Almost everyone likes to be in charge especially when we believe we have the answer. Humans seem to have an instinctive need to be in control. Think back to the creation story of Adam and Eve who sought knowledge and power. Our society reinforces this mindset that with power and control comes success and happiness. We live in an age where information and knowledge are king. Unfortunately, the quest for control and power can destroy relationships. I witness this destruction everyday in my practice where couples are vying for control and tearing apart their connectedness. Why does control seem so important to us?
People seek control for a variety of reasons. In some cases, control gives us a sense of safety, security, and comfort. We seek control as a self-protective mechanism and way to avoid rejection and/or hurt. Some seek control to feel a sense of power, pride, purpose, and significance. Control gives people a way to avoid dealing with their own issues and focus on fixing/rescuing others instead. For many the root of control is fear and insecurity. We all experience both emotions at times in our lives, but some use control to avoid acknowledging, confronting, and/or resolving their fears and insecurities.
Control can manifest itself in relationships in many different forms, such as manipulation, withholding, passive-aggressiveness, emotional or physical abuse, and codependency. These various controlling mechanisms can damage relationships since none of us like to be told what to do or how to do it. Couples’ need for control creates frustration, anger, and over time resentment which can result in detachment and disconnectedness. Even though we usually recognize that we can’t change our partner sometimes we still try. The time and energy we expend on blaming our partner and defending our position could be used to transform ourselves. Find out next week ways to relinquish control in relationships and gain a greater connection in all of our relationships.