Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Role(s) of Control in Life and Loving Relationships

It is amazing how frequently I see that people tend to think of “control” as being a less than good (or even bad). Yet let’s remember two things: (1) control is the ability to purposefully direct, suppress and/or change; and (2) if we didn’t exercise some controls in our lives, our lives would be in total chaos. When talking with my “pro bono clients” about control issues in their lives, I frequently challenge them with two questions: (1) are you controlling things in your life in ways that make your life and the way you live it better? and, (2) are there any other controls that you could exercise that would improve your life and the way you live it?

In my 33 years of work as a licensed psychologist, specializing in working with couples, one of the primary problem areas people in troubled loving relationships had to attend to was their “control issues” – within themselves and their loving relationships. “Control problems in relationships” typically are related to the couple’s boundaries and associated controls. For example, in my co-authored book with Dr. William A. Lambos, Our Loving Relationship, we discuss these two latter phenomena directly:

Boundaries are the limits of how far you can go and remain comfortable with yourself. Boundaries define the “space” in which a given individual is not invited or welcomed at a given time.

Controls are those things you do to assure that you stay within your boundaries and assure that other people do not violate your comfort zone.

In two of my three novels, “control” is directly and portrayed. For example, In My Sweetpea: Seven Years and Seven Days, as Sheila and Troy’s marriage starts to fall apart, his “active control” and her “passive control” quickly turns their relationship dance from a foxtrot to a Macarena. And in If Ever Again… It’ll be for Love, after Diane divorces her over-controlling husband, recovers and then starts to fall in love with Michael, she subconsciously perceives many of his loving gestures as controlling. (As I discuss in Chapter 4 of my pop-psych book, Living Life, Anyway – 2nd Edition, “…we can control things actively by ‘what we do’ and we also can control things passively by “what we don’t do’.”)

Interestingly, when my “clients” who are in recovery tell me that they are staying sober because they “gave up control” (e.g., “Let go, let god.”), I ask them: “When you choose to give up control, isn’t that a form of control?”

Aspects and phenomena regarding “control in life” and “control in loving relationships” easily could entail a book’s worth of address and discussion. To wit, this herein discussion doesn’t even scratch the surface. Nonetheless, I hope my musings have challenged you to think about the issue(s) of control and how it interfaces with your life and the way you live it... as well as your adult loving relationships.

Question: How was or has been “control” been good (or bad) aspects of your life and your loving relationships?


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