by Dawn Billings, CEO & Founder Relationship Help.com
How well do you manage your thoughts, choices, feelings and emotions? Many people would give themselves a grade of C or below because self control is a difficult skill to develop. Self control is a sign of maturity and emotional intelligence.
An example of self control is when you want to finish the entire bag of cookies after you have already eaten a dozen but you use self control to avoid eating more because you know eating too many cookies isn't good for you. Or you are tired and cranky but your partner needs your help, or wants to spend time with you, and even though you are tired you choose to rise to the occasion and help them with what they need. Or self control is about doing the things you don’t want to do before you do all of the fun things you do want to do. Self control is about strengthening your ability to control your irresponsible choices, emotional impulses and immediate desires. Some people call it willpower. I like to call it SKILL power.
Researchers tell us that people who have greater self-control, are often happier and more satisfied with their relationships. Why, you ask? It is because they’re more likely to be aware and care about their partner's needs. People who are skilled at managing their feelings take more time to consider what those feelings are actually trying to tell them and they usually have a better understanding of their and their partner’s needs.
Why is self control or the ability to manage our feelings and impulses a struggle for many people. Experts tell us that a family history of mental illness and/or a personal or family history of substance abuse and addiction can certainly impact our ability to self manage. Also being the victims of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse and neglect can contribute mightily to a lack of self control. But there are many less traumatic causes that we can take a moment to examine as well.
Having self-control in your relationship means that you can choose out of love, to make sacrifices for your partner and the welfare of the relationship that of course will enhance and strengthen it. For instance, instead of going out with friends frequently, you are willing to set aside time for alone time and date nights with your partner. Other examples of using self-control in relationships to keep them strong include refraining from cheating, holding back from saying things you don’t mean when you are angry, treating your partner with dignity and respect, even when you are frustrated and angry and consulting your significant other before making major life decisions like purchasing a new car or making a career change.
Essentially, self control in relationships requires that you consider your partner’s feelings before making decisions instead of simply acting independently as if you were single.
Why is self-control in relationships difficult?
Self-control is difficult, especially in a long-term relationship, because it requires you to make a choice, day in and day out, to honor your partner and their needs, sometimes over your own. In the moment, choices that provide instant gratification can feel good, but if you want to invest in the fortification of your long term relationship, picking the relationship over your immediate impulses can help your partner feel like a priority to you.
Learning how to have self-control in a relationship is also tricky because it requires us to think of others as much as we think of ourselves. Instead of making decisions based on what benefits us, we have to make choices to make our partner happy and prevent them from being hurt. It also means that we are committed to respectfully resolving conflict whenever it rears its ugly head.
As I mentioned above, having self-control also requires a certain degree of maturity and emotional intelligence. It requires that we understand the importance of little things like our tone of voice. If you don’t have much experience with long-term relationships, practicing self-control will be incredibly challenging because you won’t be accustomed to setting aside your desires for the good of the relationship. Below we will address some important tips that will help you strengthen your self control by pointing out some centered color personality strengths of each of the six colors on the Primary Colors Personality Wheel.
1. Set goals for YOU and the relationship
People with centered purple color personality tendencies are great at planing for the future and using goals to keep them on track. But anyone can strengthen their purple personality color influence. It is difficult to work toward goals if you don’t know exactly what you’re aiming for. To help you establish self-control in your relationship, set a specific goal and write it down: “I will set aside my immediate desires and consider instead my partner at least twice per week.”
Having a specific goal in mind and writing it dow allows you to look back and measure your success and progress toward your goal. It helps people to stay committed to their relationship if they set long-term goals together. A long term goal that you set with your partner puts you on the same path together. Maybe you’d like to get a house together by a certain date or establish a family within three years. Set goals together, and you’ll have a reason to prioritize the relationship.
2. Create the plan for the direction of your relationship.
People with centered purple color personality tendencies plan their work and work their plans. Over the course of a long-term relationship, there will be times when you are faced with a decision that might test your self-control. Plan ahead for situations when you might be tempted not to put your partner first. Also dream your dreams for the relationship together.
For example, small goals; if it’s your partner’s birthday weekend and a friend asks you to go to a concert or away for a trip that you’ve always wanted to take, think about how you’ll respond. Sometimes it is important to choose your partner. Or what are you going to do with your retirement years? Where will you live? Do you love to travel, etc.?
3. Keep an open line of communication with your partner.
People with centered yellow color personality tendencies care deeply about the quality of their conversations with their partners and are naturally great listeners. Understanding your partner’s needs can help you prioritize them. If you don’t communicate with each other effectively about your expectations, it is impossible to prioritize them. Staying on the same page with your partner by communicating well goes a long way toward helping you maintain self-control in ways that enhance and strengthen your relationship. The less you yell or argue or small stuff, the better your relationship will fare in the end.
4. Create a habit of serving your partner.
People with centered yellow color personality tendencies are born to serve. Being of service makes them feel good about themselves. That is why people with some yellow color personality tendencies find it easier to consider others before they consider themselves. This can be a very positive thing for a relationship unless the yellow tendencies become extreme and when that happens, people with extreme yellow personality tendencies do not take as good of care of themselves as they do others. This can cause them to wake up and find themselves feeling taken for granted and unappreciated. When this happens it is important to turn those loving, serving tendencies toward yourself and remember that only a full cup has plenty to pour into the lives of others.
