The Controlling Manipulator

Controlling, Manipulating, Relationships:

Root Causes and how to react when dealing with these abusers.

“With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism, and accusations slowly eat away at the victim’s self-esteem until he or she is incapable of judging a situation realistically. He or she may begin to believe that there is something wrong with them or even fear they are losing their mind. They have become so beaten down emotionally that they blame themselves for the abuse.” — Beverly Engel

Do controlling, manipulative people realize what they do? Did they start out abusive in the relationship from the beginning, and you just missed it? Probably not. Most of us are on our best behavior on first dates, new jobs, church gatherings, and family functions. And usually, there is a relationship stage in the beginning called love bombing. This period is full of extra special attention and care, but it does not last, and a vicious cycle begins.

As you read this blog, do not read it with only a picture of an unhealthy marriage or courtship, the controller crosses our path in many different people groups. At the end of the day, we must all look at ourselves and see if we have any of these character issues.

What is the root cause of control? How can we react to those people bent on controlling us?

I will answer these questions and give examples of what living, working, or interacting with a controlling, manipulative person sounds and looks like.

Most controlling people feel they can’t control their own lives, so they must try to control others. All of us are guilty of this on some scale, but it is far greater with abusive controllers. Controlling behaviors can range from minute to over-the-top abuse, but the patterns of an abuser are notable.

In the controller’s eyes, their ways and thoughts are right, and others are mostly wrong. Controlling people think they know the better way to do something and they will let you know. It could be as simple as how to load a dishwasher, how towels should be folded, or more significant things such as how to run the office more sufficiently than their boss, how to teach or coach a team better, etc. But it’s not just how things should be run or governed—no, this control creeps into all areas. If a person in their lives deviates from the “right way” of doing things, then the victim is scorched by the controller, who may voice that the victim is an idiot or useless imbecile. In families, these words can be spewed at in-laws, sisters, brothers, parents, children—you name it. One pattern I’ve noticed in controlling people is a love for gossip. Could it be that pointing out what’s wrong in others makes them appear less vulnerable and keeps them from looking at their own reflection in the mirror?

Controlling people love to micromanage. In the workplace, they breathe down the neck, hover, notice when you go to the restroom, get coffee, check to make sure you are on time, not taking breaks, and, of course, do things their way. If you do not meet their standards, they may say, “Move out of the way, just let me do it! “Or in families, it may sound like, “You should have taken that job, invested your money more wisely, sold your home, eaten healthier, and disciplined or raised your children in such a way.

Most controlling people have a knack for not doing what their loved one or bosses request. They will act like they forgot, or they will do the opposite. If a person reminds them repeatedly of their promise, they may resort to name calling, such as nagger, or state that the person is only concerned with their needs.

Controlling people deal with anxiety and fear, and most have an issue with worrying about what others think about them. Under all that tough exterior, the controlling person is fragile and cannot handle anyone correcting them. Most things controlling people do are due to insecurities, fear of man, fear of lack, and being seen as imperfect or not good enough, not smart enough, not liked, or given the attention they deserve. Their ego is in turmoil, or they are narcissistic.

The controlling, manipulative person will blame you for their failures. They will blame their partners, teachers, bosses, and parents—because to look in the mirror would shatter who they believe they are. Living or interacting with these individuals is suffocating:

“An abusive relationship is like a house with no doors or windows, you feel trapped and suffocated.” —unknown

What does being raised by, living with, or working for one of these individuals look like? Here’s a hypothetical example:

You might, in passing, tell your spouse that you desire a specific item, a car, a new refrigerator, or a new living room suite. The controller will make sure to surprise you with the one they want. But It most certainly will differ from the item you had voiced wanting. If you address this and try to respond, they will act incredibly aggressively. It will sound somewhat like this:

“You said this is the refrigerator you wanted! I was standing right there when you pointed at it! I had to hire a mover and go to three stores to find this refrigerator!”

This is the gaslighting stage, where the controller tries to make you go insane. Adding things like “all I ever do is try and make you happy. All I do is try and please you. I don’t know what you want. And this is the respect I get? You even said you wanted the stainless-steel refrigerator.”

This part of our story is when you should not engage, but more than likely, you will because insanity is not part of your makeup. You’ll try and reason. It will sound something like this:

“But we were just looking at kitchen appliances, and remember when I told you we really can’t afford a refrigerator right now? I’ve got the class I’m taking this month. Then I voiced that eventually, I wanted a black refrigerator that didn’t show all the children’s fingerprints and was easier to clean than stainless steel?”

