Are you with a Controller?
Browse Counseling Categories
Articles by Patricia Jones, M.A.
Copyright © 2006 - 2013 Dove Christian Counseling Center. All Rights Reserved
Most relationships begin with everyone being on their best behavior. We are nice, polite, respectful, non-judgmental, sweet, loving and kind. We hold our tempers in check, we let things go, and we give the benefit of the doubt. This is called the "honeymoon period" and it can last as long as two years. So because most individuals always put on a happy face when first dating, it's difficult to determine what type of individual you are dating. Both you and the date are guarded, trying to obtain information about the other as much as possible without seeming like a police detective.
Romantic relationships can and should be wonderful with the correct person. A relationship with the wrong individual, however, can lead to years of heartache, emotional/social damage, physical damage, and even emotional, mental and physical abuse. And sometimes, that can even lead to death. So it is very important to really KNOW who you are dating in the first place BEFORE you marry them.. A damaging adult partner can damage us, damage our loved ones, and even damage the way we feel about love and romance in the future. They can turn what is supposed to be a loving, supporting, and understanding relationship into the “fatal attraction” often described in movies.
There is a very important statement to consider when you are trying to find out what someone is really like. And it is this:
"The greatest enemy of that which is excellent is not that which is blatantly bad, but that which APPEARS to be good."
If someone was openly insane and abusive with you, you would notice it right off the bat, and that would be the end of the relationship. But some people are much better than others at hiding from you who they REALLY ARE. They can appear to be very good, wonderful, and even perfect. In fact, many times these individuals have been called Psychopaths because they know just how to manipulate others so well. They can appear, at first, to be the most charming, caring, loving, fun individual who sweeps you off your feet with their charm and good looks. Years ago men like this were called "smooth talking sales men and " Con Artists." So, they can APPEAR to be good, but in reality they are not only bad, but VERY BAD.
So here are some red flags for you to be aware of so you can spot a controller before you marry him.
A Controller is a type of partner that creates much social, emotional and psychological damage in a relationship. A Controller has permanent personality characteristics that create this damage. These are characteristics that they accept simply as the way they are and not a problem or psychological difficulty. In one sense, they have always lived with this personality and behavior, often something they probably learned from their relatives/family. Psychologists usually treat the victims of A Controller, women or men who arrive at the office severely depressed with their self-confidence and self-esteem totally destroyed.
The following list is an attempt to outline the characteristics of a Controller and provide a manner in which women and men can identify potentially damaging relationships, before they are themselves severely damaged emotionally or even physically. If your partner possesses even one of these features, there is risk in the relationship. More than three of these indicators and you are involved with a Controller in a very high risk relationship that will eventually create damage to you. When a high number of these features are present, it’s not a probability or possibility, you WILL be hurt and damaged by a Controller if you stay in the relationship.
1.) Cruel and rough Treatment: A Controller will hurt you on purpose. If he or she hits you, twists your arm, pulls your hair, kicks you, shoves you, or breaks your personal property EVEN ONCE, drop them. Male Controllers often begin with behaviors that move you physically or hit the wall. Female Controllers often slap, kick, and even punch their male partners when upset.
2.) Commits to you very quickly: You will find that a controller has very shallow and superficial emotions and connections with others. Within a very short period of time he or she says, “I Love You,” or wants to marry or commit to you. You on the other hand are just thinking that this is an enjoyable dating process and you are taking it one day at a time. In less than a few weeks of dating you’ll hear that you’re " the love of their life, they want to be with you forever, and they want to marry you." You’ll receive gifts, a variety of promises, and be showered with their attention and nice gestures. This is the “honeymoon phase” - where they catch you and convince you that they are the best thing that ever happened to you.
Deep down inside though you begin to have this queasy feeling that tells you that it is way too soon for someone to be telling you that they love you, and want to spend the rest of their life with you. It does not make sense for one thing, and for another, normal, healthy relationships take much longer to develop. Stable people will require alot more information about someone before they make a commitment, and they will also be much more patient with the entire process. The very quick commitment on the part of the controller is also a sign of superficiality and shallow emotions, which is also the very reason that the controller can detach from you just as quickly. Believe it or not, a controller will be talking about moving in with you or getting married to you in less than four weeks, or very early in the relationship.
3.) Frightening Temper: A Controller has a scary temper. If your boyfriend or girlfriend blows up and does dangerous things, like driving too fast because they’re mad, road rage, destroying/throwing things, getting into fights, or threatening others - that temper will soon be turned in your direction. In the beginning of the relationship, you will be exposed to “witnessed violence” - fights with others, threats toward others, angry outbursts at others, etc. You will also hear of violence in their life. You will see and witness this temper - throwing things, yelling, cursing, driving fast, hitting the walls, and kicking things. But it will at first be directed towards others, not you.
