Why do some people become controlling?
In order to be the unique person who we are, we need to access 4 internal parts of us. They are:
1. Our feelings
2. Our sensations, like hearing, touch, sight and movement, and our preferences.
3. Our intuition
4. Our thinking
The first 3 of these are very much from our direct experience. But our thinking is from a secondary source.
Many of us are not connected to our feelings, sensations and intuitions, because we were taught, often by parents or authority figures, to negate them or not to trust them. eg “Don’t be a cry baby. You’re not even hurt” or “Don’t tell me you like that!”
Because of this we can grow up not having an intact personal world that we can depend on, and instead we can rely almost entirely on our thinking. This particularly happens in the male culture where many boys are taught to be tough and deny their feelings, senses and gut feelings.
When you have had your personal reality denied, you need to think up an identity according to what you think you should be. But unfortunately these identities tend not to be grounded in your inner world.
So having made yourself up from the outside in, it is easy to imagine that you can also make others up, as well, and this then can become quite a controlling way that you interact with others.
If there is a control connection, this person will want to define the other person. They will have trouble hearing and seeing the real person, and therefore, they will struggle with empathy or any real understanding for the other person. They, in actual fact, fail to grasp that the other person is actually a separate person with their own reality.
But it doesn’t look like that to start with….
During the initial stage of a new relationship, where both partners are wanting to impress each other, the more controlling person can contrive their behaviour to impress and charm, being careful to make sure they mirror the desires of their new partner.
Then comes the transition…
However this “impress your socks off” stage doesn’t tend to last.
Once the controlling partner feels secure in the relationship (this happens most commonly at the 3 major transitions: when you move in together, when you get married, or when you start having children) there is now far less need for approval.
Without realizing it, the partner has crossed over into the controller’s self definition boundary. With this transition can come the expectation that the partner is now an extension of him or her, and of One Mind with him or her.
This can be a dumbfounding change for the partner, as it can be made almost overnight, or at a more gradual pace; but the change does happen.
Patricia Evans in her book “Controlling People” describes a man who felt like he and his wife were in a big bubble that he had created as his reality. His wife had freedom, and all was happy, as long as she stayed in the bubble.
“There was room to move about so the illusion of freedom seemed real to her. But when she expressed an idea of her own, or any feelings, it was like she was stepping out of his bubble and stepping into her own. But he did not want her out there. He feared being alone with himself. He feared being with his feelings. So he tried to pull her back into his bubble, or worse, injure her so she could never leave, or worse yet, disorient her so she can never find her way out.”
Whatever control measure or verbal abuse it took, he needed to get her back inside the bubble where he felt safe again.
The controlling person does usually feel a great and strong love for his or her partner, but this is not what we consider real love. It is more of a control connection.
In reality, there is usually very little regard for his or her individuality, an absence of empathy or understanding, and often an angry assault or the silent treatment, every time he or she shows any signs of separateness.
This usually leaves the partner feeling shunned, negated, unseen, unheard, trivialised, and, as a result, also very confused, sad, and often outraged that they have been so invaded or negated, every time she or he expresses her or his individuality.
All the while the controlling partner denies any wrongdoing, not being willing to recognise the devastating effects on the partner.
When your partner defines you, you can’t feel connected to them, and along with this disconnection comes no sense of real partnership or real love. It’s only when he or she begins to asks about you that you can begin to feel the connection.
The healthiest relationships are those where there is no controlling, simply acceptance of each other and negotiation between each of you for what you need and want.
However, in reality, many people tend to attempt to control their partner in some way. The degree of control is what really counts. You may be happy to allow your partner some control in areas that aren’t really important to you and maybe important to them. You may even be able to joke about it, and it can certainly add to a lively relationship where those things are part of your shared jokes.
But it you are feeling that you are often being negated, not heard, discredited, blamed for things that are not true, or blamed for things that you know is actually more true of your partner, then your relationship is not functioning in a healthy way, and you will be suffering personally.
Controllers fear intimacy because intimacy requires hearing and seeing each other for who you are.
This kind of intimacy stops the control connection.
There are graduated degrees of controlling, and the more extreme, the more difficult it is to improve your relationship.
For those of you who are wondering how similar this sounds to Narcissism, there is a huge overlap between the two.