what's a healthy amount of independence in a relationship?

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-18-2011
what's a healthy amount of independence in a relationship?
7
Sat, 05-21-2011 - 8:47pm

I met my boyfriend when I was 31. So, as you can imagine, I was already a fairly independent woman by then. Three years into this relationship, I've noticed that gradually he's become more and more controlling. I told him recently that if he was this way when I first met him, there wouldn't have been another date. I feel like I need to break up with him, but it's hard to break up with someone after three years. He either denies it or laughs concedingly when I call him out on his controlling tendencies. He doesn't think he's that bad, but he IS. I'm scared that as he gets older he will get senile given how bizarre he acts sometimes. I don't always "comply" with him, but sometimes his tantrums are so aversive that I just give in or don't do something the way I want to just to avoid a clash with him. He even says that he thinks he has more control about certain things in the relationship. These are some (but by no means all) situations that he will get bossy to the point of being nasty about sometimes:

1. If I don't have to go anywhere for the day, he will criticize me for taking a shower. I want at least one shower over the weekend, but he will ever so logically say it's a waste of water especially if we're not going anywhere. I can't believe that sometimes I actually have to tell him that I need a shower because it's that time of the month. WTF I shouldn't have to be saying things like that. I shouldn't be discussion showers with him. period. (unless he's taking one with me and that rarely happens)

2. I can't just say I'm going out to run errands. It's like I have to run everything by him first. I would LOVE it if life could be the way it was when we were just dating. I'd say I'll be out running errands and he would never push to know every detail. That's how it should be - I have the right to go out independently and shop, see friends, whatever without having to tell him details of why I'm leaving the house. RIGHT? This is just too much. His domineering style drives me batty. He will pick apart my list of things I say I'm going to do, and basically try to sabotage my outing. HIs negativity is usually such a mood killer that by the end of it I don't even FEEL like going anywhere.

3. When we go to a restaurant we usually split a couple of dishes because that's appropriate with this particular cuisine that we eat... He'll ask me what I want and end up veto-ing it by pushing for his approval or what have you. I RARELY get to pick one. When he first started acting this way, I really didn't care.. so, I was accommodating. Then he got used to getting his way. Now when I say hey no I really want this one, he will roll his eyes and say I'm stubborn. Why does our date have to turn sour like this! It shouldn't. This behavior of his is unfair. I don't deserve to be called "stubborn" and given a dirty look just because once out of 10 times I'm very assertive about wanting a particular dish. He's not only stubborn, he's controlling.

4. He criticizes my friends. If I plan to go out for lunch, dinner or waht have you with a friend, he'll have to say something negative about that person and that I'm wasting my time with them. His pessimistic attitude about people has become really toxic to me.

5. He loves playing chess and a couple different card games. It's kind of annoying because he'll go through phases where he wants to play it multiple times per day. It's fun, I usually like to play a few times every couple weeks or so, but if I'm not in the mood, I'm not in the mood. He'll sweetly ask if I want to play. Sure he sounds nice, but if I say, "Nah, I don't feel like it" he should just drop it. But he doesn't. He'll get snappy with me as if I don't ever play with him, but I do. The other day I said no and walked out of the room before he could start his manipulating. That seemed to work well. His demanding nature makes it a chore to even play a game with him because in my mind sometimes I'm thinking I'll just play to placate him and be done with it. Sounds like sex...

6. Actually, same problem with sex, too. I usually get rejected when I initiate to the point that when he finally initiates, he'd already been withholding it for so long that I of course want it. So, I feel like he controls our sex life too. Any time he rejects me, I am totally cool with that...seriously who wants to force their boyfriend. On the other hand, if I say no to him, he gets pushy by keep trying, and even sometimes say immature things like "fine" and then later he'll intentionally punish me by withholding something. The one time I called him out on that childish behavior, he denied that he does this but it's so obvious. I don't need him to admit it to me because the writing's on the wall.

