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Controlling Relationships


ou'll often hear women complain about being in controlling relationships. And if you were to poll 100 women on that specific question, we'd guess that you'd find at least 80 answer "yes". Change the question to whether they've ever been in controlling relationships, and the "yes" responses would grow to nearly 100.

It's a near-universal sentiment among women: the men in their lives are trying to control them. And these same ladies will not be the least bit shy about saying that they don't like it.

Is there any truth to that charge?

Sure, a lot of truth. There are very few major aspects of life where someone is not trying control the other party:

  • When you were growing up, did your parents try to control your behavior?
  • Has your employer ever tried to control when you show up at work, how long you'll be there, what you'll do while there, what you may not do while there or whether you'll get to continue working there?
  • And can you think of any examples of situations where governments try to control their citizens?
stress features prominently in controlling relationships
Stress features prominently
in controlling relationships

Absolutely! You'd be hard-pressed to identify many areas of your life where someone is not exerting control. Sometimes it's overt (such as traffic lights or the IRS demanding you pay your taxes). Sometimes it's subtle (such as swaying voters by spending millions of dollars on misleading campaign advertising and public relations initiatives). But efforts to control are widespread throughout any civilization.

So why should relationships
be the lone exception?

They aren't. When outcomes matter, people put great effort into controlling (or at least influencing) those outcomes. And for that reason, most male-female relationships will be controlling relationships.

If you look though the media targeted at the general public, you'll often see references to how men try to control women in relationships but you'll see far fewer mentions that women try to control men in relationships.

Why is that? It's largely because women get much better press. It's become politically correct to portray women as good and men as bad. So examples where men are controlling get plenty of press as well as encouragement and support for the victim from other women ("You go, girl!").

“… it's largely because women get much better press. It's become politically correct to portray women as good and men as bad …”

But examples where women are controlling get very little press and no encouragement or support for the victim ("Suck it up, wuss! If she's controlling you, it's for your own good! You must have given her good reasons for doing it, so it's your own fault!").

So just what form does this control take in relationships?

When men try to control the women in their lives, they do pretty much the same things her dad did when she was a teenager. He tried to clip her wings and discourage her from following her biological urges. Those urges motivated her to go out and socialize ... party ... meet new guys ... have new experiences ... explore her sexuality ... go wild ... and get wasted.

That's the fun of being a teenager, after all (assuming you don't get knocked up or end up dead).

And of course, even once grown up and out on their own, women don't lose their taste for socializing, partying, meeting new guys, having new experiences or exploring their sexuality every now and then. They're not as frenetic about it, but those drives don't go away (any more than your sex drive vanished once you got past your teenage years).

We all have the urge to merge and a desire for variety in sex partners, of course. And we've all evolved to practice "mate guarding" behavior in the context of controlling relationships. It's a drama that's played out for as long as there have been humans:

It's Darwinian

arguments also feature in controlling relationships
Arguments also feature
in controlling relationships

Men attempt to control women's urges to stray by keeping them on a short leash, by chasing away other potential suitors and by monitoring her behavior.

And women do the same to the men they're with, but if anything they're more determined and more thorough about controlling relationships. Ever come home to this?

  • How was your day?
  • Where did you go?
  • Whom did you go with?
  • What did you talk about?
  • What did you do?
  • Who else was there?
  • Were there any women present?
  • What were their names?
  • What did you do and talk about with them?
  • What time did you get there?
  • What time did you leave?
  • Did you come straight home after that?

That's pretty much the same approach that a detective would take in questioning a suspect. She's monitoring your behavior and is trying to keep you on a short leash.

So if you're a guy and have been in relationships, then you've been in controlling relationships. Life works that way.

If you're interested in learning more about controlling relationships in the context of other aspects of your relationships, please continue to our main

Understanding Women In Relationships page.