How To Recognize and Deal with Controlling People

Why do people end up trapped in relationships with someone who has a controlling, even abusive, personality?

The main attraction of the controlling person is his charming and disarming façade while he’s in the beginning stage of obtaining what he wants. (Both men and women can have a Controlling Personality; in this post, I’m using “he” for simplicity’s sake.)

His dedication to the person he’s zoomed in on is flattering and intoxicating. The big red flag, though, is the short time frame and the intensity of his onslaught.

Everyone is infatuated with the start of a new romance. It feels good to explore someone new and to slowly reveal yourself to them in return. But the controlling individual comes on much too fast. He’ll shower you with gifts, attention and adoration. He’ll immediately talk about significant future plans such as children, marriage and things which normally take time to unfold.

He seems perfect and too good to be true. You’re so blown off your feet, it’s hard to determine what type of man you are dating. Watch out for:

  • Saying “I love you” very early on in the relationship.
  • Wanting a commitment from you to date only him, after a very short period.
  • A rapid show of affection (this is usually a sign of shallow emotion)

He’ll convince you that he is the love of your life, making all kinds of promises – but he can detach himself as quickly as he declared undying love and devotion.

The Warning Signs You Need to Watch Out For

This personality type is so much fun to be with in the beginning, it’s easy to overlook significant warning signs. Don’t rationalize or trivialize what you see: this can save you a lifetime of pain and psychological stress.

Watch out for these:

#1: He’ll probably have a scary temper. It will be directed toward others and not you. He will quickly dismiss his temper under the guise of being someone else’s fault.

#2: He’ll talk a lot about incidents where he needed to stand up for himself. Maybe he gets into fights or had to tell off his boss because he didn’t like an assignment. He may say that his relatives consider him the black sheep of the family.

#3: He can switch from mean to sweet at the drop of a hat. The worst sign is if he ever hits you, even once, or hurts you physically. No matter what he says, it’s deliberate. Get out of the relationship immediately and do not look back.

#4: He doesn’t have friends – or if he does, they’re all people like him. Ask yourself, do you like his friends? If the answer is no, step back.

#5: Your parents, siblings and friends dislike him. Don’t assume that they simply misunderstand him, and don’t let him convince you that they’re being jealous.

#6: He treats people badly. Look at how he behaves towards people who are obligated to serve him, like waitresses, store clerks and cab drivers.

The Dangers of a Relationship with a Controller

Suppose you don’t recognize a Controller’s character or you’re so blown over by his love and devotion that you end up trapped in a relationship with him. What happens to you?

First and foremost, you are going to be abused, if not physically then verbally, probably both. Abuse thwarts positive psychological development. You lose the basic sense of safety. You constantly expect to be attacked, and gradually you lose your positive self-esteem. Your life becomes one of heartache and emotional damage. You know you are being hurt on purpose, but you can’t stop it.

You lose your zest for life because so much energy goes into placating the Controller and in defending yourself. The longer you stay in the relationship with a Controller, the more you will be hurt. Your life becomes centered on this one individual and this is exactly what he wants.

He isolates you. You have no support group, probably not even family members. You have your self-esteem so battered you become too weak to resist. If you do reach out for support from a friend, your abuser will destroy the friendship.

Any and all attempts to escape will be met with promises to change, threats, and constant attention until you give up and go back into the relationship. Don’t be fooled. A controller will panic if they think you are going to break up with them. He’ll do anything: cry, plead and promise to change (especially promise to change). He’ll offer anything and he’ll finally threaten suicide.

Remember, you are not responsible for him. Don’t go back to him: instead of changing, he’ll simply build a higher fence and make it impossible for you to leave again.

Escape – And Don’t Go Back

Now you recognize the Controller, what course of action is open to you?

Don’t get involved – no matter how charming and physically attractive he/she is. If it’s too late and you are already trapped and fenced in, emotionally punch and kick your way free and DO NOT GO BACK.

Once you escape, don’t look for the same kind of controlling person again. There are plenty of good people out there who are much more worthy of your love and attention.


Bio: Wayne Woods is the author of the ebook Martial Arts for the Soul, a guide to dealing with difficult personality types. It costs just $4.99. You can find out more about the book, and read reviews of it, here.

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