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. Though she won’t admit it, he’s making her life pretty miserable.
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.
Lack of freedom
The reason? A lack of freedom. All of us need to feel we have the freedom to make our own decisions and control our behaviour. When that’s taken away from us – that too 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 girlfriend or boyfriend. 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: Negative affective reaction to partner’s dominant behavior influences satisfaction with romantic relationship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 2017.
*Persons in the picture are models.