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Underlying The Need For Control Is Fear

Updated: Mar 3



In a healthy relationship, both partners should feel respected, heard, and valued. Control can take different forms (emotional manipulation, physical abuse, financial control). When one partner tries to exert control over the other, it can create an unhealthy power dynamic.

 

When working with clients who are struggling with issues of control in their relationship, my first priority is to establish a safe and supportive environment where they feel comfortable opening up about their experiences. It is important for both partners to feel heard and validated, and to understand that control is never acceptable in any form. Demanding your partner to meet your attachment needs is about control. Instead, asking is about respect and compassion.

 



One of the key goals is to help couples develop healthy communication skills that allow them to express their needs and feelings in a respectful and constructive way. This can include active listening, using "I" statements to express feelings, and avoiding blame or criticism.

 

I like to ask the partner who needs to have control the following questions: "What are you afraid might happen if you don’t or can’t control it? If the thing you fear happens, how will you feel?"


The answer to these questions reveals what you’re actually afraid of which is the resulting feeling. You are afraid of yourself, your own feelings and their intensity.


Learn to control what you can. Learn what is yours to control to begin with. Let go of the rest. Sometimes we just have to accept powerlessness, feel it, process it, sit with it. There are no shortcuts here.

 

 Another important aspect of addressing control in a relationship is to help couples identify and understand the underlying issues that may be driving the controlling behavior. I have noticed that more often than not, the need for control stems from childhood patterns. A partner who is controlling may be struggling with insecurity or fear of abandonment because they actually were consistently let down by their parents.

 

By understanding these underlying issues, both partners can work on finding solutions that address the root cause of the problem. This kind of insight enables partners to take responsibility for even a small part of the problem: you’re a team working on the problem together, after all.

 

 

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