Control seems to be a common theme and dare I say goal among all the officers I work with and a common complaint among those married to them. It translates to my own relationship as well as my friends who are in the field. So, let’s look at control and how the positive attribute/ability for one partner hurts the other partner so greatly.
Control from an officer stand point is key. Controlling emotions. Controlling a crowd. Controlling a scene. Controlling breath to be able to hit a target when God forbid it is necessary. Without control, an officer has chaos. Chaos equals danger. Thus, control is BLISS! Control is safety. Control means coming home to the person or people I love. Control means going to family functions, events, and vacation! Control is not just necessary but life sustaining.
You have a partner who may have to control aspects of their life but it’s not life sustaining. Yeah, maybe it is nice to be on task and on schedule. Control helps to manage the kids so they aren’t injured or going bananas. The partner may even have a job in which they need to control their environment. An ER doctor or nurse needs to control the chaos but it is more about management than control. I dare say that most of us that are not in the field manage situations as opposed to having control.
Those worlds collide when the officer who has HAD to have control to stay alive comes home and is still in that mindset. The control comes out in comments like, “This house is a disaster!” or “I never know what’s going on around here!”. The LEO is usually coming from a place of “out of control” and feels uncomfortable in the situation. The spouse on the other hand more, commonly, will hear the comment and interpret it as criticism and react.
An example I love to use is something that happened in my world. I have a typical doctor like office with a waiting room and a door that you must pass through to get to the therapy rooms. My business partner and I were not the most diligent at locking the pass through door and we commonly left our phones in the hallway area to check them in between session. Well, you already know where this is going don’t you! My new (and first!) iphone was taken in between sessions by a friend of a client who knew our routine. He saw an opportunity and took it. I felt STUPID! I knew better. HELLO! DUH! Of course, I told my husband and his first response wasn’t “Oh honey, I’m so sorry, that sucks” it was “Why didn’t you lock the **bleeped **bleep** door! What were you thinking!”. Needless to say, that just made me feel more like crap and not exactly loving toward him in those moments.
What happened? (I mean besides the fact that I now lock the door so no one can come back.) He had a moment in which he had no control.
His interpretation and thoughts were “OMG! If someone could have come back to steal her phone, someone could have raped her or shot her! I have no control in her world!” This resulted in his comment and feelings of frustration, anger, and fear. It also resulted in him wanting to put additional locks on my doors, a bell on the front door when people come into through the main door, and conduct a security assessment of the whole building. It was his way of having some type of control in a situation in which he had none. It left me feeling like “the general public” and that he didn’t trust me to take care of myself. My common phrase is, “I lived on my own for 13 years before I met you and did just fine!”
I have had spouses who have felt that their LEO was too controlling, needing to know where they are going to be, when they are going to be home, and then getting phone calls and texts when they are not communicating while they are gone and/or if they are late. I have had couples fight in session over what the LEO saw was “smart behavior” and the spouse saw as controlling.
These controlling behaviors that give the LEO a feeling of safety and security can feel stifling to the partner, causing not only distance in the relationship but leading to resentment and very toxic feelings in the relationship. The continued behavior will break down the relationship!
What can you do?
Have a Understanding on both sides.
You might think that the solution is the LEO partner understanding that what feels like control is a form of love. Not entirely! While that is helpful, it is ENABLING! Both parties need to keep in mind what the other may be experiencing.
Talk about it…
While you may not prevent the initial reaction, it is important for both of you to talk about how it felt. Talk in a productive way about YOUR OWN experience in the situation. Such as: “It scares me when you are driving home late at night and I worry about you. It makes me not as crazy if you check in every 15 minutes” or “When you ask me to check in every 15 minutes, I start to feel angry and resentful. It makes me think you believe I’m not trustworthy”. Try to understand each other’s thoughts and feelings about the situation. DO NOT FIX IT OR APOLOGIZE. It’s more effective to say, “I can understand why you might feel or think that”.
If you feel yourself wanting to control something or being controlled, get curious about your own thoughts and feelings first. Is this something I really need to control? Why am I reacting this way? You can also get curious about your partner. If my husband had a dollar for every time I said, “I’m confused”, he’d be rich. It’s used like this, “I’m confused hon. You know sometimes I have clients that have a crisis and make me run late, yet you’re upset because I’m running late getting home. What’s going on?” I sometimes call this my dumb blonde routine because I say it in a very light and confused state of mind… Apology to all the blondes in the world. For you guys out there it might look like this, “Ok, I’m lost… help me understand….”
Extend a Positive Belief
Control can often come up because of fears and anxieties. If you are struggling with wanting to control, extend a positive belief about the situation and continue to focus on that belief. This will prevent you from taking control or reacting negatively in a situation in which there is no need. Let’s use the running late example again. If my husband was to give in to the anxiety and fear and want to try to have control over the situation he might call or text me over and over again until I pick up or drive up to my office to find out what the heck is going on. That might not work out so well for him though. He could instead extend the positive belief that I often run late because of clients and I usually try to let him know I’m behind. In extending that belief, I, his wife, feel trusted and loved instead of resentful and controlled.
It would be unprofessional of me not to note that there is a tie to domestic violence and LEO relationships. There is a line where control becomes unhealthy, obsessive behavior but we will save that for another time. If you feel that you are in an unhealthy relationship that involves control, please seek professional help or call the domestic violence association in your area to determine if you are in an abusive relationship.