Q: I’ve been dating my boyfriend for almost two years. He’s a great guy when we’re around other people. But when we’re by ourselves he can be very controlling. He gets upset if he doesn’t get his way or if I don’t do as he wishes. My parents tell me to stand up for myself, but that just seems to make things worse. I really love this man. How can I help him be less controlling?
A: How can you help your boyfriend become less controlling? Unfortunately, you can’t. While our behaviour can impact and influence others, only he can decide to change his behaviour.
So what should you do? You mentioned your parents have encouraged you to “stand up for yourself,” and that may be good advice – depending on what it means. It doesn’t mean you can go toe-to-toe with your boyfriend as if you were confronting the class bully. That approach will get you nowhere. What’s needed, rather, is for you to develop and demonstrate some self-respect. The fact that you’ve put up with this behaviour for two years suggests that you could benefit from the support of a wise professional counsellor. Don’t hesitate to call our Family Support Services at 03-7954 7920 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org for a referral.
Standing up for yourself also means establishing some very clear boundaries with your boyfriend. If you do decide to try and continue on in a relationship – a question we’d encourage you to give serious thought to – you should insist that he get ongoing individual counselling for his anger and control issues. These behaviours are enormous red flags. If he’s serious about his love and concern for you, he’ll get the help he needs. Otherwise, you’re better off without him – doing the work you need to get healthy.
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