Why 'control' isn't always a bad thing (but can be) cover image

Why 'control' isn't always a bad thing (but can be)

Dorian Minors • May 13, 2015

This is an archived article from our predecessor website, The Dirt Psychology. The idea there was to take psychological scholarship and turn it into wisdom. The Armchair Collective tries to go a little further than just psychology. As such, these articles live here in archive form, until they're updated.

A relationship involves two very different people bringing two sets of values, cultures and environmental influences together. They also have two sets of goals and desired outcomes from life. We've talked before about Interdependence theory and how it affects the strength of a relationship, but it also affects relationship satisfaction. In this article, we're going to give you The Dirt on one of the theory's satellite concepts and how they can ruin your relationships (and although you should read that article we just linked, it's not necessary). What it says about relationship breakdown Hal Kelley and John Thibaut noticed that that when partners acted  more often in cooperation with the other partner's goals and less in line with their own selfish goals, both people were more happy. Not a ground-breaking finding for us today, but the devil is in the detail they say.

'Don't do that again or no sex!', 'Oh yeah? Well, no sex and I'll never paint the wall!' - An example of behaviour control from our helpful stereotypical couple.

They proposed that partners have two major forms of control over their partners. They called these 'fate control' and 'behaviour control'. Behaviour control is fairly straight forward. We can easily influence each other's behaviour by letting our partners (or mates, for that matter) whether we approve or not. Fate control is when one partner does something that affects the other partner and they have no say. It can be positive (think a surprise party, or taking the trash out for them when they're out), but when fate control is pervasive in a relationship it causes problems. If it happens too often, the other person starts to feel out of control and will usually become very dissatisfied. Which type of control is better? So what's the alternative? Mutual behaviour control is where both partners have a say in who does what. Instead of a surprise party, they're both in on it and allocate each other roles. This way, both people are involved and it usually ends up being equal. The studies show that this leads to much happier relationships. 'Control' in a relationship doesn't have to be a bad thing (check this article out to see why). Of course relationships are a blend of fate and behaviour control, but it's very important to make sure we're concentrating on the important one. So how do we use this?

Speaking of control, maybe you want to know why you aren't in control of your own behaviour (despite your best efforts?). Or perhaps you'd be interested in the four 'horsemen of the apocalypse', or the four most common signs your relationship is going down the drain (are they happening to you?). Giving you the dirt on your search for understanding, psychological freedom and 'the good life' at The Dirt Psychology.

Turning scholarship into wisdom we can use at The Armchair Collective.

Questions? Comments? Comment sections are a pain to moderate. But this inbox is always read, so send an email. You'll get a reply. Your question might even get a whole article of its own.

More articles? View them all, or check these out:

Dorian Minors

I mostly do brain science. Sometimes I train honeybees. I promise they're related. I made this site because there's no reason why scholars should be the only ones to own knowledge. My special interests are interpersonal relationships, the science of community, spirituality and the brain, and the neural basis of complex behaviour. I hope this stuff is as interesting to you as it is to me. You can find out more about me here.