The controller will even enlist your sympathy for what they are going through with others and expect you to take their side and support their anger. You find yourself thinking " wow, that was a lot of anger, and I am not sure it was justified, but I love him/her and I should stand behind them. But deep down inside you are beginning to wonder if this person is for you.
The result is you become intimidated and you begin to fear their potential for violence. You also tell yourself that you are glad none of your family or friends saw what the controller just did because you know they would not approve. The Controller quickly assures you that they are angry at others or situations, not at you. And you want to believe that. You want to believe that they will never direct the hostility and violence at you, but they are clearly letting you know that they have that ability and capability - and that it might come your way. You begin to doubt the relationship but later, you fear challenging or confronting them - fearing that same temper and violence will be turned in your direction.
4.) Destroying Your Self-Esteem : A Controller repeatedly puts you down. They do this by correcting your smallest mistakes, making you feel like not doing things in front of them, or not telling them things that you have done, even the good things, because they will always find something wrong even with what you thought was good. So you begin to feel “on guard,” unintelligent, and depressed. They will tell you that you’re too fat, even when you are not, call you ugly or unattractive, make fun of your clothes or the way you talk or don’t talk correctly or how you look in general.
Pretty soon they will begin to give you the impression that if you don't make some changes in these areas they are going to look elsewhere. This gradual chipping away at your confidence and self-esteem allows them to later treat you badly, as though you deserved it. In public, you will be “walking on eggshells” always fearing you are doing or saying something that will later create a temper outburst or verbal argument.
5. Cutting Off Your Support: In order to control someone completely, you must isolate them from their normal avenues of support. So they start bad-mouthing or making fun of your family and friends. As their abuse increases they actually start to tell you that you cannot see your family or friends without grave consequences. This is because they know that you family and friends would highly disapprove of how they treat you and influence you to leave the relationship.
A Controller begins by telling you these friends treat you badly, take advantage of you, and don’t understand the special nature of the love you share with them. In some cases, if they can’t get rid of your best same-sex friend, a Controller will claim he or she made a pass at them. If you talk to your friends or family, a Controller will punish you by asking multiple questions or making nasty accusations. Eventually, rather than face the verbal punishment, interrogation, and abuse, you’ll develop the feeling that it’s better not to talk to family and friends. You will withdraw from friends and family, prompting them to become upset with you. A Controller then tells you they are treating you badly again, and you’d be better to keep your distance from them. Once you are isolated and alone, without support, their control over you can increase. This is a slow and insidious process.
Sometimes they will tell you that you cannot call or send presents or remember birthdays, or Christmas because "money is tight" but you notice that "money is tight" only when it comes to your family and friends, not the controller's family and friends.
6.) The Abuse Cycle: A Controller cycles from mean to super nice and back again. The cycle starts when they are intentionally hurtful and mean. You may be verbally abused, cursed, and threatened over something minor. Suddenly, the next day they become sweet, and bring you candy and flowers. So you hang in there thinking maybe things are not so bad after all and maybe it is you who is exaggerating things. You hope that maybe this is the end of the cycle.
But the controller knows exactly what they are doing. They have no intention of ending the cycle. They just don't want to lose power and control over you, so they become what they think you want in order to pacify you. And it works! But with each additional cycle your self-esteem and self-confidence is that much more eroded which is exactly what they want.
7.) It’s Always Your Fault: A Controller blames you for their anger as well as any other behavior that is incorrect. When they cheat on you, yell at you, treat you badly, damage your property, hit the children or embarrass you publicly, it’s somehow your fault. If you are ten minutes late for a date, it’s your fault that the male Controller has to drive 90 miles per hour, run people off the road, and pouts the rest of the evening.
Anything that they do wrong, according to them YOU caused. So it is your fault that they had to act badly. A Controller tells you their anger and misbehavior would not have happened if you had not made some simple mistake, had loved them more, or had not questioned their behavior. A Controller never, repeat “never,” takes personal responsibility for their behavior - it’s always the fault of someone else. They give you the impression that you had it (anger, yelling, assault) coming and deserved the anger, violence, pouting, or physical display of aggression.
8.) They threaten to divorce or leave you. When they feel they have gone too far with their abuse, they panic that they are going to lose you, meaning they are going to lose power and control over you which they cannot stand to not have. A Controller panics at the idea of breaking up, unless it’s totally their idea, then you’re dropped like a hot rock.
