First, being a control freak isn’t always a bad thing. If you’re an artist and you have a vision of your work, you will want to control the final product. If you’re doing a job and your reputation is on the line, you will want to control how well that job turns out. There are all sorts of situations when being a control freak is a good thing.
The problem comes when you try to control other people. Or, when other people try to control you. Especially if you are in a relationship with a control freak. That is, someone who controls you, or tries to, beyond a reasonable extent.
So what is reasonable? How do you tell the difference between a loving partner and a control freak? Sometimes there’s a fine line. Here are some examples:
- A loving partner might give you unsolicited advice, but a control freak will tell you what to do to the point of micromanagement. She will stand over you in the kitchen and tell you how to cut green beans. Or load the dishwasher. Or organize the refrigerator. And there’s never any pleasing her. You are always doing something wrong.
- A loving partner might be upset when you are late to dinner thus causing him to overcook the roast. A control freak will be very angry when anyone is late or when things don’t go exactly as planned. A control freak will not easily accept the fact that there was a major accident on the interstate and you couldn’t help being late. His dinner is ruined, his plans are out of control, and so is he.
- A loving partner will not want to take advantage of you or others, but will allow you to help her when the situation calls for it. A control freak will never want to accept help from others, or be beholden to anyone for anything. When a control freak has to depend on others, it means she does not have control over the situation herself.
- A loving partner will have rituals that you enjoy, like making apple pancakes for breakfast on Sundays. A control freak will have all sorts of rules and routines that cannot be breached. If you want to skip the pancakes and go out for brunch, it throws the control freak off, makes him feel out of control. And don’t try to change any other routine, either. It’s too upsetting.
- A loving partner may, from time to time, argue and insist on being right. We are all human, after all. But a control freak will be rigid in her rightness. She cannot allow anyone else to be right at the expense of her being wrong. She needs constancy. She needs to be right all the time. She needs to have the final word. Period.
If you are always doing what your partner wants and not what you want, consider that you may be in a relationship with a controlling person. If you are never quite up to snuff because he expects perfection; if you are subjected to constant advice that you didn’t ask for; if you are made to adhere to rigid routines and schedules, then you are probably in a relationship with a controlling person. Next week we’ll talk about how to cope.