Controlling people want to be in control or claim power over another person. Perhaps intimidating, bossy and domineering in their attempts to get their way by manipulating others.
Examining another person's behavior closely can make you feel angry, embarrassed, or even arouse feelings of inferiority and despair. It can be and often becomes abusive, especially if it scares or intimidates you.
When someone in your life takes control, it's important to reach out to supportive friends or family members. Learn to strengthen your boundaries and talk to a therapist if possible.
Read on to find outSigns of controlling behavior, why it happens, when behavior becomes abusive and how to deal with it.
What is controlling behavior?
Controlling behavior occurs when a person attempts to manipulate another person into conforming to their own needs or desires through some form of manipulation. This excessive desire for control is unhealthy, unhelpful, and can create conflict in relationships, but it's not always abusive.
Controlling behavior becomes abusive when it is compulsive (threatening). This behavior involves constant deterioration and threats that can lead to itdomestic violence. Several studies have shown that being able to control behavior is associated with a higher likelihood of physical aggression or abuse.
Signs of controlling behavior
Controlling people don't always use the same tactics, but there are some common behaviors that can indicate a controlling personality. Here are some examples of behavior control.
It's her way or the highway
Controlling people are often rigid and insist that everything should be the way they want it to be. They are often not adaptable and may not be receptive to the suggestions or opinions of others.
You want to be the center of attention
They have a strong need to be the center of attention and focus on them. When the people they're checking ask about your life, they're often quick to steer the conversation back to themselves. For example, if you are not feeling well or having a bad day, they may say that they are worse off or that their day was more difficult than yours.
They always criticize you
You may be very critical of your actions and feel that there is a "right" or better way to do things. In their eyes, this could be a way to help you improve. They may contain subtle remarks or interrupt you to point out minor criticisms of your words or actions. For example, when you've accomplished something, they might comment on how you could have done better, or they might congratulate you, but then dig at you or joke about you.
They keep you away from friends and family
A controlling person can seem unduly jealous of other people in your life, even close family members and other platonic relationships. You may be constantly asking where you've been or who you'd like to meet, or get upset when you're spending time with someone else. They may even try to prevent you from seeing your friends or family.
You blame others
Controlling people feel like nothing is wrong. They will use a technique known as projection to shift responsibility back onto you. They may even blame you for things they have done themselves, so they cannot be blamed.
You are manipulative
They are extremely manipulative. Manipulation is one of the main components of controlling people, because manipulating others gives them a sense of power and control.
They light you up with gas
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation where a person tries to convince you that you are overreacting or imagining problems that do not exist. Someone may even try to convince you that you are crazy in order not to take responsibility for certain actions. When this happens frequently, it can make you question your memory or judgment.
They don't respect borders
Controlling people don't usually respect other peopleThe limits. In healthy relationships, the boundaries between two people are respected and valued. For the controlling person, a boundary is an obstacle to their need for control.
They're trying to make you feel bad
Controlling people can create guilt and make them do what they want. For example, they can make you feel guilty about spending time with friends rather than them.
You are unpredictable
They are often unpredictable. They can go from cheerful to irritable, moody, and grumpy quickly, especially when they don't manage it.
They don't take no for an answer
A controlling person may become angry when you say "no" and often go to great lengths to get you to change your mind, including making it seem like you have no choice but to refuse their demands.
They justify their behavior as "just kidding"
They may make fun of you or put you down, and if you question the comment they will say they are "just kidding" or accuse you of not taking a joke. This differs from playful banter in that it has a certain edge to it and makes the other person feel ridiculous and uncomfortable.
You keep points
Usually they keep a mental scorecard. If they have done something for you, you will be reminded of it and they may use the guilt to get what they want from you. This rating generally stays in their favor and they will get more than they give.
they try to change you
A controlling person may tell you how to dress or criticize your appearance. They may mock your interests and try to trick you into adopting their interests. They may hide or even throw away things that are important to you, such as hobby supplies or a favorite piece of clothing.
They use intimidation
Bullying can take many different forms. Someone saying bad things about you in front of others is a form of bullying. Threats – both violent and non-violent – are another form of bullying. For example, the person could threaten to reveal a secret or run away with your children. They can also threaten to harm you or someone you care about.
When controlling behavior becomes abusive
Relationship abuse is about gaining power and control over another person. But just because someone controls doesn't mean they're abusive. Controlling behavior crosses the line into abuse when it makes the other person feel anxious and intimidated.
