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Lose Control to Find Closeness in Your Relationships

“Always be mindful of the kindness and not the faults of others” ~Buddha

In these hectic and often chaotic times, for most people (controllers included), the need for intimate, close bonds with friends and family is more important than ever for their overall well-being.

Yet, most controllers are unaware of how much their controlling actions prevent intimacy.

Losing Intimacy with My Son

Twenty years ago I was a massive, obsessive controller. I firmly believed that the best way to satisfy my needs and achieve what I wanted in life was by controlling everything and everyone. At home, Father truly knew best! I knew what was best for my children—and didn’t hesitate to let them know.

When my son Brandon was a child, I constantly offered my two cents on almost everything he did, thinking it would help him better traverse life’s many challenges. When he was young, he had no choice but to put up with my intrusions.

In his teens, however, he became very dismissive of me—he didn’t want to hear anymore from me, and he strongly let me know it.

Our bond remained strained until I was literally brought to my knees by a rapid-fire series of traumatic events (concluding with 5 major cancer surgeries). At that point, I no longer had the desire or energy to continue intruding upon his life.

Because I no longer offered him my opinions or advice, Brandon began seeking my input on important challenges he faced as a young adult.

Hence, the very thing I had sought—intimacy—came to me only after I stopped trying to seek it!

The Control/Intimacy Correlation

When we try to change or control others, this behavior almost always creates conflict and resentment, resulting in the loss of intimacy. And the fact that our intentions may be good doesn’t really matter.

For example, when we try to control a loved one by giving unsolicited advice and opinions or making unreasonable demands, it only pushes them away. Who likes being told how to be and act in matters of the heart?

The same is true with respect to our friends. When we try to change them, we are in effect telling them that they are not “good enough,” and that discourages them from opening up and confiding in us.

The Magnet Theory of Intimacy

I like to think of the intimacy dynamic in terms of trying to connect two magnets. If each magnet has one side infused with control and the opposite side with acceptance, placing the two acceptance sides together forges a very strong bond. However, when you place the two control sides together, it causes a forceful separation.

In the same manner, acceptance brings people closer together, and control pushes them apart.

Lose Control to Find Intimacy

When we accept people as they are instead of trying to change them, we make them feel at ease and comfortable with us. They feel that they can trust us.

My best friendships are ones in which we accept one another fully, blemishes and all. That allows us to be open and intimate without fear of criticism or judgment.

The same is true with respect to our loved ones. When we accept them as they are, we allow the love currents to unfold naturally so that they can just relax and be themselves, offering their love and kindness without pressure or expectations.

3 Decontrol Methods That Foster Intimacy

1. Focus on peoples’ positive qualities.

Instead of complaining about or trying to change someone else’s annoying habits, focus on their positive qualities. Think about what you like and appreciate about them.

For example, if you have a dear friend who you love, but her idiosyncrasies just drive you nuts, remember why she is a dear friend.

Some time ago I harped so much on a close friend for not having an answering machine at home that he didn’t talk to me for almost three years! Now, I don’t make plans with him where I might need to reach him and simply appreciate him for the dear friend he is.

Though we don’t see each other nearly as often now, our friendship is stronger and healthier than ever.

2. Listen attentively—without advising.

Attentive listening can be a very healing tool that fosters intimacy. In dealing with challenging issues, many times people simply need to vent or express themselves without receiving feedback.

Unless people specifically ask for your advice or opinion, try listening without “counseling” them; just be caring and empathetic.

I have found this particularly beneficial with my children, where their being able to freely express themselves has enabled them to effectively process their issues and concerns. Many times children (and adults) simply need to get things out of their “system,” and afterward they feel much better.

3. Moderate your expectations of others.

Expecting too much from people fuels controlling actions that lead to disappointment and resentment on both sides.

In your love relationships, lower your expectations of your partner—and of yourself.  Don’t look for your partner to fulfill your love needs. That’s not his or her “job.”

Don’t expect him or her to be more affectionate or say “loving” things when he or she is uncomfortable doing so.

Don’t expect too much of yourself, as well, or you may start pressing too hard to make things “better.” That usually results in unhealthy enabling actions.

To reduce love and relationship expectations, ask yourself whether your perceived need or desire is that important in the overall scheme of things. Most of the time, it is not.

I am confident that once you start using these decontrol tools, you will forge much closer bonds with your friends and loved ones, creating the kind of intimacy that builds lasting and fulfilling relationships.

