Is Sharing Control a Deal-Breaker?

Q: I have been in a 5-year relationship that has gone badly over the past year. I believe the problem is a power and control issue my now ex-fiancé has with me. She has moved herself and her kids out of our (my) house after a year of living together. Her actions speak loudly to the fact that she can't share control very well. How do I salvage what's left of this relationship to create a partnership if she would just relax the need for being in control? I don't know how to get through to her as she now has to defend her decision to move out of my house, and any admission she makes that she was wrong means she is not in control. — Brian, 53

Dr. Susan: Wait just a minute. Power and control ought to be comfortably shared by both parties to an intimate relationship. If, after so many years of dating, and only one year of living together, your ex-fiancé took her kids and left, I would be very careful about saying she was "wrong." It could be that there were all kinds of issues you weren't aware of, such as stepfather-type issues, or discomfort on her part over this being YOUR house.

You still love and want to marry her? Ask her what happened. See if she's at all willing to see a therapist with you to talk about those things you weren't able to discuss fully during the past year. In my experience, it's not typically only one party who wants to exert control, but a couple dynamic that's not working. You may not be able to "get through to her" if she's lost that loving feeling, or, indeed, if she's not comfortable sharing control.

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