My Way or the Highway: Is Control Controlling Your Relationship?

Couple sitting on couch fighting for control of television remotePartners come together with unique and distinct personalities. Usually, two people in a relationship have many differences and similarities. But when someone in the relationship, or worse yet, both partners, are “control freaks,” it can be a recipe for disaster.

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, an author and family and marriage counselor, recently explained why control can damage relationships. He said that in his Brooklyn practice, he has worked with many couples who are dealing with control issues. In most cases, the control is circular: one partner tries to control a situation, and the other partner responds by trying control their partner back. This raises the level of control for the first partner, and so on.

Schonbuch says that control is based on respect. People don’t often try to control their friends and tell them what to do, where to go, how to spend their money, or how to talk. And yet, partners and spouses do that to each other far more frequently. He believes a lot of it is human nature. Many people will hold on to the belief that they can control the other person for years.

When they attempt to do so, it can breed resentment and anger. No one likes being told what to say or do. No one likes being put down in front of others, being yelled at, or being berated or belittled. All these forms of control do nothing for intimacy and trust.

Schonbuch teaches couples how to reduce their control and increase their respect for one another. He helps couples identify areas of control and makes them aware of how the control issues are affecting their behaviors, beliefs, and emotions within the relationship. It is difficult to live with a controlling partner. It is equally as difficult and destructive to try to control a spouse or partner. Schonbuch has a simple equation that he uses when dealing with control issues in relationships:

“More control and less focus on the relationship = unhealthy marriage.

Less control and more focus on the relationship = healthy marriages”

Schonbuck, Daniel, Rabbi. “Reducing Controlling Behavior.” The Jewish Press (n.d.): n. pag. 9 May 2013. Web. 10 May 2013.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Ken

    May 25th, 2013 at 12:43 AM

    Been married for three years now and yes the controlling aspect comes to the d=fore every now and then.I do it too.But I do not know how to stop or reduce it.It just happens,is not like I plan to do it.I think when you think this person is close to you you jsut tend to dictate things to them,its natural.But how do we get rid of it?

  • georgia

    May 25th, 2013 at 4:50 AM

    If you ask anyone I guess they would all say that I am the control freak not just in marriage but in pretty much any aspect of my life. But without that control or those attempts at it, that’s when I feel the most lost. I am afraid of what might happen if I let someone else take the wheel. I was raised in a family where I was given a whole lot of responsibility at a very young age and I guess that has just translated into feeling that I need to keep that control even now as an adult. I didn’t want it all so much when I was younger but I guess that I have kind of come to thrive on that and I know that others don’t really like that aspect of me, but it is how I feel the most in control of my life and I am not sure that I would ever be able to give that up.

  • rudy L

    May 26th, 2013 at 12:41 AM

    Old adage but lets think about this for a minute:The tighter you hold sand the more chances of it slipping away! Just like you want to be in control and even of your partner’s life, wouldn’t your partner want to be in control of at least their own life? I’ve asked this to myself n number of times and it has helped over the years, helped me get rid of the tendency to be controlling. Try it and it might just work for you too. Because control is an enemy to any relationship, it can cause irreparable damage.

  • Roger

    May 26th, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    But if your wife knows this about you before you get married, that you like to be in charge, then that is the choice that she makes. How can you be faulted for that? If they know it going in then they at one time thought it was fine and they could live with that.

  • Jo

    May 26th, 2013 at 11:15 PM

    My girlfriend’s husband is so controlling. He tells her where to go who to with what to. gets on my last nerve. I told her to grow a pair.

  • jin

    May 27th, 2013 at 7:20 AM

    @Roger- maybe she is ready for some positive growth and you are not? I think that you will eventually find yourself without a partner when you continue to think like this

  • Bill

    July 24th, 2013 at 7:53 AM

    We’re approaching our 30th anniversary and I’ve been given an ultimatum. I’m the problem – still trying to figure out what’s wrong w/me. I talk down and make derogatory comments to the ones that love me and try to control all situations. I often review my behavior before falling asleep and regret what I’ve said or done. I’m often withdrawn and have no close friends. My son is a stranger to me for my actions and my wife has told me in no-uncertain-terms that she will not tolerate me if I continue on this path. I am trying to figure this out for myself (searches on the web) as I’m on a fixed income.

  • Lisa

    April 26th, 2016 at 5:18 AM

    I really need to know what are you suppose to do with a acoholic telling you its my way or the highway and when I want to talk to him about what’s bothering me he starts throwing things up that we have talked about weeks ago or a yr ago he doesn’t show me anything like how he feels about me he doesn’t take me out he hasn’t bought me anything and he asked me to marry him 2 wks after we was together and when we talk and he starts bring up other things and he wonders why I get ill I have put all the effort in this relationship and hasn’t got anything in return…Since the other day we got into a argument and trying to tell me what i need to do is stop nagging and he always finds other things to do besides spend time with me someone please give me some advice my heart is breaking.

  • E

    August 16th, 2016 at 6:37 AM

    You pack your bags and you leave.

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