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Chances are that over the past few months you have been spending more time with your significant other than ever before. How is that working for you? Has the closeness of contact brought you closer together, or has it driven you further apart? The answer to that question is likely to depend on whether your relationship is based on Internal or External Control Psychology.
Internal and External Control Psychology
What do these terms mean? In simple practical terms, external control is when you have a belief that, “if only he, she, it or they were the way I believe they should be, then I would be happy.” Your efforts are then primarily focused on trying to make them be the way you think they should be. Internal control differs in that when he, she, it or they are not the way you would like them to be, you self-evaluate your own behaviour and work out what you can do differently to get a better result.
The dominant psychology of external control is so endemic that really good people are caught up in it without understanding that what they are doing is destructive. It starts early in a relationship when one party begins to take a controlling position. “This is how things have to be…”, “Don’t do this or say that….” ,”This is how I want things to be..” and a myriad of similar statements.
On the surface it seems reasonable, they have probably been told somewhere that what they are doing is being assertive and believe that they are simply stating what they want from the relationship. However if it isn’t balanced with an effort to find out what the other wants and to negotiate something that works for both, then it is controlling and damaging to the relationship.
It may even seem to work for a while, as long as the other person is prepared to go along with it for the sake of the relationship. However this can’t last, as resentment builds up and the other starts to fight for what they want or may even withdraw from the relationship altogether. This fighting or withdrawal may last days, weeks, months, years or even decades, but eventually the relationship will fail.
Over the years Jeff has worked with numerous couples in counselling and has concluded that there are several things necessary if a relationship is to survive and ultimately to thrive.
- Taking responsibility for your own actions is essential if your relationship is to survive. As long as you blame your partner for how you are feeling, thinking and doing, then little progress will be made.
- William Glasser’s quote, ” I have noticed that happy people are constantly evaluating themselves and unhappy people are constantly evaluating others” has great relevance here. Successful relationships are the result of the participants focusing on self evaluation and choosing more successful behaviours for themselves, rather than judging each other’s behaviours.
Let it Go if you Can
- Pick your battles. Before you decide that something needs to be changed, think carefully about whether it actually does. Does it really matter if your partner doesn’t colour code the pegs when they hang out the washing? The simplest solutions to you feeling better about it might be your acceptance of it, or for you to do it yourself.
- If it is a bigger problem which really does impact on your ability to meet your needs, not just your wants, then negotiate fairly. Come up with something that works for both of you. Remember, if it works for you but not your partner, the relationship will be damaged.
- If you can’t negotiate over something that is important for you to be able to meet your needs, you will have to decide whether you can accept it for the survival of the relationship or not.
- If you are the victim of domestic violence, whether emotional, financial or physical your should seek support. You can do this by searching online for domestic violence assistance in you area, or by connecting with a good counsellor or psychologist. If you believe you are in immediate danger you should call the police.
The Only Person You can Control is You
- This is a critical thing to understand. The belief that if I just keep coming back to the issue often enough, long enough and hard enough, that eventually I will wear you down and win…. is the dry rot which destroys the foundation of any relationship. If your relationship is very strong to begin with, and while it is new, it may not seem to have a damaging effect. But that is the nature of dry rot, it quietly works away without you noticing……until the whole structure collapses.
- If something is not working for you, you should focus on what you can do to make it better.
- It’s important to understanding that how your partner sees things is as real to them as how you see things is to you. Respect and acceptance, even if you don’t agree with your partner, are connecting and will put you in a better position to negotiate fairly than nagging and ridiculing them.
Feelings and Motivation
- None of us knows what another is thinking or what they are feeling. Resist telling your partner that you know better than them what they are thinking and feeling and what motivates their behaviour. Accept what they tell you and move on to what you are going to do so it works better for both of you.
- No one can change the past. A willingness to focus on how you can improve your relationship ……..rather than on how it has been, is important in order to move forward. Acknowledge what each believes has happened, but shift quickly to jointly creating a picture of how you want it to be in the future.
- Typically sexual satisfaction is higher when everything else in a relationship is working well. Dissatisfaction over sex is still relatively common however, whether you’re with a new partner or have been partnered for many years.
- Jeff has designed an online quiz to help you better understand your own sexual needs and those of your partner. It’s free, anonymous and only you get to see your results. Click here if you would like to complete the quiz
Couples in successful relationships put the health of the relationship before the wants of the individual. We all have needs that must be met, but our wants are only one of an infinite number of possible ways to meet those. A willingness to give up what you want so that you can better get what you need, is the hallmark of a healthy, creative and mature approach to a relationship.
