Controlling Relationships: Here’s the scenario. It’s early Monday morning. You had a bad nights sleep and the day ahead is jam-packed with a list of, “must do’s “ to complete. Deciding a double shot of caffeinated energy is what you need, you drag yourself to Starbucks. While standing in line waiting to place your order, the person behind you strikes up a conversation. He seems friendly enough, so you respond. And to your unexpected delight, he has you giggling in under a minute and regretting that you threw on your old sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt in less than 5. By the time you reach the cashier, he’s swept you off your feet.
This guy is, “Awesome”. He’s, intelligent and quick-witted. He asks if you’d like to sit and chat for a while. Crumpling up your days “must do “ list you smile and say, “Sure I have a few minutes”. But beware, sometimes those people who have us sitting too quickly on cloud nine are very controlling individuals and controlling relationships are their forte.
“It Takes Two, …Baby”
To make sense of controlling relationships, you need to understand a critical piece of information.Two people make up a relationship, and these two individuals have different personalities. It takes two personality types to make up one controlling relationship. The dominating person ropes in and manipulates his or her victim. But, in order to rope ’em in, he or she needs an active participant. You see, a person can’t be a “controller” unless there’s someone to control. What brings these two personalities together? More importantly, what keeps them together? They seem to attract each other like magnets. At first, you might admire the sense of purpose, determination, or strength in this person, especially if you’re attracted to them. And it isn’t as if you can’t recognize the signs of manipulation. After all, he did get you to put your day on hold. in under five minutes. But, you give the behavior a positive spin, “He’s all about being in the moment”!
A controlling relationship develops over time. You become close because of a feeling that you share something very special in common; “I feel as if we’ve known each other forever”! But while you’re relishing in the fact that you can tell him EVERYTHING, he’s making mental notes of your weaknesses and vulnerabilities. His game plan is to begin using your painful past experiences as weapons against you. Controllers are people with fear. The fear is related to their underlying self-doubt and sense of inadequacy. They use this self-doubt and insecurity as a weapon to gain control over others. They don’t operate from strength but fear.
The Dance of Controlling Relationships
The choreography of the controller’s dance is made up of only two steps, manipulation and intimidation. In the early stages of the relationship, Controllers use a basic manipulation step to charm you. They ask you questions such as, “Where have you been hiding my whole life”, they’ll shower you with gifts and take you to romantic street cafes that you’ll lovingly refer to as, “our place.”
But, keep in mind as he’s sweeping you off your feet with loving gestures and words, he’s leaving you without any legs to stand on.Once he or she sees that they’ve become the center of your life, their dance becomes more involved than it was in the beginning. Why? Because they want to much they can get away with. And in order to assess their situation, controllers add a new move to their dance, intimidation. It may begin when he’s late for a date. A simple, question such as, “Why are you late?” get’s the response, “Who are you, my mother’? He may start complaining that you’re always on his case, or tell you to stop acting like his ex-wife or girlfriend. If you stand up to his manipulation tactics, he’ll try to intimidate you. Intimidation begins when he starts raising his voice, pouting, or calling you names, such as “Nag” or “Bitch”. If you continue to thwart his efforts of controlling you, he’ll back down and revert back to Prince Charming. He’ll apologize, send you flowers or take you to an expensive restaurant to make up for his behavior. But his actions aren’t sincere. He wants you to settle down, and once you’re happy, they dance will begin again. And the dance cycle continues until he drains your confidence, self-esteem and the ability to stand up for yourself.
Dealing With Controllers
- Start taking responsibility for your actions. It’s time to examine how your behavior might enable your controlling partner.
- Negotiate boundaries with your spouse — not when you’re arguing, but during “peace time.”Agree to have a consequence if these boundaries are crossed. For example, if your controlling partner starts to dominate a discussion, call a time-out. Revisit the conversation only when you’re ready.
- If you’re being pushed to your limit every day and you think about giving up, you will someday cave in.Giving up cheats you and your partner if you haven’t both made a concerted effort to improve your relationship.
- Ask yourself, “What is it costing me to be in this relationship?” If the answer is your dreams, identity, or dignity, the cost is too high.
- Controlling people often participate in emotional extortion: “Agree with me, or else….”For the good of your relationship, sometimes it’s best to agree to disagree.
- Look at all of your options. You don’t have to engage in explosive arguments when dealing with a controlling partner.Refuse to participate when your partner is trying to control you.
- Suffering in silence isn’t love. By not dealing with a controlling partner’s behavior, you’re only enabling it to continue, and are therefore cheating the relationship. drphil.com