Dealing with an overly controlling partner can be intimidating because pointing out the fact that you feel suffocated will usually just lead to them getting defensive, and consequently even more insecure.
The problem is that silence is often interpreted as consent, so if you were hoping that avoiding a confrontation and hitching a ride with their insecurity baggage train in the name of peace would help reassure them in the long run, you’ve got another thing coming…
Rather than ease them out of their shell, you risk making this controlling behavior the staple of the relationship. The sooner controlling behavior is pointed out, the less likely it is to become “normal” or “acceptable”.
Rejecting Manipulation And Guilt
Unless your history is littered with trust destroying episodes such as chronic infidelity, chances are their controlling nature has little to do with you personally. So the first thing to do is not attempt to guilt trip ourselves into justifying their insecurity.
If we allow the door of guilt to open, we risk being manipulated. Often this is the case, but realization strikes too late (once the relationship has broken apart).
Personally speaking, relationships should not eliminate our individuality in the name of becoming something safe. To do so, to compromise every aspect of our behavior in the name of keeping the peace, even if well-intended and not out of fear, means that sooner or later we will become miserable. So perish that thoughtlet.
The only real rationalization we need to be armed with is that we are likely feeling trivialized and suffocated. That’s pretty much it. We don’t need to justify these feelings, because like it or not, right or wrong, fair or unfair, that’s how we feel, and that feeling is threatening the relationship.
Your partner may react defensively here, or angrily, but if they aren’t completely self-centered they will realize that whether they like it or not, you’re not OK with how things are panning out.
At this point many controlling partners may seek to manipulate (intimidation, insults, guilt-tripping, e.t.c), however don’t allow yourself to feel guilty for how you feel. It serves no other purpose than to keep you in hell, and teach your partner manipulation works.
Getting The Message Across
Not being bent by guilt is great, however that doesn’t mean communicating is easy, or that being blunt is necessarily the right move. It really does depend on who you partner is, knowing them, and how likely they are to absorb the message without either becoming angry, defensive or sad.
Generally speaking, some tips could include:
- Not pampering the message. I.E Don’t minimize or exaggerate how the situation is affecting you to the point where it becomes suspect or insincere sounding. Keep it simple.
- Strip judgment from the message. Don’t make it all about them, or all about you. Make it almost impersonal and talk about how you feel, rather than focusing on their character. This makes receiving the message less likely to trigger defensiveness.
- Choose a comfortable environment. If you are fearful of backlash, tell them in public. Do what it takes to make it easier for you to be honest even if it sounds crass or cheesy. Pick your spot.
- Keep it focused. What did I do? Why now? And other objections are besides the point as well as trailing it, don’t let yourself be goaded into having an argument of their choosing. This is about construction, not needlessly distracting destruction.
The Sad (Or Empowering?) Truth About Controlling Behavior
I’ve spent much of this article talking about your fear and guilt, but let’s take a step back and be honest here.
If you find yourself shackled by your partner, it is nearly always fear that drives them to manipulate in this way. Ironically, they make their insecurity yours. And it works because it gives the illusion of leveling the playing field.
Ask yourself why they need to keep you battling insecurity? If you ask me the answer is deceptively simple, it is because there is a fundamental fear of what you could choose to do should you choose to exercise your freedom as an individual.
If you look at it this way, it begs the question: Who really holds the cards?
Should you see through the bluff that manipulation is, should you choose to walk away from it, their illusion is shattered, and the tender core of their fear is exposed.
This is why I call controlling behavior intrinsically sad, because sooner or later the illusion does tend to shatter, and when it does their insecurity swells. Leading to a vicious cycle where they are forced to erect more rules, and exert more control in the next relationship, to make even more sure that history doesn’t repeat itself.