“He just be doin’ stupid stuff! None of it makes sense!”, she lamented.
Yeah…she was frustrated. How was I supposed to know that a simple, generic, non-invasive question like, “How are you and your boyfriend doing?” would trigger such an impassioned response. But after I asked it, she then began huffin’ an puffin’…sighin’ and lamentin’ about her fledgling relationship. “I feel like I always have to correct him…tell him what to do…and stuff”, she continued.
So I responded, “I see. You want him to think like you…make decisions like you…do things the way you do them…don’t you? Basically, you want to date yourself!”
“No I don’t!” she said laughing
“Yes you do.”
“No I don’t. I just wish he’d stop doing stupid stuff!”
The point I went on to make with this young woman was: men and women think differently. DUHHHH…right! Now I know this is not breaking news. But this study on men and women’s brains by the University of Pennsylvania is. And it explains a lot. See…the left hemisphere (side) of the brain controls logic and judgment, while the right side controls creativity and emotion. This study looked at the brain activity of 949 children, adolescents, and adults aged 8 to 22. They consistently found that males have more brain activity within each hemisphere…but females have more brain activity across each hemisphere (Khazan, 2013).
What this means is: when doing a task, men tend to engage one side of their brain (the left or the right) – a whole lot; while women zig-zag back and forth between the left and right sides – a whole lot. “This could mean, for example, that men tend to see issues and resolve them directly, due to the strong connections between the “perception” and “action” areas of their brains, while women might be more inclined to combine logic and intuition [emotion] when solving a problem” (Khazan, 2013).
Think about your last boyfriend/girlfriend before the current one (if you’re with someone). Now think about how you use to make a decision vs. how they use to make a decision. Were you going East and West while your mate was going North and South…or vice versa? Working with so many male/female issues, I clearly see the differences in how men and women make decisions and solve problems. Neither way is better than the other. But when one person sees her way as ‘right’ and his way as “stupid”, you end up:
- trying to control the other person,
- devaluing their preferences and perspectives, and
- exalting your perception of reality and truth as fact — and dismissing any alternative approach.
This is textbook control freak…right here. So…if you are in a controlling relationship — be it the controller or the controlled, here are three things you need to do to salvage it before it’s too late.
1. The Controller: Check Your Superior Attitude
Your attitude of always having to be right is killing your relationship. Stop being so selfish. You don’t have to be wrong…just let your mate be right sometimes too. It will make them feel valued and accepted.
2. The Controlled: Assert Yourself With a Few Simple Words
Assert yourself by stating your position with a few simple words (e.g., I don’t want to do that.) and let every action thereafter reinforce your position. Listen and be respectful. Repeat your position if necessary. But don’t cave. Don’t give in. To quote my colleague Christine St. Vil., No is a complete sentence.
3. Both: Create A Decision Strategy
Come up with an acceptable way to disagree and make decisions. I intentionally didn’t say ‘agree to disagree’; because ‘deciding to disagree’ is not a strategy for making a decision or solving a problem.
Create a simple non-bias way for how decisions will be made when there is an impasse…regardless of the issue. For example, on smaller issues where my wife and I are trying to decide between two different options, we rate…from 1 to 10…how much each of us wants to do A or B. We make our decision based on whose desire is greater (of course there must be trust in order for this to work). By the end of my conversation with the young woman, she got it! A week later she told me that she apologized to her boyfriend and pledged to stop trying to control him…and that she will let him have his way more often.
Have you been in a controlling relationship? Were you the controller or the controlled? Share what you did/doing to fix it.