7 Hidden Costs Of Micromanaging Your Relationship (And How To Stop)

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When you think about your current relationship, do you view you and your partner as equals in all things?

Or are you more of a parent or manager in this situation?

Micromanaging can manifest in several ways, and can either happen organically or be forced upon one partner by the other.

By the time you’ve finished this article, you’ll have learned the 7 hidden costs of micromanaging your relationship, and most importantly, how to stop doing it.

Speak to a certified relationship counselor about this issue. Why? Because they have the training and experience to help you overcome your micromanaging tendencies. You may want to try speaking to someone via RelationshipHero.com for practical advice that is tailored to your exact circumstances.

Why Micromanaging Is Harmful To A Relationship

The primary reason micromanaging is so harmful is that it creates numerous imbalances in a relationship.

If you’ve been micromanaging your relationship, you’ve likely encountered at least some of the following feelings or situations:

1. Master and servant.

Micromanaging places one partner in the position of manager with the other as subordinate.

This can cause intense resentment on both sides.

The one micromanaging feels frustrated and overwhelmed by the responsibilities that weigh on them daily. And the one being managed feels disrespected and infantilized because their so-called “partner” is bossing them around like a parent or older sibling.

Unless you’re in a consensual Dom/sub relationship in which you’ve literally signed up for this, neither of you is going to enjoy this dynamic.

2. Loss of autonomy.

A person who’s being micromanaged will inevitably feel a loss of autonomy and sovereignty.

Having someone tell you what to do all the time isn’t just demoralizing, it’s demeaning.

In the same way that whatever is done to a person’s body should be their own choice, so too should any decisions they make or actions they take.

We tell children what to do because they have neither the capacity nor awareness to consider everything that’s necessary to govern their little worlds.

But unless a person has a significantly diminished mental capacity and needs to be governed in a more childlike manner, micromanaging them is disrespectful.

They’ll end up feeling like they don’t have a say in their own lives, and that they’re either a household slave or a child.

3. Notable lack of sexy times.

You may also be experiencing intimacy erosion.

This is where a previously intimate relationship becomes platonic or sibling-like over time.

It often occurs when one person is overfunctioning or micromanaging the other, which causes intense resentment on both sides.

Very few people want to have sex with someone they have to parent all the time. Similarly, few people want to be intimate with someone who bosses them around like a parent or work supervisor.

The more polarized your relationship gets, and the more resentful you both become, the further apart you’ll grow until you’re in a sexless, platonic partnership that neither of you enjoys.

4. Diminished respect.

It’s difficult to respect someone who you feel you need to micromanage all the time.

While you may not be in a full-on parent/child role as described above, you may certainly lose respect for your partner if you constantly have to guide them instead of them taking the initiative to sort things out themselves.

Life is difficult enough to manage for yourself, let alone having to manage two lives because one person seems incapable of getting their stuff together for whatever reason.

Similarly, the partner who’s being ordered around may lose respect for the loved one who’s behaving like a drill sergeant—especially if the directives they’re giving don’t make sense, or seem utterly inappropriate.

After all, the controlling one will likely refuse to admit if and when they’re wrong about what they’re trying to be controlling about.

5. Disappointment and hurt.

Feeling constantly disappointed by your partner can be immensely hurtful on both sides.

The one who’s let down by the other’s shortcomings—especially when it comes to taking care of home responsibilities or keeping their word—will end up feeling unappreciated and not worth the effort.

Meanwhile, the one who keeps dropping the ball will know full well that they’re a disappointment to their partner.

They may regularly do lots of things right but never get any praise or positive reinforcement. The only time they’re ever noticed is when they do something wrong.

This dynamic wears away at both people’s self-confidence. One feels unseen and taken for granted, and the other feels like a worthless failure.

6. Mental health challenges.

Both the micromanager and the micromanagee can suffer from mental health challenges because of this relationship dynamic.

The one who’s being controlling may feel immense stress from constant overfunctioning.

This can lead to anxiety and insomnia, but can also cause a full-on nervous breakdown if they don’t get relief from the burden of responsibility (whether chosen or inflicted).

In turn, the one being micromanaged may also suffer from anxiety, and feel like they’re always walking on eggshells lest they get yelled at for doing something wrong.

They may also suffer depression from a lack of autonomy and feel like their life isn’t their own. This can decrease their functional capacity even further.

7. Physical health erosion.

It isn’t just mental health that’s affected by situations like these either.

Remember that whatever affects us mentally and emotionally will also manifest physically, and vice versa.

As such, the stress, anxiety, and depression that can result from micromanaging can take physical form in numerous ways.

These may include (but are not limited to): digestive problems, chronic headaches such as migraines, back and shoulder pain, lowered immune response (i.e. greater susceptibility to various illnesses), and/or tremors from adrenal overload.

