Warning Signs you are Involved with a Controller
- Client Information Sheet
The reproducible client information
sheet found on the next four pages creates a 20-point checklist
be of assistance in your treatment of a client who is working on relationship
few relationships start on terms other than sweetness and politeness. In the beginning,
the honeymoon of the relationship, its difficult to determine
what type of individual you are dating. Both you and the date are guarded, trying
to obtain information about the other as much as possible without seeming like
a police detective.
relationships can be wonderful with the right person. A relationship with the
wrong individual, however, can lead to years of heartache, emotional/social damage,
and even physical damage. A damaging adult partner can damage us, damage our loved
ones, and even damage the way we feel about love and romance in the future. They
can turn what is supposed to be a loving, supporting, and understanding relationship
into the fatal attraction often described in movies. There are a variety
of bad choices that may be encountered each week - most of which are
easily to identify and avoid. We all know to avoid people that appear insane or
abusive and not select them as a dating partner. However, some individuals are
better at hiding their personality and behavior abnormalities. In an effort to
provide some warning about these very damaging individuals, this information sheet
will outline a type of individual commonly found in the dating scene, a male or
female labeled a Controller.
Controller is a type of partner that creates much social, emotional and psychological
damage in a relationship. Some Controllers have permanent personality characteristics
that create this damage. These are characteristics that they accept simply as
the way they are and not a problem or psychological difficulty. In one sense,
they have always lived with this personality and behavior, often something they
probably learned from their relatives/family. Psychologists usually treat the
victims of Controllers, women or men who arrive at the office severely depressed
with their self-confidence and self-esteem totally destroyed.
following list is an attempt to outline the characteristics of some Controllers and
provide a manner in which women and men can identify potentially damaging relationships,
before they are themselves severely damaged emotionally or even physically. If
your partner possesses even one of these features, there is risk in the relationship.
More than three of these indicators and you are involved with a Controller in
a very high risk relationship that will eventually create damage to you. When
a high number of these features are present, its not a probability or possibility,
you will be hurt and damaged by a Controller if you stay in the relationship.
Rough Treatment: Some Controllers will hurt you on purpose. If he or she hits
you, twists your arm, pulls your hair, kicks you, shoves you, or breaks your personal
property EVEN ONCE, drop them. Male Controllers often begin with behaviors that
move you physically or hit the wall. Female Controllers often slap, kick, and
even punch their male partners when upset.
Quick Attachment and Expression: Some Controllers have very shallow emotions
and connections with others. One of the things that might attract you to a Controller
is how quickly he or she says, I Love You, or wants to marry or commit
to you. Typically, in less than a few weeks of dating youll hear that youre
the love of their life, they want to be with you forever, and they want to marry
you. Youll receive gifts, a variety of promises, and be showered with their
attention and nice gestures. This is the honeymoon phase - where they
catch you and convince you that they are the best thing that ever happened to
you. Remember the business saying, If its too good to be true, it
probably is (too good to be true)! You may be so overwhelmed by this display
of instant attraction, instant commitment, and instant planning for the future
that youll miss the major point - it doesnt make sense!! Normal, healthy
individuals require a long process to develop a relationship, because there is
so much at stake. Healthy individuals will wait for a lot of information before
offering a commitment - not three weeks. Its true that we can become infatuated
with others quickly - but not make such unrealistic promises and have the future
planned after three dates. The rapid warm-up is always a sign of shallow emotions
which later cause some Controllers to detach from you as quickly as they committed.
Some Controllers want to move in with you or marry you in less than four
weeks or very early in the relationship.
Frightening Temper: Some Controllers have a scary temper. If your boyfriend or
girlfriend blows up and does dangerous things, like driving too fast because theyre
mad, breaking/throwing things, getting into fights, or threatening others - that
temper will soon be turned in your direction. In the beginning of the relationship,
you will be exposed to witnessed violence - fights with others, threats
toward others, angry outbursts at others, etc. You will also hear of violence
in their life. You will see and witness this temper - throwing things, yelling,
cursing, driving fast, hitting the walls, and kicking things. That quickly serves
to intimidate you and fear their potential for violence, although some Controllers
quickly assure you that they are angry at others or situations, not at you. At
first, you will be assured that they will never direct the hostility and violence
at you, but they are clearly letting you know that they have that ability and
capability - and that it might come your way. Later, you fear challenging or confronting
them - fearing that same temper and violence will be turned in your direction.
