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I'm a recovering control freak - it makes dating even harder

Courtesy / Washington Post

I'm a recovering control addict. Or as my mother lovingly says, I'm a "control freak."

This became excruciatingly obvious when I became a teacher. I spent five years telling 12-year-olds where to sit; what side of the page to write their name; when they could speak; even when they could go to the bathroom.

These control issues started to bleed into my personal life. I would tell friends where to sit when we went to dinner, or remind people not to stand in a doorway. Once I went out for drinks with a guy friend and ended up berating him because he didn't "follow my expectations" and left me to go hang out with other friends. Now, I can see why he wanted other people's company.

Eventually, I realized that trying to control other people - even if they were mostly children - wasn't that much fun. When a student would ask to sharpen their pencil, I would feel irritated that they had to ask me for permission for such a small thing. "Just go!" I'd find myself saying. I started to think that maybe I should leave teaching.

I took a job, still in education, managing other people. I tried hard to simply give suggestions and ask: "What do you think is the best way to handle this?" So far, this has worked pretty well for me. The people I manage seem to feel comfortable talking to me about their concerns. I feel joy in letting people make their own decisions, instead of telling them what to do.

But as all addictions go, I can't help but relapse from time to time. My control issues don't rear their head at work as often, instead they pop up in my personal life.

I find myself telling friends that it's time to get over that guy or quit their job - they'll be better off. This doesn't go well for me. I'm sure it's unpleasant to be my friend when I become bossy.

But nowhere is this issue worse than with my current boyfriend. We've been dating for five months. He makes me laugh endlessly, he explains things to me in ways I've never thought of before, and if I have a problem in our relationship, he listens and tries to understand my point of view. He's really wonderful.

He also has a job offer in another state that he has to decide on within the next week. He told me about the interview three weeks ago. I cried in an empty restaurant because I knew he would get the offer.

When he did get the offer, they gave him the time to think it over. It's a tough decision for him. His entire family is here; he just moved back less than a year ago to be closer to them. He has a good group of friends; he knows the city; it's home to him. But he still has this great job offer in another state.

It has been torture for me these past few weeks, because I have no control over this decision or over him. I can't tell him where to sit, when to go to the bathroom or that no, he simply cannot move. We aren't at a point in our relationship where it makes sense for him to make decisions based on me.

I have tried to exert my control, in the only ways that make sense to me. I have picked fights, I have cried on street corners, I have reminded him of all the reasons that he loves D.C. But in the end, it's not my decision to control.

As much as I love being in this relationship, this situation oddly makes me miss my single days where I had all the control. When I was single, if a life-changing decision came my way, I was the only one with the final say. I wasn't waiting or depending on anyone else to hear about my future. This situation is a reminder that, in a relationship, we both will have to compromise and bend. And sometimes, I won't get my way.

I successfully went with the flow for a total of seven days. It felt record-breaking for me. I felt like a fool for not spending every minute of those seven days convincing him that he needed to stay here. Stay with me.

And then the next thing I knew I was picking fights again, in empty restaurants and street corners because I just can't control this. I have moments of clarity where I know I have to ride this out. They feel few and far between.

I know this is practice for more things to come in my life. I remind myself that he could choose to stay in D.C., and that I could be hit by a bus the very next day. There is so much I can't control. I just have to loosen my grip and let the chips fall where they may. I just hope they fall exactly where I want them.

-Abby Green is a writer in D.C. who works for a national literacy non-profit.

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