In this ever-changing world, there are just so many things we can’t control. To compensate for that fact, we, whether knowingly or unknowingly, try to control our relationships instead. And this does more harm than good. In this episode, Stan Padgett discusses the damage any form of control does to a relationship. He lists the levels of relationships and breaks down how we go from dependence to independence. Offering more advice, Stan then helps you recognize and avoid controlling behaviors. Join this conversation and learn why control is relationship poison. Notice the signs before it is too late.
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Control Is Relationship Poison
The title of this episode is Control Is Relationship Poison. As we’ve talked about in previous episodes, this show is designed to explore the principles that govern our intimate relationships and to help understand how you can strengthen those relationships, improve them, and create them. One of the issues that we face in virtually every type of relationship is people feel the need to be in control. Maybe it’s because sometimes the world that we live in makes us feel completely out of control.
We can’t control politics, the economy, the oil supply, the weather, or traffic. There seems to be so much around us that we cannot control. We look for places, particularly in intimate relationships, where we feel like we can get some element of control.
Here’s the problem, in an intimate relationship, control is relationship poison. Here’s why. As Americans, we are taught the Declaration of Independence from the time we’re grade school children. We are held up to an ideal of independence. We are to think independently, act independently, and be responsible for ourselves. At least those are principles that we used to teach consistently and that many people still believe are true. All of those things are true in the sense of being a successful human being.
Three Levels Of Relationships
Stephen Covey talks about three levels of relationships or three levels of human beings. There is dependence where you need someone else to provide for you. Whether that’s temporal needs, emotional needs, or physical needs, somebody else has to provide for you. The classic example is a human infant. They are dependent on their very survival. A human infant cannot feed, clean and care for itself. It will not survive without loving and caring adult humans.
The second level is independence, which is where we can provide for our own needs. That means your own financial needs, physical needs, and emotional needs. That means you can provide your own food, shelter, clothing, and transportation. You are financially capable of doing that on your own. You don’t need anyone else to do that for you. You don’t need the government to do that for you. You are capable of doing that yourself. It also means that emotionally you are independent. You don’t determine your worth on other people or what they think. You are confident in yourself, in your worth as a human being, in your value and in your ability to provide strength and value to other people, whether in business or relationships or in person.
Covey talks about a third level called interdependence. That is a level at which only two independent people can reach. It’s where they each are capable of providing for themselves financially and emotionally, and they choose to be together every day because they are better and more together than they are separately. In business, you would call that synergies or economies of scale. You are essentially adding 1 plus 1, and getting more than 2 because they each bring strengths to the relationship, financial, educational, emotional and intellectual where they can add those strengths to each other.
They can potentially compensate for others’ weaknesses. In relationships, independence means that you aren’t controlled by someone else and you have no need to control someone else. You are emotionally self-contained so if you share yourself with another human being, you do that from a position of strength, not of weakness. You do it from a position of choice, not of need. That difference makes all the difference.
What do we need to do? We need to help people move from the stage of dependence to independence. That may be a function of time or a function of additional education. If we’re talking about financial independence, we need to help them have the opportunity to build skills. Let me be clear, it doesn’t matter to me whether someone is a janitor or a brain surgeon, whether they drive a garbage truck or a 747. If they are doing honest work and providing an honest day’s labor for an honest day’s pay, they are to be respected, admire and appreciated.
If they want to be different, do something different or do more, like if the janitor would rather be a teacher, then great. Let’s help design a path or a goal to let them obtain the education they need to get a teaching certificate, and then let’s get them that teaching job. They’ve earned it and they have something valuable to teach by virtue of just their life experience.
Also by starting at one place, making a decision to be different and to be better, and saying, “I’m going to do something more with my life because I can, I want to, I need to, and I have to.” If they teach that lesson to their students, they’ve taught a whole lot more than most students come out of school with these days anyway.