If you have experienced threats, bullying, isolation, or taunting from your partner, you may be experiencing abuse. For help, resources, and information, you can contact the following:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: Available 24/7. Financial support800-799-SAFE(7233), text “START” to 88788 or chat live online atthehotline.org.
- love is respect: Advocate for young adult relationships. Available by phone 24 hours a day866-331-9474by texting “LOVEIS” to 22522 or live chat online atloveisrespect.org.
Reasons for behavior control
Control is a basic social need. It conveys a sense of predictability, stability and order. For some people, this need for control becomes unhealthy.
insecurity andIt arisescan lead to controlling behavior. Instead of employing healthy coping strategies, controlling people want to control the world around them to feel better about themselves.
Often controlling behavior is the result of a mental illness that causes a person to have abnormal social expectations.
Likeanxiety disordercan, for example, lead to controlling behavior. A person with a personality disorder such as narcissistic personality disorder lacks empathy for other people, which can also lead to controlling behavior.
People may also exhibit controlling behaviors due to an excessive sense of responsibility towards others.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder: What you need to know
Dealing with controlling behavior
It can be difficult to deal with people with controlling behaviors. It can be exhausting and sometimes overwhelming. In these cases, self-care and support for your well-being are vital.
Here are some ways to deal with scrutinizing the people in your life:
- support and connection: Communicate more frequently with people in your support network. It is important to have supportive relationships where others can validate and validate your reality, feelings, and perceptions.
- Treatment: Working with a psychologist can help you develop healthy coping strategies for dealing with the controlling people in your life.
- yoga and exercise:EmphasizeIt is often stored as tension in the body. Yoga and exercise can help release tension in your body, thereby reducing your stress levels.
- Progressive Relaxation: Another way to calm your nervous system and release tension in the body is through progressive muscle relaxation. There are online guided meditations that support you in consciously relaxing your muscles.
- Strengthen your limits: Learn how to confidently say no and set clear boundaries.
What is a limit setting?
Partners with controlled behavior
A controlling partner may say things that negate or reject your reality and perceptions. If you point them out to something they've done, they might show it to you.
It can be difficult not to lose yourself and a sense of reality in such relationships when control is your partner's goal and they don't care what is in your best interest.
Controlling behaviors in a relationship can include things like:
- "I was just kidding. you are too sensitive Can't take a joke?"
- "I did not mean it like that. I don't know why you have to start a fight when everything is fine."
- "Why did you turn around and leave like that? I told you to go the other way.
ways to respond: Regardless of how the controlling partner behaves, you may need to find ways to counter it respectfully. Here are some tips:
- stay calm: The less reactive you are, the better. It's their choice to scream, trip and sulk. You can choose to stay cool.
- Use "I" statements.: "I" statements imply that you are speaking only from your own point of view. Starting sentences with "You did that" or "When you" puts the other person on the defensive.
- take your time: Protect yourself by asking for more time. You can say something like, “I need to think about this. I come again later."
What is Emotional Abuse?
What if you are the controlling person?
If you are a controlling person, awareness is the first step. We cannot change what we cannot even see. Here are some suggestions for improvement:
- Healthy Coping Skills: Maybe you learned as a kid that you can't rely on anyone but yourself, so you learned to manage that as best you could. These coping skills, once worked, can negatively impact your adult relationships. Working with a psychologist can help you learn healthy coping skills.
- Soften your tone: Maybe you're used to being inelegant and giving orders. Think of ways to tone down your tone to make others feel more comfortable.
- Try to understand first: Practice really listening to what others are saying. They may make assumptions about what is best for them, but that may not include their point of view or perspective. Try listening to the person and repeating what you heard to make sure you both understand.
- Offer a sincere apology: Nobody is perfect and we all have areas of growth that we need to work on. Honestly admitting your mistakes can go a long way in restoring and healing your relationships. Show you're sorry by changing your behavior.
Controlling people attempt to gain power and control over others through manipulative tactics such as finger-pointing, judgment, and turning others off. They may not be aware that they are exhibiting this behavior, which is often due to their own fear.
You can deal with controlling people by setting boundaries, being clear, and using "I" statements. If you are a controlled person, working with a psychologist can help you develop healthy coping skills.
