Controlling behaviour and reasonable requests

I was just wondering about how to determine the difference between controlling behaviour and reasonable requests. I know, they sound pretty different, but it seems to me that it’s pretty hard to be certain about them.

I’ve noticed a lot of people coming for help on here because of a disagreement between spouses. One spouse asks for something that seems reasonable to them, the other spouse feels that the first spouse is trying to control them :mad: and refuses :dts:, the first spouse can’t understand why the other spouse is overreacting :confused:, and communication breaks down :banghead:.

For example, imagine I like chatting to my friends online, including male friends. My imaginary husband feels threatened by that and asks me to stop. Is that reasonable? If I’m sensitive to his feelings, then it seems to me that I should stop chatting to male friends online, but other people have told me that it’s controlling behaviour and the first step toward abuse.

Also, in a relationship, how do you temper your own reactions? How do you determine whether your own requests are fair or over-the-top? Have you been accused of being controlling? Have you ever thought that your spouse was controlling? Have you been in a relationship with someone who unreasonably tried to control you? What are the warning signs?

(Just to let you know, this isn’t an issue in my own relationship, I’m just thinking about it.)

I have been accused of being controlling a couple of times because I take ill to confabulations and omissions when it starts affecting me. I generally confront people on inconsistencies.

To my mind, unreasonable requests are a problem of their own. It means someone’s not acting rationally. Contracts and arrangements are not safe with a person who is not acting rationally (sorry for talking like a lawyer). Real controlling behaviours come with enforcement of unreasonable requests or with checking for compliance.

As a big fan of liberty, I wouldn’t comply with unreasonable requests on principle, although in small matters, if something is just a little unreasonable, it can actually be quite endearing - we all have our quirks.

Things like you describe, i.e. clashes about friends of the opposite gender, are probably best taken cool-headed, although with a little bit of understanding for emotions of the distressed person. :wink: Even if you know that what you see as flirting will not lead to anything serious, it generally doesn’t prevent you from feeling pain because your loved one would flirt to other people. There’s obviously a difference between cutting down a bit and cutting people off, though. :wink:

Control, Mmmmmm lots of variables here. One man’s concern is another man’s control.

It has been my experience the control freak NEVER gets better, it only gets worse. He/she wants to know where you are at, and what you are doing 24/7. If you flush the toliet he wants to know it.

I married the homecoming/prom queen. I knew she got lots of attention, but when our relationship turned serious, I told her there are somethings she only shares with me. And I’d trust her to handle any of her casual guy friends that got out of line.

She had no personal male friends, and I didn’t care about the casual ones.

Living locked down is NOT fun, I know I’d hate it, so I often asked myself if I was guilty of it.

If you were married and your husband asked you not to chat with men, ask yourself this:

  1. Would it make all the difference if he knew I’m not doing anything most people would take as flirting?
  2. How would he react if I said it is important to me and that he can trust me not to cheat and I will continue to chat in a way that won’t be cheating?
  3. Does he talk to other women?
  4. Does he go back and forth between being more controlling and less?
  5. Over the long haul, does it seem he gets more controlling?
  6. When I don’t act the way he wants, does he retaliate or hold it over me?
  7. Does he assume I have agreed to something just because he said it?
  8. Does he care more about my well-being or more about his own ability to make the rules? How does this look when tested?
  9. If I say I find his request unreasonable, does he try again saying the same thing in a diferent tone or tempo to se if I answer differently?
  10. When talking to our friends about his expectations of me and Mine of him, does he make his requests or their context sound different from what they really were?
  11. When he and I have been disagreeing, does he have more interest than usual in finding out to whom I have been talking and what we said? Is it very important to him that I don’t get feedback from others on our relationship and his behavior or expectations of me?
    This is just a jump-of to see whether there is anything very seriously wrong. It’s jsut to get started evaluating the situation.

Hmmm… interesting thread…

I think Mr. Guy has hit the nail on the head. Usually controlling behaviors are personality traits that aren’t temporary or situational. You’d think (or hope, for the most part) that these basic personality traits would be discovered during the dating/courting/engagement period, so as to avoid a marriage that fights against itself.

