Episode 14: Control in Relationships

by | Last updated: Aug 28, 2023 | Podcast

In any controlling relationship, there are two contributors, whether you realize it or not – the controller and the receiver.

Most of us wouldn’t admit to being controlling, but almost everyone has controlling tendencies. Think about it – we all want to feel safe. And in order to diminish our fear, we often resort to controlling our partner.

But do you truly want to control your spouse, or would you rather be involved in an equal partnership?

In this episode, I will dive into why we end up being controlling in our marriages, exploring both sides of the control experience. Understanding the emotions motivating your control or your inability to speak up will revolutionize your understanding of your relationship.

I will explain how you can begin to foster trust and partnership with your spouse instead of leaning on control’s crutch.

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn In This Episode:

  • Why people are controlling in marriages
  • How fear motivates control and the receiving of control
  • Why control is not only a male issue
  • How control can show up in a marriage
  • Why you don’t truly want control in your relationship
  • How to start building true trust with your partner

Featured On The Show:

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If you have a suggestion for a future episode or a question you’d like me to answer on the show, email us.

If you’re questioning whether you can recover the feelings you’ve lost for your spouse, and you’re serious about putting an end to feeling stuck, lost, and alone… I’ve written a book just for you.

It’s called Stay Or Go: How To Find Confidence And Clarity So You Can Fix Your Marriage, Or Move Forward Without Regret. The approach I share in this bestselling book has already worked for thousands of women struggling in lonely, disconnected marriages, and I’m confident that it will work for you, too. If you don’t want to spend another day stuck in indecision, get your copy below.

“Welcome to The Loving Truth podcast, where it's all about finding clarity, confidence, and peace in the face of marriage challenges. And now, your host, relationship expert and certified master life coach, Sharon Pope.

“Hello, loves. This is Sharon Pope, and this is The Loving Truth. Today we are going to be talking about control inside our relationships.

“Now, we're gonna talk about both ends of control, because there are people who are controlling in relationships and then there are the receivers of that controlling behavior or as I like to say, the people that are willing to be controlled. And we're gonna talk about both of those experiences.

“Now, if I walked up to any person on the street, let's say I had a hundred people in the room and I said, ‘I want you to raise your hand if you're controlling.’ How many people do you think would raise their hand? Like I think maybe one out of a hundred. Maybe one out of a hundred would say that they are controlling people. And those are probably the most self-aware people in the room because they're willing to admit their own ways of being, right? But for most of us, because controlling has a negative connotation, we don't acknowledge the fact that we are in fact controlling, particularly in our closest relationships.

“Now see, most of us, what we would describe is, ‘Well, I just have better ideas,’ or ‘I'm just trying to be helpful,’ or ‘I'm just looking out for your best interest. I'm not controlling, but I'm just looking out for your best interest.’ Look, anytime someone says the thing and then says the word, ‘but like, I'm not in control. I'm not trying to be controlling, but X, Y, Z,’ they are trying to be controlling. They just don't want to own the label of being controlling. That's all that's happening. Okay?

“So most of us have controlling tendencies to some degree. Not everybody, but the most passive of people probably don't. But most of us have some degree of controlling tendencies. Type A women, I'm looking at you, okay? But I'm gonna give you a few different examples from a few different perspectives. So there's a woman that's in my membership, and she was sharing some very specific details about her relationship in the ways in which her husband is super controlling. Like he invalidates her opinions all the time. It doesn't matter if it comes to what's for dinner or where we should put this new shelf or how we parent. He typically had different ideas from her. And in order to get his way, he would invalidate her opinions and say why his opinion was better. And then he would wait for her to back away from the way that she wanted things to be done so that then he could get things done in the way that he wanted them done. He would ask about every dollar she spends, right? Did you need that? How much did that cost? Why did you spend that? Couldn't you have gotten it somewhere else cheaper? Something like that, right? So he was controlling related to money. He was controlling as a parent. She saw how he was being very controlling with their daughter and the impact that was having on their daughter.

“She tried to appeal to him that way, and he was like, ‘This is parenting. This is what parenting looks like.’ From his perspective, he also had opinions about what she wore and how she wore it. So for instance, he's like, ‘Maybe you should wear sleeves. You know, because your arms aren't as toned as they used to be.’ Now you know why I'm wearing this, right? So he had some opinions about what she wore, how she looked, her ideas, how she parented, what she spent money on. So clearly on the continuum of needing to be in control, he was on that continuum big time, okay? And so we can all understand why it would be really difficult to be in relationship with someone who is super controlling like that.