Abusive husbands and boyfriends often break down and cry, they plead, they promise to change, and they offer marriage/trips/gifts when you threaten ending the relationship. Both male and female Controllers may threaten suicide, threaten to return to old sweethearts (who feel lucky they’re gone!), or threaten to quit their job and leave the area, as though you will be responsible for those decisions. A Controller offers a multitude of “deals” and halfway measures, like “Let’s just date one more month!”
All of a sudden they shower you with tons of attention. You receive phone calls, often every five minutes, hoping that you will make an agreement or see them just to stop the telephone harassment. Some call your relatives, your friends, their friends, and anyone else they can think of - telling those people to call you and tell you how much they love you.
Manipulative Controllers often create so much social pressure that the victim agrees to go back to the bad relationship rather than continue under the social pressure. They may even promise to get counseling if you will come back to them or not leave. By this time your self-esteem is so low and you are so starved for affection that you give in because they are being so nice and for once you feel like you have the upper hand in the relationship. You feel like you are getting some control of your life back.
Imagine trying to end a relationship and receiving tearful calls from all his or her relatives (they secretly hope you’ll keep them so they don’t have to), seeing a plea for your return in the newspaper or even on a local billboard, receiving flowers at work each day, or having them arrive at your place of work and offer you a wedding ring (male Controller technique) or inform you that they might be pregnant (female Controller technique) in front of your coworkers! Their reaction is emotionally intense, a behavior they use to keep you an emotional prisoner. If you go back to them, you actually fear a worse reaction if you threaten to leave again (making you a prisoner), and they later frequently recall the incident to you as further evidence of what a bad person you are. Remember, if your prize dog jumps the fence and escapes, if you get him back, you build a higher fence. Once back in the grasp of Controller - escape will be three times as difficult the next time.
9. No Outside Interests: A Controller will encourage you to drop your hobbies, interests, and involvement with others. If you have an individual activity, they demand that they accompany you, making you feel miserable during the entire activity. The idea behind this is to prevent you from having fun or interests other than those which they can actually and totally control. If you have some real talents such as singing they will never compliment you or tell you that you are good, but will brag about your singing, etc. to others when you are not there. OR they may refuse to attend your performances. The problem is they are jealous. Because your attention is not on them which they crave.
10. Paranoid Control: A Controller will check up on you and keep track of where you are and who you are with. If you speak to a member of the opposite sex, you receive twenty questions about how you know them and you will be accused of flirting with them or having an affair with them. If you don’t answer their phone call, you are asked where you were, what were you doing, who you were talking to, etc.
They will notice the type of mud on your car, question why you shop certain places, check and keep track of your mileage and question why you called a friend, why the friend called you, and so forth. Some Controllers follow you to the grocery, then later ask if you’ve been there in an attempt to catch you in a lie. In severe cases, they go through your mail, look through your purse/wallet, hit your redial on the phone when they arrive, or search through your garbage for evidence.
High-tech Controllers may encourage you to make “private” calls to friends from their residence, calls that are being secretly taped for later reference. They may begin to tell you what to wear, what to listen to in music, and how to behave in public. Eventually, they tell you that you can not talk to certain friends or acquaintances, go certain places, or talk about certain issues in public. If no date is present on Friday night, a Controller will inform you that they will call you that night - sometime. That effectively keeps you home, awaiting the call, fearing the verbal abuse and questions you might receive if you weren’t home for the call. This technique allows Controller to do what they want socially, at the same time controlling your behavior from a distance or a local bar.
Or if you are going away on vacation, or even to college they will tell you that they will not write you or call you while you are gone. In some cases they will even threaten to leave you if you go, or take a certain job, or anything that would be a great opportunity for you, but will cause them to lose control over you.
11. Public Embarrassment: In an effort to keep you under control while in public, Controllers will lash out at you, call you names, or say cruel or embarrassing things about you in private or in front of people. An example of a husband controller would be cutting down his wife's cooking to dinner guests. When in public, you quickly learn that any opinion you express may cause them to verbally attack you, get very sarcastic with you, make fun of you, either at the time or later.
Eventually, if you stay with Controller too long, you’ll soon find yourself politely smiling, saying nothing, and holding on to their arm when in public. You’ll also find yourself walking with your head down, fearful of seeing a friend who might speak to you and create an angry reaction in Controller. Or you will find yourself dreading being with other people and the controller at the same time. Your social life instead of being something of joy and fun, has become something of fear and embarrassment so that you decide you don't want to go anywhere again if the controller is there. By this time you have discovered that you have much more fun when the controller is not there. You are happier at home when he/she is not there, and you find yourself wishing that they would die or get in some accident.