Saturday, April 14, 2012

Am I in a Relationship With a Passive Controller?

When we think about controlling people, we usually think about active controllers – those people who impose their will on others aggressively. They are easy to spot because they pursue us with their needs and wants. We don’t have to go looking for them.

But there are also passive controllers.

Passive controllers are much more subtle. It’s not what they do, but rather what they don’t do that ends up controlling you. They use tools like silence or guilt to control. They ignore doing things that need to be done, and wait until you step up and do them. Their “patience’ can be exasperating.

We have a saying; “The most passive person wins.” What we mean is passive control is often more powerful than active control. If you are upset about something and I do not respond, you will likely get more upset. If I still do not respond you may likely get even more upset. You are losing control of your emotions, but I have lost nothing. I smugly point out your lack of self control, while I point out how “reasonable” I am being. I am in complete control.   

What can you do when you encounter a passive controller?

Detach emotionally – become more passive than they are – at least about matters concerning them.
For example: If you need a response from your spouse about attending an event, but they keep putting you off about a decision – decide to attend alone, if you want to go. Make plans without them.

Another example: If you have a family member that always seems to make you late by dragging their feet when getting ready to go somewhere, then when it’s time to leave, just leave – and leave them behind.

Will they be upset? Yes. Will they learn to be more respectful of you? Hopefully.

You will need to learn to manage your own uncomfortable feelings as you resist the control. It is possible that you will feel resentful that you have to set up boundaries.  But it is also likely that you have felt resentful when you have given in to unreasonable behavior from others in the past. When you set up healthy boundaries at least you will feel good about yourself.

The goal is not to be mean or inflexible in our resistance to the passive control, but rather to learn to both respect others as well as respect ourselves.  

Think about your own behavior. Are you a passive controller? Do you live with one? How is this affecting your life, or your relationships?     

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