Fear of being alone
Underlying most controlling behavior is a fear of being left alone, physically or emotionally. A person’s reactivity and possessiveness is often driven by anxiety and fear of abandonment.
The problem is that we can never be fully united in thought and feeling with another person. In fact, the more we try to possess another person or allow ourselves to be controlled, the more we squeeze the magic out of the relationship.
Once we genuinely accept our existential separation from others, we can enjoy the connection we have more fully, however fleeting it may be. Then we can be truly loving without becoming controlling and possessive.
Responding to a controlling person
If you are in a relationship with a controlling partner who is trying to coerce you into not doing something you want to do, such as visiting your sister, you can choose to respond in the following ways:
Accommodate—You don’t go visit your sister, but you will feel disappointed, angry, disempowered, and resentful for not going.
Rebel—You vehemently declare that you’re going anyway, but your partner will try to punish you with his anger.
Differentiate—You are considerate while maintaining your self-respect. You tell him you’ll miss him and you’re sorry he’ll be lonely, but it’s really important for you to spend some time with your sister. Or, you could that say you’d really like to see your sister, but that he is welcome to join you if he can get away. If your partner continues to be angry about your decision, you can show compassion to a point, but you should not allow yourself to be manipulated by his fear or anger. Stand firm albeit with compassion, but without becoming defensive.
Intimacy requires freedom
It sounds paradoxical that intimacy and passion can deepen as we accept our separateness and stop controlling others or allowing ourselves to be controlled. Yet a relationship based on respect requires letting go of fear and control. By breaking away from control and possessiveness, we can allow a little unpredictability and excitement back into the relationship.
Passion is based on the feeling of being alive, alert and excited in the midst of the unknown. By respecting another person’s autonomy and embracing the associated anxiety, we can enhance excitement, desire, and passion in our relationship with that person.
As we face and accept our own existential separateness, our tolerance for being alone increases. In addition, our disappointment in others diminishes, because we relinquish unrealistic expectations that our partners will save us from ourselves.