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Get Naked: 6 Compelling Ways To Improve Your Relationship With Your Spouse

Get Naked: 6 Compelling Ways To Improve Your Relationship With Your Spouse

Good. Bad. Indifferent. Loving. Critical. Close. Distant.

What comes to mind when you hear the word spouse?

Think about it: every year on birthdays, anniversaries, and special holidays, we find ourselves sending out cards with cookie cut lyrics and rhythmic poetry to communicate to our spouses what that word means to us. Only one thing will be required of us — a signature.  If our relationships are distant or detached, there will be nothing more. No note, no heartfelt emotions, just a signature.

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So what, you might ask? That’s the best way to deal with a spouse you might have a sub-par relationship with, isn’t it? Maybe, but if you’re tired of the mediocre life you’re living with your spouse, you have a chance to do something different — something that might bring healing to the dry and empty places in your own soul. Get naked.

You heard it. Get naked. That means if you want to change the relationship dance with your spouse, you have to be willing to do something different. That starts with getting real with your mate — even if it hurts. Even if you feel stripped naked.

What does that look like? How can we actually get naked? Here are a few ways:

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Be willing to confront

Nobody likes conflict, especially men, but conflict doesn’t have to be all bad if you learn to see it through a different lens — the lens of opportunity. Conflict can serve as a window into your spouse’s soul and a chance to see and understand their fears, hurt, and frustrations. Let’s face it: none of us are perfect, and if we go into conflict with the idea that maybe we can listen and learn something from our mate, it will change the way we relate.

Be willing to be vulnerable

When we’ve been hurt, it’s easy to check out, build walls, and close up shop. That’s the worst thing we can do to solve relationship problems. Try talking in the first person using “I” statements when communicating your feelings: “I felt upset and devalued the other day,” or “I’m feeling like I’m not a priority to you.” Those statements go a lot farther than “You always treat me badly,” and “You never take me out.”

Be willing to forgive

Forgiveness can be hard, especially if we’ve been wounded over and over. But forgiveness is a means of release for the one holding the debt — you! Do it for your own benefit. Start by making a decision to forgive, and then practice the virtues of empathy, love, sympathy, and compassion towards your spouse.

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Be willing to love in spite of your hurt

It’s easy to love people when they’re treating us great — no challenge there — but can you love someone when they’re grumpy, sour, or just plain annoying? You can if you chose to. Try a gentle tone, a kind word, or a gracious act of service. You’ll like yourself a whole lot better too.

Be willing to draw necessary boundaries

No one should be screamed at, belittled, or abused in any other way. Boundaries are necessary, especially if your mate does any of the above. Dr. John Townsend has written a great book called Boundaries in Marriage if you need a little help.

Be willing to admit your wrongs

Man up and be willing to say these nine little words that will change your relationship dance: I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me? Period. No “but this is why I did this,” or “but you did this so I did that.” Stick with the script and see what happens.

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Relationships aren’t always easy, but everything that’s worth anything comes with a price. If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired in your relationship, the only way things will change is if you do something different. If you wait for the other person to move first because you think that’s an indication of their love and commitment, don’t. They may not know what to do or how to start. Be the bigger person.

If your relationship is in serious trouble, seek help with a professional counselor. Then, the next time you go to buy a card for your mate, you may actually mean what it says inside.

Back at you: What challenges have you faced in your relationship that have kept you stuck, and what fears have held you back from getting naked?

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Rita Schulte LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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