Do you feel the power has been shifting in your relationship? Do you suddenly find yourself adjusting your calendar according to your partner’s schedule, canceling appointments to have lunch with her or him, waiting for the partner to call or write, or otherwise following the person around?
This is bad news.
A partner might believe that they like to be in control, that it's always preferable. And they might even temporarily enjoy the power trip if they can pull it off. But in the long run, the controller will lose respect and admiration for the person who puts up with them, and the follower will build resentment.
At that point your relationship will be in serious trouble.
It's difficult to regain equal footing by talking to a partner, but there are lots of smaller steps you can do to regain a healthy balance in your relationship:
1. Do you find yourself saying "no" to friends’ invitations to go out, because you don’t yet know if your partner will have time to get together? Or do you only make "half appointments" until you know your partner’s schedule? Then you are potentially missing out on a lot of fun, and slowly but steadily teaching your partner that she or he doesn’t need to make arrangements with you ahead of time—why should they if you are always available? There is no harm in checking in with a partner before committing to nights out with others. Depending on your relationship, it may even be expected. But if your partner isn’t doing the same, or won't commit to invitations, then go ahead and make other plans.
2. When you head out to eat, and your partner asks, "What are you in the mood for?” do you reply, “I don’t know. What are you in the mood for?” or, "Whatever you want"? If so, ask yourself if you are really telling the truth. Maybe you are just trying to be easy-going, but sometimes easy-going is a pain in the neck and can lead to someone else assuming control, in this and other areas. If someone asks you what you want, tell them what you want. And if you don’t know, at least tell them what you don’t.
3. Are you someone who always follows other people when you are out? I mean literally: They cross the street, you cross the street. They turn right in the mall, you turn right in the mall. They walk into the restaurant and pick a table, you follow. Time to stop. Next time you're out, take the lead. Walk into a restaurant, steer with determination toward a table, and take a seat.
4. Is your significant other continually calling you when it is convenient for her or him, for instance on the way back from work or while waiting for the bus? Do you always answer the phone because you don’t want to miss the person's call? Maybe you’re okay with that, but if it's not a good time for you, don’t answer the phone. Call back later when it is more convenient for you.
5. Does your significant other have a temper and feel it’s their right to take it out on you? Or do you quietly listen to them venting because it "isn’t a big deal"? Guess what? It is. If you don’t like a person's tone or volume, just tell them to stop yelling, venting, complaining, blaming you, etc. If they don't stop, say it again, and if that doesn’t help, walk out of the room or hang up the phone.
6. Does your significant other often get home much later than you expected without calling or telling you that it might happen? If you live together, this is not acceptable. But don’t complain; make your own late-night plans without seeking sign off. When you get back, if they call you on not checking in, just say that you didn’t know it was necessary, and leave it to them to suggest a general rule.
7. Is your partner spending more time with their friends than you would like? You probably now by now that complaining won’t work. Instead, spend an equal amount of time with your own friends. Or sign up for a yoga or other class. Don’t purposely put your outings on days your partner is usually free—after all, this is not about revenge but balance. But if your nights out happen to coincide with your partner's free nights, let them suggest a way to coordinate schedules.
8. Are you continually giving in to things you don’t really want to do? Don’t waste your time; figure out for yourself what you want to do. Next time your partner tries to convince you to do something you don’t want to, tell them...you just don't want to, and convey what you do want to do instead. You're not obligated to give in just because the other person's your partner, or because they made a suggestion first.
9. Do you occasionally throw temper tantrums, break down crying or screaming or start yelling and blaming? These behaviors are the fastest way to lose control in any relationship. Those who can stay calm and composed even in the most upsetting situations will ultimately have more control than those who fall apart.
Berit "Brit" Brogaard is the author of On Romantic Love