Some people are attracted to that sort of controlling behavior… helps them feel secure…
And others, of course, cannot handle that level of distrust.

Again, this is something that I would hope could be discovered prior to marriage… but if not, then communication skills would have to be enhanced (possibly through counseling) between a couple that runs into these sort of conflicts.

Where opposite-sex friends are concerned, be VERY careful…even over the internet or phone. Invite the spouse into the friendship and share time together with the friend. Ideally, the spouse and friend would become friends in their own right. Marriages end over that, mine was proof, and a forum I help maintain has a bunch of sad, sad stories. It breaks down trust and can leave the spouse feeling like an adulterous (i.e…taking time and emotional energy and affection from the spouse) emotional attachment has been made.

If he’s trying to keep you from ALL friends and family, that’s control or insecurity and could be abusive.

Opposite-sex frindships have never come close to interfering with any romance I have been in unless two conditions aleady existed:
The relationship was already extremely unhappy and shaky, and
The friendship was never a friendship at all.

I think that in the example you gave, and probably most situations, real communication is the difference. If one spouse is feeling insecure due to the other spouse’s chat room choices, then I think BOTH spouses need to discuss the situation. It’s not controlling to feel insecure in this situation and want to discuss it with your spouse. The “chatty” spouse might perhaps see and understand the feelings that the other has experienced and maybe out of love decide to curtail the chatting. Or perhaps, the couple could simply go out together with the “chatty spouse’s” chat partners and get to know them. Perhaps that would allow the spouse who is feeling insecure to feel more at ease. Again, however the situation is handled, both spouse’s need to respect the feelings of the other and both spouse’s need to keep communication open.

Now there is the question of the century. You must think before you speak. Too often, we (myself included) open our mouth during an “emotional crisis” and say things that later we wish we hadn’t. This, of course, only makes the situation worse. Perhaps we should take a breather before discussing the situation if emotions are too high.

Maturity. Either you are able to see things through the eye’s of your spouse or you’re not. If you can only see things as how it effects you, with no idea about how things might be effecting your spouse, then you will be at a lose for determining what is and isn’t “over-the-top.”

Yes, and at times I was. At other times, I was accused but was not. I know of few human beings that feel comfortable not being in control 100% of the time.

Absolutely, she’s human too.

Define unreasonably. That term is very relative. Each spouse on any given issue will have opposing viewpoints as to what is and isn’t unreasonable. This is based on the likes/dislikes of each of the individuals within the marriage. I think it’s fair to say that in my marriage I did things that my wife wanted me to do (despite maybe my not wanting to do them) and the same could be said about her.

You may have noticed that I used the past-tense “did.” My marriage ended in divorce. There were some things that were simply too “unreasonable.”

THE warning sign is: He/she treats you like anything less than an equal. Everything else falls under this.

Reasonable request = “Honey, when we go out this evening, would you wear your hair down? It is so pretty that way.”

Controlling behaviour = “If you cut your hair, I will divorce you.”

Other controlling behaviors: “Look, there’s Jane. She looks good, with her long hair. Hey, there’s Sarah. She looks good, with her long hair. Oh, there’s your friend Sue. She ought to grow her hair out, don’t you think? [squeeze].” (After asking you to let your hair down before going out and being informed you were actually considering cutting it.)
“Why don’t you want to be pretty? Do you hate me? Is that why you want to cut your hair?”
“I just don’t know how long I can stand this [sigh]. All these beautiful long-haired women everywhere I look. [sigh and roll eyes toward you] I love you to much to cheat on you even when you hurt me by cutting off your hair. Would you do something for me as hard as that?”
“How can I ever trust you again when you promised you wouldn’t cut your hair off and you did?” (When actually you made no such promise.)
"You owe me for cutting your hair. The long hair was part of what I married oyu for and you stole it. Admit it. ADMIT IT."
ad nauseam.

