Is My Partner Controlling Me?

Control. The loaded word that nearly every relationship has found sprinkled into an argument. While each relationship has different roles, norms, and ways of interacting; it’s sometimes hard to know if your partner is controlling or dominating you or if they “just have strong personalities” or “are just particular or opinionated” or “are often hotheaded and I don’t understand why.” It’s incredibly important to be able to identify between these elements and for each partner to feel valued, respected, and heard. 

Here are some red flags to help you determine if you maybe are being controlled or dominated in your relationship:

  1. My partner acts superior to me
  2. I can’t do anything without asking permission from my partner
  3. My partner is in charge of all of the money at all times
  4. My partner makes comments about how I dress until I change into something they approve of
  5. My partner works to dictate who I talk to throughout the day and becomes upset if I talk to someone they were unaware of
  6. My partner gets angry quickly and blames me for the anger
  7. My partner uses sarcasm often to communicate criticism of what I do, look, or decisions I’ve made
  8. My partner dominates and calls the shots for sexual experiences 

If you or someone you know is in a relationship where they feel controlled and dominated, reach out to speak to a professional to understand boundaries and communication methods that can be used to work toward a mutually satisfying relationship. 

VoyageDallas: Most Inspiring Stories In Dallas

We are honored that VoyageDallas Magazine would choose us as one of their most inspiring stories in Dallas. It is our fervent desire to provide professional care at affordable rates to everyone in the DFW area.

A big thank you to VoyageDallas for helping us get the word out as we continue to grow and provide affordable mental health care for those in need. Check out the article here: VoyageDallas The Most Inspiring Stories in Dallas.

Healing from Codependency

Once you’ve determined you struggle with codependency and have learned about the patterns it’s time to work towards healing. There is hope. Please do not settle for being codependent forever. There are things you can do to change these patterns and live a healthy life. 

1.     Determine the mode of your codependency- pay attention to your own thoughts, emotions, and actions.

         a.     Save the world - you must be all things to all people and you think you have what it takes.

          b.    Unable to save the world - you desperately want to fix all the wrong in the world but you think you will never be able to make a positive influence.


2.     Detach from your surroundings - because you are easily manipulated and also manipulate others, it is worth taking some time to detach from your everyday to think through things and answer some hard questions. Expect conflict whenever you start to detach; this disrupts the normal cycle you are a part of. 

Ask questions like:

1.     Why did he/she say/do that?

2.     What did he/she mean to say/do?

3.     How did I feel about it?

4.     Am I letting his/her actions control me? 

5.     Why do I feel _________? 

6.     Am I rescuing? 


3.     Start making independent choices - this will take time, but the more you can focus on your own thoughts and emotions the easier it will become. Try to do things because you want to, not because you have to while you figure it out. Take time to think before you respond to people who ask for your help. 


4.     Live by these words:

1.     I am not responsible for his/her happiness

2.     I am not responsible for fixing his/her problem

3.     It is good for him/her to be responsible for themselves

4.     I have the choice to say “yes” or “no”

5.     I can make my own decisions 

Characteristics of Codependency

1.     Distorted Reality - A codependent person is often blind to the ways they are being manipulated. Sometimes codependent people even fear reality so they hold on to habits within a relationship, to stay disconnected from reality.

2.     Incorrect Beliefs about Responsibility - Codependent people often struggle with how much to give or receive in a relationship. They assume it is their responsibility to make others happy which can also cause them to think others are responsible for making them happy as well. Since you can only truly be responsible for yourself, this type of relationship does not work. Trying to be responsible for someone other than yourself:

a.     Keeps others from taking responsibility for themselves

b.     Keeps you from being responsible for yourself

c.     Creates resentment for being the responsible one all the time

d.     Leads to taking yourself too seriously

3.     Being Manipulated - Being fueled by guilt and shame the codependent is controlled by the “have to” mentality. They often think that if they aren’t able to help someone enough they could potentially lose love and acceptance from that person. They are also greatly influenced by other’s opinions and want to be who everyone else wants them to be. Others aren’t the only ones that manipulate the codependent. The codependent manipulates themselves as well. Their need for perfection keeps them going in order to avoid failure. They often have two speeds: all or nothing.

4.     Manipulating Others - Their desire for perfection often seeps onto others. A codependent person wants to “fix” people that don’t necessarily want to be “fixed”. Through using praise, sarcasm, withdrawal, and other passive aggressive tactics, codependents will figure out a way to get the perfection (or at least the appearance of perfection) they crave.

5.     Hurt and Anger - While everyone feels these emotions, hurt and anger may be more common for a codependent person because their inability to say “no”. They expect everyone to know the great lengths they are going to to help people and desire an equal amount of praise and recognition in return. When most people would put up a boundary, the codependent continues to say “yes”, and then blames the people they are caring for, for their inability to say “no”.

6.     Guilt - The codependent’s guilt is actually 1. false guilt because they haven’t actually done anything wrong, or 2. shame because it’s more about their identity than their actions. The codependent will describe the emotion as guilt. The codependent feels guilty about everything; what they did, what they didn’t do, what they should have done. The feeling rarely goes away, which keeps them fueled to take care of others but is way more of an obligation than a desire.

