Controlling vs caring – You would hope that in all relationships both parties would care and not control. You care what happens to your partner; if they’re happy and if they’re fulfilled. You care if they are healthy and safe and careful.
This is all normal in any relationship. And it is even healthy to expect certain behaviors from your partner. You expect them to show up for date night. You expect them to be honest with you. You expect them to be respectful of your choices. But when does that line become blurred?
What caring looks like
Caring is not about forcing someone to do something. It is about worrying about that person, thinking about that person, investing in that person.
When you care about someone, you cheer them up if they’re sad. You make them dinner when they’re too tired to cook. You give them a blanket when they’re cold. You talk about your days.
Caring is what your parents do for you, what you do for your partner, your pets, and your children. Caring about someone is a feeling. It is a feeling that reflects on your actions in a positive way. [Read: What traits set apart selfless love from selfish love]
What controlling looks like
Controlling people often excuse their behavior with the guise of caring. They care so much that they need to control things. They cannot leave things up to chance. But it mostly has to do with a lack of trust and confidence.
Controlling is requiring your partner to come home directly after work. Controlling is stopping your partner from having any friends they see as a threat to your relationship. Controlling is calling your partner every time you’re out to make sure you are where you say you are.
Controlling is caring’s ugly cousin. It may sprout from caring, but it is a twisted and dysfunctional form of it. [Read: Understand the traits of toxic people: Are they in your life?]
Controlling vs caring
As I said, controlling and caring can be misinterpreted. They can be confused, but they are not interchangeable.
Caring is what you want, but control is far over the line. No relationship should go beyond caring into controlling. When that happens, the relationship becomes one-sided, suffocating, and disrespectful.
The whole point of a relationship is to add to each other’s lives, not control them. You should be able to respect each other’s choices. You don’t have to agree, but support and respect need to be present. Without them, that is when controlling behaviors take over
So what are some things that often occur in relationships that could be misconceived as controlling vs caring?
#1 Double standards. Rules between couples are always finicky things. Sometimes they can help sort through issues like who picks the movie, if you can check each other’s phones, and where to go for the holidays.
But when rules become one-sided, it is no longer about compromise and care. You can’t do this, but he can. You have to do this, but she doesn’t. When standards set to make things fair become unfair, someone is being controlling. [Read: 12 toxic double standards in a relationship]
#2 Alone time. Wanting to spend time alone is sweet and caring. We all like having that privacy and romance with the one we love. But if you want to go out with the girls, a caring boyfriend would tell you to have fun and be careful.
On the flip side, a controlling boyfriend would manipulate you into staying home or coming home early. And he will likely use caring as his reason. He will claim he misses you or that he’s worried someone will hit on you as a reason to cut you off from friends and family. That is controlling, not caring.
#3 Jealousy. I know it isn’t nice to admit, but a little bit of jealousy can be healthy. It doesn’t mean you don’t trust your partner, just that you want more attention.
We all get a little jealous from time to time. But when caring jealousy crosses over to controlling is when your partner forbids you from seeing a friend or coworker. [Read: 15 types of toxic relationships to watch out for]
#4 Check-ins. How sweet? Your boyfriend called you after work to see how your day went. Maybe he texts once during your girl’s night out to see if you need a ride.
But if he calls you all day and wants to FaceTime to see where you are or talk to whoever you’re with, he isn’t just checking in, he is checking up on you. Think Ross from Friends when Rachel was working with Mark.
#5 Fights. All couples disagree, argue, etc. Caring leads to passion which often leads to fighting. But, when you are always feeling guilty after a discussion, so much so, that you stop airing your opinion that is the difference between caring about each other and controlling one another. [Read: 14 common traits of controlling people and how to deal with them]
#6 Comments on social media. Telling you that you look hot in your latest post is caring. Your partner loves that you are confident and praises you. But, texting you to take it down because it is too revealing is not okay.
Did you like a male celeb’s photo? Harmless, right? Not to a controlling beau. A caring boyfriend lets you do you. He wants you to be happy and supports your decisions, even on social media. A controlling boyfriend wants to have that power over you and your actions. [Read: 15 subtle signs of a controlling boyfriend most girls don’t notice]
#7 Compliments. Saying you would look gorgeous with any haircut is lovely. Your partner telling you how hilarious you are is sweet. Even raving to his family about your cooking; it is all caring.
But if the compliments are backhanded like, saying, “wow, dinner is actually good tonight,” it is their way of knocking you down without being so upfront about it. He may even tease you around his friends by painting you in a bad light but excuses his actions as harmless banter. [Read: How to react to the backhanded compliment]
#8 Ultimatums. Saying you’re not picking up dinner until they set the table is one thing, but saying, “I won’t spend Christmas with your family if you don’t cancel your plans with your friends this weekend,” is a way of controlling someone.
You might think, this sounds like compromise. But compromise is meeting halfway. Making a sacrifice on both sides so you both get what you want. Ultimatums only benefit one person, the controlling one.
#9 Passion. A passionate relationship can be viewed as caring because the feelings are so heightened. Everything is overwhelming and intense. Maybe the sex is great, but sometimes passion can carry over into other things.
Too much passion can lead to controlling behavior on both sides. Passion can overtake reason and lead to intense fights, anger, and regretful decisions. [Read: 18 signs you’re slowly being coerced into a controlling relationship]
#10 Trust. Trust is one of the most delicate parts of any relationship. It is hard to earn and easy to break. And when you do trust someone, you want to lean into it. You depend on the fact that your partner is caring. You rely on them.
But when that trust is abused in order to be controlling, the trust is broken, just not so obviously. Saying, “I know what’s right. I’m doing this for you or us,” is a form of manipulation which is a form of control. Using someone’s trust in you against them is cruel, degrading, and controlling.
[Read: 15 questions that will reveal a controlling personality instantly]
There is a fine line between controlling vs caring. Once caring makes you feel inferior, afraid, or guilty, it is no longer caring, but, controlling.
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