Compare that to, you ask your partner to attend the party. He or she agrees. You go and have a wonderful time, spontaneously enjoying some quality intimacy upon your return home. Do those circumstances feel different to you? I bet they would to your partner.
No one likes to be controlled no matter how subtly or skillfully the controlling is administered. External control is one thing human beings are almost guaranteed to rebel against.
The bottom line is that we often engage in destructive relationship patterns with those people we claim to love the most. We typically don’t use these destructive behaviors with our friends. If we were to try, we soon wouldn’t have any friends left!
When we think about our progress over the past 100 years in terms of technology and relationships, it is very clear that we have made great strides in the technological field and very minimal gains, if any, in our relationships with each other. Can you think of things we have available to us today that didn’t exist 100 years ago? Today we have cell phones, computers, satellite, televisions, DVDs, CDs, space travel, etc. The list is virtually endless.
One of the reasons we have made such huge gains in the technological field is because those who are working at making those advances are willing to try a new approach when their approach is no longer working. They adjust their behavior to fit the situation. This is simply common sense.
However, in the area of interpersonal relationships, would you say that people get along better today than they did a century ago? Do husbands get along better with their wives? Do parents get along better with their children? Do teachers get along better with their students? Do neighbors get along better today? Most would admit that there has been little, if any, improvement.
The reason for this lack of progress in the relationship department is that when our external control behaviors don’t work to get us the results we want, we take those same behaviors to the next level. We are convinced that they will work if only we do it more often, harder or faster. In other words, we get a bigger stick!
The reason this mentality has survived the ages is because we can usually crank up the pressure or find the one punishment or threat that will work to get us what we want. Did you hear me say external control doesn’t work? Of course it works! That’s why we use it. The question remains: At what cost?
When we consistently use external control behaviors in our relationships with those we love, what does it cost? It costs us the relationship. I’m not saying the relationship will necessarily end, although that is a definite possibility.
What I am saying is that we keep whittling away at the foundation of our relationship and then wonder why there has been no relationship progress over the past 100 years or even longer.
There are alternatives. There are ways to simultaneously honor ourselves and our partners. The first step is to recognize when we are using external control behavior. We will probably be able to recognize it long before you feel able to do anything about it. This is acceptable. Of course, the best case scenario is that from this moment forward, every time you consider externally controlling your partner, you stop yourself and use a caring habit instead.
However, if that is not what happens in your case, don’t despair. Recognizing external control is the first step—bringing it into your conscious awareness. Once it’s there, then you can make a decision about what you are going to do about it.