A word from Verywell
Relationships with controlling people can be challenging. It can be helpful to strengthen your personal boundaries and have supportive people around you. Be sure to look out for signs that a person's controlling behavior has turned into abuse. When you need to end a relationship, you can count on a trusted group of people to help you end things in a healthy and safe way.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why can parents be so controlling?
Parents can be controlling for many reasons, but often it is driven by fear and anxiety. If you are a teenager or young adult, your parents may find it difficult to accept that you are growing up and need space. They may not know how to retire. They may also believe that their life experiences mean they know better.
How do you get out of a controlling relationship?(Video) How To Spot A Controlling Guy – Top 10 Warning Signs Of A Controlling Guy | Male Personality Types
When trying to get out of a controlling relationship with an intimate partner, it's important to assess your safety first. When the controlling behavior reaches a point where you feel scared, threatened, or intimidated, you may experience abuse. Then it is important to carefully plan your departure with the support of others. You can contact themNational Domestic Violence Hotlinefor help. They are available 24/7 at800-799-SAFE(7233) or live online atthehotline.org.
- They make you think everything's your fault. ...
- They criticize you all the time. ...
- They don't want you to see the people you love. ...
- They keep score. ...
- They gaslight you. ...
- They create drama. ...
- They intimidate you. ...
- They're moody.
Controlling people often insist everyone do things their way, even when it comes to small issues that are a matter of personal choice. Your partner might insist you change clothes if you're wearing something they don't like. They may refuse to back down even after you make it clear you disagree with them.How does a controlling person act in a relationship? ›
A controlling partner might undermine your confidence and make you feel insecure, putting you down in private and/or public. For example, they might criticise the way you dress or how you spend your time, exaggerate your 'flaws', or make fun of you in front of others but pass it off as 'just a joke'.What personality types are controlling? ›
Type C personalities tend to be quite controlling, both of themselves and others. They don't like things to get out of hand and may appear stoic because they don't really want themselves to display a lot of emotion.How do you outsmart a controlling person? ›
- Identify the type of controlling behavior. There are many ways a person can be unscrupulous. ...
- Dont believe the lie. ...
- Recognize the triggers and patterns. ...
- Carefully choose a response. ...
- Try, try again until done.
The colloquialism control freak usually describes a person with an obsession with getting things done a certain way. A control freak can become distressed when someone causes a deviation in the way they prefer to do things.What triggers controlling behavior? ›
Some potential causes of controlling behavior are: low self-esteem; being micromanaged or controlled by someone else; traumatic past experiences; a need to feel in-control; or a need to feel 'above' someone else.. None of these have to do with you, the victim of inappropriate control.Is he controlling or caring? ›
There is a very fine line of difference between caring and controlling making it very difficult to distinguish between the two. While caring arises from a sense of selflessness and love, controlling usually starts with feelings of insecurity and resentment.What does a controlling person do? ›
If someone tries to control situations or other people to an unhealthy extent, others may describe them as a controlling person. They may try to control a situation by taking charge and doing everything themselves or control others through manipulation, coercion, threats, and intimidation.What trauma causes control issues? ›
Particularly in chronic trauma—continued exposure to domestic violence, abuse of any form, war, poverty, and others—victims usually reported that they felt powerless to stop or change their circumstances. Victims of chronic trauma may lose the ability to make decisions in their lives.
domineering. adjective. trying to control other people and make them obey you.What is an example of control in a relationship? ›
Someone who checks your phone calls, emails, texts, social media, or belongings without asking you is someone who doesn't respect your boundaries. You're criticized constantly. Someone who's controlling is always trying to undermine your confidence and put you down in private or in public.What determines a toxic relationship? ›
A toxic relationship is one that makes you feel unsupported, misunderstood, demeaned, or attacked. A relationship is toxic when your well-being is threatened in some way—emotionally, psychologically, and even physically.What personality type hates being controlled? ›
ESTPs hate feeling out of control, so they will try to manage their emotions through rational analysis before losing their cool. Things That Make ESTPs Lose Their Temper: Unrealistic people. Chatterboxes who don't have a point.What is the most destructive personality type? ›
Our study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, identified a group of individuals with dark traits who report above average empathic capacities – we call them "dark empaths". Since this study, the dark empath has earned a reputation as the most dangerous personality profile.What personality type is manipulative? ›
Deceitfulness and exceptional manipulative abilities are the most common traits among antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. It is the major feature found in the dark triad personality traits, particularly Machiavellianism.Is a controlling person toxic? ›
Controlling behavior and manipulation are toxic and don't align with what open and honest communication is all about—which is necessary for a healthy relationship. If you ever feel unsafe due to someone else's behavior, trust your gut and remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible.What is controlling manipulative behavior? ›
Manipulation is when a person uses controlling and harmful behaviors to avoid responsibility, conceal their true intentions, or cause doubt and confusion. Manipulation tactics, such as gaslighting, lying, blaming, criticizing, and shaming, can be incredibly damaging to a person's psychological well-being.Do control freaks know they are controlling? ›
In all honesty, control freaks do not even know that they are being that way. They tend to ignore their irrational thoughts or tackling their insecurities. Instead, they try to control people, situations, and (if given the chance) even God's will!What are control freaks most afraid of? ›
Deep down, control freaks are terrified of being vulnerable; they're anxious, insecure and angry. They believe they can protect themselves by staying in control of every aspect of their lives. They're very critical of their colleagues and their friends, but underneath their criticism is a mountain of unhappiness.