What does it mean to control this relationship poison? It means that one or the other of the two partners in a relationship is manipulating the other in some fashion. Not guiding, not helping, not leading and not offering insider assistance, but manipulating either consciously or unconsciously. Let me start this from the woman’s perspective.
Ladies, do you want to be controlled by anyone, particularly by a man? I haven’t heard anything on my show here, but the resounding answer I’ve heard in every woman’s group I’ve spoken to is, “Of course, not.” In most male-female relationships, the man is capable of physically controlling the woman or dominating her in that fashion.
In many relationships, because of the income disparity in America, men tend to make more money than women. If you have a woman who is a mother, a stay-at-home mom, economically, the husband is the provider. He has the potential or the ability to financially control his wife. Those are both completely inappropriate. A man’s strength is to be used to protect women and children, not to control them or abuse them in any way. It’s the same for finances.A man's strength is used to protect a woman and children, not to control or abuse them in any way. Click To Tweet
In the economy, there are more and more very successful high-earning women, both in Corporate America and in their own businesses. They then have often relationships where they are the primary income earner which gives them the ability to financially control their partner. It’s equally inappropriate from that side, but there are differences too. Control goes well beyond physical and financial. Control goes to mental and emotional or even in a different physical sense, withholding of affection, withholding of intimacy, and pouting.
I’m not going to be able to say this in a politically correct way. That doesn’t suit my thoughts, feelings or personality anyway. Here it goes. Ladies, if you try to control your man by your pouting, disapproval or withholding of affection or intimacy, you are equally guilty of creating relationship poison. You can talk, agree, disagree, and work through those things. At the end of the day, those are manipulative techniques that are inappropriate. They are damaging to your relationship.
While your partner may not realize on a conscious level that they’re being manipulated, at least on a subconscious level, they know and feel it. They feel when you withdraw emotionally. That is usually like, “I didn’t do exactly what she wanted when she wanted, and now this is the consequence.” Is that any different than him saying, “I control all the money and I’m tired of that behavior. I’m going to give you $100 a week to do the groceries and whatever else you want with it. I’m going to take your name off the checking account. Enough of this nonsense.” You would find that to be absolutely inappropriate and correctly so, but your behavior is equally inappropriate and equally damaging.
What you’re trying to create in an intimate relationship is a connection on a deep level. That deep-level connection will not happen and cannot happen without trust and respect. When you engage in controlling behavior of any kind, you are damaging both the trust and the respect of your partner. When they don’t trust and respect you, in a long term, they will not love you. Sometimes they may be trapped in a relationship with you, whether that’s for financial reasons or lack of family support, or lack of any alternative way to have a place to live, things to do, a way to go, and a way to provide for children. You can’t build a connecting, loving and fulfilling relationship that way.
The Power Of Compromise
If what you want is love, joy, passion and connection in your relationship, there’s going to be a compromise. Many of you know from prior episodes that my wife and I met at Burger King when we were in high school, and we went to rival high schools. We would never have met but for working at Burger King.
Burger King’s advertising slogan in those days was, “Have it Your Way at Burger King.” I have jokingly said many times, “That’s the last time I ever had it my way.” That’s not true. It’s fun and it’s something that makes us smile, but the reality is we compromise every single day. We have celebrated our 48th Christmas together. Forty-six and half of marriage, and I hope for many more Christmases and many more anniversaries with that woman because I cannot imagine my life without her.
As I’ve gotten older, I used to travel a lot for business. I don’t like it anymore. I don’t like to be without her. For both of us, the best time of day is we go to bed together, not because we need to go to sleep at the same time, we need the same amount of sleep, or it takes us the same amount of time to go to sleep, but it doesn’t, but because we get to sit and I hold her in my arms for a few minutes every night. That’s the best time of the day for us. That comes after a lifetime of building trust, respect and love, making deposits in the trust bank, respecting her thoughts, opinions and beliefs, working together, and working out who we are. That’s what relationships are for.
