Many people do not recognize the difference between accepting influences from their partner and being controlled. Because of that, it is easy to miss the warning signs and suddenly find yourself trapped in an unhealthy and manipulative relationship.

If you were to conjure up an image of an abusive relationship in your head, it would probably involve physical harm—bruises, scars, and the like. While these are more obvious red flags for a toxic relationship, a lot of emotional and mental abuse can go on behind closed doors. This type of abuse is hard for outsiders, and sometimes even the victim, to identify, which is why in-person and online therapy for couples continues to be important. With the help of a trained professional, you and your partner can learn to spot controlling habits, improve communication, and treat each other with more care and respect.

What Does it Mean to Accept Influence?

Accepting influence means that you welcome and respect your partner’s thoughts, ideas, and feelings, and in doing so, you use them to help you make decisions that impact you and your relationship. By welcoming the blind trust, you open yourself to being vulnerable to influence. It is important to note, however, that unhealthy influence is different from control and abuse.

Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Influence

Since influence in a relationship is inevitable, you need to learn to identify which types of influence are healthy and which aren’t. When you work with a therapist, he or she can help you identify examples of a healthy relationship where couples accept each other’s influence. The following lists can help you identify some examples that might exist within your own relationship:

Examples of Healthy Influence:

  • Your partner encourages you to take care of your health.
  • You and your partner pursue fitness goals together.
  • Your partner supports your goals.
  • Your partner encourages you to pursue what makes you passionate.

Examples of Unhealthy Influence:

  • Your partner encourages smoking, drugs, and drinking.
  • Your partner forces you to lose weight or diet.
  • Your partner facilitates weight gain.  
  • Your partner tracks and berates all your financial and social movements, integrating themselves into every relationship around you.

Signs of A Controlling Relationship

Your partner’s influence turns into a controlling one when he or she starts to manipulate you for his or her gain. Although the intentions of these actions are not always to harm you, the manipulation can have a damaging effect on your mental and emotional health. When you suspect that your relationship is unhealthy, you should ask yourself the following questions:  

  1. Does he or she decide how YOU spend YOUR time?
  2. Does he or she micromanage with rules and expectations?
  3. Does he or she isolate you from others?
  4. Does he or she set the terms for your life as a couple?
  5. Does he or she define you and tell you how you feel?

If you answered yes to even one of those questions, that could be a sign that your partner is controlling, and you both should discuss seeking help from a professional therapist.

Dangers of Not Seeking Help

The longer you ignore controlling behavior or other signs that point to you and your spouse needing to see a counselor, the harder it becomes to find a resolution. If your partner refuses to work on communicating their needs without manipulation, you could find yourself sliding down a slippery slope towards a dangerous, abusive relationship.

Want to learn more about how you can benefit from meeting with a Little Rock couples counseling therapist? If so, contact us at Arkansas Relationship Counseling Center to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation by calling (501) 222-3463 today.

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