When Does Care Become Control?

By D. Kumar

I’ve been dating this pretty sweet guy for a few months now. We talk, have a lot of fun and we both feel incredibly connected to each other. Since I’m not a Disney princess, the relationship has its issues. Now this guy… He isn’t a misogynist but he isn’t a feminist either. And, I’m pretty sure I’m his first brush with feminism. Ever.

We tend to have these arguments every once in a while where my inner raging feminist (I’m pretty calm in non-patriarchal situations) comes alive. For example, yesterday saw us fighting over my photographs being public on Facebook.


This is an excerpt from yesterday’s conversation:

Him – “You know your photographs on

Facebook are public? I just had a random friend call me after he checked you out on-line.”

Me – “Really? Ya, I do have a few pictures public.”

Him – “Secure your profile. People can stalk you. My friend saw all your pictures.”

Me – “I really doubt that. And I don’t appreciate being told if my photos should or shouldn’t be public. That’s my call.”

Him – “I’m just saying this because I care about you and I don’t want people to stalk you. I’m just trying to protect you.”

Me – “I get your concern but I really don’t think this is a way to care about somebody. You didn’t just tell me the pictures are visible. You told me to change my privacy settings without even engaging in a conversation about it.”

Him – “Have you always been this rebellious?”


And that went on for a while. So, how do you negotiate ownership of yourself in personal relationships? This sense of entitlement over another person is bound to come in at some point in close relationships. I’ve had similar conversations with boyfriends, friends, brothers, parents and other well-wishers over the years. And every single time, I sense control in the garb of ‘care’.


‘You shouldn’t be out that late.’

‘You should get someone to drop you back.’

‘You shouldn’t be wearing that in Delhi.’


And, I get it. I get where they’re coming from. I get the ‘prevention is better than cure’ argument. But, when this prevention is forced, it isn’t care. You don’t want someone you love to get hurt. But, when that need to save those you love curbs their individual freedom, where do you draw the line?


Source: www.mustbol.in


I started going through Wikipedia (where else?) and came across this wonderful post about Personal Boundaries. It said,

               “Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for him- or herself what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how he or she will respond when someone steps outside those limits. They are built out of a mix of beliefs, opinions, attitudes, past experiences and social learning.”

I also learnt how different people have different types of personal boundaries, ranging from soft to rigid to flexible. I think that summed it up brilliantly for me. It’s different for different people. When another person’s concern overpowers or limits your own individuality, that’s when it shifts to control. That’s something each one of us should decide for ourselves.




What happened with the fight, you ask?

Excerpt – Part 2

Him – “Am I not supposed to care about you or worry about you getting hurt?”

Me – “It’s one thing to worry, it’s another to tell me what to do.”

Him – “I never forced you to do anything.”

Me – “I know that but there’s a difference between asking me and telling me.”

After the initial anger subsided, he heard me out and I heard him out. After a few hours of both of us being completely distraught and incredibly tired, we reached a semi-conclusion. I set my boundaries and he set his and we’re going to try our best to respect them.


Rubina Singh is Director of Hollaback! Chandigarh.

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  1. […] Hollaback! Chandigarh addressed an important question: In a relationship, “When does care become control?” […]

  2. […] been dating someone, let’s call him Y, for a few months now, and every now and then we have these fights on patriarchy. Now, Y is someone who has never really heard of feminism or gender rights and he’s grown up with […]

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