01/13/2015 03:14 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Feeling 'Controlled' in Your Relationship? It's Not Personal -- It's Not About You

Why is being controlled an issue for us?
It's an issue because we are all born with and driven by a need for freedom -- a need to make our own decisions and choices. When we are controlled, we are unable to make those decisions and choices freely and in accordance with our own wishes.

2015-01-08-unhappywomanwithborderforHuff.jpgIf you have ever felt controlled in a relationship, you may worry that you won't be able to judge, whether or not the next person you meet, is a similar kind of controlling individual. You may be saying to yourself. "If I didn't see it coming last time, how will I see it next time?" Sometimes people think, "It's just not worth the risk," and they give up on relationships altogether. Others decide to take their chances, doing what they can to avoid the mistakes of the past.
Controlling Behavior
Many people believe that those who end up in an abusive relationship have done so because this is what they have been used to, that is, they have come from an abusive background. This of course can happen, but it is by no means always the case. In many instances the person ends up in an abusive relationship because the controller managed to keep his controlling ways under wraps while the relationship was in the early stages of development. (I am using "he" here, but it could just as easily be "she"). This may have been done consciously so as not to scare the other person off or the controlling may have come about so gradually that the other person didn't notice it happening.

The other possibility is that the controlling behavior may not have kicked in until the controller became emotionally invested in the relationship and that can take time. When the controller discovers that he has strong feelings for the other person, then his own insecurities can come to the surface: "What if she prefers another guy to me. What if she leaves me?" The controlling behavior is a way to prevent the "worst" from happening. "Where are you going? Who are you going to meet? What time will you be home?" The constant checking and creating a row whenever she wants to go out can become a regular feature of the relationship.

Controlling Boyfriend
Take Martha for example. She was involved in a very controlling relationship. Her boyfriend used to make her sit facing a wall when they were out together, so that she couldn't see other guys. He checked up on her when she went out alone. "Where did you go? Who did you meet? What did you do?" He was always trying to catch her out. He made such a big deal about her going out that she eventually gave up. It just wasn't worth the hassle. He even managed to cut her off from her family and friends.

It's Not Personal
At an earlier stage of the relationship Martha was flattered by her boyfriend's attention, believing that his jealousy and possessiveness showed that he really liked her, but in time she realized that his behavior was not about her. This is one of the most important things to realize when it comes to this kind of behavior. Even though you are on the receiving end of it -- it is not actually about you. It's not personal. That may be a difficult concept to get your head around, particularly when someone is telling you that you are the problem.

Undermining your confidence and belief in yourself and telling you that no one else would be bothered with you, is the controller's best attempt to keep you onside -- to stop you from considering anyone other than him. In time, when you start to believe the propaganda, you will think, "You know what -- he's right, no one else would be bothered with me." This is an illusion. What you are in fact witnessing is his controlling nature, his need to call the shots, his power need -- quite often his own insecurities. He may sound like a big shot who has it all sorted, but deep down he may be feeling very unsure of himself. All of this is about him -- it is not about you.

He Couldn't Trust Himself
In Martha's case, it was her boyfriend who couldn't be trusted. It turned out that he was doing the very thing that he constantly accused her of doing. He was seeing other people behind her back. He couldn't trust himself, and was projecting his distrust of himself onto her?

Past Behavior as Predictor of Future Behavior
They say that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Yet, when it comes to relationships we don't always check out other people's behavioral history. You wouldn't take on someone to work for you or to look after your kids or your dog without finding out about them -- you get references. Yet, quite often we enter into relationships with others, on no more than a wing and a prayer. Even when we suspect or are told something "untoward" about the "one," we dismiss it and think, "It will be different this time -- she/he is with me now." Again we personalize the issue. "I can make this work. It was because he was with her/him that there was a problem. He/she will be different with me."

What do you think? I would love to hear your views. Please feel free to leave a comment.

For more tips and resources, you might like to check my website.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.