A partner comes to me in tears and is about to walk out on a long-term relationship. He has been battling a controlling wife for years. He needs space, autonomy, and a great deal of self-esteem back in his life. He has let go of all of what is important to him… slowly… day-by-day, inch-by-inch, year-by-year. Now, he is holding on by a thread. Where did the relationship go wrong? How can he get it back on track?
Let’s start from the problem. Relationship is not another word for dependency. Most relationships are. To have a dependent, you need a co-dependent. So, if you have someone who needs control, you have a partner who is co-dependent in the control game. It may start off with, “I need the towels to be folded just like this, in two triangles, then beveled at the edge.”
The partner looks crossed-eyed at his wife and thinks, okay, if that’s what will make you happy. It doesn’t matter to me how the towels are folded. It’s such a small thing.
But then the wife (or partner) begins to continue to need to control every small thing down to the kind of deodorant he wears and brand name of the shirts he sports. It no longer is a matter of “it doesn’t matter to me.” It becomes a game of control for the wife. Perhaps it’s even OCD for her.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).
The controller has an issue with him or herself. He or she can’t gain control of his or her own life, so he or she begins to progressively gain control over yours. And it seems in this scenario the partner has let her. Her happiness rests in the idea that she must cook the meals, shop, pick out the right healthy food, work out the time to exercise, provide time to sleep, watch TV, take a crap… It’s all mapped out, because she can’t stop the behavior.
If you are in this scenario or something similar, you may feel like you are smothered and sense you have lost your Self in the relationship. It isn’t uncommon that you might lose sexual desire for your partner and even have an extra marital affair, because you want simply to get out of the relationship and find You again. The affair probably isn’t the answer, but it is a very telling device, if that is the case.
Another kind of controlling person is a narcissist.
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorderin which the individual is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity. This condition affects one percent of the population. First formulated in 1968, it was historically called megalomania, and it is closely linked to egocentrism.
The definition above doesn’t begin to describe the pain a narcissist can cause in your life if you are in relationship with one. They take complete control of you and will settle for nothing less than perfection, because everything is a reflection of them, even you. If you are not looking your best, they don’t look their best.
Life revolves around one thing with a narcissist—I.
To learn to get your control back, you must see what you are dealing with in a relationship, which is why I started with the problem. If it’s mental illness, there may be help, if the partner is willing to try counseling or certain medications. Narcissism, however, is one of those defined mental illnesses that really doesn’t have a clear definition of “being healed” by any sense of the word. In fact, most therapists usually end up taking a shot of whiskey after a therapy session with a narcissist. Narcissists simply make everybody feel crazy, even therapists.
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, I’d say take two steps sideways and try seeking help yourself. You may find the power to deal with that person, but mostly I have found that in dealing with NPD, the partner ends up moving on.
Gaining control usually means looking inside and finding out what you need to be healthy. It often means letting go of any kind of guilt that you have inside for what you have done to that person in your attempt to find yourself and risking people thinking bad of you to do what is best for your own soul.
There is only one power and one love active in your mind and in your life: GOD THE GOOD. And this power will lead you to your right and perfect place, even if it is on your own. You have to be okay with that.
Once I made a deal with God and myself to stay single and not to date for a year until I got strong enough to learn to be so needy. It was really hard for me. I grew up with five brothers and sisters. I always had people around me. Being by myself was no easy task. When I first took on the task, I would have the television on, my computer on my lap and would be chatting with 3-5 people at the same time I was watching a show and playing Boggle. It took almost three months for me to feel safe by myself and stop the computer madness.
But I learned that being quiet and alone was a good thing. I learned that power was not about being with someone. Power was about autonomy and inner strength that I could call on at anytime, when no one was around. Those lessons I’ll take to my grave, even as I’m in a relationship.
Gaining control is listening to your self and to your Highest Power—always. This road simultaneously leads to peace.