Killing Your Self-Confidence: Some Controllers repeatedly put you down. They
constantly correct your slight mistakes, making you feel on guard,
unintelligent, and leaving you with the feeling that you are always doing something
wrong. They tell you that youre too fat, too unattractive, or dont
talk correctly or look well. This gradual chipping away at your confidence and
self-esteem allows them to later treat you badly, as though you deserved it. In
public, you will be walking on eggshells always fearing you are doing
or saying something that will later create a temper outburst or verbal argument.
Cutting Off Your Support: In order to control someone completely, you must
cut off their supportive friends - sometimes even their family. Some Controllers feel
your friends and family might influence you or offer negative opinions about their
behavior. Some Controllers begin by telling you these friends treat you badly, take
advantage of you, and dont understand the special nature of the love you
share with them. In some cases, if they cant get rid of your best same-sex
friend, some Controllers will claim he or she made a pass at them. If you talk to
your friends or family, some Controllers will punish you by asking multiple questions
or making nasty accusations. Eventually, rather than face the verbal punishment,
interrogation, and abuse, youll develop the feeling that its better
not to talk to family and friends. You will withdraw from friends and family,
prompting them to become upset with you. Some Controllers then tell you they are
treating you badly again, and youd be better to keep your distance from
them. Once you are isolated and alone, without support, their control over you
The Mean and Sweet Cycle: Some Controllers cycle from mean to sweet and back
again. The cycle starts when they are intentionally hurtful and mean. You may
be verbally abused, cursed, and threatened over something minor. Suddenly, the
next day they become sweet, doing all those little things they did when you started
dating. You hang on, hoping each mean-then-sweet cycle is the last one. The other
purpose of the mean cycle is to allow some Controllers to say very nasty things about
you or those you care about, again chipping away at your self-esteem and self-confidence.
some Controller often apologize but the damage to your self-esteem is already done
- exactly as planned.
Its Always Your Fault: Some Controllers blame you for their anger as well
as any other behavior that is incorrect. When they cheat on you, yell at you,
treat you badly, damage your property, or embarrass you publicly, its somehow
your fault. If you are ten minutes late for a date, its your fault that
the male Controller drives 80 miles per hour, runs people off the road, and pouts
the rest of the evening. Some Controllers tell you their anger and misbehavior would
not have happened if you had not made some simple mistake, had loved them more,
or had not questioned their behavior. Some Controllers never, repeat never,
takes personal responsibility for their behavior - its always the fault
of someone else. If they drive like a maniac and try to pull an innocent driver
off the highway to assault them, its actually the fault of the other driver
(not him) as they didnt use a turn signal when they changed lanes. They
give you the impression that you had it (anger, yelling, assault) coming and deserved
the anger, violence, pouting, or physical display of aggression.
Breakup Panic: Some Controllers panic at the idea of breaking up, unless its
totally their idea, then youre dropped like a hot rock. Abusive boyfriends
often break down and cry, they plead, they promise to change, and they offer marriage/trips/gifts
when you threaten ending the relationship. Both male and female Controllers may
threaten suicide, threaten to return to old sweethearts (who feel lucky theyre
gone!), or threaten to quit their job and leave the area, as though you will be
responsible for those decisions. Some Controllers offer a multitude of deals
and halfway measures, like Lets just date one more month!
shower you with phone calls, often every five minutes, hoping that you will make
an agreement or see them just to stop the telephone harassment. Some call your
relatives, your friends, their friends, and anyone else they can think of - telling
those people to call you and tell you how much they love you. Creative Controllers
often create so much social pressure that the victim agrees to go back to the
bad relationship rather than continue under the social pressure. Imagine trying
to end a relationship and receiving tearful calls from all his or her relatives
(they secretly hope youll keep them so they dont have to), seeing
a plea for your return in the newspaper or even on a local billboard, receiving
flowers at work each day, or having them arrive at your place of work and offer
you a wedding ring (male Controller technique) or inform you that they might be
pregnant (female Controller technique) in front of your coworkers! Their reaction
is emotionally intense, a behavior they use to keep you an emotional prisoner.
