Sometimes we don't realize the controlling nature of the relationship until we are out of the relationship. An abused spouse, for instance, often does not realize what freedom is until they have been out of the abusive relationship for a period of time and it is in retrospect that they are able to pinpoint the sources of the control.
People and even groups of people control others in a variety of ways: actions; anger; flattery; attitudes; words; money; organizational structure; friendship or lack of it; intimidation; closeness or marginalization. In each case, the effort is to control the actions, thinking or behavior of others.
How does one know if there is control going on? Here are some signs:
- I am feeling pressured to act or believe a certain way
- I feel the displeasure of another when I act independently
- My relationship with another is based on how I respond to them
- I feel intimidation
- I experience flattery when doing what the other desires and anger or distance when I don't
- I experience threats: implicit or explicit
- The other wants an exclusive relationship with me and is not comfortable with me having a variety of relationships
- There is not freedom to disagree or push back
- The other has an attitude of "you are either my friend or my enemy", "you are either for me or against me."
- The other feels free to critique me but does not give me the freedom to critique them
- I often feel an air of condescension or superiority
- I feel used in certain circumstances where I am expected to act on their behalf when they need it but there is not reciprocation
- I am often wrong but they are not - at least they make me feel that way
What these kinds of feelings are telling us is that there is dysfunction in the relationship that is violating our sense of personal freedom. If a relationship has these kinds of feelings to it we are wise to do some introspection on the relationship because it is usually going to end badly.
The reason it will end badly is that this is not a true and healthy friendship. Rather it is a relationship where one is being used - and when no longer needed will be discarded. Those who control people ultimately use people for their purposes. Otherwise they would have no need to control.
Beware of controlling relationships. Someone is ultimately going to get hurt and it will not be the controller.