How to Stop Being a Control Freak in a Relationship

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If your partner or ex-partner has called you a “control freak,” it’s not because you’re a monster. People who cross boundaries in relationship by micromanaging may actually be quite well-intentioned. Controlling people might mean to offer advice or help to the people they love, but their micromanaging tactics can make others feel suffocated, says Ann Smith, author of the book “Overcoming Perfectionism.” Figure out how to focus more on yourself and less on others.

Mediate Your Anxiety

Many people feel a need to micromanage themselves and the other people in their lives because of their own anxiety, says Dr. Phil in an advice column titled “Stop Being Controlling and Critical.” If you worry that your partner’s failings -- his messiness or his lack of punctuality, for example -- are reflecting poorly on you, you shouldn’t. The only thing that’s going to reflect poorly on you is your habit of constantly criticizing the minor details, he says. If you have trouble mediating your own anxiety, try seeing a therapist, joining a support group, talking with a friend, or writing about your feelings in a journal, recommends Smith.

Stop “Helping” So Much

Many people whose partners accuse them of being controlling are actually making misguided attempts to help others. You might be reminding your girlfriend about all of her meetings because you’re afraid she’ll forget (like she did that one time), or directing her apartment search because she’s so busy, but she might think this betrays a lack of faith in her ability to do it for herself, says Smith. Stop “assisting” and let go of the reins. The best way to show her that you love her is to allow her to live her own life and be who she is. Try a “no advice” policy in your relationship: Only give advice if she explicitly asks for it.

Let Your Partner Make Plans

If you’re always the person who plans your weekends, makes restaurant reservations, buys plane tickets, goes grocery shopping and cleans house, it might not be because your partner is “lazy” or even dependent, but because you have insisted on doing everything for so long that he just got used to it. Ask him what he wants to do next weekend, or make no plans and wait to see what comes up. You might find that he’s totally capable of planning dinner if you give him the time and space to do it. Try to find a balance in your relationship, and don’t worry if things aren’t perfect. Dr. Phil calls this “embracing the spirit of acceptance.”

Focus on Yourself

Relaxing control over your relationship means focusing less on micromanaging your partner and more on finding a life balance for yourself. “Worry has been your hobby,” notes Smith. Find new hobbies. What will you do with all of your spare time now that your partner is in charge of the details of her own life?