We all want to be loved and needed. No matter how smart or beautiful you are, when someone comes into your life and tells you how great you are, always wants to be around you, and is charming with your friends, you are seduced. The problem is many times controlling people are charming too. They may be the ones telling you that you can always count on them and they will always be there for you. It is almost impossible to see their motives at the beginning, but they chose you because they see your vulnerabilities and know they can take advantage of you.
It happens slowly. After a year or two of marriage you realize you are doing everything according to their schedule and their way. You may also realize you married a control freak. As you sort through things you may find that you have acquired a learned helplessness. That means you don’t know how to get out of the situation you’re in, and you are confused with what you should do.
Most of the couples I work with in this type of relationship had no idea they had changed their deepest feelings and values in order to live with their controller. Their family and closest friends were usually very honest with them and would tell them that they didn’t like their spouse because of the way they were treated, but the spouse usually makes an excuse for them. This is most likely due to the fact that, many times, we think we can change someone. That concept usually is not effective and it certainly is not effective in the matter of living with a controller.
Tips to stop the controller from controlling you:
- The first step is to find a counselor or minister to talk with. The counselor or minister can help validate your feelings and make you feel stronger. They also can guide you in regards to possible ways you can make the relationship work by teaching you assertive skills. Your partner won’t like it, but if they are at risk to lose their family then many times they will begrudgingly change.
- The second tip is to confront the controller. They may make you feel like you are the crazy one or they may belittle you (they can do this with a look, with the silent treatment, with physical harm, or with the use of words). When you confront them make sure you tell someone else what you are going to do so you have a safety plan in place. Controllers don’t like being controlled and they can leave or get angry.
- Work on your own self-esteem. Controllers are actually terrified of failure, so they usually never admit when something is their fault. Rarely do they say they are sorry. Therefore, you end up feeling like everything is your fault. It’s not. You are not the failure. If you can do the things that make you feel good about yourself, you can begin to be more assertive and less likely to be used as a doormat.
- Invest in yourself again by reaching out to family and friends. This is going to help you understand you are still a loveable, wonderful person and help you feel supported.
- Decide on a plan to work out the relationship or leave. The most important thing about your plan is it has a limited time so you have control. If you are thinking of changing your controller, forget it. The controller is the only one who can control themselves and their behavior. If a controller does not change their controlling behavior they usually worsen with time instead of growing more mellow.
Relationships take negotiation skills and the ability to be flexible. A controlling person lacks both of these very important skills. If they are able to see what they are doing to their spouse, they can make changes. However, for them to be able to evaluate and understand how it feels to be controlled is very difficult. Enter these relationships at your own risk and take control of your own needs if you have to get out. I am a marriage advocate, but living with a true “controller” is not something I advocate.