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How to Fix a Controlling Relationship

author image Amber Keefer
Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.
How to Fix a Controlling Relationship
A man embracing a contemplative woman. Photo Credit: AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images

Controlling relationships can be destructive to individuals in many ways. These patterns of behavior may lead to social isolation or damage a person’s self esteem. In severe cases, controlling behavior can eventually culminate in emotional and/or physical abuse.

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According to, a controlling pattern of behavior may be subtle at first but then begin to occur more frequently, getting worse over time. If the situation has not yet escalated into other kinds of abuse, it still may be possible to improve the relationship, but only if you are willing to take immediate action.

Step 1

Examine the relationship closely to determine whether the other person is totally controlling or only tries to control certain situations. It may help to keep a journal for a couple of weeks detailing all of your activities together. This can give you a better idea of who makes most of the decisions and how frequently the controlling behavior occurs.

Step 2

Evaluate your feelings. Ask yourself whether you feel comfortable in the company of your own friends or if you must ask the permission of your partner. It’s a sign of trouble if your partner tries to stop you from seeing your family members and friends or tries to control where you go.

Step 3

Talk to your partner about your feelings. It could be that he is unaware of how you feel. The Institute for Marital Healing suggests discussing the behavior in a calm manner. Tell your partner that his behavior is disrespectful and you do not deserve to be treated in that way. If you feel afraid to discuss your relationship, this could be a sign that the partnership is not a healthy one.

Step 4

Take more control of the relationship by making some of the decisions about what the two of you do together. Think independently for yourself and begin making plans again with your own friends. Look for your partner’s reaction each time you take a stand. If he overreacts each time, you may have to think about ending the relationship for good.

Step 5

Get the opinions of other people. Your friends and family members may be able to offer some helpful advice. If you and your partner are unable to work out your problems alone, consider going to a therapist. A professional counselor will observe your interactions and then recommend ways to help break the pattern of controlling behavior.

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