How to Stop Trying to Control your Partner


Stop Trying to Control your Partner

Trying to control your partner can cause real damage to your relationship. Perhaps your partner complains that you are controlling. Or maybe you recognize your controlling behaviors yourself. Either way, you can learn how to stop trying to control your partner.

First, let’s take a look at why you are trying to control your partner.

  • Many people use control tactics in an effort to manage their own anxiety. In the short term, you may feel a bit of relief because you think you are in control.
  • Efforts to control or change your partner also result from a lack of trust in the relationship. When trust has deteriorated, a relationship can feel unsafe. And trying to control your partner may temporarily make your feel safer.
  • Or you may be unhappy with your partner’s choices and feel you know what choices are best.

The problem with trying to control your partner is you can’t. No matter how hard you try, you simply cannot control anyone except yourself (or a baby). Your partner has free will and will make his or her own choices. You may have some influence, but this is not the same as control. Often, efforts to control are met with resistance and may actually push your partner further toward the behavior you are trying to change. The other possible outcome is feeling “crazy” as a result of trying to control the uncontrollable.

The keys to changing your controlling behaviors are:

  • Find other ways to manage your anxiety (therapy, medication, meditation, exercise, etc).
  • Remind yourself that you cannot control your partner, your efforts to control or change him/her may make things worse or leave your feeling “crazy”.
  • Stop playing detective and wasting precious energy on proving your partner is lying, cheating, drinking etc. Trust your gut.
  • Focus on positive changes you can make for yourself.
  • Communicate your feelings to your partner in non-judgmental, non-accusatory ways.
  • Take responsibility for your own feelings and choices.
  • Try out how it feels to trust that your partner can and will make good choices. If s/he is putting you in harm’s way, explore why you are together.

I have controlling tendencies myself, so I completely understand the anxiety that can result when things feel out of your control. Focus on what you can control. This will ultimately bring you the peace and happiness your desire and deserve. Please be in touch if I can assist you with counseling on these issues in California.


Sharon Martin, a counselor and therapist in San Jose, specializes in helping you decrease stress and anxiety in order to create a peaceful and balanced life. Sharon provides counseling to adults and teenagers to help them heal, succeed, and grow happiness. She has had a private psychotherapy practice in Campbell for the past 15 years where she is available for counseling and coaching. Sharon is also the author of Setting Boundaries Without Guilt: A Workbook to Move You From Doormat to Empowerment.