7.     Misplaced Identity -  The codependent rarely knows it, but being codependent is their identity. They may describe it as being selfless, or a caretaker, but they often don’t know who they are without this trait.

Using Drugs to Avoid Pain

For years, doctors have been trying to understand why some people get addicted to drugs and others aren’t phased by them.  While there are many contributing factors to this phenomenon, the most common denominator in using drugs comes from a need to avoid some sort of pain.  This can be a painful experience, memory, emotion, or event.  In essence, drugs used to self-medicate a chronic ache or pain.  While the temporary relief of pain can help, it’s no secret that you will still wake up in the morning in the same situation.  The longer you run from your problems, the worse they will get and often the use of drugs creates new problems even worse than the problems you were running from to begin with. 

While we know it’s not simple to quit a habit, there are a few next steps to take.  The first step is to acknowledge that the drug you are using is aiding you in avoiding your pain.  The second is to confide in someone you trust and let them know where you are at.  Thirdly, get some help.  This could look like going to a counselor, checking yourself into a detox center, or somewhere in between.  The time to get help is now as we know avoiding pain only heightens it in the long run. 


Battling Anxiety

Fighting anxiety is no simple battle. Here are some helpful tips start to gain some ground back. 

Define Anxiety Triggers

Start by making a list of all your fears, big or small. What are you most fearful of? What do you worry most about? What seems to increase your anxiety most? Try to come up with situations or experiences that seem to increase your anxiety. Are there certain thoughts you think right before your anxiety sky rockets? When you can predict the onset of anxiety it will no longer be able to catch you by surprise. Have a plan for how you are going to handle the situations that seem to increase your anxiety. This could mean bringing a friend along to a party, having an exit plan for an awkward situation, practicing grounding before you go into work, or simply teaching yourself to think differently about an experience before you encounter it. 

Replace Irrational Thoughts

Once you know a little more about what increases your anxiety, and the lies you believe while you’re anxious, you can start to replace those thoughts. It might be helpful to make a chart. One side with all of the lies you have been believing and the other with the truth you’ve chosen to replace that thought with. The next step is probably the most difficult. Next you have to chose to tell yourself the truth when you are tempted to believe the lie. This will probably take the support of people around you. Let others in on the lies you are trying to replace so they can help. This process actually rewires your brain, so it will take time. If you’re having trouble making this change it may be easier to start off with giving yourself a set amount of time to worry. Set a timer and allow yourself to worry for 10 minutes. Once the 10 minutes is up tell yourself you’re not allowed to worry until tomorrow during the 10 minute slot. Slowly decrease the time you’re allowed to worry until you get to the point where you can start adding in truth.

Practical Changes

There are some practical things you can do to manage anxiety as well. Not getting enough sleep while you’re dealing with anxiety only makes the problem worse. Your body needs time to reload on dopamine in order to get through the next day. If getting enough sleep is difficult it may be necessary to look into sleep medication, or something more natural like melatonin. Exercise can also help fight anxiety. The natural endorphins that are produced while exercising are useful to your body while dealing with anxiety. Eating healthy is also important. Try adding yogurt, fish oil, and vitamin B and D to your diet for a natural approach to fighting anxiety. The last practical change you can make is to create time to connect with others. Simply sharing the thoughts running through your head with another person moves those anxious thoughts into reality where you can actually deal with them. We were made for connection and we suffer when we don’t have it. 

Top 12 Fears

If you read my latest blog post, you read about the importance of knowing your fears, facing them, and working though them. Below are the top 12 fears that most people experience. Take a look and ask yourself- Are you living and making decisions to avoid one of these fears? 

1. Fear Of Failure

This type of fear has its roots in the misconception that everything you do has to be 100% successful.

2. Fear Of Success

This type of fear is based on the idea that success is likely to mean more responsibility and attention, coupled with pressure to continue to perform at a high level.

3. Fear Of Being Judged

This type of fear comes from the need for approval that most people develop in childhood.

4. Fear Of Emotional Pain

This type of fear is rooted in wanting to avoid potential negative consequences of your actions.

5. Fear Of Embarrassment

This type of fear is a result of empowering others to judge you when you demonstrate that you’re only human by making mistakes and having lapses of judgment.

6. Fear Of Being Abandoned Or Being Alone

This type of fear is related to rejection and low self-esteem.

7. Fear Of Rejection

This type of fear comes from personalizing what others do and say.

8. Fear Of Expressing Your True Feelings

This type of fear holds you back from engaging in open, honest dialogue with the people in your life.

9. Fear Of Intimacy

This type of fear manifests itself by an unwillingness to let others get too close, less they discover the “real you.”

10. Fear Of The Unknown

This type of fear manifests itself as needless worry about all of the bad things that could happen if you decide to make a change in your life.

11. Fear Of Loss

This type of fear is related to the potential pain associated with no longer having something or someone of emotional significance to you.

12. Fear Of Death

The ultimate fear of the unknown. What will happen once our spirits leave our bodies?

