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How Controlling Others Controls You

By Dr. Margaret Paul
June 23, 2014

How are you limiting yourself to limit your partner? What are the consequences of this?

"As long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you otherwise might." ~Marian Anderson 1902-1993, Concert and Opera Singer

"I've always wanted to take flying lessons," Ginnie told me in our phone session.

"Why don't you?" I asked.

"I'm worried about what Michael will do while I'm gone. What if he gets bored and then has an affair? I've always thought it would be safer if I stick around home."

Raymond said to me in one of our Skype sessions, "If I have a guy's night out with my friends, what will my wife do? What if this gives her permission to have a girl's night out with her friends? What if she meets another guy?"

Edgar told me in one of our sessions, "I really want to get a new sound system. Music is so important to me. But I'm not going to get it because if I buy what I want, then I'm worried that I'm giving permission to my wife to buy what she wants."

Ginnie, Raymond, and Edgar are not doing what they really want to do, in order to control their partners. They are operating from the false belief that they create safety by limiting themselves to limit their partner.

Why is this a false belief? Because most people hate it when someone tries to control them. Many people will go into resistance when they feel they are being controlled and will find ways around the control – often doing the very thing that the controlling person is trying to prevent.

Trying to control someone is the opposite of loving support. In a loving relationship, partners support each other in being all they can be. But because Ginnie and Raymond are coming from fear and insecurity about their own worth and lovability, and Edgar is coming from fear of being out of control over finances, they try to limit their partner as a way to feel safe.

What if Ginnie, Raymond and Edgar put the same energy that they currently put into controlling their partners into healing their own fears and insecurities? What if they learned to love themselves so they had love to share with their partner?

If they learned to love themselves, then not only would they be free to do what they want, but it's very likely that their relationships would improve. Is their partner less likely to have an affair if they continue to try to control from their fears and insecurities, or if they love and value themselves and share their love and support with their partner? Is Edgar's partner more likely to care about his financial concerns if he tries to control her, or if he is open and caring with her about their finances?

Most controlling people are not aware of the fact that they are holding themselves down by trying to control their partner. Not only that, but trying to control what you can't control creates much stress, so they are not only holding themselves back, they might also be causing themselves to become ill. Stress is a major cause of illness, and it's very stressful to always be worrying about what your partner is doing, and finding ways to keep your partner from straying or spending or doing whatever else you are worried about.

If you are trying to feel safe by keeping your partner down, why not try an experiment for a month? Why not support your partner in doing whatever he or she wants to do that would bring them joy, and support yourself in doing what would bring you joy? You might discover that, instead of your worst fears happening, your life and your relationship get better!


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