couples therapyWho has the problem, the controller or the one controlled?

The controller may describe herself as a person having weaknesses, insecurities, and many needs. On the more positive side she may say that she want to get close to the other person. The controller is just reaching out to someone else to have these needs met. She seldom sees herself as being a controlling or dominating person – although the one controlled often has no doubt that this is the case. The controller sees the other person as having all the power. The controller says that she is happy as long as personal needs are being met. So obviously, according to the controller, if the other person has any complaints, then that is the person who has the problem.

The person who is controlled, on the other hand, is usually quick to attribute the problem to the controller. The controlled party points out that the controller is so needy that it is impossible to breathe without being criticized. The person controlled rarely sees himself as having the problem, other than dealing with having to be careful always to hold on to his own sense of integrity.

So, who has the problem? Both do. The controller needs to work on understanding where the neediness came from, why needs have to be fulfilled through another person, and how to gain a sense of personal integrity by drawing on inner resources. The one controlled needs to understand why he or she would attach themselves to someone in need, what cues they may be secretly giving off to perpetuate the imbalanced relationship, why saying no may be difficult, and how to develop different strategies for gaining a sense of personal integrity.

In the end, both parties can move from working against each other in conflict to the point where they can encourage a sense of independence in each partner…knowing that through this feeling of mutual integrity, relationships can be much closer, happier, and healthier.

Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT

San Diego Couples and Family Therapy serves the surrounding areas of Sorrento Valley Road as La Jolla, UTC San Diego, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Poway, University City and Escondido.