Couple yelling at each other across a desk

Dominant partner? Here’s what you can do

Have you ever dated someone dominant? A lack of freedom doesn’t make a happy relationship, says research. Read on to find out what you can do when you have no control.

Controlling partner

Your best friend is in a relationship with a guy you can’t stand. It’s not that he’s a bad person altogether but you hate the way he treats her. He’s always telling your friend what to do and when to do it. Though she won’t admit it, he’s making her life pretty miserable.

It’s clear to you that there is something wrong in their relationship because of her boyfriend’s controlling ways. Is she satisfied with her relationship?

A group of Canadian researchers (who perhaps had friends of their own with controlling partners), decided to look at the link between having a domineering boyfriend or girlfriend and relationship satisfaction.

Tracking emotions and behaviours

The researchers tracked down 92 heterosexual couples who lived together. For twenty days, each partner filled in a diary entry. They told the researchers if they’d behaved in a domineering way that day, say by giving their partner a task to do, and how autonomous they felt.

Basically, that means whether they felt they were free to do what they wanted or were being controlled by internal or external pressure (read: their partner). The participants were also asked about their emotions each day. At the end of the study, they had to share how happy they were in their relationship.

Having a controlling partner can have a definite impact on how you feel, the researchers learned. On days when their partner told them what they should do or how they should act, participants were upset. This was true for both guys and gals.

Related: How to establish boundaries in a relationship

Lack of freedom

The reason? A lack of freedom. All of us need to feel that we have the freedom to make our own decisions and control our behaviour. When that’s taken away from us by a romantic partner, it can feel pretty unpleasant.

The findings did not come as a surprise. The participants with domineering partners were more likely to say that overall they weren’t happy in their relationship.

What’s the take-home message from this study?

Try to share the power with your partner. Couples who feel things are equal tend to be happier together, research has shown.

And when it comes to your best friend, it might not hurt to gently point out that she has a lot to gain from putting her partner in his place.

Reference: Sadikaj, G., Moskowitz, D.S. & Zuroff, D.C. (2017). Negative affective reaction to partner’s dominant behaviour influences satisfaction with romantic relationship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 

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