Photo by JoshMock

Avatar of Daniel A. Miller

About Daniel Miller

Daniel A. Miller is the author of Losing Control, Finding Serenity: How the Need to Control Hurts Us and How to Let It Go, a ForeWord Reviews 2011 Book of the Year Award Finalist and Amazon Personal Growth and Inspiration Best Seller for three years in a row. He writes about control issues at www.losingcontrolfindingserenity.com and at Danny’s Decontrol Yourself Blog.

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  • Shaec

    I spent forty years of my life trying to control everything and becoming unpleasant to be around when things, of course, didn’t go the way I had attempted to force them.  Then I faced a life-threatening illness, and I was obliged to abandon control of ANYthing, even breathing!  I too have discovered through that experience how much easier and more rewarding and filled with true friendships a non-controlling life can be.

  • Anonymous

    I needed this today! Thanks!

  • Danny

    Hi Shaec, 
    Our stories are so similar.  I, too, was about 40 years old when I had the wake up call that finally “woke me up.”  My hope in writing about the importance of “losing” control is that others will discover the gifts of giving up control without the need for wake up calls!   Thanks for helping carry the message.

    Danny

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1423075157 Tracy Shaffer

    Lots of good stuff here, Danny, and very well spoken. It is amazing how far a little letting go can take you. Most of us do need those heavy duty crisis to make the kinds of deep shifts in perspective which create lasting change. With more insight shared, perhaps we can make those paradigm shifts before the train wreck happens. My question for you is within “2. Listen attentively.” How do you handle yourself in a situation where you are attempting to listen, not counsel, advise, judge or make corrections while a friend carries on about their problems? Many people become engaged in a tape loop of their negativity without knowing it, putting you/me unwittingly in the listener’s chair. I’d love to hear your thoughts on balance and boundaries where friendship is concerned.

  • Ashley Melsted

    This couldn’t have come at a better time. Thank you for writing. I’m going to try and practice this in all my relationships

  • Danny

    Ashley,
    Good for you.  I’d love to hear about how it goes.
    Danny

  • http://www.facebook.com/neville.carelse Neville Carelse

    i always enjoy these post,it is very true in every sense 

  • Danny

    Good question,Tracy.

    It starts with humility.  I don’t think controllers are ever accused of being “too humble”.   Most controllers (and I consider myself a “reforming” controller) feel their way is the “best way”, and often the “only” way.  With respect to friends and family, I have repeatedly learned that what may work well for me doesn’t usually work well for them.   We are all different and process things differently.  Knowing and feeling this, it is much easier for me to simply listen without feeling compelled to judge or advise.I remember telling my daughter, Lana (then 12), that she should take notes when doing her homework and not listen to rock music so she would get better grades.  She quickly responded, “Daddy, I’m different than you and I process things differently!”   Her words rang so true to me that I immediately backed off.   Moral of the story: At 14, Lana just made her school’s honor roll with an A- average!–without my input or help.

    Hope this helps, Tracy.

    Danny

  • Char

    I’m a 25 year old with with an over-protective father. I don’t know how he can let go and what I have to do to help him let go. I want to move out and gain some independence, but I know he won’t let me and moving out against his will will really hurt our relationship. Right now, we are at a point where we live in the same house but we barely talk to each other. I love him dearly. No one’s really supporting my decision to move out at this point, not even my older sisters. They see it as an act of defiance and ingratitude. I want them to understand that I’m making my decisions not only with myself in mind but also my love ones. For me, moving on means letting go of whatever relationship we’ve had in the past. I want to work on building a stronger, more intimate relationship with my father, but it can’t be done if I don’t let go of our current situation and if I choose to live in this status quo. How can I make him and the rest of my family understand the art of letting go?

  • http://profiles.google.com/celinen196 Celine Noel

    Very much enjoyed this post. It made me realize that i need to stop trying to help people who don’t ask for my help. But in the meantime find a way to let them know they can count on me, should they decide they want my help or just someone to vent to. 

  • Karen

    Thank you for this!  I had never thought that by trying to change others I was saying that they aren’t good enough as they are – I have spent my life feeling ‘not good enough’ – you have shown me that I am perpetuating this pattern – thank you for bringing it to my attention!