If you go back to them, you actually fear a worse reaction if you threaten to
leave again (making you a prisoner), and they later frequently recall the incident
to you as further evidence of what a bad person you are. Remember, if your prize
dog jumps the fence and escapes, if you get him back, you build a higher fence.
Once back in the grasp of Controller - escape will be three times as difficult
the next time.
No Outside Interests: Some Controllers will encourage you to drop your hobbies,
interests, and involvement with others. If you have an individual activity, they
demand that they accompany you, making you feel miserable during the entire activity.
The idea behind this is to prevent you from having fun or interests other than
those which they totally control.
Paranoid Control: Some Controlles will check up on you and keep track of where
you are and who you are with. If you speak to a member of the opposite sex, you
receive twenty questions about how you know them. If you dont answer their
phone call, you are asked where you were, what were you doing, who you were talking
to, etc. They will notice the type of mud on your car, question why you shop certain
places, and question why you called a friend, why the friend called you, and so
forth. Some Controllers follow you to the grocery, then later ask if youve
been there in an attempt to catch you in a lie. In severe cases, they go through
your mail, look through your purse/wallet, hit your redial on the phone when they
arrive, or search through your garbage for evidence. High-tech Controllers may
encourage you to make private calls to friends from their residence,
calls that are being secretly taped for later reference. They may begin to tell
you what to wear, what to listen to in music, and how to behave in public. Eventually,
they tell you that you can not talk to certain friends or acquaintances, go certain
places, or talk about certain issues in public. If no date is present on Friday
night, some Controllers will inform you that they will call you that night - sometime.
That effectively keeps you home, awaiting the call, fearing the verbal abuse and
questions you might receive if you werent home for the call. This technique
allows Controller to do what they want socially, at the same time controlling
your behavior from a distance or a local bar.
Public Embarrassment: In an effort to keep you under control while in public,
Controller will lash out at you, call you names, or say cruel or embarrassing
things about you in private or in front of people. When in public, you quickly
learn that any opinion you express may cause them to verbally attack you, either
at the time or later. If you stay with Controller too long, youll soon find
yourself politely smiling, saying nothing, and holding on to their arm when in
public. Youll also find yourself walking with your head down, fearful of
seeing a friend who might speak to you and create an angry reaction in Controller.
Its Never Enough: Some Controllers convince you that you are never quite
good enough. You dont say I love you enough, you dont
stand close enough, you dont do enough for them after all their sacrifices,
and your behavior always falls short of what is expected. This is another method
of destroying your self-esteem and confidence. After months of this technique,
they begin telling you how lucky you are to have them - somebody who tolerates
someone so inadequate and worthless as you.
Entitlement: Some Controller have a tremendous sense of entitlement, the attitude
that they have a perfectly logical right to do whatever they desire. If cut off
in traffic, Controller feels they have the right to run the other driver off the
road, assault them, and endanger the lives of other drivers with their temper
tantrum. Keep in mind, this same sense of entitlement will be used against you.
If you disobey their desires or demands, or violate one of their rules, they feel
they are entitled to punish you in any manner they see fit.
Your Friends and Family Dislike Him: As the relationship continues, your friends
and family will see what some Controllers are doing to you. They will notice a change
in your personality or your withdrawal. They will protest. Some Controllers will tell
you they are jealous of the special love you have, and then use their
protest and opinion as further evidence that they are against you - not him. The
mention of your family members or friends will spark an angry response from them,
eventually placing you in the situation where you stop talking about those you
care about, even your own family members. Some Controllers will be jealous and threatened
by anyone you are close to, even your children. In some cases, your parents or
brothers/sisters will not be allowed to visit your home.
Bad Stories: People often let you know about their personality by the stories
they tell about themselves. Its the old story about giving a person enough
rope and theyll hang themselves. The stories a person tells informs us of
how they see themselves, what they think is interesting, and what they think will
impress you. A humorous individual will tell funny stories on himself. Some Controllers
tell stories of violence, aggression, being insensitive to others, rejecting
others, etc. They may tell you about past relationships and, in every case, they
assure you that they were treated horribly despite how wonderful they were to
that person. They brag about their temper and outbursts, because they dont
see anything wrong with violence and actually take pride in the I dont
take nothing from nobody attitude. People define themselves with their stories,
much like a culture is described by its folklore and legends. Listen to
these stories - they tell you how you will eventually be treated and whats
coming your way.
