leads to unhealthy dynamics between the controlled and the controller; one person inevitably becomes the parent, and the other a child. This is not a good thing in relationships between partners. It holds the person being controlled from becoming an adult and gaining mastery. It also holds the one who is controlling back from being responsible for them-self. An example of this is getting someone up in the morning so they won’t be late and get in trouble when that person is capable of getting up on their own.
Being overly helpful: Being overly helpful might mean always doing things for others or constantly insisting you help even if they don’t ask. This might include doing other peoples laundry, shopping, cooking, ironing, cleaning, etc. without ever getting anything in return (and we don’t mean volunteering for those in need). This can be incredibly annoying to the other person being taken care of. While yes, it is nice to be taken care of, being overly helpful constantly and doing things that are not solicited can send a message like you don’t trust the other person to do those things on their own. This could stem from not feeling competent, valued, or secure in a relationship so to improve that you might try to force your value on others by doing things that you think they might need (but really they don’t).
The bottom line is that being the one who is controlling feels just as much like a prison as it does to the one being controlled.