Okay there are more situations, but this is enough to list. Am I expecting to be too independent? What's a healthy amound of independence in a relationship?

I feel smothered. I don't like being micromanaged.

Anytime I do what I want to do, if he feels strongly against it, he gets nasty with me and tells me I'm too stubborn. I tell him that we shouldn't even be having this discussion because there is a certain degree of social distance/space between us that he shouldn't try to impose on me.

I'm upset today thinking about the implications of how controlling he is (and how it's gotten worse and worse over time). It makes me so sad because I was hoping he'd see the light and stop his controlling behavior but that's not going to happen I can finally admit to myself. I need more harmony between myself and a man in my life. I know I will not marry him because of his controlling/criticizing behavior. There is no way I see myself having children with a man like this...I imagine that he'd make me feel like a horrible mother or something and control them too.

You might wonder why in the world I'm with him. Well, he's pretty awesome about 85% of the time! That 15% is severely toxic though.

Has anyone here been in a relationship like this and made the choice to leave (and didn't regret it)? I need to get to a place in my mind and heart where I know I'm making the right decision to leave him over this. Should I first start going against everything and doing exactly what I want so that I can (make myself happy and ) see if he gets used to me NOT letting him control me? Or should I just throw in the towel?

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-25-2010
Good for you dd_rose! Take your own personal power back and give him the heave-ho! Everything you listed about things you want to do are normal things people do in healthy happy relationships. If you stay wth him and marry him, his controlling behavior will only get worse! You are on the right road and don't let him throw you off course.

Good luck and best wishes on taking your life back. :)
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-14-2001

I'm glad you're planning to leave and I understand wanting to stand strong in front of him.


~ cl-2nd_life

cl-2nd_
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-18-2011

Oh, one more thing, I will definitely pick up that book. Thanks for all of the feedback you all gave me!!!!! It's greatly appreciated!

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-18-2011

For the longest time, in my mind I felt totally in control of myself and that I was choosing to give him his way (which yes obviously I did choose to)... I really didn't think it was a problem because at any time I could just say no. No biggie.

Additionally, I figured that if I picked on him about something to sway him, he'd probably do it my way, too. Well, then I realized that I never care enough to pick on him about anything. I started to wonder, wait a minute is he actually controlling me and I just thought I was choosing (don't get semantical about that word--obviously I can still choose & get out of this relationship)?!

So I did several little experiments ...I randomly "had an issue" with something he was doing and basically tried to treat him how he treats me in various circumstances to get him to not do it. I'm sure you can guess what the outcome was. I wasn't going to even remotely sway him from whatever it was. That was when I fully realized that he wasn't viewing me as someone who had any kind of power to do any simple thing I want nor would he respect my feelings about things he does if I don't want him to. My whole perception changed when I realized how he actually viewed me! And here I thought I was just being nice to give him his way, and that I had tons of self reliance to choose whatever I wanted. It really is a form of brainwashing that his control turned into. So, yeah that light bulb moment was when I realized I didn't try to control him, but when I did, ha--yeah right!

Yes, I want to get married one day and maybe have children. I'm wasting my time with him, as much as I care for him. This relationship isn't going to suddenly become equal. I have to tell you the truth though about how I'll handle it. I'm going to start doing everything I want to do AND picking on him about things he does. I'm definitely getting my control back (in his eyes) as I plan to leave. If he says I'm stubborn, I'll just say, "You're exactly right! If you don't respect my autonomy, then you can leave!"

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-14-2001

Welcome to the board, Dd.rose ~

You should be able to maintain as much independence as you want in a relationship, but honestly, what you're describing isn't independence, it's personal preference and he's not accepting or respecting yours.


~ cl-2nd_life

cl-2nd_
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999

I don't think you should waste any more time w/ this guy--he tells you what to eat, when to shower, when to have sex, he doesn't like your friends--I really can't believe he's nice 85% of the time.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-06-2007

It seems to me the things you'd like to do with or without him seem like very normal human stuff.