Emotions 101

In my opinion there should be a required class in elementary school about how emotions work. I have sat in the counseling room with too many people who were never given the opportunity to learn about their emotions. We assume these things are learned in the home, but if people who have never learned about their emotions are supposed to be teaching younger people about their emotions - we have a problem. Emotions are confusing and if we aren’t given the skills to process them they are even more confusing.

Whether you’re naturally an emotional person or a stoic person I would guess that you believe that there are “good” emotions and “bad” emotions. We may experience emotions this way, but good and bad emotions don't actually exist. Some emotions are definitely more pleasant to experience than others, but all emotions give us information we need to know about what is going on around us. Emotions were given to us so that we can connect with our family, friends, coworkers, and other people we come into contact with each day. Emotions help us make note of things we want to change in our lives for the better. If we close ourselves off to emotions we often close ourselves off to being known by others which is one of the best ways to experience healing from past hurts.

It’s helpful to think about our emotions like we do our five senses. We don’t usually say that the ability to smell is a negative sense. We may wish we didn’t have the ability to smell when there is a dirty diaper in the room or the trash hasn’t been taken out in a week, but we still acknowledge our sense of smell and allow ourselves to continue to smell. If we ignored our sense of smell we would be missing out on important information that we need in order to interact with the world around us. If we decided to simply stop responding to things that we smell, taste, touch, hear, or see we would be in for trouble. You would walk into traffic, ignore your crying baby, or eat something past its expiration date. Same goes for emotions. There is a saying we have in the counseling world that goes, “Emotions buried alive never die” meaning if we store up our anger, sadness, guilt, shame, etc. we will still experience the repercussions of those emotions. The energy that exists with that emotion is still with us. A lot of times unexpressed emotions come out through depression, anxiety, headaches, stomachaches, or other illnesses. Next time you feel tightness in your shoulders or sense a headache coming on, stop and think about what emotions you have experienced that day. More often than not, there will be an emotion you have been trying to ignore stored up inside of you. I’m not saying every stomach bug comes from an emotion that you’ve suppressed, but our body, soul, and spirit, are connected and all impact the other.

We tend to think we can control our emotions. But, because we are humans we are going to have emotional reactions to our surroundings. Instead we should focus on controlling the thoughts we let consume our minds. If we are telling ourselves the truth (even if it’s difficult to hear) our emotions will follow. If you're feeding yourself lies, you will have emotions based on these thoughts as well. A lot of the pain and confusion you feel in any given week can be avoided if you are willing to tell yourself the truth and pay attention to your emotions. Relief does not happen quickly, which can be difficult for our Amazon Prime, drive through, microwave world, but the payoff is well worth it. It’s time we stop giving emotions a bad rap and pay attention to the messages they are trying to send. 

Is this guilt or shame?

Often time our world-view and decision-making can be influenced by either shame or guilt. Many think these two are synonymous when in reality they are not and affect an individual’s mental health and self worth differently. Guilt is an externalized sense of wrongdoing based on acts done to someone whereas shame is an internalized idea that something in me does not measure up. Guilt says, “I did something wrong.” Shame says, “I am something wrong.”

Shame enters stage right typically as a young child. A negative message, embarrassing situation or unfortunate incident begins to root the idea that something in you is falling short of some moral standard. If this root grows and goes unaddressed in can manifest in low self-esteem, the inability to empathize, forgive, or engage in healthy relationships.  Brene Brown says, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” 

Acknowledging that you are not perfect and will never be, allowing yourself to make mistakes, embracing your unique quirkiness, and seeing the humor in juvenile experiences can all be positive steps in to uprooting shame. The more aware you are of shame and it’s negative messages, the sooner you can take action to accepting and loving yourself. 

Help! I am Having Trouble Sleeping

We all need our sleep on a regular basis to function.  Trouble sleeping can be due to a variety of things but most among those most common are anxiety, stress, depression, changes in environment, less than comfortable sleeping arrangement, medical or psychological issues, or unhealthy bedtime or daytime habits.  Anxiety, stress, and depression are often the most common issue to why people can’t sleep and then without sleep, anxiety, stress, and depression get worse.  Working through these underlying problems with a therapist can help resolve the sleep troubles. 

            Another common issue when it comes to sleep involves unhealthy daytime habits.  Napping, caffeinated beverages late in the day, sugary foods, heavy meals late at night, and not getting enough exercise can all impact your ability to fall asleep and stay sound asleep at night.


Some Tips for Better Sleep:

1.     Create a self-soothing bedtime routine- a bath, yoga, a book,etc

2.     Turn off all screens an hour before bed- Dim the lights, light a candle, listen to calming music.

3.     Avoid stimulating activities or stressful situations/conversations before bedtime- This can elevate your mood and blood pressure and can be a hard to come down from.

4.     Use the bedroom only for sleeping and sex- don’t mix activities with your sleeping space.

5.     Move bedroom clocks out of the room

6.     Get out of bed when you can’t sleep-  Don’t force it.

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If you are still having trouble sleeping, reach out to learn about possibilities of the underlying reasons that are causing you distress.

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