Friday, March 02, 2007

Functional and Dysfunctional Relationship Controls

There is a tendency for people to consider “control” in an adult loving relationship to be a bad thing. Nonetheless, it is important for individuals in adult loving relationships to discuss, negotiate and set into place relationship controls that are functional – that is, relationship controls that enhance, enrich and contribute to the quality of the relationship. If, however, a relationship control is not discussed or negotiated, or if it is undesirable, uncomfortable or constrictive for either individual, chances are that it will be a dysfunctional control.

In one of two, companion, self-help books I am writing, Our Adult Loving Relationship, I tell about my therapy with a couple I shall refer to as Steve and Cathy. When they first came to see to see me, they had been married for approximately two years and “had some difficulties in their relationship that needed to be straightened out.” One of the helpful things that we did was to take a look at the controls in their relationship. An important discovery for them was that some of the controls in their relationship were functional, and some of the controls in their relationship were dysfunctional. For example, Cathy said, “Since Steve is very good in handling money and balancing our checkbook, we have agreed that Steve is in charge of, and in control of, our checkbook. This is a good example of a functional control in our relationship.” They looked at each other with big grins, and Cathy added, “Believe me, Dr. Emener, whenever I get my hands on our checkbook, all kinds of bad things happen!” After some brief, light-hearted laughter, Steve said, “We also have realized that Cathy always felt a duty or an obligation to check things out with me before making any plans with her girlfriends during the week. We decided that for us this was a dysfunctional control because she felt that it was an infringement on her freedom and I felt that it was an added responsibility for me.”

The more functional controls that two individuals have in their relationship – and remember, these are controls that they discussed and both agree on – the better, more meaningful and more loving their relationship will tend to be.

Question: Do you have any dysfunctional controls in your relationship (that are troublesome) or any functional controls (that are helpful) that you could share with us?

Bill

4 comments:

Kelly Parra said...

Hi Bill, great post! Sorry, I don't have an examples. =D

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Kelly,
Thanks for stopping by and your complimentary comment. If I were a gambler, however, I would bet that you have plenty of examples of functional controls... but when you're in a good relationship they tend to not be visible.
Thanks again,
Bill

Kelly Parra said...

Yeah, I probably do. My lips are sealed! lol!

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Yes, Kelly, LOL!
Laughter is the sunshine of the soul!
Bill