To which they will reply: “You are nuts! I only got the stainless steel because you said you hated the black and that white showed too much dirt. I wanted the black one but didn’t get the one I wanted because I was trying to please you. You need to get your head checked.”

In which your brain will do gymnastics somersaults.

“Did I say that? Over time, You will begin to lose your voice. Gradually, you will second guess your sanity: “Did I mess up? Did I miss speak? I did say white was not a good color with the kids?”

This is where the gaslighting begins to break a person down.

“The term “gaslight” originated in the famous 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton, Gas Light, which was later adapted into two films. In the story, a woman inherits a lot of money, and her partner tries to get his hands on it by making her question her own sanity through petty tricks such as — you guessed it — dimming the gas lights and then pretending he doesn’t notice the flickering.”

The gaslighting will come in many forms and end with a verbal attack. “You’re a nut job! I heard you say you wanted that one!”

The victim will learn to be silent. To accept the refrigerator, among other things. The controller must have things their way. Soon, you’ll understand how they wish you to dress, look, and act in public, how you should think politically and religiously, how they like their home kept, and how they expect their food at a specific time. The controller will control every aspect of the house, down to the temperature on the thermostat, to the business, and the children. If you disagree or offer a differing point of view, you won’t forget it. (See The Spirit of Leviathan) HERE

The controller spends most of their life even controlling themselves unaware. They are trapped in their own prison–

The abuser breaks down their subject through slander and criticism, silent treatment, not accepting no for an answer, or doing the opposite of what they know the other person longs for. The critical comments will begin to get under the skin and silently erupt.

Examples: you’re parking there? Why didn’t you back in the driveway? Now, when I get out of the truck, it will hit the shrubs and scratch up my door!” Idiot!

“You ask a question: “Did you read my Newsletter?”

“yeah, the one where you spelled there with their and had a comma splice? Yes, I read it.”

“Why are you taking that medication? You know that’s the devil. Now throw it away!”

“You’re wearing that polo shirt to meet my parents. You look sloppy. You need to go change.”

“You’re not really a nurse. You only have your LPN license. You need your RN to be a registered nurse, but you didn’t finish school like — did.”

“With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism, and accusations slowly eat away at the victim’s self-esteem until he or she is incapable of judging a situation realistically.” — Beverly Engel

If the victim points out the behavior or verbal abuse, the controller flips the situation, making the victim the guilty party. What does this manipulation look like?

At the office, If you show up early, bring donuts, and make the coffee, and the boss notices all the compliments you’re receiving, they will stop the party, especially if the big boss has been talking to you about a promotion. Or they will comment how the coffee tastes like cardboard this morning. “Jane, did you buy a different coffee this morning?” They will ask. Knowing it’s the same coffee and that Jane did not make it. After woofing down two donuts, you’ll undoubtedly hear later how their blood sugar is messed up because someone brought donuts or how unhealthy they are. They might even ignore your deadlines and projects that must be okay by them.

If they are having computer issues, and you step in to help, the retort may sound like this:

“All my work is gone now! You destroy everything. Are you stupid? Now I must fill out all this paperwork thanks to you! “

If you try and tell them, the forms are still there. Or show them where, they may become physically abusive, jerking the laptop or throwing things.

Passive-aggressive, seasoned, manipulative controllers like to act like children when things don’t go their way. They throw phones, jerk cords from the wall, stomp off, slam doors, slam breaks in the car, yell at traffic, and they may even belittle and punch a hole in the wall or worse, punch you. Other forms of abuse involve large purchases of expensive items or the use of the silent treatment to punish you.

These individuals prefer to avoid help or instructions. They do not like any form of correction. They become intimidated. And further, everything that happens to them that is negative will be your fault. They may pit the children against you to make you look like the problem.

The ego of the controlling, abusive narcissist is fragile. You cannot enlighten or correct them— see my blog, The Know it All.

If you become stronger or more secure, place boundaries and start realizing who you are and your worth; they will make sure to try and drag you down.

 “The car was fine the last time I drove it!” “You just want to tear my children away from me. You won’t be happy until you destroy my relationships.” Or “I can’t believe you said that in front of Tom. Now everyone at the office will think our team cannot get the new advertising job.” Not only are these examples telling, but they will also try and remove your friendships. They might even blame the problems in the home on your friends, whom they believe are toxic. Isolation is a big key.

The controller, when corrected or criticized, will bagger and say things like

“Who is the lazy person who left the water hose in the middle of the yard and didn’t roll it up? I just about tripped!” Of course, since you’re the only one who lives in the house, you’re the idiot. And even if children live in the house, you’re still the idiot because you’re in charge. You’ll soon never leave the hose out. You’ll soon never place your towel on the wrong rack. You’ll learn when you can pick up the remote control or make a decision on your own. Other controllers use the opposite approach. They leave the hose out on purpose, their shoes, throw their clothes on the floor, and act as if they don’t see you running around cleaning up after them.

