Overcontrol, defined as excessive or maladaptive self control, can lead to significant problems in our relationships. People with overcontrolled traits may not realize their behaviors are contributing to relationship problems, or may not know how to make changes. Having the ability for high self-control isn’t bad; it can be a very good thing. People with high self control often care deeply about what happens. What is important is to look at the areas of your life where your overcontrol is causing problems, not to change everything about yourself.

Am I overcontrolled?

  • Do you consider yourself to be perfectionistic or do others think this of you?
  • Are you an all or nothing thinker?
  • Do you often have ideas of how things should be/how people should behave?
  • Have you received feedback that you are too hard on yourself or others?
  • Do you feel a sense of urgency that tasks and problems need to be taken care of quickly?
  • Does it feel difficult to let your guard down?
  • Do you get caught up in details?
  • Do you overwork/overextend yourself and have trouble saying no?
  • Do you have trouble with procrastination on important/big tasks?

This is not meant to be a diagnosis, however, these are some overcontrolled traits that can contribute to relationship issues. If you can relate, there may be some work you can do to improve your relationship.

How to manage your overcontrolling behaviors

Get out of fight or flight mode to feel safe and connect

  • Take deep breaths, closed mouth smile, and move your eyebrows up and down.
  • Do a mindfulness exercise.
  • Put ice under your eyes for 30-60 seconds.

Practice direct, non critical communication

  • Describe your feelings using emotion words, and don’t describe your partner.
  • Ask for positive needs to be met versus describing what you don’t like.
  • Listen to understand when your partner shares how they feel.
  • Practice validating without agreeing or disagreeing.

Ask for help and accept that your partner’s way may be different from your way.

  • There are many ways to cook a potato.

Ask yourself

  • Do I expect my partner to think/behave the same way as me?
  • Does my way feel like the only/right way to behave or act?
  • What makes me think my way is the right way?

Out yourself to your partner

  • Take responsibility for your overcontrolling thoughts/actions by telling your partner you recognize the behaviors AND by committing to learning and using skills to reduce them.

Identify your valued goal in the interaction you are in

  • In this situation, is the way the dishwasher is loaded more important, or is showing my partner I respect and like them more important?

Now that you know how overcontrolling behaviors impact relationships, you can assess whether they are impacting your life and your relationships. Then again this is not a diagnosis, it is a recommendation, as you will be the one who truly knows yourself.