Controlling people can be found in all areas of life. Controlling relationships can be romantic or platonic. You can find them in the workplace, at home or even in passing interactions with strangers on the street.
Being around controlling people can be extremally emotionally draining, leaving you stressed out and confused. Take a step back and assess all the relationships you have in your life. Do any of them leave you feeling suffocated or distressed? Is there someone you feel you have to tip-toe around or always consider how best to please them?
If you answered yes to the above, then you may have controlling people within your life.
A controlling person shouldn’t be confused with a forceful personality, it is more about how they make you feel. If they are a big character but allow you to totally be yourself, then they may not be a controlling person.
The following 6 signs will help you distinguish if you have controlling people within your life:
1. Their behaviour is inconsistent.
Controlling people often manipulate others by making them feel like they are ‘everything’ for a short amount of time. They may flatter you, compliment you or even buy you gifts.
Be wary though, as this praise and affection can quickly change to belittling and bullying. The inconsistency is confusing because you’re not sure where you stand with someone. This puts you on the backfoot and gives the other person the control they desire.
2. They don’t accept responsibility for their mistakes.
Controlling people often have a problem with the words ‘no’ and ‘sorry’. They won’t take no for answer because they are determined to have their way. As a result, controlling people often excel in corporate environments where they climb a career ladder without concern for people around them.
Similarly, controlling people struggle with saying sorry in a genuine capacity. This is because saying sorry would suggest that they were in the wrong and put them in a weaker social position.
3. They want you all to themselves.
A classic sign of a controlling person is that they want you all to their self. They may suggest that you ‘don’t need anyone else’ and gradually isolate you from other friends and family.
This creates a co-dependency over time that leaves you in a position where you are more susceptible to being controlled. This behaviour is especially common in romantic relationships with controlling people.
4. They want to change you.
Controlling people almost treat other people like ‘projects’ and will often want to change you into the person that suits them best.
For example, perhaps they want someone to accompany them to trendy parties. They may start suggesting you dress in certain ways that suit them and make them feel good. This not only knocks your self-confidence but after time, will make you question your own identity and self-worth.
5. There is always someone else.
Controlling people often hedge their bets and keep several people close to them. Not only does this mean that there are more people to control, but it puts others in a vulnerable position. If the controlling person isn’t getting their way, they can threaten to leave and focus their attention on someone else.
Suddenly, they may start ignoring your calls because they are busy with someone else. This leaves you feeling needy and again more susceptible to being controlled.
6. They’re jealous.
Jealousy is often the most obvious sign of weakness in a controlling person. They hate the thought that someone else could have your attention. They may try and sabotage your relationships with other people by telling you that they are no good for you or by starting rumours about the other person. If this is ignored, it can provoke a controlling person into more extreme behaviour.
If you relate to any of the above signs, then it is highly likely you have some sort of relationship with a controlling person. Conversely, perhaps you read this list and suspect you could be a controlling person yourself.
The most important thing to do is be honest with yourself and assess the situation in a logical and rational manner. If someone is displaying signs of controlling behaviour but you don’t feel under threat, then try talking to them about it. The likelihood is that they are battling with their own insecurities and the relationship can survive.
However, if you feel at risk from the controlling person, then seek help from other people outside of that relationship. In severe cases, professional help may be the most useful thing. There are plenty of resources to advise on how to deal with controlling and manipulative people.
The freedom to be ourselves is one of the most valuable things we can have in a relationship. It is not worth putting energy into any friendship, romantic relationship or working relationship that doesn’t facilitate this freedom. There are people out there who will love and value you for who you are, so don’t waste time on anything less.