Why Men Think Women Want Control

Myth: Women want to control men.
Truth: Women want to contribute, improve and be included.

"Women just want to control men until we follow them around like little puppy dogs."

"Women can't just leave a situation alone -- they have to pick at it until we do what they want us to do."

"Women always have to have things their way, or they get upset."

"Women want to make men into wimps."

This is one of men's favorite complaints about women, and one that women hate the most -- that we are controlling and manipulative, and all our efforts to work on the relationship or communicate our needs are thinly veiled attempts to control the man in our life. This myth about women is one of the more difficult to dispel.

Here's what happens: Men see women trying to contribute or get organized or plan or problem-solve, and misinterpret it as our attempt to control them.

Remember -- a woman's intention is usually not to control. Rather, it's to offer whatever she can, out of love, to you or to the relationship, whether it's in the form of organization, ideas, suggestions, alternatives and so forth. When a man dismisses her offering as an attempt to dominate or control him, he's pushing away her love in one of its most fundamental expressions.

What do men get out of believing this myth?

  • Men get to hid the truth of how they're feeling or how they're doing.

Jack is having a difficult time in his new job. It's a much more pressured environment than at his previous company, and even after a few weeks, he still doesn't feel as if he fits in. Each night, he arrives home from work exhausted and depressed, but when his wife, Ellen, asks him what's wrong, he doesn't really give her details or share what's happening. Instead, he just mumbles something about having had a hard day at the office.

Ellen has known Jack since they were teenagers, so she's completely aware of how stressed he is since he began working in his new position. As the weeks pass, she waits for Jack to open up and tell her more about his situation but her inquiries are only met with silence. Finally, she can't take it anymore, and one night after dinner, she broaches the subject:

"Jack, I know you're having a hard time with the new job, and I've been thinking of some things that might help. My cousin Bill works in a big company with a similar corporate structure, and I remember when he first started it was hell for him. Maybe if you called and spoke to Bill you'd feel supported and calmer about the way things have been going. I was also thinking that if I took over driving the boys to soccer practice on the weekends, you'd have more time to work at home."

Ellen's heart is hurting for her husband, and all she wants to do is help make things better, so she is surprised at his response:

"Jeez, Ellen, can't you just leave things alone?" Jack says angrily. "Do you have to be in charge of everything, including how I do my job? You want to control my every move, don't you?"

What's happening here? Jack is misinterpreting Ellen's desire to contribute something valuable to his situation and to be included in his process as an attempt to control him.

  • Men get to feel like they're accomplishing things on their own.

One of the most common complaints I receive from women about men is that too often they leave their partner out of the decision-making process. "When he makes a decision and doesn't mention it until it's done, I feel discounted, like I'm the camper, and he's the counselor," one woman said to me. Since women hate feeling this way, we make an effort to include ourselves in what's going on with the man we love -- we ask the questions, we offer advice. The problem occurs when a man misinterprets our interest and input as an attempt to interfere or control him.

Women want to feel like a team with their partner. You're going to read this over and over again throughout the book, because it's one of our biggest needs and issues. So when we inquire about what's going on with our mate, or offer our input, it's not because we want to control him, but because we want to be involved. We don't need to make the final decision all the time, but we would like to be in the loop.

Unfortunately, a woman's need to be included directly clashes with the need some men have to "do it alone." It's as if men believe that receiving help or advice makes them less powerful. So men conveniently dismiss their partner's offer of help by blaming her for being controlling, and then they get to do it alone and feel autonomous.

The Truth
Guys, please know that most of us women have love at the top of our agenda, not control. If we see you hurting, we want to make it better. If we see you struggling with a problem, we want to help you find a solution. If we see you not taking care of yourself, we want to offer our compassion and caring. If we see you feeling overwhelmed with worry, we want to be included so you know you're not alone. Why do we do all of this? Not because we want to control you, but because we love you!

Should you even try to change a man? Share your opinion now!

Excerpted from What Women Want Men to Know: The Ultimate Book About Love, Sex and Relationships for You -- and the Man You Love © 2001 Barbara DeAngelis Ph.D. with permission from Hyperion

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