Coping with a Control Freak

by | Feb 16, 2016

When you live with a controlling partner, you’re always doing what she wants to do. Always trying to live up to her idea of perfection. Always trying to adhere to her rules, routines, schedules.

No matter what you do, you cannot please a controller, so stop trying. You cannot allow your self worth to be dependent on the controller. That person is threatening your emotional well being and you need to stand firm.

Why does your partner need to control you?

It’s useful to understand that most control freaks have some real anxiety at the core of their beings. Perhaps they had chaotic childhoods, alcoholic parents, or were abandoned in some way. This makes it hard for them to trust how someone else will behave, so they micromanage others. They’re afraid of falling apart, and the more afraid they are, the tighter their controls.

When your partner tries to tell you what to do and how to feel, remember, she is trying to keep everything in her environment—including you—under control. It is how she copes with keeping her anxiety at bay. But how do you cope with her?

Coping With A Control Freak Nancy'S Counseling Corner


How to cope with a controlling partner:

  • Address the anxiety. When your partner tries to tell you what to do, ask her directly what she’s worried about. Assure her that you know how to arrange the dishes in the dishwasher. She may come to realize that her anxiety is unwarranted after your repeated attempts of assurance. But don’t be surprised if she doesn’t. She’s spent a lifetime trying to maintain control.
  • Think ahead. Controllers find last minute changes difficult, especially when they’re under stress. In fact, changes to their routine or schedule put them under stress. They need to know what’s going to happen, or they feel out of control. So if you are going to be late, call your partner. If there’s a change of plans, give her a heads up as soon as possible.
  • Stand up for yourself. When your partner tells you how to behave or how to feel, be calm and assertive. Tell her, respectfully, that you need to work through this on your own. You will probably have to repeat this approach many times before you can change the communication pattern your controlling partner has created. But you need to redefine the relationship and set limits by establishing your autonomy.
  • Don’t try to control a controller. You can only change how you respond. Understand that if your controlling partner thinks you are inadequate, you don’t need to agree with her. She is the one with the problem, not you. She won’t think so, though. She’ll think she’s being helpful when she gives you advice. Or she’s being responsible, planning ahead. But in fact, she is really being hyper vigilant to cope with her anxiety.

When you are mindful of your partner’s control issues, you can avoid the negative effects of her manipulative behavior. The key is to maintain your emotional strength and independence.


Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here:


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