There’s the wonderful difference between humans and virtually all of the animal kingdom is we have an ability between that moment of stimulus and response to stop and think. That interval or thought process or time is what makes us human. Are there times when stimulus and response have to be instantaneous? If cars are careening out of control toward you, do you react instantly? Yes. Hopefully, instinctively and correctly.
When your spouse says or does something, there should be that interval, whether it’s 1,001 or whatever it takes for you before you react, that you choose what to do so that what your spouse gets is a response and not a reaction. A reaction is no thought or consciousness. Here are some of the questions that could go through your mind. “What did he or she mean by that?” If it was something that sounded painful, difficult, angry, threatening or disagreeable, generally, maybe the question is, “What have they experienced already now that I don’t know about that they only feel safe to let that out with me? Is it something that I can absorb and put my arms around her?” Just hold her.
Sometimes saying anything is a mistake. It’s just your presence and failure to react negatively were all that they needed. They needed to know that you valued them enough to stop and think. Maybe you need to ask the question, “Did something happen today that upset you?” You’re then going to talk about how to communicate.
Back to the principle that we talked about previously about trust and respect. If your spouse says, “Did something happen today that upset you?” They deserve the truth. If your relationship is going to get better, they have to get the truth. Maybe we have military family or people that have security clearances and they say, “Yes, but it’s not something I can talk about.” That will strengthen your relationship. That was an honest answer, “I need to hold you for a minute. Would that be okay?”If your relationship is going to get better, they have to get the truth. Click To Tweet
I learned a valuable technique from a good friend of mine a few months ago. He said, “My wife and I have a rule that we can walk up to the other one in say 30 seconds.” They put their arms around each other and stand and hold each other for 30 seconds. No questions, no answers, no anything, just 30 seconds of human connection. It’s a safe space for them to feel, reconnect, get grounded, and get some perspective on whatever it was that was bothering them. It may not be anything big. It may just be, “I need 30 seconds of your attention so I feel better.”
Whatever it is, the 30-second rule is a great rule. It’s one that you ought to think about and implement. Try some experiments. If you’re following the show, I’m going to give you homework from time to time. I’m going to give you things that if you implement them in your relationship, will dramatically and permanently transform your relationship for the better. The 30-second rule is one of them.
You now understand that control is relationship poison. You now have a couple of tools to help you stay self-aware of that and avoid that behavior, and to have a conversation with your spouse about that behavior if it’s coming from them. Work through it. Take the time to communicate. We’re going to talk a lot in this show about how to communicate, when to communicate, and when not to.
In fact, I’ll give you one quick preface to that section now. When my wife and I were first married, we went to bed one night and everything was fine. I woke up in the morning and she wasn’t speaking to me. I thought, “Did I call out an old girlfriend’s name in my sleep? Did I roll over and hit her?” I have no idea. After asking multiple times, “What is wrong?” My sweet wife finally said, “Last night, I poured out my heart to you for 30 minutes, and then realized you were asleep the whole time.”
To my credit, probably the only reason I’m still alive is I resisted the urge to say, “At any point during those 30 minutes, did you think to maybe ask a question for me or let me talk?” I didn’t do that. That’s probably why I’m here, but we did come up with a new rule. I said, “Sweetheart, here’s the deal. When you want to talk to me, at least half of my body has to be vertical. That means I have to be sitting up or standing up. If I am lying down, all bets are off. It does not count. You do not have a conversation with me when I’m lying down because if something interesting is not going on, I’m going to sleep.” It takes me 60 seconds or so to go to sleep. There are compromises to make.
In those communications, you’re going to have some fun with this, and I want you to have fun with this. Relationships are fun and work, but there is nothing that will give you more joy than a fabulous relationship with your partner. At the end of this segment, I’m going to post another one of the talks that I’ve done to the Board of Advisors, the Million Dollar Mastermind that I talked to you about. It’s bonus material. It’s something you’ll want to listen to. If you want to share it, you’re welcome to do that. I want you to have as much information as you can that will strengthen you and your relationship with your partner, your children, your family, and with everybody else. Have a great day.