What You’ll Learn Today:

  • What controlling behavior is really about 
  • The 10 most common controlling behaviors
  • The key traits of a controlling person 
  • My Top 6 Tips for Dealing with a Controlling Partner

Top Take-A-Ways:

There’s a big difference between being controlling and being in control. Being in control is awesome. It means you’re self-aware, confident and that your self-esteem is strong. Being controlling is unhealthy. It’s actually a sign that you feel out of control, that you are living in some fear state and that your self-esteem is relatively low. 

In a romantic relationship, controlling behavior is often couched as being helpful: giving suggestions and advice to make your life better. In reality, it’s criticism, fear and manipulation. It’s someone trying to get you to match their expectations of how things “should” be. 

There are many ways your partner might be trying to control you. Do you recognize any of these behaviors or patterns of control?

  1. Micromanagement
  2. Dishonesty
  3. Manipulation
  4. Over-protective or helicopter parenting
  5. Emotionally bullying behavior
  6. Interrupting/speaking over you
  7. Making decisions without asking you 
  8. Nagging you about your food, smoking or some other health concern
  9. Jealousy
  10. Attacking you when you confront them

The Three Key Traits of a Controlling Person

First and foremost, control freaks rarely know that they are one! They believe that they’re just helping you with their “feedback or suggestions” or by finishing something “so it’s done right.” They don’t see their controlling behavior as a symptom of their own anxiety. Anxiety is at the root of all control issues. 

Second, controlling people can’t understand why you see things differently than they do! If you see something in a different way, then you are simply wrong. 

Lastly, controlling people have pretty low self-esteem and are terrified of being vulnerable. 

What to do if you’re in a relationship with a control freak:

  1. Figure out your boundaries and stick to them. 
  2. Don’t try to control a control freak. 
  3. Don’t get into a power struggle
  4. Hold onto a mantra using the “I feel approach.” One of my favorite tools that works excellently here is a tried-and-true technique called the “I Feel Statement”. You can find this exercise in the Resources and Links below.
  5. Check in with your gut. Be self-aware. 
  6. Practice Loving Detachment


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