Expert Speak

How to deal with the all-controlling Indian partners

Sometimes your partner can be very controlling and they want to micromanage what you do, what you wear and who you meet. How to deal with this?
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What is the best way to deal with your partner if they are controlling and domineering?

Human life is centred on six basic necessities: certainty, variety, growth, love (or connection), significance and contribution. Of these, certainty comes first and control is nothing but a function of the same. Because we need certainty all the time, we tend to exercise control over anything and everything to make it certain. If things are certain, then they are secure, and if they are secure, everything is safe. And what more obvious an anxiety about safety is there, if not the anxiety of love? But is it truly the anxiety around love, or is it the anxiety of being alone, of being abandoned, of seeing a parental pattern repeating itself (say a divorce or a separation). Whatever the reason may be, controlling partners can get to your gut and drive you absolutely insane. Here are a few ways to deal with them.

Stay calm instead of being defensive

The most easily available tool that a controlling partner will use is aggression (sometimes coupled with criticism). Most of these people who constantly want to micromanage and control are people who feel and believe that they are being controlled.

Most of these people who constantly want to micromanage and control are people who feel and believe that they are being controlled.

Or they feel unsafe about the fact things are not in their control. They are insecure and stuck at a younger age where they must have felt unsafe because they didn’t have control of someone or of the situation (it could even be an abusive parent for all that we know). So, if you respond with aggression or defence, they will never see your point, because internally and subconsciously they will feel more unsafe and hence would try to exercise more control with anger and domination. So understand that their story of control didn’t start with you, and stay calm, no matter what.

Their story of control didn’t start with you
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Ask open-ended questions

Instead of telling them directly that they are dominating and controlling, ask them what happens when you don’t do certain things that they’d want you to do, when you don’t get their perspective, when someone else is thought to be right instead of them. Ask them, how do they feel? Most of these controlling people don’t even know that they are controlling. For them it’s only a coping mechanism.

Most of these controlling people don’t even know that they are controlling. For them it’s only a coping mechanism.

So ask them, what is their worst fear if people don’t do/behave/live according to how they want, when the world doesn’t move according to how they want. By doing this you will actually help them, by making them aware of the root of their issue.

Related reading: My husband acted very liberated but tried to control all aspects of my life

Set boundaries and consequences

Once you have made them aware of their behaviour and where the behaviour stems from and most importantly what it does to you, tell them that there will be certain non-negotiable points within the relationship. For example, they cannot stop you from going out with your friends, they cannot ask you to wear or not wear what they deem fit or unfit, they cannot tell you how to do your job better. And once the boundaries are set, also set up consequences. Controlling partners are also often not aware when they get controlling. It must be a process by which they have survived for the longest period of their lives. So that’s their natural way of being. Hence you will have to put a stop and tell them that the moment they cross the non-negotiable points, they will be met with such and such consequences.

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Become aware of your existence

Write it down for yourself, that no matter how symbiotic a relationship is or how co-dependent one partner could be on the other, the centre of your happiness and being should be inside you and not outside of you. Therefore, stand on your own feet and try to be as less dependent on your controlling partner as possible. The less you are dependent on them, the less they will be able to ask favours from you, demand out of you and make you do things that you don’t want to do. Be absolutely aware of your free will and that you can exercise it at any moment you want. There is no obligation to follow, although the illusion of it might be created by your partner because many times in the past you have followed them. But that pattern can stop the moment you become aware of your free will.

breaking a pattern
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If nothing works out, turn the tables

Once in a while it might be a good idea to let them have a taste of their own medicine. Sometimes, boundaries may not work and consequences may not work – don’t lose your cool. Go back to point number 1. And find out your own calm ways by which you can exert your control over them. Use orders, demands and favours. Find out things they don’t like and subtly express it to them that you’d want that thing done. And see their reaction. If they snap, then (again without losing your calm) remind them of their behaviour.

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