Why letting go of control will transform your dating journey
Control can scupper our dating journey and our chances of forming healthy relationships. I know this from experience. So how can we start letting go of control and looking for love from a place of trust? Let’s begin by exploring how control can sabotage our love life, so that we have an incentive to loosen the reins a little bit.
When I dated from a place of control, I’d engage in the following behaviours, depending on the situation:
– Gripped by anxiety about not being good enough, I’d criticise and judge the way I looked and the words that came out of my mouth. I’d show up feeling nervous and I’d find it impossible to relax.
– Scared my date would find the real me unacceptable, I’d censor my authentic self and hide my truth. I’d only voice an opinion if I felt my date would welcome it and I’d only share the parts of myself that I deemed to be palatable.
– Scared I might miss out on love, I’d share too much of myself in an effort to create an immediate bond with my date and a feeling of intensity that neither of us would be able to walk away from (in other words, I’d take him hostage).
– Terrified that the date might actually evolve into a relationship and I’d then have to face my fear of emotional intimacy, I’d judge and criticise my date, pick holes in him, reject him or think of ways to change him so that he’d fit my image of an ideal partner.
Can you spot the common denominator in these four behaviours?
You got it: fear.
I tried to control the outcome because I was riddled with fear – fear of being rejected, abandoned and left alone, of being found lacking, of making a choice and making a mistake, of being truly seen, of committing to a relationship, of hurting and getting hurt, among many others.
Fear is a trait of codependency and control is a codependent or adaptive behaviour many of us developed in early life in order to feel safe.
Perhaps we felt the need to control outcomes because everything around us felt out of control. Maybe we became perfectionists because we felt that if we were perfect or did things perfectly, we would be safe. Perhaps we needed to control relationships because our childhood relationships had caused us pain.
This was the case for me.
I emerged into adult with a series of controlling behaviours: I tried to control my weight and how I looked. I tried to control my emotions – keep my feelings inside – so that the pain wouldn’t overwhelm me. I tried to control what other people thought of me by being perfect at work or by staying silent. And I tried to control my love life, by having rigid ideas about the man I wanted to be with and by either rejecting people who didn’t fit the mould or trying to change people into an acceptable shape.
Needless to say, all of these attempts to control backfired, because I was trying to control the uncontrollable. I was trying to stay safe and avoid taking risks.
But you don’t need me to tell you that life and love involve huge risks. And therein lies the beauty, therein lies the gift.
It took me until my forties to find the courage to let go of my controlling behaviours, to lean into God, to develop a sense of trust, to surrender my fixed ideas about the man I wanted to partner with, to open my heart to different possibilities and to embrace the inevitable roller coaster of life.
That is when I found healthy love.
What steps do you need to take to find and form a healthy and loving relationship?
I’d like to suggest that the next time you go on a date, you ask yourself the following questions:
– Am I trying to control the outcome? If the answer is No, that’s brilliant. Enjoy! If the answer is Yes or Maybe, continue to the next questions.
– Why am I trying to control the outcome? What are my fears? What are the roots of those fears?
– How am I trying to control the outcome? What controlling behaviours show up? Am I hiding my true self, censoring myself, criticising myself or finding fault with the other? Am I rejecting before I can be rejected? Am I contorting myself into a certain shape so that my date will like me?
– How can I lean into God, develop a greater sense of trust and let go of control? How can I feel enough, worthy, valuable and lovable as my authentic self? How can I hold on loosely to the outcome of this date, and of my life, rather than hold on tightly?
It takes huge courage to surrender but letting go of control brings immense freedom. Imagine going along to a date, holding everything loosely, feeling relaxed, inherently valuable and trusting that the outcome is in God’s hands, not yours.
What a gift.