Controlling behavior in a relationship doesn’t just show up all of a sudden.
It takes time for one partner to start taking the other partner for granted, or control them.
And at the same time, your partner can never control you unless you give them that control voluntarily.
So if you’re living with a partner who exhibits controlling behavior, you have yourself to blame too.
What is controlling behavior really?
When you’re in a relationship, there may be a few things about you that your partner doesn’t like. It may be your friends, your work or just about anything else.
Voicing displeasure over it and talking about it is called communication. And forcing a partner to avoid something because you don’t like it is called controlling. [Read: 15 subtle signs of a controlling boyfriend]
If you’ve ever felt like your partner is trying to control you, even in a small way, it’s time you put a stop to it.
Controlling behavior in a relationship always has a small start somewhere. And soon, the need to control can turn into an obsession.
How to handle controlling behavior in a relationship
If you’re dating or married to someone who constantly tries to control you, or if you feel like nothing you do ever pleases them, perhaps you’re really stuck with a partner who has serious issues with their controlling behavior.
Use these 16 steps to slowly change them, and become a better person yourself at the same time.
#1 Reason with your partner. When you partner tells you not to do something, don’t just accept it. Instead, calmly ask your partner for an explanation. By reasoning with your partner, you can understand your partner better. And at the same time, if their reason’s pretty lame, you can take a stand and explain your reasons too.
#2 Don’t fight back. Stay calm no matter what. Your partner may try to control you, but that happens only if you give them the opportunity. When you’re reasoning with your partner, don’t yell or get angry. Calmly voice your opinion and as long as you know you’re right, you’ll be able to get the message across.
#3 Don’t be hasty. You can’t change your partner overnight. Their behavior may have taken years to develop and overpower them. Use these tips one step at a time and let your partner see your side of the story along every step of the way.
#4 Avoid doing favors all the time. One of the easiest ways to start controlling a partner is by asking them for small favors that are never returned. If you get annoyed easily when your lazy partner constantly asks you for favors, avoid being in the same room if you know there’s a request coming very soon.
If he’s forgotten his shoes in the closet and you know he’s going to ask you to get it for him, step out of the room for a few minutes so he can get it himself instead of controlling you to get it for him. [Read: 7 steps to be really happy in a relationship]
#5 Remind him of similar situations. Don’t let your partner control you, and don’t end up behaving like a slave. Favors are mutual and should never be one sided. If you do something for your lover, and they don’t reciprocate by doing the same for you, they’re controlling you.
Talk about your partner’s behavior with them in a calm manner when both of you are sitting together. If your partner expects you to do something for them, they should be prepared to do the same for you. In a relationship, both partners have an equal say, and earning more money doesn’t give one partner more control or say in a relationship.
#6 Stand on your own feet. The more you depend on your partner for your existence, the more you’ll be controlled. Have a few of your own achievements that you can be proud of, and you’ll feel better about yourself and get the respect of your partner. Your partner would take you for granted only if they feel like they don’t really need you for anything. [Read: 7 secret signs of a relationship that’s about to go bad]
#7 Be more confident of yourself. When your partner controls you, it’s always because they feel like you never take a stand or are easily manipulated or pushed over. Learn to be more confident about yourself and your ideas. If you truly believe you’re right, don’t backtrack your opinions. No one likes a pushover, and they’re the kind of people who end up feeling controlled and locked in a relationship.
#8 Reverse the control. This may sound devious, but at times, it takes looking into the mirror to understand how someone else feels. Look for ways to control your partner for a change. After all, even the most controlling of partners do have their weak sides. Don’t take crap from your partner or put up with their rules anymore. Start in a small way, and let your partner see this new behavior. When you get bossy with your partner now and then, he’ll be taken aback at first, but he’ll soon learn not to take you for granted or control you.
#9 Speak with your partner about the problem. Your partner wouldn’t want to control you. But somehow, the circumstances and the way you let your partner treat you may make them feel like they’re doing the right thing. At times, your partner’s controlling behavior may be a sign of their insecurity or may even be a deep rooted issue from their childhood. [Read: Are insecure men ever really worth dating?]
#10 Help him become a better boyfriend. When it comes to men, at times, they may just behave like the way they’ve been told to behave, either by their friends or their family. At times, a man has to be held by the hand and taught to behave like an ideal husband or boyfriend. He may come from a chauvinistic family where a man’s word is the final one. Help him see that life can be a lot better when there’s communication and love in the picture. [Read: 10 traits of a good boyfriend]
#11 Respect him. Men want respect, women want love. If he feels like he isn’t being respected, he may try to control you to feel more respected. At the same time, if you treat him with respect and help him feel loved, he may start to lose his controlling streak.
#12 Avoid lying to your partner. Sometimes, your partner may try to control you only because they’re feeling insecure about the relationship. Build communication in the relationship and help your partner feel more secure. If you get caught lying or doing something behind your partner’s back, your partner may feel threatened, which may set off a controlling streak in them. [Read: Things to talk about in a perfect relationship and feel closer]
#13 Stop him. Express your displeasure when he tries to control you, in a clear manner without getting angry or retaliating aggressively. If he speaks harshly or tries controlling you, remind him that he’s behaving in a controlling manner.
At times, just helping someone realize that they’re behaving in a bad way by pointing it out can subconsciously force them to change their tone or behavior and become more accommodating.
#14 Don’t fall for the manipulative trap. Your partner’s controlling behavior has to start at some point. When you start feeling like you’re being controlled, put a stop to your partner’s behavior by nipping it in the bud. If you know you’re right, don’t accept defeat especially when your partner tries to manipulate you. If you sense your partner’s controlling streak right from the beginning of the relationship, put a stop to it before it becomes a habit. [Read: How to get over insecurity in a relationship]
#15 Have a life beyond your partner. The more you’re attached to your partner, the more easy it is for them to control you and manipulate you. Spend time with your own friends or family, and have a few close friends with whom you can share your secrets and opinions. When you have your own support system outside your relationship, it’ll make you stronger and more confident about yourself. [Read: 9 relationship stages that all couples go through]
#16 Give your partner an ultimatum. There’s a threshold beyond which no one can put up with a bad partner’s controlling behavior. If you’ve tried all the other steps to make your partner a better lover and it still doesn’t work, then you need to get out before your partner’s controlling behavior changes you into a puppet.
If you can’t take it anymore and all your nice ways aren’t working, you have no other choice but to give your partner a final ultimatum. “Change or I’ll leave you forever.”
Almost always, your partner’s controlling behavior may not be intentional. So use these 16 steps to handle controlling behavior in a relationship, and with a bit of time and effort, your partner may just change for the better.
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After moving to the outskirts of NYC to validate her dreams a few years ago, Francesca Marie is now working on bringing her dreams to life. And when she’s not...