Control freaks believe with enough effort and skill they can accomplish anything. They don't believe in timing or luck. They often say things like, “Failure isn't an option,” and they are overly critical of themselves when things don't go as planned.Are control freaks narcissists? ›
Yes, narcissists are very controlling. In fact, the clinical definition of narcissism lists controlling as one of the ways narcissists gain control over others. Narcissists are driven by self-obsession. They care only about their own needs, image, desires, goals, and experiences.Is he controlling or just insecure? ›
Signs of insecurity in men commonly include elements of controlling behavior. This may take the form of belittling or putting you down, isolating you from friends and family, constantly guilting you, a constant lack of trust, stressing their role as your 'protector' and the list goes on.What does a controlling man want? ›
A controlling partner wants to take away your support system so that you are “weaker,” won't stand up against them, and leave them. If you are in a long-term relationship, they may try everything to get you to move so you can leave your job, family, and friends behind.Is a controlling man a narcissist? ›
Another common trait of narcissism is manipulative or controlling behavior. A narcissist will at first try to please you and impress you, but eventually, their own needs will always come first. When relating to other people, narcissists will try to keep people at a certain distance in order to maintain control.Is a controlling person a narcissist? ›
Another common trait of narcissism is manipulative or controlling behavior. A narcissist will at first try to please you and impress you, but eventually, their own needs will always come first. When relating to other people, narcissists will try to keep people at a certain distance in order to maintain control.Is controlling a toxic behavior? ›
The toxic traits of a toxic person include unsupportive and unpleasant behavior, being manipulative, judgmental, controlling, and self-centered. Such people can be the cause of various negative feelings and emotions that you may be experiencing like depression, anxiousness, worthlessness, and unhappiness.What are the 5 main habits of a narcissist? ›
- Inflated Ego. Those who suffer from narcissism usually seem themselves as superior to others. ...
- Lack of Empathy. ...
- Need for Attention. ...
- Repressed Insecurities. ...
- Few Boundaries.
Sometimes people try to assert power over others and control situations. They may do this out of anxiety because they worry that things will go wrong if they do not maintain control. In other cases, it may be to assert dominance. In this case, it is a form of abuse.What are the 4 toxic behaviors? ›
The four behaviours are Blaming, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling. Relationship expert Dr John Gottman termed these "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" as they spell disaster for any personal or professional relationship.
Insecurity — Controlling behavior is often the result of fear or insecurity on the part of the controller, despite the image of strength and confidence he or she often projects.What personality disorder is a control freak? ›
In terms of personality-type theory, control freaks are very much the Type A personality, driven by the need to dominate and control. An obsessive need to control others is also associated with antisocial personality disorder.What makes a man very controlling? ›
Some potential causes of controlling behavior are: low self-esteem; being micromanaged or controlled by someone else; traumatic past experiences; a need to feel in-control; or a need to feel 'above' someone else.. None of these have to do with you, the victim of inappropriate control.What triggers a control freak? ›
Control freaks tend to have a psychological need to be in charge of things and people - even circumstances that cannot be controlled. The need for control, in extreme cases, stem from deeper psychological issues such as obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety disorders or personality disorders.What drives control freaks? ›
A control freak is usually driven by the urge that they want everything to be done in a way that they feel is correct. These people avoid mistakes in their own life and as such have a high need to correct others in case they find anything wrong.