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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.
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