If these issues persist long-term, they can even increase the risk of life-threatening conditions such as strokes, aneurysms, or heart attacks.

Signs That You Micromanage Your Relationship

Below are several signs that you may be micromanaging your relationship.

Be honest with yourself as you go through them and determine whether any seem familiar to you.

  • You’ve set a routine or schedule for you and your partner to adhere to.
  • You choose the meals that the two of you eat, and either condemn your partner for trying to make different choices, or try to manipulate them into going with what you decided.
  • You judge and criticize your partner constantly, followed by not-so-subtle suggestions about how they should do things differently according to your standards or preferences.
  • You feel the need to control what your partner wears, how they look, and even how they speak or behave around other people.
  • You keep trying to change your partner into your ideal version of them instead of who they are, which may include pushing them to take part in your hobbies or interests rather than encouraging theirs.
  • You have expectations of your partner to adapt to your standards or ways of doing things rather than respecting their standards and techniques.
  • You monitor your partner’s behaviors to ensure they’re adhering to your expectations.
  • You ignore or dismiss your partner’s feelings, needs, or wants in favor of your own because you feel that yours are more important or relevant than theirs.
  • You regularly make decisions for your partner rather than consulting them or giving them the option to take the lead.
  • You question your partner’s decisions as though you were the authority in all regards, even if they’re significantly more educated or experienced in a situation or topic than you.
  • You get extremely frustrated—or even enraged—when your partner doesn’t go along with what you’ve decided. You believe you’re simply doing what’s best for everyone and don’t understand why they can’t appreciate that.

If any of this strikes a chord with you, you’re likely causing a fair amount of damage to the relationship by micromanaging your partner instead of treating them as equals.

This is a person whom you should love, appreciate, and cherish as you go through life.

As such, it’s time to ask yourself why you’re behaving this way towards them, and how you can go about stopping.

5 Reasons Why You Like To Micromanage Everything

There may be several reasons why you micromanage everything in your relationship, but the following are the most common:

1. Perfectionism.

If you’re a perfectionist who feels that you’re the only one who knows how to do things “properly”, you likely have fastidious standards that are difficult for others to attain.

For example, you may have a specific technique for washing and stacking dishes, folding laundry, etc., and either get annoyed when others don’t do things your way or redo everything they’ve done.

As such, you either take over and do everything yourself, or watch them like a hawk to make sure they do things the way you like.

2. Lack of trust.

One reason you may be micromanaging your relationship is that you don’t trust your partner is capable of doing things without you.

Maybe in the past, they’ve proven they’ll omit important details or screw something up without your help, and thus you now don’t trust them to handle anything alone.

This one is difficult to negotiate because it’s possible you are significantly more capable and more skilled than your partner across the board. As such, it’s likely that if you don’t micromanage them, they’re going to make a mistake.

The issue here is this: you also made mistakes while you were learning, and by preventing your partner from potentially messing up, you’re keeping them from learning in turn.

Micromanaging may ensure that things get done right the first time, but it’ll also ensure that you’re the one who’ll have to keep doing them forever since you aren’t allowing your partner to learn a damned thing.

3. Negative past experiences.

If your previous partner forced you to overfunction in the relationship because of indecision or ineptitude, you may be micromanaging your current partner by default.

You may not even be aware you’re doing it but are simply repeating past behaviors on a subconscious level.

In simplest terms, you got so used to “parenting” your previous partner—possibly over several years—that the behavior became second nature.

This can do a lot of damage to your current relationship, especially if your new partner is fiercely independent and very capable.

If your current partner has never shown you to be incapable or irresponsible, then being controlling towards them will do the dual harm of making you appear controlling and condescending, while also implying that you don’t respect them or have faith that they know what they’re doing.

A situation like this will be particularly harmful if you’re being controlling towards a person who’s far more skilled or knowledgeable than you are.

You’ll make a fool of yourself, and they might lash out and be cruel to put you in your place.

4. Fear.

People who have suffered intense difficulty due to circumstances beyond their control can end up being immensely controlling as they get older.

They’re so afraid of experiencing similar circumstances again that they try to do everything in their power to avoid them.

A fear of failure due to past traumas can have similar effects.

Many people grew up in very strict or abusive environments in which perceived shortcomings were punished. As a result, they develop an ingrained aversion to messing up.

You may be subconsciously trying to control your partner so they do the “right thing” and thus avoid some imaginary punishment.

It’s important to realize that you’ll never be able to control anything in life other than your own responses to various situations. As such, you need to stop trying to control every little detail in your relationship to avoid potential stress or disharmony.

This will require you to accept that you can’t anticipate (and by extension, avoid or control) the world around you.

