Episode 101: "How can I stop myself from controlling my partner?"Support the show
On today’s episode, we’re answering a question from local teens about how to stop controlling behaviors.
This is Jessica Skultety, Outreach and Prevention Manager at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic and sexual violence response organization, providing services at no charge to survivors for over 40 years.
Today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, How can I stop myself from controlling my partner?"
If you’re asking this question, you completed the first step to changing. That is understanding that controlling behaviors cause harm. And even more, that you are choosing to use those behaviors against your partner and impacting them in some way.
Change is possible, though it is hard work.
Unhealthy relationships are about an imbalance of power and control. If you’ve taken control away from your partner, they might be feeling anxious around you or be afraid of your temper. They might feel like they can’t set boundaries, give or take away consent, or make decisions for themselves or their relationship.
Another important thing to remember is that whenever there’s a situation, there is ALWAYS a nonviolent choice to behavior. Violence can be physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, digital, and stalking. There’s always a nonviolent option.
Like we said, the first step to change is recognizing the behavior you are using. You might need to further work on yourself by working with an individual therapist, and not a couples counselor.
A professional who specializes in working with people who use abuse or controlling behaviors can help you explore the root cause of why you use abuse in the first place. That is the key to unlocking the reason behind the behavior. They can also help you develop strategies for changing behavior. Changing your behavior happens with the commitment to changing it every day, and going through with it.
One thing we don’t recommend is anger management. That can actually make someone a better controller or manipulator.
Remember that your partner doesn’t owe you an explanation for how your actions impacted them. It is your responsibility to evaluate how your choices are impacting their power and control. However, if they DO tell you how you’re hurting them – listen. Avoid responding and trying to excuse or explain. Confronting our wrongs can be really uncomfortable, but it’s necessary in order to prevent more wrongdoing.
Also, it can help to practice wording. Being accountable for your actions means acknowledging the harm done, owning it, and telling the person how you will change. “I’m sorry” isn’t enough.
Also, be careful about using false apologies. For example, “I’m sorry, but you did this…” is not a real apology. Another version of a fake apology is, “I’m sorry that you feel like I hurt you.” A real apology would sound like, “I’m sorry I hurt you.” Also, be aware that someone you have harmed may not want to hear or accept your apology, and that is their right. If you pressure them into accepting your apology or forgiving you, then you are continuing to abuse and control them.
Changing behavior takes a lot of individual work, every day.
To speak with an expert about dating or sexual violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning.
Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at www.safe-sound.org/ask-ava. Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.