The Waitress Test: Its been said that when dating, the way an individual
treats a waitress or other neutral person of the opposite sex is the way they
will treat you in six months. During the honeymoon phase of a relationship,
you will be treated like a king or queen. However, during that time some Controllers
have not forgotten how he or she basically feels about the opposite sex. Waitresses,
clerks, or other neutral individuals will be treated badly. If they are cheap,
youll never receive anything once the honeymoon is over. If they whine,
complain, criticize, and torment, thats how theyll treat you in six
months. A mentally healthy person is consistent, they treat almost all people
the same way all the time. If you find yourself dating a man who treats you like
a queen and other females like dirt, hit the road.
The Reputation: As mentioned, mentally healthy individuals are consistent
in their personality and their behavior. Some Controllers may have two distinct reputations
- a group of individuals who will give you glowing reports and a group that will
warn you that they are serious trouble. If you ask ten people about a new restaurant
- five say its wonderful and five say its a hog pit - you clearly
understand that theres some risk involved in eating there. Some Controllers
may actually brag about their reputation as a butt kicker," womanizer,"
hot temper, or being crazy. They may tell you stories
where others have called them crazy or suggested that they receive professional
help. Pay attention to the reputation. Reputation is the public perception of
an individuals behavior. If the reputation has two sides, good and bad,
your risk is high. You will be dealing with the bad side once the honeymoon is
over in the relationship. With severe behavior problems, some Controllers will be
found to have almost no friends, just acquaintances. Emotionally healthy and moral
individuals will not tolerate friendships with Controllers that treat others so
badly. If you find yourself disliking the friends of a Controller, its because
they operate the same way he or she does and you can see it in them.
Walking on Eggshells: As a relationship with a Controller continues, you
will gradually be exposed to verbal intimidation, temper tantrums, lengthy interrogations
about trivial matters, violence/threats directed at others but witnessed by you,
paranoid preoccupation with your activities, and a variety of put-downs on your
character. You will quickly find yourself walking on eggshells in
their presence - fearful to bring up topics, fearful to mention that you spoke
to or saw a friend, and fearful to question or criticize the behavior of a Controller.
Instead of experiencing the warmth and comfort of love, you will be constantly
on edge, tense when talking to others (they might say something that youll
have to explain later), and fearful that youll see someone youll have
to greet in public. Dates and times together will be more comfortable and less
threatening when totally alone, exactly what a Controller wants, no interference
with their control or dominance.
Discounted Feelings/Opinions: Some Controllers are so self-involved and self-worshiping
that the feelings and opinions of others are considered worthless. As the relationship
continues and you begin to question what you are feeling or seeing in their behavior,
you will be told that your feelings and opinions dont make sense, theyre
silly, and that you are emotionally disturbed to even think of such things. Some Controllers have no interest in your opinion or your feelings, but they will be
disturbed and upset that you dare question their behavior. Some Controllers are extremely
hostile toward criticism and often reacts with anger or rage when their behavior
They Make You Crazy: Some Controllers operate in such a damaging
way that you find yourself doing crazy things in self-defense. If
a Controller is scheduled to arrive at 8:00 pm, you call Time & Temperature
to cover the redial, check your garbage for anything that might get you in trouble,
and call your family and friends to tell them not to call you that night. You
warn family/friends not to bring up certain topics, avoid locations in the community
where you might see co-workers or friends, and not speak to others for fear of
the 20 questions. You become paranoid as well - being careful what you wear and
say. Nonviolent males find themselves in physical fights with female Controllers.
Nonviolent females find themselves yelling and screaming when they can no longer
take the verbal abuse or intimidation. In emotional and physical self-defense,
we behave differently and oddly. While we think we are going crazy,
its important to remember that there is no such thing as normal behavior
in a combat situation. Rest assured that your behavior will return to normal if
you detach from a Controller before permanent psychological damage is done.
- Lauren, T. R., & Gaskin-Laniyan, N. (n.d.). Sexual Assault in Abusive Relationships. NIJ Journal, (256), 12-14. Retrieved May 08, 2019, from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/jr000256d.pdf. The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
Reflection Exercise #2
The preceding section contained information about
Warning Signs you are involved with a Controller. Write three case
study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section of the
Manual in your practice.
What are the two distinct reputations a Controller may have? To select
and enter your answer go to Answer
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