It’s Your Choice: Personal Autonomy in a Relationship

One of the most important things in a relationship is having your own autonomy – or getting to make decisions for yourself. If both or all partners get to be in charge of their own lives, then you have a great foundation for making room for each other and growing together. When one person controls another person, it’s easy for the relationship to become abusive. In a healthy relationship each partner should have control over themself.

Some of the decisions you should be free to make include decisions about:
  • Sleeping and eating – what, where, when, and how much.
  • Medications, hormones, surgical decisions, self care, and time alone.
  • Declining to be a partner’s sole source of support, or having boundaries to the support you can personally provide.
  • Where to go and who to spend time with.
  • Social reputation, which information is shared with whom.
  • Ability to say no: to sexual activities and physical intimacy, alcohol and other drug use, unsafe situations like drinking and driving or transphobic social situations.
  • Diary, journal, passwords.
  • Important documents eg. tenancy, immigration, work, school, WINZ, identification, passport.
  • Private communication and support networks, such as social media, email, phone, personal messages.
  • Personal expression: clothing, hairstyle, language and mannerisms.
  • Income: how it’s made, how it’s used, and who can access it.
  • Culture, cultural knowledge, values, language, history, beliefs, spiritual or religious practice.

If you are controlling your partners decisions, there are steps you can take to relinquish control over them and let them make their own decisions. The same is true for anyone who is controlling your decisions.

For the person in control, the first steps are often the hardest: recognising that controlling a partner is a problem, accepting that they have been participating in an unhealthy dynamic, and taking personal responsibility for making changes.

Anxieties, fears, insecurities, and beliefs or values can all play roles in how comfortable we are accepting that others can change, and allowing them the freedom to do so. Some people find it helpful to talk with a counselor or another adult they trust, or look for resources about healthy relationships.

You can use the search box below or follow our blog to find more resources from our “Sex and Sexuality for Trans People” series, and check out our relationship resources below.