The abusers lack empathy. They are consumed with their needs. At first, It will look like they are consumed with your needs, but this is often a front. Toxic controllers will have everyone in the home walking on eggshells.

“A woman should never invest in a relationship she wouldn’t want for her daughter, nor allow any man to treat her in a way she would scold her son for.” — Charles J. Orlando

The drama does not stop here. Let’s go back to the refrigerator: 

Later, when you get the bank statement, you realize the controller bought the most expensive refrigerator in the store—over 2,000 dollars. Now, the money you saved to take a college course is gone. When you confront the abusive partner, they will retort:

“You said you wanted a new refrigerator! I got it for you because you always complain about the ice maker not working right.”

Controllers speak over their victims. They speak louder and constantly interrupt to get their point across, or they will smile and imply you’re not being grateful or you’re so negative. The truth is, they were the ones complaining about the ice maker.

Later, the victim will discover the real reason for the purchase is the controller wants to impress their boss, who is coming over to discuss a client. The old refrigerator was outdated, or the controller was bent on stealing your opportunity to take the class. They must keep their target isolated and controlled. Education is a tool for a job or career that could give you the power to leave.

The controller, unbeknownst to themselves at times, self-sabotages, so there is no way their spouse can leave. If the cars broke, the bank account is empty, and they’ve moved you far from family, it’s hard to leave without support. And if you have children, it’s harder to leave.

“The toxic behaviors were there before you decided to enter into relationships with them. The signs were there. You may have chosen to look the other way, but the signs were there.” — P.A. Speers

The signs are very subtle at the beginning. We brush them off, wanting to think the best of others, but down in our bellies, we notice them. The lack of care. The siding against us. The abandonment when we needed them. The flirting with the opposite sex in front of us. The facade at functions or church gatherings and the lukewarmness for the spiritual things that matter behind closed doors. 

When dealing with controllers, know that these folks can become anxiously irritable and take it out on you. The controller is concerned that they may appear unlearned, not good enough, or weak in the eyes of others. They lie. This lying is used to control their reality. They will lie about the most senseless things to make themselves appear better, smarter, innocent, you name it. If you point out their wrongdoings, they cannot handle any criticism because they have to face the fact that they are not perfect and do not know everything. And their ego cannot take that.

The patterns are easy to spot. Apologies are shallow, and lack empathy or remorse for their actions. Later, more Love bombing–showering you with gifts, and praises–repenting, and holding your hand. Taking you in the office to apologize, offer vacation days, and ask for forgiveness, but they do not change. If they do, it’s for a day or two or a few short weeks, and the cycle begins again. In some cases, their short fuse and controlling patterns grow worse.

These people are intelligent, manipulative, and charming at first, but underneath lies a storm brewing.

How to deal with controlling manipulators:

Don’t engage in arguing and stroking the fire. Correct immediately if possible and make it short, then disengage.

Set boundaries, and ask yourself if you need to stay or go. You may need to plan in private on how to leave.

“It’s never pretty when you leave an abusive and controlling relationship. The warden always protests when the prison gets shut-down.” — Steve Maraboli


1. They need to know your whereabouts. They may ask for screenshots. Check your car mileage. Call you repeatedly to check in.

2. Controllers will isolate you. If you are out with friends or talking to friends on the phone, they may become irritated, jealous, or fear you may try to leave them. They do not like to see anyone else getting close to you. 

3. The controllers use guilt or act like children to get their way. The guilt may appear innocent, but it’s not. And if they say things in a different tone like a child, it’s genuinely not innocent. “You don’t love me?” Or “You don’t have time for me anymore.” “Don’t you care about me?” “ I thought we were hanging out today?”

4. If you have children, they will pit them against you. The controller will use their own flesh and blood to get their way. They may even try to brainwash them or give them gifts and take them to do fun festivities to win their favor to side with them. 

5. If you divorce a controlling, manipulative person, they will often stay in close contact until they find another dating partner. And they will try and run off any person you decide to date or even friends you bring around the children. They must keep control at all costs.

The topics I have brought up in this blog are often all signs that you are dealing with a controlling narcissist. What is a narcissist? 

SIGNS YOU ARE DEALING WITH A NARCISSIST: taken from Mind Body Green Website:

• Narcissists have to be the best, the most right, and the most competent; do everything their way; own everything; and control everyone.