“Now, I want you to realize though that controlling is not just something that men do. Women have become very, very controlling in their relationships as well. It just tends to look a little bit different, right? It might look like, ‘Well, you need to put things away in this way.’ Like we want our home in a certain way, don't we? We need to fold the towels this way. We need to load the dishwasher this way. We need, we want our home environment to be a certain way. We want our spouses to parent like we do, not because we need to be right, but because the way that in which we parent we genuinely feel is the right way to do it. And so we don't understand when other people don't see it that way.

“So this is not a male/female thing. This is really a fear-based thing. So let's talk about it. Controlling is the behavior that comes out that we see on the external for underneath all that, some degree of not feeling safe in the world, not feeling safe in my life, not feeling safe in the world, not feeling safe in my own skin. There's some degree of fear at its core that I'm not safe, that I'm not enough, whatever it is, right? But there's some fear. And the way in which we control that fear is to attempt to control our environment. And that means the circumstances around us. That means the people around us.

“And when we are trying to control other human beings, even our little ones, that can feel very, very stifling to be in relationship with someone, someone who's super controlling, because no one came into their life to live out the life that you think they should live. They came here to create their experience for themselves, for their lives, right? Every single person on the planet did. I always say, I keep looking, looking around me. For the people who are here to do Sharon Pope's bidding, I keep looking for them. They just haven't shown up. I don't know where they are. Maybe they're stuck in traffic. No, the reality is that no human being came into this life on this planet at this time to do what Sharon Pope thought they should do. Or to live a life that makes Sharon Pope feel safe and secure and cozy and comfortable. No one's here for that. And the sooner we can become comfortable with that, then we can be in relationship differently because we're not in such fear that then comes out as, ‘I have to control my environment in order to feel safe.’

“Now, that whole fear thing and feeling safe thing, it's very unconscious because it's underneath, right? Even if someone can see how their behavior might be perceived as controlling, even if they don't wanna own that label, they for sure often will not be able to see how they're feeling unsafe. And that's how it gets expressed. But why else do we feel the need to control the circumstances and people around us?

“Cuz if we knew our well-being, and we knew that everything is great, everything is fine, things are going along just as they should, if we trusted more, we would not need to control as much. All right? So here are a few things related to control that I wanna just bring up and talk about. So control is just the behavioral issue, the expression of some degree of fear.

“Now, we also have things like, we want things the way we want them. We want our experience to be as we want it to be. That's another thing. So it's not always fear-based, sometimes it's just, ‘I want it the way I want it,’ which doesn't make space for other people to be involved in my experience, right? If you just want it the way you want it and you live by yourself out in the middle of the woods, then you can have your life the way you want it every single day, right? I'm a big fan of solo travel, and I ran into a woman recently and I said, ‘Are you traveling by yourself?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, I am.’ And I go, ‘I think that's fantastic. I think it's super empowering. I love to do that myself.’ And she said, ‘Yeah, it's amazing because I don't have to check in with anyone. I don't have to say, what do you feel like doing? I can change my mind. I can eat what I want when I want. I can go where I want to go when I wanna go there.’

“Like, look, when you are by yourself, you can have it any way you want it. But then when we are in relationship with people, we don't get to have it the way we want it 100% of the time, and we've gotta start getting more comfortable with that. Because if I always have to have my way, then it doesn't make space for anyone else's choices and preferences to be at the table, and nobody's here for that. So it makes it really hard to be in relationship with you.

“Now, this is also a boundaries conversation, right? Because if you are the one that is on the receiving end of someone else's overexuberance related to control, if you automatically shut down because they're wanting to control the situation, that means that you're not setting any boundaries for yourself.

“Like you might have expressed what your preference was, but as soon as you got shot down, you sort of retreated. You got smaller, you got quieter, right? And so this is about you are allowed to have a voice. You're allowed to take up space. You're allowed to have choices and preferences that are all your own. It doesn't mean you're gonna get your way every single time, but this isn't about getting your way. It's really about if you're going to be in relationship with someone, if you don't know what their taste and preferences are, I would argue you don't even know who they are. So when you say you love them, what you love is a projection that you've created in your mind about who they are, which is a person who's willing to abandon their needs, preferences, and desires. So you can have your way. And if you call that love, I would call that attachment to some existing wounds. And you use control as a means to soothe those wounds.

