June 14, 2000
Hi my name is Jennie (female). I am 39 and I have a big control issue. I see lots of control issues for men, but am I the only woman with a control issue? Nope. No sex difference between men and women here.
Here is a scenario: last night my boyfriend of two years, (we live together) was going to take his grandma to his mothers house for an 80th birthday dinner. I was invited but declined 'cause my first instinct as always was to control the situation, why? How? What did you want to do? I told him to just stay a minute 'cause I hadn't seen him all day and I missed him, which was true. However, this was causing anxiety. I don't understand...
Another scenario, we go to karaoke on Sat. nights; his limit is five beers. I put him there indirectly somehow. No you don't. He puts himself there. When we go out to eat, he actually asks, "Can I have a beer, dear," not sarcastically though. I say "I guess." All you've done is give him the permission he asked for. I wonder what would happen if you said, "Gee, I think that's up to you."
Work is another one. I call and say, "When are you coming home? "Soon, " he says. "I want to see you," I say, on and on and on. I take it you are insisting he come home immediately.
I have pushed him away so many times and I wonder why he stays when I am so difficult. Ask him; maybe he'll tell you. His work is another control issue. He is a realtor and at times has to show homes to females. I made him promise me he would let me go if he has to show a house or do a loan app at a single females house. He promised. I snoop through his paper work and question female's names etc. I check his cell phone for his ex-girlfriends number, having found it once along time ago, but he swears he hasn't heard from her in about a year since he told her not to call any more at my advice. Why are you so insecure? This is not only difficult for him, but for me as well. I'm sure. I think I should leave him rather then subject him to my constant vigilance. Jennie: If you don't like how you treat him, fix how you treat him. I think you've brought up a bunch of good points to work on. Meanwhile, respect him enough as an individual to allow him to make his own decisions about whether or not he wants to stay with you.
It tears me apart as well; it is so hard on me to keep tabs, check things, phone calls, etc....it drives me crazy. Of course! So stop it! I know I have low self-esteem, but at least I know I have a problem and am willing to do something about it; I just don't know what. Good start. It would probably help you big time if you got evaluated for an OCD type anxiety disorder. Medication can be extremely effective to help you stop the obsessive checking.
I went to counseling for my jealousy and it helped some, but the counselor was bent on insisting that "I" don't think I am good enough or "I" think I don't deserve him, etc. I don't feel this way though. Not on a conscious level. I think I deserve to be happy and loved. I just think he don't deserve to be treated like I treat him, yet he stays with me cause he says he loves me. Stop taking responsibility for him! Start focusing on controlling your own behavior!
The night of his grandmas 80th birthday dinner, his mom cried when he came and left so soon. She said, "You never come to our family gatherings anymore. This one was special." I called her and apologized to her; she asked me if I'd come to the next family occasion. I promised her I would and hung up in tears. I felt so guilty and ashamed - and felt like just packing up and leaving and going back to Oregon so he could have his life back. Huh? Maybe his problem is that he doesn't want his life back... But, I thought his mom cried that he did not come to family gatherings... Then you called her to apologize? I mean, it's nice she invited you in the future, but - this is about her and her kid! Why are you apologizing for him? Why are you taking responsibility for him? I suppose your reasoning was that had you gone along, he would have stayed longer... Wrong road! (I'm thinking more and more that he does not want to take responsibility for himself - goes right along with the drinking you mentioned... )
I have told him before that I thought of that and he was upset; he doesn't want me to leave him. Sure. Who would run his life for him if you left? But I'm so lost. Any advise? Please help me; I'm so desperate. I can' t find books on how to stop controlling others, only on how to help others stop controlling me, that is not my problem.