I’d like to believe that conversations such as the example you used don’t really take place in the adult world. Please, can I have that fantasy? :frowning:

Are we by chance Irish? I love your signature :thumbsup:

Hi JW;

Personally, I think that I’d classify controlling behavior, when a spouse is demanding things from his/her spouse, rather than requesting or discussing it. People who are controlling, want it their way or the highway, but in a marriage, a spouse might want to dutifully oblige the controlling partner, and thus a vicious cycle starts. I think that when one spouse is always compromising, and the other is never compromising, but rather always taking from the other…that is when there can be an imbalance, and thus a controlling relationship probably exists. I was in a relationship before my dh with a very controlling, quasi-abusive young man. It was as though I could not laugh at something, if he didn’t find it funny. (this is obviously extreme, but this was towards the end of the relationship) In the beginning, the signs were that he didn’t want me to having friends that he didn’t know, or he would make me feel bad about the most minor things. At times, I would give in, because I liked him. But, over time, I felt so bad about myself…I soon had no identity of my own.

With my husband, it’s night and day. He is secure, and while I don’t think he’d want me chatting with say old male pals from college online or emailing them…he would discuss it with me, and not demand it of me. That is often the key difference between a person who is controlling and one who isn’t. I think we all have had unreasonable requests with our loved ones at various times in our lives…we are all human. But, if it is a pattern. If a spouse always expects everything to be done his/her way…chop chop! Then, that is a horse of a different color.

Hope this helps?:slight_smile:

oh my, you people are so good at being succinct. can you teach a class to me on this or something?:smiley:

this is what i tried to say.:blushing:

I’d like to believe that conversations such as the example you used don’t really take place in the adult world. Please, can I have that fantasy?

Sorry to disillusion you. I had a conversation like that many many times. Substitute “calling your mother on the phone” for “cutting your hair.”

Controlling behavior is more than reasonable requests for behavior changes. “Honey, please pick your socks up off the floor.” is not controlling. “How come you’re never in the mood I’m in?? When I’m in a good mood, you’re upset. When I’m upset about work, you’re laughing and having a good time.” That’s controlling! When someone reaches into your head and tries to control YOUR emotions, perceptions, self-image and opinions by threat or by force or by withdrawal of affection until you comply… that is controlling.

And when that person exercises no self control or makes no concessions in return, that is a signal of a controlling relationship. I find the people who try to control others most have the least self-control.

Parents try to control children while raising them. It’s called training. You withhold priveleges and you instruct until the child understands what is acceptable behavior in society. (No, you may not hit your sister. No, lying is wrong so go to your room.)

When an adult relationship feels like you are being treated like a child and someone is trying to change you, that is controlling.

Asking you to put the cap on the toothpaste is reasonable. Demanding you do the laundry when you have the flu is controlling.

Sometimes it’s a matter of degree, which makes the situation like the frog in the pot of water. A controlling person usually doesn’t comply when reasonable requests go in the other direction. Then they accuse you of trying to control them.

That’s a large part of it…or if the spouse suspects that. Because basically, it may not be an affair, but if your spouse thinks it is, you still have a problem.

Friendships are not a problem. Things that can appear to be more than that can be.

Go raibh maith agat, is Meirceanach me’ , ach ta’ an Gaeilge an-mo’r liom, agus tusa?
(Sorry I can’t find the accent function in this format.:D)

Hmm… thank you all for your responses. I thought this thread was going to die a cold and lonely death in the CAF thread graveyard that is Page Two! Thank you, chevalier, for reviving it!

Everyone has given me a lot of food for thought. I don’t really have this problem in my relationship, but my boyfriend is jealous of one of my male friends. He hasn’t made any demands or asked me to stop seeing that friend, he just said that he’s uncomfortable with me spending time with that person, and I assured him that there’s nothing going on but if it makes him feel better, I won’t see that friend as much. The topic never came up again. Since I’m moving back to the town where both my boyfriend and that friend live, I was thinking I’m likely to bump into him more often and I haven’t decided what to do about that. I think if we met in a group, my boyfriend wouldn’t feel threatened by it.

I don’t think this is controlling behaviour because it’s just ONE friend that bothers him - maybe he’s reading something into my friend’s behaviour that I don’t see. I have half a dozen other male friends that I go out with much more often, alone even, and he has never been bothered by that.