• Narcissists constantly need attention—even just by following you around the house, asking you to find things, or constantly saying something to grab your attention. And validation for a narcissist counts only if it comes from others.

• Narcissists need everything to be perfect. They believe they should be perfect, you should be perfect, events should happen exactly as expected, and life should play out precisely as they envision it.

• Narcissists want and demand to be in control, and their sense of entitlement makes it seem logical to them that they should be in control of everything.

• Narcissists never want to be responsible unless everything goes their way. They often place all the blame and responsibility on someone else to maintain their own façade of perfection.

• Narcissists lack boundaries. They believe that everything belongs to them and everyone thinks and feels the same as they do.

• Narcissists have very little ability to empathize with others and often lack an understanding of the nature of feelings.

• Narcissists perceive everything as a threat. They frequently misread subtle facial expressions and are typically biased toward interpreting facial expressions as negative.

• Narcissists make most of their decisions based on how they feel about something. They always look to something or someone outside themselves to solve their feelings and needs.

• A narcissist’s personality is split into good and bad parts. Any negative thoughts or behaviors are blamed on you or others, whereas they take credit for everything that is positive and good.

• Narcissists are constantly afraid of being ridiculed, rejected, or wrong and often struggle to trust other people.

• Narcissists typically deal with anxiety, and typically project their anxiety onto their closest loved ones, accusing them of being negative or unsupportive.

• Narcissists don’t feel much guilt because they think they are always right, and they harbor a lot of shame and often bury their insecurities, fears, and rejected traits that they are constantly on guard to hide from everyone, including themselves.

• Narcissists can’t truly love or connect emotionally with other people because of their inability to understand feelings, their lack of empathy, and their constant need for self-protection.

• Narcissists don’t have the capacity or the motivation to communicate or work as part of a team.

15 Signs Of A Narcissist: Signs, Causes, And More | mindbodygreen

Now that we have covered most characteristics, we must remember one of the primary root causes is low self-esteem, the ego, and, in some cases, trauma.

If you are dealing with a controlling abusive husband, wife, parent, boss, or family member, seek counseling. Get help. And if the person is verbally and physically abusive, make plans to exit the relationship. If you cannot leave now, get support, and if the abuser will not go to counseling with you, GO ALONE!

Build up your self-esteem and self-worth. Start saving money or working on your own bank account. Look for remote jobs you can do at home.

Call them out immediately if they are being verbally abusive and if it’s safe to do so without physical assault. Tell them they hurt you when they said or did, or acted in some manner. Express how it made you feel. If they try to flip it and say, “Well, I would not have talked to you like that if you hadn’t started it. You’re just as guilty, blah, blah, blah. This is when you know that they are lacking empathy and love. Their ego must not ever realize they are not perfect.

Stand firm and keep your boundaries up.

And as always, protect yourself and your children. Call the emergency hotline, the center for abuse, and your local authorities if necessary. Seek shelter. Pray. Hold fast to what you believe and make strategic plans with a counselor.







I’m ending this blog with a scripture that I feel needs meditated on daily.

2 thoughts on “The Controlling Manipulator

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  1. My daughter is in a sports team with a female head-coach who is passive-aggressive, manipulative, and controlling. She displays these traits to both the teenage girls whom she has authority over, and sometimes even their parents. I deal with this by determining that my daughter is never without me at practices or games. I make myself present in an attempt to stand like a wall between all interactions she has with my child.

    There is one girl in particular that gets the brunt of the coach’s behavior. Her mother is a single, working parent and isn’t often at games or overnight tournaments. How can I advocate for this teenage girl?

    As expected there are many layers to this situation that I simply don’t have time to share here. But my heart breaks for this young girl.

    1. Hello Gina. Your comment makes my heart hurt. Coaches, like teachers, should be boosting the children’s self worth, esteem and encouraging them. Usually, confronting them causes defensiveness.
      One suggestion would be speak to the coach but avoid blaming.
      You might say, “I’m concerned that your yelling at the girls is hurting their confidence.”
      You might want to go higher on the totem pole and report the coach to the supervising league. You also might want to speak to the mother of the young woman who is catching the brunt of the coaches behavior and of course encourage her as often as you can. At the end of the day, you might even consider removing your daughter from the team. There are many other things that could be a positive change for her.
      When I was a teenager I learned a lot from volunteering. And had my sons help out at a local soup kitchen for the homeless. There’s also volunteer work at nursing homes, human societies where animals need care.
      I don’t have all the answers but I do believe reaching out to the one being abused and encouraging and praying for her is a must, and as always, praying for the coach who does not see their condition and is in need of healing.

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