10 Ways How To Have Self-Control In A Relationship In 2021

7 min read

You’re about to learn how to develop better self-control in your relationship. 

As an experienced life coach, I am often teaching men and women how to do this all the time, because poor self-control is responsible for so many relationship problems.

By taking the advice below, you’ll be able to maintain a more fulfilling romantic partnership. 

So, let’s dive in.  

What is self-control in a relationship? 

Let’s define self-control as: regulating your behavior to avoid actions that ultimately hurt you and those around you.

The most extreme example of losing self-control in a relationship is infidelity.

However, it could also be something as small as losing your temper in an argument, deliberately engaging in annoying habits or any selfish actions which hurts your partner’s feelings.

How To Have Self-Control In A Relationship
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Why is it difficult to maintain self-control in a relationship? 

When we lose self-control, the actions we take tend to feel soothing in the present moment.  That’s why self-control is difficult to maintain. 

The desire for instant gratification is often too tempting, even if we know the long-term consequences. 

It can be even tougher to maintain self-control in the context of a relationship, because the long-term consequences may not directly harm you. Instead, they may upset your partner.

If you’re inexperienced in relationships – and therefore not used to considering the feelings of a romantic partner before making decisions – it can be difficult to get used to this. 

Still, as we’ll explore, it’s worth building the discipline to maintain self-control in a romantic relationship. The long-term benefits of a loving relationship with the right person outweigh the pleasure of giving into your short-term desires.   

How do you develop self-control in a relationship?

Self-control is a skill that you can develop in abundance if you put in the effort. Below, I have listed 10 actions to improve your ability to maintain self-control in a relationship.

1. Choose the right partner

This is surely the most important step. 

Some people may feel like it’s an obvious tip, yet I see so many people stay in relationships which are clearly not serving them any more. 

And it’s in these relationships where people are most likely to lack self-control…

So, what is the ‘right’ partner in this context?

I’d argue it’s:

  • someone you care about hurting; 
  • someone who calls you out on unacceptable behavior;
  • someone you’re a little bit scared of losing.

It’s a lot easier to put your selfish desires before someone you don’t care about – and you most people probably will at some point.

Also, if your partner is a doormat and you’re not too bothered about losing them, the temptation to engage in selfish behavior will usually become too great. 

Honestly, if your lover doesn’t have these three qualities, there’s probably more suitable partners out there for both of you.

If they do, you’ll have a lot more motivation to put their feelings before your own. 

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2. Understand your life goals

One of my main roles as a coach is helping people to understand and set their life goals.

In this time, I have realised many people don’t have the self-control to put their long-term goals first, because they don’t know what their long-term goals are! These people are more prone to giving in to their short-term desires. 

In a relationship context, perhaps a young woman might flake on meeting her boyfriend’s family because she was invited to an awesome party. 

However, if that same woman truly knew she wanted to settle down and perhaps marry into a great family one day, she may have had the self-control to put her boyfriend and his family first.

3. Understand your values

Here’s a great exercise that’ll help you gain the self-control to do what’s right, instead of what feels good in the moment. 

Write down five adjectives you wish people would use to describe you. 

What are you going to choose? Kind? Warm? Selfless? Loving? Generous? There are no wrong answers.

The great thing is: whatever you choose, you can become all of these things, just by deciding to.

Whenever you make a decision in your day-to-day life, just remember these five words you chose. Then, do what a kind, warm, selfless person (for example) would do. You’ll often see that doing so makes you feel really fulfilled and purposeful. 

Yes, it may sometimes take a bit of self-control to live out these positive qualities, but the self-esteem boost you get from doing so after completing this exercise will help give you the strength to do so. 

4. Build personal discipline

If you can get in the habit of building discipline in other areas of your life, it is likely to transfer to your relationship.

This is because it’s the same part of your mind that’s responsible for willpower, no matter what you’re doing.

A lot of self-improvement gurus recommend taking daily cold showers as a way to improve their  discipline (as well as their health).  

You may choose to eat a healthy diet, engage in regular physical exercise or work in an environment which requires a professional attitude at all times.   

Whatever action you choose to build your discipline, it will help you gain the self-control you need to succeed in your personal relationships too. 

