Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Controlling Controlling Partners

It's been an interesting week. I've done two sixth (last) sessions, and two first sessions. It really shows how much can happen in just six weeks.

One of the couples I just finished with came in with a really popular issue: The Controlling Partner (and by implication: The Partner Who Feels Controlled).

In this case, the wife felt like her partner wanted everything his way. He was "always" correcting, suggesting, and judging. Occasionally, he would ask for input, and then he'd go ahead and do it exactly the way he wanted to. Sound familiar?

I put "always" in quotes, because it is a red flag that I listen for. It tells me that the speaker is describing their experience of what happened, and that their perception is distorted. Nobody does anything always.

It certainly was true that this husband knew how he liked things. It was also true that he really wanted to share the load, but he didn't feel met by his wife, so in the vacuum of her speaking out about what she wanted, he went ahead and did what he thought was what they both wanted. I call this the "Generous Controller." Most "controllers" are trying to be generous, though it certainly doesn't feel that way to their partner.

Even though the "controller" obviously has a lot to learn about how to cooperate, I want to talk about the judger - the one who calls their partner a controller.

In this case, we went over a few instances of his "control" and in each case; his behavior was motivated by a positive intention. As the wife went from example to example, she began to see her husband in a new light. Here was the man she had married because she liked how he made an effort to please her. She liked his proactive nature.

What she didn't like was not having input, but then whose responsibility is that? I will teach the husband how to seek it out, but I focused this session on having the wife notice how hard it is for her to advocate for her own needs.

We practiced some, and in every case, when her needs were expressed non-violently, he was completely open to co-creating a solution.

As so often happens, the "controller" in a relationship is the creation of the one feeling controlled. And keeping their focus on their partner not only created tension and judgment, it kept them from knowing what it was they needed.

1 comment:

  1. Great posting, Max! I particularly liked the way you broke things down into their pieces so that they could be put back together in a way that is more successful for everybody in the famil.

    Terry O'Keefe