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How To Know If Your Desire To Control Is Killing Relationships: 5 Things To Do

By February 1, 2019January 27th, 2023No Comments
desire to control

Ever been in a car with a backseat driver? You know, the person who desires to control every move you make while driving? You listen as they chirp their desire to control.

“Turn right up ahead.”

“You’re driving too fast.”

“Why are you going this way? It’s better to turn left and go down Elm Street.”

Someone with a great sense of humor capitalized on this human condition and created an actual backseat driver’s license:

Like many of you, I’ve been guilty of this condition. When I was in my early teens years, my brother told me that if I wanted to ride with him, I had to learn to keep my mouth shut. Otherwise, I could walk. My first lesson in keeping my mouth shut.

We all laugh about this, but the root of being a backseat driver is a desire for control.

People with control issues feel the need to maintain power over nearly every aspect of their life, including personal and romantic relationships, family dynamics, and events in the workplace.”

One reason we seek to control people or events is fear.

  • Afraid to be out of control or to appear to be out of control.
  • Believe that if we don’t take charge and manage everything, things won’t go well.
  • Afraid to look stupid in front of our peers.

Fear. It raises its ugly head masked as control.

Have you ever been labeled a control freak? Not a nice moniker.

But here’s the kicker: Tim Carey PH. D. says in Psychology Today,

“Some people seem to spend their waking hours bossing other people around. The bossing can range from direct and explicit imperatives. . .to subtle but annoyingly incessant suggestions. . . . Ultimately, then, we are all control freaks.”

Whether you own a backseat driver’s license (I don’t but maybe deserve one, right Dave?) or not, how do you recover from your controlling tendencies?

  1. How do you end your desire to control? Identify the root.

Remember, the desire to control is usually an indicator of feeling out of control in some area of life. It’s not enough to admit you are a control freak and laugh it off. Just like a fever is an indicator of an infection in your body, control freakiness (is that a word?) indicates a deeper issue. You know that medicating the fever only relieves the pain temporarily. To get rid of the fever, you need to treat the underlying infection. Be brave and dig for the root. You may need to enlist the help of your spouse, a trusted friend, a professional coach, or a counselor.

  1. Protect your relationships.

Think about the control freaks in your life. Do you enjoy being around them or do you make excuses to limit your exposure to them? Control freaks wreck relationships. After all, they are always right (even when they’re wrong).

Going back to our backseat driver, does it make a difference if you drive an alternate route to the destination? Not really. But, the control freak gets irritated if you don’t go their preferred way. The goal is the destination. The journey to get there is individual.

When you and I consider it our responsibility to plan out another’s life and insist they follow it, we damage the relationship. If you notice that someone you love finds excuses to not spend time with you, check your heart and words. Are you trying to control them? Go back to point 1 and do some heart work.

  1. Bite your tongue.

Literally. Bite your tongue.

Many times I’ve had to do this. When I do the relationship remains intact, and the emotional tension drops dramatically. However, when I’ve insisted on being in control, there’s been damage.

Biting your tongue allows others to function in their giftedness without your interference.

Women, we are guilty of this with our husbands. How often do you correct your husband in front of your kids? His way with the kids is different than yours, but it’s not wrong.

In the workplace, control freaks come across as micromanagers. At one job, my boss asked me to work on a specific project. We agreed on the steps needed before our next meeting. In the between time, my boss would ask multiple questions daily about the status and was I doing such and such in the boss’ preferred way. Very irritating because, of course, the way I approached the steps to complete the project was very different from how my boss might have done it.

  1. Admit you need help.

This is a big issue for control freaks because for everything to turn out right, they have to do it.   

“Control issues aren’t about control. They’re about trust.

Learning to trust others, when you’ve been hurt, is a daily decision. And, let’s face it, there are people who you cannot trust. Ever. But a control freak doesn’t trust anyone. Instead, control freaks lump all people in the untrustworthy category.

Remember the saying, “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself”? Sounds like the person who coined this didn’t trust others. But when you live this way, you create chaos in your life and others’ lives. The fear of the event or project not perfectly turning out overrides common sense. One person cannot do everything. Swallow your fear and pride and ask for help. It’s hard. I’ve done it. Failed at it. And faced the fallout.

  1. Live your faith.

If you are a person who believes God, then you know He is always in control of your life and circumstances. When you find yourself grabbing back control, you tell God He can’t be trusted. Sarah Young in her devotional book, Jesus Calling, writes this as if God were speaking it to her:

“Make Me the focal point of your search for security. In your private thoughts, you are still trying to order your world so that it is predictable and feels safe. Not only is this an impossible goal, but it is also counterproductive to spiritual growth. When your private world feels unsteady and you grip My hand for support, you are living in conscious dependence on Me. Instead of yearning for a problem-free life, rejoice that trouble can highlight your awareness of My presence.”

If you’re breaking out in a cold sweat right now, your control button has been pushed.

BUT God is trustworthy. Every day. Each moment. Every breath. It is a conscious decision to release control to Him. Try it. He won’t fail you. Remember, releasing control also means giving up your right to demand how the problem is solved. With God, He’s always got a better way. Take the first trust step today by bringing one control issue to Him.

Not convinced control is your issue?

Take this ten question quiz (be honest) and see how you score on your desire to control. I’ve taken it and will post my results on Facebook.

Control Freak Quiz

It may not be scientific, but it is thought-provoking. If you are brave, post your results in the comments below or on Facebook.

Where or when does your control freakiness shine the most? Leave a comment below.

Recovery is possible. If you need help, please reach out. I promise to listen without judgment and help you take the next step.

  • Kirsten D Samuel

    I empower Christian wives to discover they are seen, loved, and heard. These women find the freedom to be who they are beyond their partner’s struggles, and find hope that there is a life worth living.

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