Do you struggle with being too controlling? Have you had your partner mention that you’re a control freak? Do you feel uncomfortable when things don’t go the way you would expect?
I understand that there may be a lot of underlying feelings and thoughts behind the need to feel like you’re in control. I’m not addressing that here. While the reasons are important, I’m going to focus on how to stop being controlling. Rather than beat yourself up about the reasons you do this, I think it’s important to make positive changes after you’ve realized this has become a problem for you.
Here are seven steps to stop being controlling in your 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 really need to make sure the course changes or if you can let whatever it is go differently than you were hoping. Usually the feeling of nagging irritation that occurs right after something happens is a big sign. That sense of “OMG NO! THAT IS NOT RIGHT.” This is your clue.
Sit with that feeling for a little bit. Decide what exactly caused it. Now think about whether letting something happen differently is really a threat to you or your safety, or just different than you would prefer. Is the way the situation going actually “wrong” or does it just differ than 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 expectations, it’s time to think about whether your expectations 1. have been stated, 2. are reasonable, and 3. are clear to your partner. Number two is the one I’m most concerned about here. For the control freaks of the world, the immediate gut reaction is to go “OF COURSE THEY’RE 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 their 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.
3. Pick Your Battles
It’s vitally important to recognize what is a battle that you should fight and what is something you should let go.
After sitting with your feeling that you aren’t 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 change to your expectation.
For example, if you expect that your husband will unfailingly do the dishes the second the meal is over but he doesn’t get to it right away, is this something that you can let go 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, it’s also important to drop arguments once they have been dealt with. Once you’re in an emotional place where you are sitting with your feelings and not acting out on them right away, 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 it is to dwell on ways that he failed you in the past.
4. Practice Letting Things Go
Let go of the idea that if you don’t do it yourself, it won’t be done correctly. Cultivate an environment of praise versus criticism. Praise him highly for doing something 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.
5. Think About Your Delivery
Your partner isn’t a robot sent to do your bidding. If you’re approaching him in a way that he finds emasculating or harsh, you’re going to 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, make an effort to reframe 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 really 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 isn’t as helpful to say, “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. One thing at a time.
7. Adjust Your Attitude After Work
Often the times where we’re the bossiest are literally right after work. When you get home from work, take some time to emotionally step out of the boss role. 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.
Let me know how you handle control issues in the comments!