“Now, I'm gonna share one more thing with you, and this is a personal example because I have a little bit of need to control myself. Like Martha Beck, my mentor, she has a phrase, she says, ‘You spot it, you got it.’ Some of the things that we can spot so very clearly are because we have a little bit of that in ourselves as well, and I'm not immune to that. So I realize I have some controlling tendencies. Sometimes I want things the way I want them, or I don't trust that the other person is going do is going to do whatever it is in a way that I'm going to love the outcome. Like I think my way is for sure the best way, and I'm really just conscious of that. And I try to like take my foot off the gas of that every time it shows up. So I'm gonna give you an example.

“So my husband and I, last year, we were getting ready to remodel our bathrooms. We have two bathrooms. We were gonna remodel those bathrooms. And as we were talking about it, I said to him, ‘You know, this is not something that I feel like I can take on right now given everything that's happening in my business, but is this something that you feel like you could sort of lead that effort?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, absolutely. I can for sure do that.’ So we'd made that agreement, we were gonna move forward. And what did I do? I immediately reached out to two different contractors. I texted them to see who would respond and that we would start engaging with.

“And he looks at me after I told him I did this. And he goes, What are you doing? Didn't we just agree in the last hour that I was going to lead this effort?’ And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, good point, good point.’ My husband is great at calling me out on this when it shows up. And I think have become pretty good at receiving that check from him. Okay? So then the contractor comes over, call it a week later, he meets with the contractor. He's outside. I'm back in my office, he's walking the contractor through the house and showing him the bathrooms and what we want done. And I get up from my off from my desk, and I walk in there and I'm just standing there like waiting for someone to ask me and making sure that he's expressing all the things that we want done to the contractor.

“And he looks at me and he goes, ‘I got this.’ And I'm like, ‘Yeah, okay. Point made.’ Look, this is especially for ladies. If you ask your partner to do something, if you ask them to take the lead, you have to let them do it. And that means you have to let them do it their way. They're not signing up for it and going to do it your way because they're not you. They're gonna do it their way. And so I told you my husband is great at calling me out on this. And I've given him permission to do that because that's not who I want to be. I don't want to be controlling, but I know that I have some of those tendencies. So sometimes I can't seem to help myself. But we have a good enough relationship in that way that we can call each other out on those things. And I would say I've gotten much, much better at when there's something that we've agreed that he's gonna take the lead on, I gotta back it up. I've got to take my foot off the gas and let him do it his way and trust that whatever is going to come out of it is going to be amazing. It doesn't mean I don't get any say in it, but it means that he's in charge. I'm not in charge.

“I promise you don't actually want your spouse to be an obedient puppy. You want them to have their own ideas and you want them to have their own opinions, right? Obedience is lovely in a dog. It's not lovely in a relationship because where there is that sort of obedient puppy sort of thing going on, it's really hard to create respect. And when you don't respect your partner, it's really hard to create desire with your partner.

“So control, I don't care if you are on the receiving end of it or the giving end of it, we can all become more conscious of it. We can all back up from the need to control. And we can realize that the need to control is coming from some unhealed something within our own selves, right? Some fear-based thing. Like it's not gonna be done right. It needs to be done my way in order for it to be the right way. All that's the wound, right? And so until we heal that, the controlling expression, the controlling behavior is going to continue to show up. All right?

“I hope that that has given you something really juicy and meaty to think about. If you are either the controller or the person who has been willing to be controlled and no longer wants to do that, I hope that has helped you.

“Until next week, take really good care, love.

“If you're questioning whether you can recover the feelings you've lost for your spouse and you're serious about putting an end to feeling stuck, lost, and alone, I've written a book just for you. It's called Stay or Go, How to Find the Confidence and Clarity So You Can Fix Your Marriage or Move Forward without Regret. The approach I share in this bestselling book has already worked for thousands of women struggling in lonely, disconnected marriages, and I'm confident that it will work for you too.

“If you don't want to spend another day stuck in indecision, go to SharonPopebook.com to get your copy of Stay or Go now. That's SharonPopebook.com.”


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