People with centered yellow color personality tendencies also love romance. They love cards, thoughtful notes, appreciation and of course, poetry.
5. Focus on what is good and strong about your relationship.
People with centered blue color personality tendencies understand the value and power of focus. Focus on what is good and strong about your relationship. Focus on living in the present instead of the past. When people with blue color personality tendencies move into their extremes, they have a tendency to bring up a list of old grievances that can be very annoying to their partner. Focus on doing the right thing in the present moment and your focused centered choices will take care of your future. When you keep turning your focus on the good in your relationship the good multiplies and gets stronger.
6. Think about the consequences of your actions.
People with centered blue color personality tendencies are thoughtful in the sense that they think carefully about things. They analyze their thoughts and the potential consequences of their actions. They use their heads and do not simply react from the feelings they may be feeling at the moment. In any given moment, you might be tempted to give in to an impulse that will negatively affect your relationship. When this moment strikes, stop and take some time to think about the potential consequences. Is staying out two hours later than expected worth upsetting or stressing out your partner? In the long run, it probably isn’t.
7. Work on your own self-esteem.
People with centered green color personality tendencies enjoy working on themselves and their emotional intelligence. The stronger your emotional intelligence, the stronger your self esteem and confidence. People with green centered color personality tendencies value integrity and truth. They are courteous. They care about fidelity. Perhaps the biggest sign of a lack of self-control in relationships is being unfaithful to your partner. Often, this comes from a person’s extreme color personality tendencies which create feelings like a strong need for external validation. When you step outside your relationship for sex, you need validation because of underlying low self-esteem. Work on elevating your self-esteem by focusing on your strengths, staying centered or setting new goals, so you don’t feel tempted to fill a void with an affair.
8. Strengthen Your Self-Awareness
People with centered green color personality tendencies understand the importance of developing their self awareness. They value understanding themselves and others. They want to understand what is underneath their relationship struggles. One of the ways to practice self-control is to monitor your thoughts and behavior and check-in with yourself. Is your mind filled with negative or positive thoughts? This might mean making a mental note of times you met your partner’s needs or whether you were fair to them throughout the week.
Journaling has been shown to help you document times you struggled and times you were able to choose self-control over instant gratification. It allows you to see your thoughts and the more aware you are of your thoughts, the more power you have to keep them positive and productive.
9. What do you do to help manage your stress?
People with centered orange color personality tendencies usually manage stress well by using humor to release and ease tension. When people are feeling overwhelmed, they’re more likely to seek instant gratification as a way to ease their stress levels. Learning to manage your stress levels is perhaps one of the best self-control tips there is. But when people with orange color personality tendencies move into their extremes they can become sarcastic and wield a mean tongue.
Research has shown that stress can lead to difficulty with self-control in relationships, especially among people who are sleep deprived. This of course includes people with new babies and small children, people who are care takers of their aging parents, etc. You can improve your self-control by doing all you can to set and maintain a regular sleep schedule.
Also being in a calm, relaxed state of mind gives you more control over your emotions. Incorporating relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises into your day allows you to strengthen your self-control.
10. Avoid sexual temptation.
One of the negative extremes of orange color personality tendencies is that orange in its extreme can be extremely impulsive (pun intended). Orange tendencies, in their center, are adventurous and full of life and therefore they can find themselves meeting lots of different people. Because fun is a priority, they are usually the life of the party which can make them attractive to others. People are attracted to orange personality tendencies that are outgoing, funny and have an enthusiastic approach to life.
People often wonder how to have self-control sexually in a relationship. If this is the case for you, it’s time to learn what makes you feel tempted, and avoid these triggers, especially if you have a great deal of orange in your color blend. Maybe going out to the bar or spending time browsing Instagram photos leads to sexual temptation for you. Whatever it is, eliminating these triggers is a great way to exercise self-control.
11. Know when you need to take time to cool off.
People when in their extreme red color personality tendencies can have big tempers and get frustrated and angry easily. Most of us have become heated during an argument, and when emotions are strong, it is easy to get carried away and do or say something hurtful.
Think about the times you’ve let your emotions get the best of you. How did you know you were losing control? Maybe your heart started to race, or you could feel the temperature rising in your body.
Whatever it was, learn to recognize these signs in yourself and use your strong will to table the conversation until you are calm and centered.
12. Have confidence to express your feelings with clarity and respect.
People with centered red color personality tendencies are not afraid to express their feelings. Their confidence allows them to ask for what they need. This centered confidence is a model for how best to communicate our needs to our partners. But in the extreme communication can turn into yelling, accusing, demeaning and dominating. Be careful. Extreme red color personality color tendencies, like all extreme color personality tendencies, have the potential to damage, even destroy relationships.
If you feel your needs are not being met and impacting your level of self-control, stop, calm down, get centered and take some time to reflect. How best can you help your partner understand what you need. Having a centered, loving, respectful conversation can get the two of you back on the same page, but in order for your conversation to be effective you must first, manage your emotions so that you can communicate from a centered, respectful place.