Have you ever been called a controlling woman? Probably not to your face. That’s certainly not a flattering way to be described, but let’s be honest—most of us have the tendency to control at least some things in life. Much of our existence feels out of control, so why wouldn’t we want to have a say in what seems to be within our power to manage?
While there’s nothing wrong with wanting a neat Tupperware cupboard or being known as someone who gets the job done, controlling tendencies can become a serious liability to your most important relationships. Efforts to control can build a wall to intimacy with your friends, your children, and your husband.
Control by a Different Name
Most controlling people won’t classify themselves as “control freaks.” They have a handful of other labels that feel more acceptable—they’re “organized,” “neat,” “I know my own mind,” “strong-willed,” or “opinionated.”
The best way to disguise control is through the art of manipulation. When we are manipulative, the people around us may not be aware that they are being controlled. In fact, we might not even realize ourselves that our behaviors are controlling. Instead of demanding our way, we use emotions, veiled threats, and unfair arguments to get what we want, all the while insisting that the other person is free to make his own decision.
As the saying goes, “It takes one to know one.” I think I came out of the womb manipulating. Because I have a non-threatening personality and I’m more of an introvert, few people would describe me as controlling. Add a couple psychology degrees on top of my natural ability to manipulate and my husband didn’t know what hit him. It took Mike a few years to get the gist of what I was doing when I subtly swayed him to my way of thinking. He began to describe my manipulation tactics as “Jedi mind tricks.” While this was funny in the moment, it also convicted me. Through manipulation, I was using my influence to make my husband feel like I didn’t trust his judgment or decisions.1