How To Stop Being Controlling In A Relationship

Do you find yourself constantly trying to control what your partner does? How they do it? When they’re doing it?

Do you get upset or angry if things are not done specifically how you want them done?

Is this behavior undermining or destroying your relationships with other people?

Do you want to change this behavior and grow as a person?

You’re not alone.

A person who is controlling may find it difficult to maintain friendships and relationships because people generally don’t want to be micromanaged.

It feels stressful, oppressive, and approaches the line of abusive behavior that no one should have to put up with.

But this type of behavior doesn’t always manifest as just being controlling. It can take the form of excessive worrying, constant unasked for advice, meddling, or trying to fix the problems they see around them.

Identifying that there is a problem in the first place is a big step in the right direction. That level of self-awareness is difficult.

But how do you stop being so controlling in a relationship?

Identify where your need for control comes from.

The need for control often stems from different types of anxiety and fear.

A person may be trying to control others to fall into predictable patterns and behaviors so that there are no unexpected surprises or deviations from what they expect.

The person may have a hard time with these disruptions because their mind is constantly working in overdrive to head off any present or future problems.

They may feel that so long as things are done their way, when they want them done, how they want them done, that there will be less disruption.

They may try to influence or control the behavior of the people around them so that their relationships are predictable and do not fuel their own anxious thoughts.

That may not always be the case though.

There are times when partners, friends, and family contribute to that anxiety by being incapable, feigning incapability, or offloading their responsibilities onto the controlling person.

The controlling person becomes that way through this shift in responsibility because without someone taking action and conducting the chaos, nothing would ever get done.

Still, controlling behavior can come from deeper places too.

It’s not unusual for people who had a hard upbringing to develop controlling tendencies and anxiety about maintaining their life.

A child that grows up in this situation may try to fill the gaps left by parents that couldn’t fulfill their role well.

Things that remind them of the way they grew up, like certain behaviors or situations in their life, can cause their anxiety to escalate. As such, they try to exert control over what’s happening around them to keep their mind settled.

The way to end controlling behavior starts with getting to the root of what is causing it in the first place.

That can be hard to figure out on your own. If you can’t, it would be a good idea to talk to a certified mental health counselor about the behavior, the circumstances that drive it, and how to correct it.

Realistically, changing one’s behavior is hard and you will likely need professional help.

If you can identify what the reasons are for feeling the need to control, there are some steps you can take to help loosen the reins and improve your relationships.

7 Ways To Change Your Controlling Behaviors

Alongside working through the possible reasons for your controlling behavior, you can begin to make changes to the way you interact with others.

In particular, you can take a different approach in your romantic relationship in order to make them healthier and happier.

1. Consider the way you are communicating with others.

The way we communicate drastically colors the perception of the message being delivered.

A person who is curt, direct, and unyielding is going to be perceived as controlling, whether they are or not.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a time and a place for such a delivery, because there certainly is.

But if that’s your primary method of communication, the people around you will come to resent you for it.

A better approach is to simply include more polite language, like please and thank you.

Make requests, suggestions, or ask for help if you need something done instead of dictating.

By softening your approach, you’ll influence not only how people perceive you, but the way you think about the message you are delivering.

2. Relinquish control of the outcomes of activities.

Control tends to rear its head when things need to get done. The problem is that everyone has different standards on what constitutes a successful resolution of an activity.

A controlling person may not just want something done, but they want it done to their standards or how they do it.

That isn’t always the best way to get things accomplished. Sometimes it’s better to just let things go as they go and trust that the other person is going to get it done.

Sometimes that direct control isn’t the responsibility of the person who is perceived as controlling.

Sometimes it’s the other person who feigns incompetence or refuses to do anything of quality so that they can shirk their own responsibility.

That’s a more difficult situation because you can’t really control what other people choose to do.

A conversation about helping out more and meeting them halfway can sometimes be productive, but a lot of times it ultimately comes down to no longer doing things for that person so they can realize that you won’t be taken advantage of.

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3. Be sure that everyone has appropriate time and space.

A relationship or friendship can start to feel oppressive if people don’t have enough space to move and breathe.

Everyone needs time to themselves to recharge their batteries, even the most extroverted of people.

In a relationship, you should be functioning as a team. Ideally, you should be lifting one another up and creating a formidable partnership to take on life.

But this can become a problem if you don’t ever stop to take a breath and really focus on yourself.

Neither of you should be worrying about every tiny detail of their partner’s day and life all the time.

Sometimes? Sure. If you love someone, you’ll worry about them and want the best for them so they can be happy and have a good life.

But you can’t do that all the time, nor should you.

Take time for yourself, let your partner have time for themselves, and give each other room.

4. Manage your stress in healthy ways.

Controlling behavior often comes down to anxiety. Anxiety often comes from poorly handled stress.

So, if anxiety is fueling your controlling behavior, you can alleviate it by working on your stress management skills.

Poorly handled stress tends to be messy and bleeds over into other areas of your life.

If you have a hard day at work, it’s really easy to take that home if you can’t compartmentalize or have a release valve for it.

It may be time to take a close look at the way you manage the stress in your life.

Are you handling it well?

What stresses can you reduce or remove from your life?

Is it time to change something up in your life? Find a new career? Hobby? Maybe start exercising, eating, or sleeping more?

Improving your stress management skills will improve your mental and emotional health all around.

5. Address any insecurities that might be contributing.

Insecurity contributes to controlling behavior because it causes us to not value ourselves the way we should and question the intentions of others.

Do you find yourself wondering who your partner is talking to? Who is messaging them? What they are doing when they are not around?

These behaviors point to the kind of insecurity that facilitates controlling behavior.

The caveat is that not all insecurity is unfounded. People who have been cheated on or hurt badly in the past may be seeking to limit their exposure to being hurt that way again.

The problem is that choosing to stay in the relationship with the person means there is always the question hanging over you of whether or not it will happen again.

Other people don’t bother addressing and working on that hurt at all. They just let it fester quietly until it messily explodes into their life.

Quieting those insecurities is of vital importance. They will fuel controlling behavior and ruin healthy relationships.

6. Open yourself to new experiences and changes.

The greatest gift you can give yourself is to be open to new experiences and change.

Controlling behavior is sometimes about trying to maintain a status quo. The problem is that the status quo may not be something worth hanging onto. Sometimes things aren’t as good as they should be.

The way to improve them is to accept that sometimes things need to change, which can also help you manage stress and grow as a person.

Relationships evolve with time. It’s far better to actively nurture and grow that relationship together with your partner for a healthier future instead of trying to keep things as they are.

7. Appreciate the differences between you and your partner.

You are not your partner. Your partner is not you.

They aren’t going to look at life through your eyes. They will have their own thoughts, opinions, preferences, and beliefs about life and how it should be conducted.

When you learn to accept and celebrate these differences, you can start to better understand and appreciate what you both bring to the relationship.

A healthy relationship includes respect for a person’s flaws and quirks just as much as their positives.

By accepting these differences, you can demonstrate that you respect and value your partner instead of trying to dictate how they perceive and move through life.