Mutual care, respect and support are important for a happy, healthy relationship. When you have an overbearing partner, these may come second to control, frustration and guilt. Your partner's need for control may stem from his own low self-esteem, insecurities or fear of being hurt. He may try to control the decisions you make, how you behave or who you spend time with. However his control manifests itself in your relationship, you need to deal with it for the sake of your happiness and well-being.
Your overbearing partner is affecting your relationship, but you may need to consider your own behavior and how it may contribute to the problem. It's not about blaming yourself for her need for control but about taking responsibility for your own actions, says psychologist Philip "Dr. Phil" McGraw. Perhaps you put up with her overbearing behavior and stay silent in order to avoid arguments. Think about more productive ways of resolving conflict.
When dealing with a controlling partner, it's important not to come across as controlling yourself. The key is to be assertive, confident and consistent, advises psychiatrist Judith Orloff. Your partner may thrive on power struggles, so don't give him one. Focus on the important issues that need to be addressed, rather than getting stressed about minor quibbles like whose turn it is to take the trash out. For example, if you are discussing whose family to spend the holidays with, say something like, "I'd really like to spend a few days with my parents, because we haven't seen them for a long time. Perhaps we could stop by your parents' house on the way home?" which is likely to be far better received than saying, "We're spending the holidays with my parents, because we see your parents all the time!"
It's possible that your overbearing partner may not even be aware that she comes across as controlling, suggests Orloff. Find a way to let her know whenever she is crossing the line. For example, if she keeps forcing her opinions onto you, say something like, "I do appreciate what you're saying, but I would like some time to think this through on my own." If she dominates conversation when you're out with friends, take her to one side and say something like, "It's great that you're so friendly and sociable, but I'd like to speak for myself when someone asks me a question." Patience is required here. Your partner may have learned her controlling habits over a lifetime, and they won't go away overnight. Be prepared to spend weeks or even months redefining the limits.
Know When to Seek Help
If your partner's need for control manifests itself as abuse -- verbal, emotional or physical -- and you feel scared or threatened by his words or actions, put your own safety above the relationship. Turn to friends and family members for support if you decide to end the relationship. The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence has lots of advice and information to help you remove yourself from a potentially dangerous situation (see Resources).