11 Ways How To Stop Being Controlling In A Relationship (2024)

This guide will help you learn how to stop being controlling in a relationship.

As an experienced life coach, I’ve been able to help many people curb their controlling tendencies and develop a more healthy relationship with the person they love.

These are the actions I recommended to them, and I’m sure they’ll work for you too.

How To Stop Being Controlling In A Relationship
Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

1. What Are The Signs Of A Controlling Person? 

The first step to easing your controlling behaviour is to recognise it. 

Here is a short list of red flags to look out for in your own actions.

  • You always want to do things your way.
  • You may feel anxious or angry when things don’t go according to your plan.  
  • You always think you’re right, without hearing the other side of the story. 
  • You feel the need micro-manage others.
  • You criticise others all the time.
  • You hold others to incredibly lofty standards.
  • You don’t like surprises.
  • You find it difficult to trust people with important things. 

These signs of a control freak ring true in a personal or a professional context. However, in this article, we’ll focus on what it means to be controlling in a romantic relationship. 

2. What Causes A Person To Be Controlling In A Relationship?

The perceived need to control a partner often stems from anxiety and fear. Controlling people are worried that something awful will happen if they don’t micro-manage everything. 

In a romantic context, this could be their partner cheating on them or endangering themselves in some way.

Did an ex-partner do something to hurt you? Often, scorned lovers will attempt to control future partners to stop a painful situation occurring again.

It’s often difficult to admit that fear or anxiety is driving your behaviour, but doing so is an important step to letting go of it. 

3. Discuss Your Fears With Your Partner

Once you’ve accepted the fears driving your behaviour, take the time to discuss them with your partner. Consider showing them the video below. 

This video will help you both learn why you feel the need to try and control romantic partners.  

More importantly though, it’ll hopefully make them brave enough to admit they hate when you try to control them. Encourage them to call you out in a compassionate way if it happens again. You’ll want to make it clear that you’re taking steps to change this behaviour. 

4. Challenge Your Fears

Next, it’s time to take a deeper introspective look at the fears driving your behavior. If you were betrayed or abandoned by an ex-partner (or even a parent, perhaps), does that mean your current partner will?

What evidence suggests they will? This is a good question to ask yourself. Really take the time to think about the answer. In many cases, you’ll find no reason not to trust them.

Here are some more questions you may want to ask: 

  • What do you fear will happen if you can’t control your partner? 
  • How realistic is it that will happen? 
  • Are you unnecessarily inflating reality?

It may prove useful to go through these questions with a therapist or life coach. These professionals will help you ease your anxiety and reframe your perspective.

Then, if you catch yourself engaging in controlling behavior again, stop to ask yourself these questions. 

5. Work On Your Self-Esteem 

When one fears their partner is going to leave, low self-esteem often plays a role.

After all, if they thought they were a worthy partner, why would they fear being walked out on? Instead, they’d be able to enjoy their relationship without feeling a desperate need to control things. 

These exercises are great for boosting self-esteem. Once again, it may prove useful to have a therapist or life coach guide you through them. 

Exploring the trauma caused by previous partners can also prove beneficial in many cases.    

6. Focus On The Language You Use

Making blunt requests is a great way to come across as controlling, even if you don’t mean to. 

So, make a habit of forming your request as a question with ‘please’ included.  

Better yet, explain why you would like them to do something, and empathize if it’s putting on a burden on them at all. 

When you communicate in this manner, a loving partner will often be only too happy to help you out.  

People hate being told what to do, even if it’s a tiny task or part of their job description. They may comply in that moment, but resentment builds and they’ll often be inspired to plot their escape.  

You’re going to find much happier co-operation when you phrase your requests as described above.  

Read it back one more time:

  • Say your request as a question.
  • Explain why you would like it done.
  • Empathize.

Passive-aggressive dialogue is a more subtle way of trying to control someone, but it can be just as infuriating to others.

“Are you really going to wear that?”

“Sure. Go ahead and leave me all alone for the third night in a row. What a great husband.”

Whatever form of dialogue you engage in, make an effort to stop. Encourage your partner to call you out if you do it again. Thank them when they do, then repeat your request the right way. 

7. Use Affirmations

Our words create our reality. That’s why affirmations can be so powerful. I’d recommend finding some affirmations to repeat throughout the day to overcome your controlling behavior. 

Here are some recommendations:

  • I can only control myself
  • I can handle uncertainty
  • I don’t need to control everything
  • I can respect other people’s choices 

By all means, choose something else that you think will be more effective. It’ll be helpful to repeat these whenever you feel like you want to engage in controlling behavior too.  

8. Reduce Your Stress

It can be stressful when certain things don’t go as you expected. In most scenarios, that most likely means they went wrong.

As a method of handling their stress, a lot of people will want to shift their focus on what they can control.

Indeed, if you have a partner reluctantly willing to be bossed around, it can be soothing to control them. 

But, as discussed, this will only lead to more conflict in your life in the long run. Most likely, you’ll end up losing someone you love. 

So, if you feel like you’re dealing with a lot of bad things, either from within or outside your relationship, search for healthier ways to deal with it.  

9. Embrace The Differences In Your Relationship 

A lot of people won’t budge from their idea of what a perfect relationship looks like.

If any aspect of their partner strays from this ideal, these people will panic and start trying to fix it. 

Are you one of them?

If so, you need to accept that no two people will envision a ‘perfect relationship’ the same way.

For yours to succeed, you’ll need to learn to compromise. That means letting go of the small things that ultimately don’t matter, instead of trying to change them. 

The differences in your personalities, attitudes and perspectives are probably a big part of what  attracted you to them. They’re part of what makes your life together so interesting. They’re what help you to grow together. They should be celebrated!

So, try to let go of minor differences in opinion. Learn to compromise instead.  

10. Practice Giving Up Control 

Ultimately, the best way to let go of a fear is to face it.

It means the best way to stop being so controlling is simply to stop. This is what’s best for your mental health and theirs. The tips above will help.   

It’s rarely catastrophic when something doesn’t go exactly as expected. When you let go of trying to control everything, you’ll see that for yourself. This will make it easier to let go of controlling behavior for good.

For more on this idea, see my guide on how to trust the universe

11. Can A Controlling Person Change? 

Someone who simply does not want to change will often say “this is who I am”.

“I’ve always been like this” and “I’m too old to change now” are also common excuses to give. 

This stubborn attitude only says that you don’t give enough damns about your relationship to put in the work.  

Be better than that.

A controlling person needs to know they can change. If they do, their relationship and their life will be better. If they refuse, their partner should leave and never look back. Please know that controlling behavior without remorse is abusive. No husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend should have to put up with it.   

With this article, you now have the roadmap to improve your controlling behavior. I know you have the mental strength to do it.   

Any More Questions About How To Stop Being So Controlling? 

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my article on controlling behavior in relationships. I really hope you were able to learn enough to improve whatever situation you’re in. 

If you feel like sharing your thoughts on this topic, make sure to leave a comment below. 

I’d really love to find out what you think of these ideas.

Related Posts

11 Ways To Stop Pushing Buttons In Relationships

10 Therapist Hacks How To Save A Relationship That’s Falling Apart

11 Brain Hacks How to Focus on The Good

About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.