Many people would call themselves controlling, bossy, regimented or perfectionistic. These traits have a common link – most people who see these qualities in themselves want things to be a certain way so that they can feel emotionally safe.
In couples’ therapy, I see these traits cause problems in relationships. Usually, people feel controlled when they are dating someone who can’t handle when things don’t go their way. If you tend to be controlling or perfectionistic, your partner can confuse this trait for selfishness. To be less controlling, there are a few things you can do:
Understand where it came from
If you want to release your controlling nature, you need to start by understanding the reason you came to be this way. To understand this, think back to your childhood. Was it a bit chaotic? Did it feel uncontrollable?
As a child, by definition you are helpless. You don’t get to choose your parents, their routines or the qualities of the home they create for you (both physically and emotionally). In my practice, I have noticed a correlation between childhood and controlling nature in adulthood: the more chaotic and dysfunctional childhood was, the more controlling and perfectionistic the person is in adulthood.
Recognize the strengths
If you are controlling, know that being this way isn’t completely negative. Start to notice the strengths. Here are some examples:
- You are likely very organized
- You make a great leader
- You are self-sufficient and self-motivated
- You initiate action
What does your controlling nature give you? You may see it as a weakness, but it can also serve as a strength. It’s just a matter of having it work for you.
Let your partner in
Now that you understand where your controlling nature may have come from, you need to share your needs with your partner. If you tell your partner that you try to control your surroundings so that you can feel comfortable and emotionally safe, he or she will likely be much more understanding. Tell your partner that when you sense chaos, you become anxious and feel on edge. Otherwise, your partner might think you’re being selfish and uncaring towards their needs.
When your partner understands your controlling nature, they can help you start healing. Let your partner help you as you begin to loosen your grip on life. Letting things flow may actually bring on some anxiety at first. When you feel anxious in this new practice, remind yourself of all the times when you let go and things worked out for you. Slowly, you will be able to release your need to control, and you will begin to experience much more freedom in your life.