There’s one other thing he does that someone thought was controlling. Since the trains close early and I live far away from most of my friends, I sometimes spend the night at people’s houses. He said it made him uncomfortable if I spent the night at a man’s house, so we agreed on a list of friends’ houses where he feels comfortable having me spend the night. I think that’s a safety / protection issue, not a control issue. If I thought he was in danger at certain friends’ houses, I’d do the same thing.

The reason I started this thread is that I keep hearing about how controlling men start out small and then work their way up to the unreasonable demands. I’d rather be cautious now than stuck in a bad situation until death do us part. I don’t feel that my boyfriend is controlling, but since one friend warned me about it, I just thought I’d check with you and define “controlling”.

I’m sorry, I wish I knew Gaelic. I recognize it by sight and sound but there are few words that I actually know. :frowning: My grandparents were Irish (Mother’s Side). Your signature is the Lord’s Prayer right?

Hmm… You’re not going to like my answer. However, I must admit that if I were in the situation of that man, I would be distressed. I wouldn’t go as far as the given example, of course, but I understand the sentiment. There would be something wrong with the fact a woman did not like to look pretty for her husband, especially in such circumstances as an abrupt, undiscussed change in appearance, for utility over prettiness or for some other such reason. Women also cut hair as a statement, such as after a break-up. Such a demonstration of independence would be troubling in a marriage.

Moreover, there would be something wrong with baiting a man using good looks and then, after the wedding, cutting the perks since the fish has already caught the bait.

Obviously, using manipulation tactics is not right, but let’s see the matter from both sides. :wink:

@Just wondering:

Hmm… I wouldn’t say your boyfriend were controlling, but he certainly isn’t an easy-going type. I can easily see myself having similar concerns - not like this makes it right. :wink:

I generally don’t make storms in a glass of water and I wouldn’t sweat signs of attraction to another man. However, if I saw my hypothetical beloved lady losing herself a bit in a friendship with a man, I would feel not so much threatened as deprived of something. Since that something wouldn’t belong to me, I suppose we could call it shortchanging.

As for spending the night at a man’s house, I suppose most men would feel a natural inclination to feel somewhat shortchanged. Even if it weren’t at all sexual, it would feel somewhat out of place. I could rationalise it, but I would indeed feel bad about it.

JW, if that’s how he worded it i.e. “I feel uncomfortable” rather than “you are doing the wrong thing”, that at least looks positive.

Without going into details I’ve been attacked over the years by two separate people when something legitimate activity of mine has stirred their insecurities. Rather than acknowledge that, they’ve accused me of wrongdoing. The theory is that I will then feel guilty and stop, their insecurity will stop hurting them, I’m clearly the bad guy as I did whatever it was that “caused” the issue, with someone to blame they can continue in denial and all’s right with the world once more.

One of my “acid tests” for reasonable request vs control issue is how these things are worded. If I know I’m not doing the wrong thing and I get, “you’re cheating on me by chatting/talking/emailing/lunching with X” i.e. I am accused, it’s hard to be sympathetic. If I get, “I can’t help being unhappy when you chat/talk/email/lunch with X, when it happens I feel insecure about this relationship” i.e. a non-accusatory statement that there is a problem here, the ensuing discussion is a lot more productive.

Another acid test is, “would my spouse/bf say this to the lady who lives next door?” If it would be interfering for my H to stand over and instruct her on how to assemble a sandwich in the kitchen at the parish hall, then he doesn’t need to tell me how to do it at home. If he wouldn’t dream of going next door after a church meeting, ringing the doorbell and badgering her on the doorstep because she supported a meeting decision he disagreed with, then he doesn’t need to bug me about it in our house.

I’m not explainly that very succinctly but sometimes putting the same behaviour in a context other than the family home makes the difference between reasonable and controlling a bit clearer. (There was a very good anti-domestic violence ad on TV here years ago that did just that - you see a man yelling at a woman that she is dressed like a tart and how dare she go out wearing cheap and nasty make up like a prostitute - insert suitable slang words - then punching her, grabbing her by the hair and scraping her lipstick off with the palm of his hand. Then the camera pans back and you realise this man has just assaulted a complete stranger at a bus stop. It’s sometimes only when people see that same behaviour “on the street” that they see it for what it really is.)

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