  • Danny

    Celine, in my view, doing that is being the best friend you can be!
    Danny

  • Danny

     Char, I truly empathize with your situation.   In my speaking to others about control, I have found that many people also struggle with how they can get someone else to let go.  Here’s what I tell them:
    1.  We should not focus on trying to find ways to help OTHERS let go of control.   We are being controlling when we do so.  We are powerless over changing others and we need to accept them as they are, limitations and all.2.  The focus should be on OURSELVES and what we can change about ourselves, our attitudes, reactions and the like, to improve our lives.   When you stop doing #1 above, it makes it much easier to do #2.3.  When you are successful at doing the above, others often will begin to change their ways ON THEIR OWN!In short, Char, I would discontinue trying to make your dad and family understand the art of letting go.   Make yourself the best example.Check out the many articles and posts that I have at Danny’s Decontrol Yourself Blog for some useful “decontrol” tools.Best Regards,Danny

  • http://twitter.com/AlannahRose Alannah Rose

    This is a really great article, and your tips are deceptively simple but very wise.  I personally need to take all three to heart!  Recently I have been focusing on the first one, and trying to appreciate the positive traits in everyone instead of letting the little annoyances get to me.  I try to look at it like this – every friend has a different place in my life, and instead of expecting the same things from all of them, I need to recognize what they offer and accept that without trying to change them to fit my needs (which also ties into your third technique!).

    I also can personally relate to the second method from the receiving side, because when I went through a difficult time it was tough to find someone who would just listen without trying to “fix” my problems or give opinions and advice.  Since I experienced that, I’ve been more aware of my own habits with others and have made a conscious effort to be a better listener.

    In my opinion, the greatest gift any friend or loved one can give you is acceptance.  The few people in my life who allow me to truly be who I am are the greatest blessings in my life.

  • Danny

    Alannah,

    Thank you so much for your kind words.   You express your sentiments about friendships and acceptance so eloquently and I, too, am grateful for the blessings that acceptance brings into my life.   

    Danny

  • Mbadag1

    Coming from a Type-A person, thank you so much for this article. Its always hard to let go of your sense of control but thank you for putting things into perspective.

  • Summer

    WOW – this is perfect timing for me!  This is me and I’ve been working towards letting go……this article will be extremely helpful!  Thank you!

  • Lv2terp

    I welled up reading this because this is an issue I have been working on improving within myself, something I have come to be very frustrated with.  My awareness of this trait, when it h presents itself, is much greater over the last several months thankfully, so I really enjoy reading and continuing to learn.  Thank you for such a wonderful article…I look forward to more! :)

  • Danny

    I encourage you to keep up the good work.  It starts with awareness, followed by a commitment to change, and you are doing both.   Keep in mind that it is an ongoing process.
    You may wish to read some of my posts at blog.losingcontrolfindingserenity.com to learn about other decontrol tools.

    Danny

  • Mamuleonard

    This is owesome,i have learnt a lot from this article,am determined to change for i really want to be intimate with everyone i get the chance to meet in this life.Accepting the differences we have as individuals has always been a problem to me,i want to start appreciate people for who they are…

  • Mamuleonard

    @Danny if you exercise all these staffs you share,i cant imagine how blessed your family,relatives and friends are……it is my dream to live fully so that i die happy,i like to be in harmony with myself and others,understanding the best ways to respond /act to others no matter how annoying they are since am not perfect as well.

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  • Susie Sawyer

    Exactly what I needed to read and hear! Very wise. Thank you!

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  • cap stroke slaker

    what greater scheme of things?

  • komatsu mito

    I really love this post I will visit again to read your post in a very short time and I hope you will make more posts like this.
    aquacel

  • George_dickson

    sadly this article and recent epiphany within myself has come around too late . i have only recently listened to words that been spoken for many years to me . too late to save my marriage as too many false dawns have come and went . thanks for the reading of the fine words .

  • http://seravista.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-to-lose-control.html Serandipitous

    Beautifully written.  Control is a delicate interplay that lets us shape our identities, but it’s also how we limit ourselves.

    I wrote a little bit about this just today in my blog, but nothing to the great extent and wisdom as you’ve written here.  Thanks for sharing your insight.

    http://seravista.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-to-lose-control.html

  • Nina

    Hi,

    I just found this article, which apparently is more than 2 years old. I hope it is still OK to post some comments.

    I like your article in general, but I am not completely sure about whether your advice is useful for all cases.

    That is, yes, there are many controlling types, who like to hold the TV remote control and the like, so this advice would definitely work for them.

    But then there are the different degrees of control and of relationships.

    That is, a friendship that you consider “close”, in which not only are you supposed to share the “good” times, but also the “bad” times, when you are in need, should mean that it is OK to expect something from that friendship. The normal thing is that friends reciprocate help and support, because obviously if one friend is always on the giving end and the other friend is just on the receiving end, this is no friendship, so this idea of not “controlling” someone because you expect something from them when you are in need does not sound totally right.

    Some people can be very selfish or can be just plain lazy to commit themselves to helping you when you need them. Should anyone be labelled “controlling” for expecting a helping hand when they need it? I don’t think so.