Do you struggle with being too controlling? Has your partner ever mentioned that you’re a control freak? Do you regularly feel uncomfortable when things don’t go as expected?
I understand that there may be a lot of underlying feelings and thoughts behind the need to feel like you’re in control. While the reasons people become this way are important, I’m going to focus on ways to stop the desire to be in charge.
Rather than beat yourself up for all the reasons you need to run things, I think it’s important to make positive changes after realizing this has become a problem for you.
How To Stop Being Controlling In a Relationship
1. Begin to notice when things are going differently than you would prefer.
It’s important to ask yourself how you feel about what is happening. Then determine if you need to make sure the course changes or if you can let go of whatever is going differently than you were hoping.
Usually, the feeling of nagging irritation right after something happens is a sign that you will be triggered to act controlling. That sense of: “OMG, no! That is not right!” This is your clue.
Sit with that uncomfortable feeling for a little bit. Decide what exactly caused it. Now think about whether letting something happen differently than you expect threatens you or your safety or is just different than you would prefer.
Is the way the situation going actually “wrong,” or does it just differ from your expectations? This leads us to the next step.
2. Consider your expectations for your partner.
If you’re struggling with your partner not exactly living up to your relationship expectations, it’s time to think about whether your expectations:
- Have been clearly defined.
- Are reasonable and realistic.
- Are clear to your partner.
For the control freaks of the world, the immediate gut reaction is to think, “Of course, my expectations are reasonable!” No, not always.
There is always a fine line between being “organized” and driving everyone you know nuts with your requirements for them and your shared environment.
It’s one thing to know what you want and a whole other to require it from others without letting them have a say in anything– then punishing them for not meeting your expectations.
3. Pick your battles.
It’s vitally important to recognize what is a battle worth fighting and what is something you should let go of.
After sitting with your feelings about not being in charge of a situation, take some time to determine if this particular issue is one where you could let it go or make a reasonable change to your underlying expectation.
For example, if you expect your husband to do the dishes the second the meal is over unfailingly, but he doesn’t get to it right away, is this something you can let go of and compromise over?
Take a minute to think over each potential conflict where you want to jump in and say, “but I’ll do it,” and decide if you can let it go or change your expectation.
In the spirit of picking your battles, dropping arguments once they have been dealt with is important. Once you’re emotional, sitting with your feelings and not acting out on them immediately, start doing the same thing with disagreements and arguments.
Recognize that a resolution has been made, and it’s more important to move on than dwell on ways that he failed you in the past.
4. Practice letting things go.
Let go of the idea that it won’t be done correctly if you don’t do it yourself. What is correct anyway?
Cultivate an environment of praise versus criticism. Praise your partner for doing anything to help you. Shut down the instinct to criticize.
If something isn’t an immediate threat to your personal safety, consider whether it’s still vitally important that it’s done your way (Hint: it probably isn’t).
5. Think about your delivery.
Your partner isn’t a robot sent to do your bidding. If you approach someone in a way they find emasculating or harsh, you will set more fires than you put out.
If someone said, “Oh my gosh, I love it when you do X. It makes me so happy,” wouldn’t that make you feel much different than if they said, “Wow, why won’t you do Y? I’m not getting any help here!?” The first statement is so much more positive and validating.
If you hear yourself thinking or making requests in a demanding, negative tone, try to re-frame your statements. You would hate to feel like you were always failing your partner, so make sure that their interactions with you don’t include a lot of ways they’re disappointing you.
6. Don’t stack your requests.
Say you would like your husband to load the dishwasher after dinner. A good way to ask for this is to say, “Oh wow, honey, when you load the dishwasher after dinner, it makes me feel so happy and appreciated.”
It comes across as nagging and means if you order him around by saying, “I need you to load the dishwasher, take out the trash, pick up after the dog, put the kids to bed, and blah blah blah.”
Remember, he’s not your personal assistant — he’s your partner.
7. Mindfully adjust your attitude after work.
Often we’re the bossiest right after work. To nip this in the bud, when you get home from work, take some time to step out of the boss role emotionally.
If you need to, take 30 minutes for a hot bath or a solo workout to recharge. Get into a state that is resourceful for dealing with your guy. If you’ve had a tough day, it’s much more likely that you’ll slip into the dictator role once you get home.
Getting over being controlling takes time, but the benefits are worth it. As a reformed control freak, I approve of this message.
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