If you would like further assistance with your relationship, please use the contact us page. We can answer any further questions or arrange online or face to face counselling and support.
Please also share a comment below, your engagement will help others and also give me ideas about what kinds of things I should write about in future posts.
Thanks for reading
Hello there Deb, I really enjoyed reading your article. I can honestly say that in my past relationships I have failed miserably. I was good for a while then it always turned into what I want I should get. Not thinking about who’s feelings where getting hurt. Did I feel bad about after I acted that way and people where crying? Yes, but It seemed like after I would apologize for my actions a few days later I acted the same way if I wasn’t getting my way. Just like a little child. So reading this article helped me see a few things about myself and hopefully the next relationship I get into I will be better at caring for the needs of my partner and not only myself.
Great to read your insights here in the post.
I learned a while back about the external control and how flawed that is for us to expect others to change to how we want them to be. It is like any “if only….” thinking in life. Unproductive and even negative at times. As you say destructive to ourselves mentally, especially if we hold onto this waste of thinking and emotion.
I think Jeff’s years of experience counselling couples shows that he has wisdom and I can see it in this article. Wow, I love that William Glasser quote. So in essence we need to look inward and not outward and blaming others.
Reading through this entire post, there are so many gems of wisdom here, I shall keep the page open and discuss these important matters at home…..for a change. Thanks for the wake-up!
Hello there, thanks for sharing this beautiful content here with us. I must confess, i really did enjoy going through this article as it contains useful information’s that could help me in my relationship as well. I am into a long distance relationship which is very difficult to keep going, i really did find your words and ideas encouraging, i will try to put these in play,thanks.
Hello dear, thanks so much for this an excellent article I enjoyed reading through your post so much, very impressive :). I know you have put in a lot of work to bring this altogether and it has given me a lot to think about in terms of relationships. I haven’t always been very successful in the past but I think I can put some of this into action and maybe next time I will get it right. Thanks again 🙂
Hey nice article you have there, your thoughts are indeed invaluable. I have learnt a whole lot from this article. When it comes to relationship, both partners has to give in their best to see that the relationship is working. If empathy is seen as a key element in a relationship, the relationship will definitely improve because one will put himself/herself in the place of its partner and resist from anything that can triggered anger/violence
Thank you so much Deb and Jeff for sharing such valuable wisdom at this time. This article has the potential to save dozens of relationships strained by this horrific virus. I also love how you’ve taken the time to create that anonymous quiz. It’s so important to get to know yours and your partner’s needs in all aspects of the relationship more before opening up a can of worms that leaves people confused or hurt. These things need to be taken slowly and respectfully, together. This is a beautiful site that’s changing lives!
Thank you so much Maria for your beautiful words 🙂 Very much appreciated
This topic of how one can improve their relationship is very unique and sensitive and I would like to thank you for doing justice to this topic with relative ease. You have made lots of compelling and valid points about the whole thing and I agree with your assertions. Fragile relationships often end up disastrously. So taking a cue from the topics and points of this article will go a long way to strengthen our relationships and therefore mend every brokenness that already exists.
Hello thanks for sharing this great article here. I had my own issues with my ex, I wanted her to be with me always but she was a banker and she loved her job. From your article the external factor was my greatest problem. Sometimes you feel you do more and the other does less and you want to make them prove you wrong, in the end it turns out badly.
It seems that you were not meeting your needs and you may have been expecting her to change her behaviours into order to meet them for you. It’s good to re-evaluate your behaviours so that next time you can do things differently.
Hello there…… I really enjoyed reading through your article for it has so much vital information that would help me in my current relationship…. No regrets though, but if only I had seen this earlier it may have prevented past failures. I’m really trying now but I’m sure if i could add this into action my relationship could be better.Thank you very much.
I should find this content before I broke up with my girlfriend last year. This is very good content to maintain and improve the relationship.
All paragraphs, gaps, and topics are professional. I am impressed with this content. One tip, in my opinion, attached photos should be resized bigger than this current post.
All the best,
Hi, what an insightful article. I’m not married yet so I haven’t gotten to the point where I live with my partner. However, I have been dating for many years now and its always almost the same story. I have had to read books and research all kinds of information about relationships but still its been a challenge. But then your article made realize just where the problem is and how I can solve it. Thank you.
Glad to be of help Zay 🙂