Hello, my loves. Today, let’s talk about something that I’ve seen come up a lot with my one-on-one clients…and something I’ve experienced myself. Today, we’re talking about wanting to control your partner.
Here’s my caveat: I’m not talking about abusive situations here. I’m not talking about abusive behavior. I’m not talking about telling your partner they can’t see their friends, they can’t go out, you don’t want them wearing that, etcetera.
If you are in an abusive situation, please go seek professional help. Not from me, because that’s not my area of expertise, but we don’t need to be reading blog posts or listening to podcasts about it, okay? We need to actually seek help from a trauma therapist or someone who deals with abusive situations. If you’re dealing with an abusive and controlling partner, this is not the post for you.
When I’m talking about being controlling in a relationship, I mean telling your partner things like, “Don’t fucking put your socks there. Do the dishes—no, that’s not how you load the dishwasher. You load the dishwasher this way.” I speak from personal experience on that one. I don’t know what it is about the dishwasher, but I’m very particular about it. First off, my partner doesn’t even use the dishwasher, which drives me a little bit mental. It takes less water to run the dishwasher anyways!
That’s kind of what I’m talking about with being controlling in a relationship: it means you want things to be done a certain way. You want things to be perfect. When you’re being controlling in a relationship, it’s your way or the highway, and they really have no say in it. So you judge, you criticize, you chastise them.
And here’s the thing: even when you’re being controlling in a relationship, there’s a part of you that is going, “Why can’t I just let them be a fucking person? Why do I need this? Why do I need to control them? Why am I so worked up about this?”
I’ll tell you why. We end up being controlling in a relationship because we feel emotionally unsafe. We’re feeling turmoil, and we’re so afraid that if we lose control, we will lose everything. You can see being controlling in a relationship coming out as wanting things to be a certain way, or maybe wanting to control who’s in your partner’s life.
That sounds bad, but this can be very nuanced, as well. Sometimes we can gaslight ourselves into thinking we’re being controlling in a relationship when actually, we’re just setting a boundary.
For instance, if your partner had an affair for two years and then still wants to be good friends with the woman, and you don’t feel comfortable with that, in my opinion, I don’t think that’s you being controlling in a relationship. I think that’s you setting a boundary. That’s you saying, “You’ve transgressed the boundaries of our relationships with this person. I don’t feel comfortable with this person being in your life.” That makes a lot of sense to me.
But back to being controlling in a relationship by trying to control things around the house. I had this conversation with a client about her wanting to control the way that her partner was doing something, because they were basically going to be bringing something to a school event where other people would see what they’d done. She couldn’t allow him to just do it—she had to hover and nag and control because she wanted it to be perfect. It was coming from this need to keep herself safe from judgment and criticism.
You can see how being controlling in a relationship is actually just a projection of how we feel about ourselves, right? If you are critical of other people, if you are critical of your man, I can guarantee you are even more critical of yourself.
Let’s pause the conversation about being controlling in a relationship for a moment. Do you feel the need to control yourself all of the time? To control your actions, your moods, the way you show up?
I’m not talking about in a healthy way. I’m talking about in an unhealthy way. There’s a difference between being intentional with how you show up and being controlling over yourself.
You don’t allow yourself to be messy. You don’t allow yourself to be loud. You don’t allow yourself to make mistakes, because you have to be perfect. Try to think back: where did this need for control come from? When did this start? If you can start looking, it’s most likely childhood relationships. You were probably punished as a kid if you made mistakes, so you want to control everything. There’s this feeling that if you can completely control your environment and everything and everyone in it, then you’ll feel safe. This is likely the root of why you’ve been controlling in a relationship.
Listen…you wanting to control your partner does not make you a bad person. I’m not saying that it’s healthy, and you should definitely check your fucking behavior and seek some support with that. You can come work with me. You can go work with a therapist. You can do a multitude of things, but it doesn’t make you bad or abusive, because it’s actually coming from a place of wanting to feel safe.
If you’re in control, you always know what to expect. There are no surprises, so you can keep your nervous system at bay and you can feel regulated.
This is why we have disproportionate reactions to little things like the dishwasher not being stacked correctly. When those little things go wrong, you freak the fuck out, because that dysregulation is always sitting right at the surface. Like you’re a pot that’s always simmering, and it doesn’t take much to bring you to a boil.
The reality is, you’re never going to be able to control everything and everyone. You have to try and figure out how to regulate your nervous system without needing everything to be perfect.
This desire to keep being controlling in a relationship is a desire to control your external environment because a part of you feels deeply out of control, and there’s a deep fear in that. But that is the feminine, right? The feminine is pure chaos, and a lot of us have been taught that the feminine is not safe. Myself included.
I am doing a lot of work. The reason I know this topic so well is because I have been there and I am unraveling this myself, this lack of belief that things are going to be okay.What I noticed in myself was that I basically had this frame of mind that life was happening to me rather than for me. If we actually realize that we are the creators of our lives, we can take things much more in stride. We can actually recognize that something being out of place doesn’t actually have an impact on our safety. And when we can develop the emotional intelligence to actually hold imperfection, that’s a game changer.
The more you can be okay with yourself not being perfect, the more you can be okay with others not being perfect. This is why doing the work on yourself is so important.
You don’t have to have to hide all of this shit so as to not control your partner. You can actually share the thing, and then still not control your partner.
If you want to stop being controlling in a relationship, the biggest thing is learning to look at whether this is really going to matter in five minutes, five days, five weeks, five months, five years. Truthfully, if the way the dishwasher is loaded matters that much, can you actually just have a calm conversation with your partner to tell them, “Hey, I really like it this way,” rather than losing it on them and saying, “What a fucking idiot. What are you doing? That’s not how you do it here. Let me do it.” Could you actually just let him stack it the way he wants to? Does it honestly matter in the grand scheme of things?
Not only that, but it’s about having the ability to sit with ourselves and ask, “What need am I actually trying to get met here? Is it actually that I need the dishwasher to be stacked a certain way, or is it that I find safety in things being the way that I want?”
If we want to stop being controlling in a relationship, we need to actually mature ourselves a little bit to make room for things not going our way all of the time. I know it can be scary. I know it can feel awful. But I love you. You’re doing a good job. If you have been controlling your partner or even your friends or your family or your kids or whoever, I get it.
Please have compassion and grace and love for yourself. You don’t have to go into a shame spiral about what a piece of shit you are, because it’s just not true. By being controlling in a relationship, you’re actually just trying to get a need met, and the sooner you can find out what need that is, the sooner you can work on it. The sooner you can come work with me one-on-one, and we’ll dive into it.
Be sure to connect with me over on Instagram. I’d love to hear what you thought of this post and what your major takeaways were. Or head over to my website to learn more about how we can work through your relationship journey together.Are you ready to get off the hamster wheel of going on date after date that goes absolutely nowhere and learn how to date with confidence and clarity? Sign up for Swipe Right, a 2-day live workshop-style intensive for women who want to date like motherfucking queens: https://michellepanning.com/swipe-right
I get it, girl. I’ve been there too. For years, I was going through the same experiences with men over and over again that left me feeling confused, anxious and pissed off.
I silenced myself in dating and relationships because I was terrified of being judged, rejected and abandoned. It all changed when I went through a break-up and thought “enough is enough. I cannot continue to repeat the same relationships with different men! Something HAS to change!”