It’s rare for a person—deliberately—to subjugate to their will someone they care about. Typically, when someone acts manipulatively toward another, their motive, at least consciously, isn’t to control them at all. It’s simply to increase the likelihood that the relationship will better address their wants and needs. That is, despite how their action might be taken by the other person, it’s usually not so much against their partner as it is for themselves. And, to be honest, aren’t we all motivated to enter into intimate relationships primarily because we believe they will make us happier? So, realistically, caring for another can never be viewed as a completely selfless act.
It can hardly be over-emphasized that though behaviors conventionally labeled “controlling” aren’t devoid of self-interest, they can’t simply be understood as acts of interpersonal aggression either. There’s typically no “malice and forethought” going on here. Yet, given the destructive effects of such behavior, that’s precisely how they feel to the one on the receiving end—and regardless of the controller’s actual intentions. For, once again, the controller is likely only acting in ways they assume will enable them to experience more comfort and security in the relationship.