A controlling relationship is a relationship where you think that someone else is in control of you.
I’ve talked about how there’s no such thing as a toxic relationship (listen to the podcast here) because other people can’t “get inside of you” with their thoughts, feelings, and actions.
The same is true of “being controlling.” No one can control you unless they’re physically moving your arms for you, have a gun to your head, or are threatening you in a physical way.
But what, then, is happening when someone presents with qualities that we typically identify as controlling (examples: yelling, asking for the same thing over and over, name-calling, verbal threats, etc.)?
What’s happening is that someone else has thoughts, feelings, and actions that they’re using to try to control you (or emotionally manipulate you).
The key word is try.
They can’t actually do it.
You ALWAYS have agency to think, feel, and act however you want.
Your job as the extraordinary woman in charge of your life is to notice people who have an agenda and present such controlling behavior and leave (more on leaving down below).
Because the truth is: if a person is trying to control your actions, they’re likely coming from a place of selfishness, arrogance, and a lot of pain.
Read: you want to steer clear of people who live like this.
So, what do you do if you find yourself in a controlling relationship?
Here’s my best advice…
- Related: Toxic And Difficult Relationships (podcast)
Can You Fix A Controlling Relationship
The way you fix a controlling relationship is by changing you.
This is the best news because while you can’t control someone else, you have so much more control over your relationship than you realize by controlling your own thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Here are the best strategies for fixing a controlling relationship from the inside out…
Identify Your Current Thoughts And Feelings
When someone you love is acting in a way you don’t like, the first step is to identify your thoughts and feelings. It sounds counterintuitive to focus on yourself, but checking in with yourself is the best thing you can do.
So, ask yourself: what am I thinking and what feeling is this thought creating?
You may find you’re thinking that your spouse is the worst person ever, and that thought feels horrible.
From a place of identifying your thoughts, you’ll see that you can control how you show up.
This will look different for everyone. For example, you may decide that when your husband yells at you, you leave the room (i.e. you set a boundary).
You don’t have to get upset or emotionally tied to it. You can protect yourself (your mental and emotional peace), and you can do what’s best for you.
- How To Deal With Toxic And Difficult People (blog post)
- Mental Chatter (podcast)
- Overcoming Self Doubt (free course)
Get Clear On The Type Of Relationship You Want
Where there are subtle signs that someone else is taking actions that don’t align with the standards you’ve set for yourself, it’s time to revisit what you want in a relationship.
Think of the standards you want in a marriage. For example, your standards may look like this…
- To be treated with respect
- To have someone who is home and present
- To be in a committed, monogamous relationship
- To have kids and raise a family
These are my examples. What are yours?
When you get clear about your standards it’s easy to see when you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t meet them.
This doesn’t mean you’re ending relationships because someone doesn’t meet your expectation of being perfect (or that you get mad about not taking out the trash).
But you see very clearly who you want to be in a relationship with when you set clear standards for yourself.
- A Quick Way To Have Better Relationships Right Now (blog post)
- Self Accountability (podcast)
- How To Live An Intentional Life (free course)
Practice Increasing Your Self Confidence
One of the best ways to take control over yourself back is to increase your self confidence.
Self confidence is your belief in you regardless of the evidence.
You can believe in you—no matter what.
You can love you.
You can adore you.
This isn’t arrogant, which comes from fear. This is real love. The love we all can have for ourselves.
Practice writing down 10 new things you love about yourself (big and small) daily. Make this part of your daily routine. You’ll be amazed at how you feel more confident inside compared to before.
- Building Confidence From The Inside Out (blog post)
- Self Confidence (podcast)
- Scarcity Vs. Abundance Mindset (free course)
Redefine Relationships Ending
People tend to stay in relationships much longer than they want to deep down because of what they make it mean. Often, people will think that a relationship ending means failure, so they’ll try to avoid it.
What if a relationship ending didn’t mean anything about you or your future? What if some relationships are meant to end? And that an ending is really a completion?
If you look at relationships ending in this way, you’ll be more empowered to make the decision that’s best for you, even if you’re sad.
- Resource: Disagreeing With Family (podcast)
Get Around Other People
The more friends and family you’re around who support you, the better.
Sometimes when you feel like you’re in a controlling relationship, you end up controlling yourself away from the very people who love you most.
The solution is to get around loving, healthy people who have supportive thoughts about you and your future. This can be a family member, friend, person in your community, or just an acquaintance you feel comfortable around.
Just by being around supportive people, you’ll begin to see things differently about your relationship.
- Resource: How To Fix Your Relationship (free course)
Choose To Love Yourself The Most
We tend to think of a romantic relationship as something to “make us happy” but the truth is that no person outside of us has that kind of power. Only we can make ourselves happy.
So the best way to raise your standards is to have a love affair with yourself. It’s to treat yourself with kindness, respect, and also love in the way that you’d want to be treated.
This will have the effect of you becoming a person who feels and experiences love for herself so much so that you’ll be shocked and repelled by someone who doesn’t have the same standards for you.
And when that person enters your life, whether it’s by saying something negative about you or raising their voice, you’ll be so turned off that you’ll be confused as to how they could speak to you that way. It will be foreign to you because of how much you love yourself. And from there, you’ll expect nothing less.
- 11 Ways To Practice Self Love (blog post)
- Self Love And Romantic Love (podcast)
- Conquering Anxiety (free course)
- Grow You (life coaching)
A Final Note!
If you’re ever in physical danger, get help immediately. There’s no shame to this. There’s only hope and a chance at a better life. Your life depends on it.
If you’re not in physical danger but instead are in a relationship where you don’t like the dynamics of how you treat each other (and find yourself thinking the other person is trying to control you) start doing the internal work where you create thoughts and feelings to support the life that you want.
When you genuinely love yourself and choose you over others, you actually end up the happiest and healthiest of all. You let others live their lives while you live your life. You also let people come and go as they please. And you have standards that only allow people into your life who meet them.
Regardless of how long you’ve been married or the status of your romantic relationship, there’s no relationship that’s as important as the one you have with yourself. When you start raising your standards for you, you’ll stop letting other people into your life who act anything less than your personal standards. This is just the way it works.