Instead, you’ll need to develop a variety of coping mechanisms that will allow you to move through challenges with grace, instead of trying to manipulate others into behaving in a manner that doesn’t cause you fear or discomfort.

5. You have no choice but to do so.

There’s another option here that needs to be addressed, and that’s micromanaging because unless you do, nothing will get done.

This is at the opposite end of the spectrum from a person who likes to micromanage and chooses to do so.

It’s possible that you absolutely despise having to be in charge all the time and would love nothing more than to let your partner take the wheel.

Unfortunately, experience has shown you that if you do that, the car will end up in a ditch, upside-down, filling with water, while you’re trapped inside trying to rescue both parties.

This is one of the most challenging and frustrating possibilities as far as micromanaging goes because it requires a complete restructuring of the relationship dynamic.

There may be arguments and tension as both partners unlearn the status quo and take on more equal roles.

6 Ways To Stop Micromanaging Your Relationship

You ought to consider seeking professional help from one of the experts at Relationship Hero as counseling can be highly effective in helping people to unpack their behaviors and work through them to make their relationships healthier.

Once you become aware that you’re micromanaging, you can choose to curb your behavior accordingly.

Take note of the following suggestions and put them into practice where possible.

1. Be aware of unconscious overfunctioning.

In a relationship context, overfunctioning refers to a situation where one partner takes on significantly more responsibility, decision-making abilities, control, and/or emotional and physical labor than the other.

– from 8 Signs You Are Overfunctioning In Your Relationship (And How To Stop)

This is especially important if you’re behaving the same way in your current relationship as you did in your previous one.

I’m guilty of doing this, and it was both embarrassing and horrifying to realize.

My last relationship was with a partner who has both ADHD and autism. I was therefore forced into overfunctioning to compensate for things he found challenging, through no fault of his own.

I had to take on behaviors normally associated with parenting—like giving a heads up as to when was a good time to cross a busy road.

As you may imagine, this did not translate well to my current relationship, in which I have an extremely capable partner who’s been taking care of himself with full autonomy for decades.

Fortunately, we both have great senses of humor and have thus been able to undo previous programming with grace and amusement.

That said, I still need to be conscious of my knee-jerk responses to certain situations and be aware that the person I’m with now neither needs nor appreciates micromanaging.

2. Communicate with one another to set healthy boundaries.

We all have boundaries to varying degrees, so it’s important to talk with your partner to see what they are and aren’t comfortable with when it comes to life management.

In turn, you can also express your boundaries to them, so the two of you have a greater understanding of what is and isn’t acceptable.

This is a great idea in situations where one person thinks they’re being helpful while the other feels that they’re being controlled. It can also be really useful in identifying where you and your partner would like support.

I’ll use a personal example here: I despise being told what to do, and I’ll naturally rebel against anyone who tries to do so.

That said, I also have problems with sensory processing and thus can’t really tell when and if I’m hungry, cold, tired, and so on. As such, my partner will check in on me regularly and suggest that I either put a sweater on or eat something, as I probably need to.

He also despises being told what to do, but he appreciates being given step-by-step instructions for endeavors that he isn’t familiar with but wants to learn more about.

So if I’m unable to cook dinner because I’m either unwell or have other responsibilities, I’ll write out directions on how to create a specific dish.

It may not turn out the same way I do it, but since we all learn from experience, he gets the opportunity to try out different techniques that work for him.

You’d be amazed at how many tensions can be alleviated or avoided entirely with open, loving communication.

3. Respect your partner enough to let them make their own decisions.

Have you ever gotten annoyed when the character in a film orders for their date without bothering to ask them what they’d like? If so, it’s likely because, on a fundamental level, people appreciate the autonomy of making decisions themselves, rather than being informed of what they’ll be having, doing, etc.

If you’ve made decisions for your partner in the past instead of working with them as an equal to determine the best options—or even being gracious enough to let them decide for themselves—then this is your cue to stop doing so.

Even if your partner is indecisive, or makes choices that you consider to be questionable, you need to remember that they are a sovereign adult whose life is their own to lead, not yours to dictate.

You can make recommendations or offer your opinion if you’re asked, but if you aren’t, turn your attention towards your own life choices.

Not theirs.

4. Work together to ensure that everyone does their fair share.

If your partner was raised in a family where they were taken care of and doted on rather than playing an active role in household management, it can be a recipe for disaster.

A lot of parents do their children an immense disservice by doing everything for them while they’re growing up.

They believe they’re giving their kids the happiest childhood possible by not weighing them down with chores. But by not giving them responsibilities and teaching them to see everything that needs doing, they don’t learn how to be independent, autonomous adults.

As a result, once they get partnered up, they expect to fall into the same role that they were comfortable with in their childhood and adolescence.