My problem is controlling others to avoid feeling hurt, threatened, scared, anxious, etc. Your problem is multidimensional: First, you may suffer from an anxiety disorder like OCD and you should be evaluated for an SSRI like Zoloft. That will help you more easily sit through the initial wave of anxiety/control, do nothing, and let it pass; it will. Second, you have no clue where you end and the other person begins. Read every single book on boundaries that you can get your hands on. Third, your control stuff is related to codependency issues. You avoid living your own life and feeling your own feelings by living his life and feeling for him. He not only lets you, he seems to want you to (but watch it; there will be a price). Third, I have a funny feeling your beloved may be an alcoholic. Take a look at Melodie Beattie's bestseller , Codependent No More: How To Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself.. Fourth, if you can, look around for a therapist, preferably someone who practices a "cognitive-behavioral" orientation to help guide you through some of this and help teach you the skills you need. This therapeutic approach is very effective with the type of problem you describe. Finally, consider CODA or ALANON meetings whether or not you can afford therapy.
Some wonderful boundary and codependency selections from the Bookshelf:
I don't know how to stop this though, and I don't know how I got this way, but apparently, looking back, I have been this way since very young. I'm not surprised. Anxiety stuff is often biochemical and / or induced by stress early on. Don't worry about how you got this way; focus instead on getting control of yourself. You can do this. Sorry this is so long. I hope you will pick this letter to answer in your column. You got it! I can't afford another counselor; this one is through the mental health center and they only have a few to choose from; the others are just social workers. Therapeutic orientation is independent of profession... But, if this counselor helped you, why not go back. Talk to him or her about your feelings re: where your therapy was going. In fact, bring along this column. Thank you for your time....Jennie Hang in there Jennie; this is fixable.
First, read Jennie's addendum:
DR. IRENE, thank you so much for responding to my letter. It really helped a lot. However, I don't know if you respond to replies because I need to clear up a few things. The reason he left the birthday party early is at my insistence he only stay a minute. He says he is torn between his family and me. I called to apologize to his mom because it was at my insistence that he left so early and didn't stay. This is controlling. His mom always invites me to the family gatherings, but I usually refuse because my first impulse is to control him not to go, by saying things like he don't need to go, that he stays too long, or we stay too long; that is why i don't want to go. That is what I tell him anyway, really though I don't know why I don't want to go, I just don't want him to go because it causes so much anxiety that won't go away until I get my way - then I feel so bad.
I don't want you to think he is a bad guy. He is very sweet, loving and special and treats me better then any guy I've been with. It's me with the problem, he is very professional with his work and keeps most of it private, which makes me suspicious, but if I ask him about it, he tells me what ever I want to know. He never really gave me reason not to trust him, it comes naturally for me with anyone.
The incident with his ex-girlfriend was over a year ago, but I was like this way before then; that only escalated my insecurity. So I hope that helps. He is not a bad guy, I'm the one with the problem and need help; I am hampering his life style and his business by snooping and erasing messages from his phone and by not wanting him to help single females. Jennie, you are correct, you have a problem; but, so does he. Why would anybody put up with your behavior if they had no problems! But, since you are the one asking for help, we will not focus on him. I mention that he is not perfect not to blame him, but because I don't want you thinking it is only about you.
He says that he feels guilty when he has to talk to a woman 'cause of what I might say about it. Gee, I wish he wouldn't... This guy is not the kind of guy to cheat on a person. He is respectful of women. He won't even look at cleavage even if a woman bends over - I know this; I have watched him closely.
I will talk to someone about more counseling. Does Paxil do the same thing as Zoloft? I want to try Paxil; I did once for social anxiety and it helped, but the side of sex (no libido) was too much. I hope to get a reply of some kind back. If not, I understand and thank you so much for printing my letter. It too has helped and so have the responses. Thank you so much again, Jennie Yes, Jennie, Paxil and Zoloft do pretty much the same thing. They both can have side effects. You need talk with your prescribing doctor. If you have side effects, ask yourself what is more important: sex or a sane and reasonable life... Remember, it doesn't have to be forever. I am glad you are considering more counseling as well. That will help. Again, hang in there... Dr. Irene
I want to read the posts.