Who's in Control?
When we are children, we are expected to follow the rules set by our parents. Such rules may be designed for our safety – look both ways before stepping off the curb – or for family peace – no phone calls during dinner. In some families, rules are firm, fast and unquestionable; in other families, rules can be discussed and even changed. There is usually a cost, a punishment, if we break the rules.
As we grow up, we are given more opportunities to bend certain rules and establish our own. If and when we leave home, we are expected to follow the laws of the land and the rules of good judgment.
But sometimes our adult relationships seem to be governed by arbitrary rules established by our partner. We may feel controlled, trapped or unfairly judged. We may feel that our partner bosses us around, makes all the important decisions, never asks our opinion or preference and monitors our compliance like a stern parent.
This kind of situation doesn’t usually arise all at once, but develops gradually as the partners establish their communication habits. Sooner or later, one or both partners erupt with anger. “You never let me decide anything!” “You’re irresponsible, so I have to make all the decisions for both of us!”
When this anger boils over, it signals a breakdown in our communication. The control issues have gone beyond factual matters – where we’re going to have dinner or how much we’re going to spend on a new sofa – into personal accusations and name-calling. At the same time, we seem unable to empathize with our partner’s feelings.
Like other forms of anger, this response to being controlled or, on the other hand, always being in charge, shows us that our relationship needs repair. We need new ways of expressing our needs, of listening and responding to each other and of making win-win decisions for ourselves as individuals and as a couple.
Relationship counseling is one of the best places to begin this process.
For a free phone consult, call Dr. Fibus at 818.395.2831.