Letting Go of Control: Building Stronger Relationships

Embracing the Unpredictable

If we’re honest, there are moments in our lives where we worry about losing someone or something dear to us. Fear of loss doesn’t discriminate based on age, circumstances, or reasoning. It’s a universal sentiment that we all try to avoid at all costs. However, the truth is that we rarely have the level of control we think we do. Even when we do lose something, our desire to retain control over people and circumstances intensifies. We humans have a tendency to remember our losses more than our gains.

Given this inclination, we might find ourselves seeking control as a way to minimize the uncomfortable possibility of loss. As adults, we often feel the need to control those around us, including our partners, family, friends, and coworkers. We fear losing them and the potential outcomes that could challenge our abilities and flexibility. The perceived safety and security of predictability outweigh the uncertain future. We prefer an unpleasant but predictable outcome over an unpredictable one.

However, when we try to exert too much control over others, we risk losing more than we gain. On the surface, it may seem plausible that pushing or forcing someone to take a certain action would increase the likelihood of compliance. While this may hold true in the short-term, the reality is that coerced or forced actions lack personal freedom. The other person can’t genuinely give themselves with mutuality, respect, trust, and love. When control and coercion are the primary means of motivation, we may find others naturally distancing themselves from us, even if their actions align with our demands.

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The Dilemma of Control

You might wonder, “Should I just let my spouse do whatever they want?” or “Should I allow my family members to ruin their lives?” It might seem unrealistic to suggest that kind words alone can inspire better decisions. If you find yourself hesitant about this approach, I understand. It’s daunting because it implies that if we desire genuine connection, harmony, and influence, control should not be our primary tactic. Otherwise, we risk bitterness, frustration, alienation, and indifference. Control tactics are never the best way to go, regardless of the magnitude of the issue.

To foster healthier relationships, we need to make a few necessary shifts. Firstly, we must acknowledge that our perspective and ideals aren’t the only valid ones. We must genuinely seek to empathize with others, even if their opinions make us uncomfortable. Secondly, if we want others to change, we must be open to changing ourselves as well. Thirdly, it’s crucial to be open to all forms of communication that can enhance understanding, cooperation, and resolution. Closed avenues limit not only our influence but also our growth.

Finally, it’s more beneficial to commit ourselves to virtuous practice than to cling to a desired outcome. I cringe at this suggestion because I often believe that one specific outcome holds the key to my happiness or success. However, when we fixate on a single outcome, we blind ourselves to other unexplored paths and unforeseen possibilities.

Beyond Borders: Love and Understanding

We often approach our relationships with the mindset of enemy countries. We guard our boundaries, respond harshly to harshness, and resort to defensive or offensive measures when we feel attacked. While wars may reshape borders and lives, this approach prioritizes force and control over love and understanding. I’m not advocating for an unrealistic, idealistic approach, but if we genuinely want fulfilling, lasting, and mutual bonds, we should consider that fortifying our positions will only maintain an artificial balance in the short term. In the long run, it will hinder genuine connection and eventual loss.

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In the end, we must ask ourselves what we truly want from our relationships and from each other. It’s understandable that those who have experienced loss or trauma may resort to control as a defense mechanism. However, relying on control as a primary tactic imposes a “ceiling” on all relationships. These relationships shaped by control and coercion will only go as far as control allows, limited by fear, envy, wrath, and other negative emotions that drive these decisions.

Furthermore, it’s not just our relationships that suffer when we seek excessive control. It’s also our personal growth and the growth of others that stagnates. By attempting to control those closest to us, we deny ourselves and others the opportunity to evolve. It’s heart-wrenching to witness people repeatedly making poor decisions without anyone left to positively influence them. Ironically, those who strive for control may end up losing the most and feeling perpetually alone.

Letting Go for a Better Tomorrow

The good news is that it’s never too late to approach our relationships with empathy, openness, respect, and humility. It’s never too late to take a leap of faith, relinquishing our desire for control and embracing a more loving and evolving approach. Often, the best things in life unfold when we release our attachment to what we think we must have and consider what we might be missing.

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