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5. Manage your stress 

Willpower is closely related to self-control. The more you have, the easier it will be to make good decisions for you and your relationship.

The problem is: willpower is finite. The more stressful situations you encounter throughout the day, the more of your willpower is consumed.

This is why a lot of people take out their stressful work day on their partner when they get home.

If you’re looking to boost your self-control in your relationship, you may want to explore how you can reduce your day-to-day stress. What daily tasks can you outsource to other people?

Can you afford to hire a cleaner, a nanny or a virtual assistant?  

Also, what healthy activities can you do to relax and recharge throughout the day? It’s important for your mental health to schedule some time to unwind. 

6. Work on your self-esteem

When one has low self-esteem they are more prone to losing self-control, because they need the approval of others so much.

An extreme example is the promiscuous man or woman, who always cheat on their partners because they crave the validation of having sex with another person. 

A smaller example might be turning up late to pick your spouse up, because someone talked you into staying for another drink.

A person with high self-esteem will typically find the self-control to do what they think is best, regardless of others’ opinions.  

Self-Control In A Relationship
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7. Recognise self-sabotage

Self-sabotage occurs when one believes they don’t deserve something they have. It’s a symptom of low self-esteem.

This is one of those complex psychological concepts, which can sometimes take hours for my clients to fully accept and understand. 

But if you’re deliberately doing things to drive your partner away and you’re not sure why, it may be worth exploring this concept a bit deeper. 

8. Encourage your partner to communicate 

It’s a cliche that good communcation creates a strong relationship, but that’s because it’s true!

If your partner says they don’t like when you do something, but you don’t understand why these behaviors hurt them, it’ll be harder to find the self-control to stop. 

So, encourage them to talk about these things. Do the same for them. 

Make sure to communicate with your partner in a calm and understanding way. For the best results, focus on the behavior rather than who they are as a person.

“When you say these words, it makes me feel disrespected because of these reasons…”

is much better than   

“You’re so rude to me. I hate it.”   

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9. Meditate

When you meditate, you’re essentially practicing the art of emptying your mind. There are many techniques to do this, such as focusing on your breath, for example. When thoughts inevitably appear, you acknowledge them, then go back to your practice. 

As a result, you’ll eventually learn to separate yourself from your thoughts. 

When non-meditators experience emotions that make them want to lose self-control, they find it tremendously difficult to detach. They become these emotions. So, they (seemingly) have little choice but to succumb to them. 

However if you regularly meditate, you develop the ability to see these thoughts as separate to you. You can acknowledge them and decide whether to act upon them. This is why meditators always seem to be in control of their emotional state.   

10. Give and receive love 

We’ve established that maintaining self-control is hard. We’re human, we’re emotional and sometimes these emotions get the better of us.

However, we can also achieve tremendous acts of mental strength when we believe the reward is worth the effort.

When our relationship makes us happy, we’re far more willing to make the sacrifices to keep it burning strong.  

So, be the lover who regularly shows affection. Compliment your partner. Give them the physical attention they need. Make them feel like royalty. 

That’s one of the best ways to encourage them to maintain self-control in a relationship. 

Hopefully, they return the favuor and treat you like royalty too. A key aspect of a romantic relationship is to build each other up and make each other stronger, after all.

If your partner isn’t making you feel like a champion, perhaps they’re not the right partner for you…

In such a scenario, it would be more understandable for someone to lose self-control and wilt under the pressure of short-term pleasure. People are far more likely to cheat in unhappy relationships, because there is no reward for maintaining their self-control.

These skills are useful in all types of relationships

We have focused on romantic relationships in this article, but this advice can apply to all types of personal interactions.

It’s likely to be essential to maintain self-control in the workplace, or when parenting your children.

In fact, if you want to be likeable and not hurt others’ feelings, it will always help to maintain self-control.

I can’t think of a scenario where this quality is not useful.   

Do you have any questions about a lack of self-control in your relationship? 

I hope you were able to learn as much as you wanted from this article. 

This is one of those topics that both halves of a couple need to learn and understand. 

If you want to ask a question about self-control in your relationship, the behaviors that encourage it, emotional health or another related topic, feel free to use the comment section below.  

If you feel like you need to get help in this area, please do reach out.

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