Essentially, they want a parental figure to take care of the icky adult-y stuff so they can focus on the things they enjoy, but they still expect this parent figure to want to sleep with them regularly.

Sit down and work together to establish one another’s roles by determining who’s best at what, who likes to do which chore, and then taking on related roles accordingly.

By doing so, all the household’s responsibilities are delegated according to your respective strengths and preferences. And even the icky stuff is spread out between the two of you, rather than being handled by one resentful party.

This will lessen bitterness in both parties and increase appreciation for each other’s contributions. It’ll also make you more likely to want intimacy instead of growing cold towards one another.

*As a side note, if you have children together this is a perfect opportunity to ensure that cycles don’t repeat themselves. Ensure your kids have age-appropriate chores that they’re responsible for, and help them learn to see what needs doing instead of going solely by what’s dictated to them.

5. Give them space.

If you’ve been micromanaging your relationship for a long time, it’ll take a little while to learn how to undo established behavioral patterns through new techniques.

For example, if your partner behaves in an indecisive manner, or isn’t doing chores or other responsibilities in a manner that you think is effective, redirect your attention elsewhere.

Instead of focusing on everything they’re doing wrong (in your eyes), focus on your own tasks and leave them to it. If possible, try to leave the house for a while and run some errands that need your attention.

Physically removing yourself from the area will help you resist the urge to control your partner while ensuring that you’re taking care of the chores or obligations on your own to-do list. It’s more than likely that their tasks will be completed by the time you get home.

Remember that just because they aren’t doing things your way, on your schedule, doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to get done.

They’re just being done differently.

6. Get a great therapist to help you.

If you’ve been forced into micromanaging by a partner who’s unable (or unwilling) to take on equal responsibility, then consider couples counseling.

A partner who has arrested development may fight you over chore and obligation delegation as though you were a parent who’s trying to dampen their fun.

Very few people sincerely enjoy the responsibilities that come with “adulting”, but being defiant and argumentative about them won’t make them go away.

As such, you may need to get a neutral third party involved. They can help get the message across that you’re not trying to punish your partner by inflicting unfair chores on them, but rather you need them to step up and do their part to ensure the household runs smoothly.

What’s especially important here is to help your partner understand that they aren’t “helping you” by taking on these responsibilities, but are simply doing their fair share. This is a partnership in which both people contribute in the ways that suit them best.

Alternatively, if you’ve been micromanaging your responsibilities because you’re riddled with anxiety and need to be constantly in control, a therapist can help you work through that as well—either alone or as part of couples therapy.

In simplest terms, if you want a healthy, harmonious relationship with an equal partner who loves and respects you, you’ll need to deal with your control issues.

This is likely to involve delving into the reasons why you’re so controlling, which may require you to investigate dark corners you’ve been avoiding for a long time.

Behavior doesn’t develop out of nowhere, and by finding out the cause, you can sort out the symptoms accordingly.

——

Every human being is a sovereign individual who has a lot going on inside them.

You might see your partner engrossed in something that you find trivial and feel the need to redirect their attention to what you feel is more important. But in reality, they may be working through some intensely personal thoughts and emotions and should have their time and space respected as a result.

Your partner is exactly that: your partner.

Learn to see them as your equal and as a human being rather than a tool you can use to get various things done.

If you experience frustration at their indecision or lack of action, try talking to them and asking them what they’re thinking or feeling instead of assuming that they’re simply slacking off.

Remember, this person isn’t you, and assuming the worst of them based on your own experiences isn’t fair.

The whole point of a partnership is to work together, right?

So learn how to be each other’s “helping hands” and balancing pillars of strength, rather than weights that are bringing each other down.

It’ll make your life together a lot sweeter and stronger in the long run.

Still not how to stop micromanaging your relationship and your partner?

Speak to an experienced relationship expert about it. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can listen to you, help you figure out why you like to be in control so much, and advise you how to adapt these behaviors.

Relationship Hero is a website where you can connect with a certified relationship counselor via phone, video, or instant message.

While you can try to work through this situation yourself or as a couple, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can fix. And if it is affecting your relationship and mental well-being, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.

Too many people try to muddle through in their relationships without ever being able to resolve the issues that affect them. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, speaking to a relationship expert is 100% the best way forward.

Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service Relationship Hero provide and the process of getting started.

About The Author

Catherine Winter is an herbalist, INTJ empath, narcissistic abuse survivor, and PTSD warrior currently based in Quebec's Laurentian mountains. In an informal role as confidant and guide, Catherine has helped countless people work through difficult times in their lives and relationships, including divorce, ageing and death journeys, grief, abuse, and trauma recovery, as they navigate their individual paths towards healing and personal peace.