Why 'control' isn't always a bad thing (but can be)
Dorian Minors • May 13, 2015
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.
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?
- Make sure we include our partners in the decisions we make especially if they'll be affected. Sometimes it's ok to make a decision for them, but do it too often and they may start to question whether the relationship is good for them.
- 'Control' isn't always a bad thing in a relationship. In fact it's necessary. We always have a level of control over our partners, we just need to make sure we're using it with their approval and to help them achieve their goals as well as ours.
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.
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