March 21, 2023

Why We Need to Stop Normalising Control in Relationships.

I’ve been watching an unhealthy trend unfold. One in which trust is bundled up with this need to control.

It is true trust does need to be earned, and this should be done through actions following words. Communication. Feeling the energy and listening to your body and your intuition.

It should never need to be earned through trying to control your partner.

Trust is so important. Without trust we have nothing. If we need to control another person, there are significant issues.

>> They have previously broken your trust and now you find it hard to trust them again. If this cannot be healed, you may as well end the relationship because an undercurrent of distrust is destructive and will cause bitterness and resentment.

>> You have deep insecurities and wounds that require awareness and inner work. Projecting your insecurities onto another in the way of distrust is so damaging.

>> You don’t trust yourself, so again you project that onto your partner.

It doesn’t matter how much you love someone, if you don’t trust them, the relationship is doomed. But we need to learn healthy ways to trust because this new idea that control is the answer is dangerous. If you need to control any aspect of your partner, there’s no trust. It’s as simple as that. You can wrap it up anyway you like. Either they have broken trust or you have a lot of work to do on your insecurities. Either way, the relationship is unhealthy at best and toxic at worst.

A relationship is not ownership. Now I’ll say that again in my loud voice for all those people at the back: a relationship is not ownership.

A healthy relationship has boundaries. It has privacy (no, that’s not secrecy; there’s a difference). It has respect. It is two independent individuals with their own interests complimenting each other’s lives. Each person is whole and has a life within the relationship and outside the relationship.

It allows space for them to work on themselves and time to work on the relationship. It’s the freedom to discover who they are evolving into as a couple and who they are evolving into individually.

It’s knowing who you are as a separate person, not just who you are as part of a couple. It’s being able to discuss your fears including trust concerns and finding a healthy way to work through the issues. It is the ability to speak your truth no matter how messy and ugly that may be.

A controlling relationship has a few glaring traits. A big issue is people don’t want to recognise they have a controlling partner, or that they themselves have control issues. They don’t want to actually get underneath what’s driving the control. Part of the reason we ignore these traits is because we are terrified of what this may do to the relationship, or we are terrified of being alone. Both are unhealthy reasons to stay in something that lacks trust and thrives on control.

What constitutes control and a lack of trust:

>> The inability to have your own friends or go out with your friends. We should all have our friends from before our relationship and mutual friends with our partner that we can maintain on a personal level. We should also be free to catch up and go out with our friends without asking permission or our partner losing their mind over it.

>> The need for your partner to check your phone. Now I know this is controversial as many people believe couples should have full access to their partner’s phone. My question is, what is the reason? Yes, access to make a call or Google something occasionally is fine. Access to go through your phone call log, your messages, your emails, and so on is a big red flag. You are entitled to privacy. I mean if you have something to hide that’s on you, but this need to have full access to a partner’s phone is ridiculous. Newsflash: if someone is cheating, they are likely deleting the phones records and messages.

>> The need for a partner to be able to access your social media, the need to dictate who you can be friends with and the posts you can like or comment on. Of course there should be respect for your partner and the relationship when it comes to social media, and if you have trust in a relationship, this should not be an issue.

>> The inability to access money or the finances are controlled by one partner. This is financial abuse and a huge control issue. Partners should always have their own financial independence even in a relationship. Yes, there can be some joint finances, but some separate finances need to also be maintained.

>> Getting told what to wear or not to wear. Again we are individuals in a relationship and nobody should be dictating what we should wear or how we should look.

Have we really screwed up what trust is, or how to achieve trust? When did this insidious need to control seep in? When did we decide that to earn trust you must give ownership of yourself to another person? The more we allow another person to control all of us or even part of us, the more we lose ourselves. The more we validate someone’s trust issues by letting them cross our boundaries and break our privacy, the more they will control us and not trust us. It’s a vicious cycle.

I think we need to stop justifying control as a way to earn trust. We not to stop this toxic trend of no privacy in relationships. And we need to stop accepting this behaviour as normal. It’s not normal. It’s not healthy. It’s not even about trust at this point. It’s purely a need to control your partner because of your own insecurities. Toxicity will grow and fester. If you fear what your partner is doing or feel a lack of trust, ask yourself why.

If someone is going to cheat or break your trust, they are going to do it no matter how much you try and control them or your relationship. Stopping a partner from going out without you will not stop them from cheating if they want to cheat. You cannot be with someone 24/7.

Constantly checking their phone is not going to stop them from having another phone, having hidden applications, or deleting anything they don’t want you to see. Controlling who they are friends with or what they do on social media doesn’t mean anything. Plenty of people look like strangers on social media but are far from strangers in real life. My point is no amount of control, worrying, obsessing is going to stop someone from doing anything.

Trust is the foundation of everything healthy. It’s conducive to a safe environment where real growth and happiness can ensue. Control is the foundation of everything ugly. It’s conducive to an unsafe environment where growth and happiness are limited. The more you try and build trust through control, the more the foundation of your relationship will crack, the more untrusting you will become, and the more you will need to control in a desperate attempt to hang onto a relationship that has reached a point of no return.

Trust has nothing to do with control and no matter how much you allow someone to control you, it won’t change their trust in you. No matter how much you allow them to check through your phone, it won’t improve their ability to trust. No matter how many times you cut your friends off or turn down invites, it won’t lessen the control. And no matter how many times you give into their desperate need to control you, the relationship, who you see, what you do, and your life, it won’t improve the situation.

Work on trusting yourself to walk away from toxic and controlling relationships. There is no control in a trusting relationship. None. And if there is control, there is no trust. None.

Let’s not dress up toxic traits and behaviours as normal. Let’s not confuse privacy with secrecy. And let’s stop normalising relationships as ownership. We need to start controlling our own behaviour, not other people. And we need to start trusting our own boundaries.

I wonder what a relationship built on a foundation of earned trust, independence, boundaries, respect, honesty, space, vulnerability, growth, healing, safety, and security would be called? Healthy, it would be called healthy.

Please, can we stop selling control as love? Because it’s the furthest thing from love.


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