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 a controlling person can be extremely 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 do your 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 someone is a big character but allows 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 behavior 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, people with a controlling personality often excel in corporate environments where they climb a career ladder without concern for the people around them.
Similarly, a controlling person will 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 themselves. 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 behavior 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 encourage you to dress in a certain way that works for them and makes them feel good – even if it doesn’t fit with your style. Not only does this knock your self-confidence, but after time, it will also 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 too. 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 to sabotage your relationships with other people by telling you that they are no good for you or by starting rumors about the other person. If you ignore them, it can provoke a controlling person into more extreme behavior.
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, after reading this list, you suspect that you could be a controlling person yourself.
The most important thing to do is to be honest with yourself and assess the situation in a logical and rational manner. If someone is displaying signs of controlling behavior, 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 your time on anything less.
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