Warning Signs You Are Married To A Control Freak

And Know When It’s Time to Get Out!

Brian M. Murray, MS, IMH

Sometimes when getting married, a person may unknowingly be tying the knot with some kind of controlling manipulator. So what does a controlling person look like?

Controlling people often manipulate others, seeking some kind of personal gain in return. They manipulate their spouse (or if dating, their significant other) into doing whatever it is they want. They do not invest time nurturing the marriage/relationship; instead they make everything all about them.

This type of person often expects others to serve them or to provide something for them. This type of behavior may even extend outside the marriage. In general, they very seldom show empathy or sympathetic behavior toward their spouse or others. They usually come across as very charming at first - that is until they do not get their way. Once that happens, the controlling power tactics show up. The superficial charm didn’t work so now force and coercion are used instead.

The manipulation is a system of power and domination tactics used to control the marriage. There are often common areas that a controlling person will use for this purpose. The following is a list and an explanation of how some of these common tactics are used in a relationship for personal gain and control.

1.      Threatening behavior and intimidation. Examples of this behavior include the use of hard looks (staring) and body postures, yelling, throwing and smashing objects, showing weapons, punching walls and the destruction of other property. They threaten to hurt other people the spouse cares about and at times may threaten to kill themselves to get others to respond to their demands.

2.      Verbal and Emotional Abuse. This includes name calling, constant criticism, correcting their comments, being humiliated or put down in front of others, insulting the spouse’s heritage and family, silent treatment and guilt trips.

3.      Extreme jealousy. The manipulator attempts to control who their spouse hangs out with and keeps constant tabs on them wherever they go. Sometimes this includes calling and texting their phone. At work they may email them or call constantly and demand their attention. The manipulator doesn’t want any other person in the lives of their partner for the basic reason that they are jealous of others getting attention. Remember, to the manipulator it’s all about them.

4.      Using the children. This may include putting pressure to get pregnant, using the children to force the spouse to stay home, threatening to call the state for abuse or neglect, charming the children with gifts to put a negative spin on the other parent (known as “demonizing”, common in divorces).

5.      Money. This includes putting the spouse on a tight budget, demanding information about how every dollar was spent, expecting favors in return for spending money on them, playing king or queen with the checkbook. Playing king or queen is about spending money on themselves but refusing to allow their partner equal privilege. This also includes belittling the other by telling them they are not worthy of what they want to spend the money on, or they don’t deserve it.

One thing to remember is that a person who is manipulative in a relationship is usually doing these things based on a deep-rooted irrational fear. Often this root is in the belief that if they are not in control then others will gain power over them. Internally, for the manipulator, it’s a power struggle and when this power gets threatened, they feel threatened personally. This perception, when it is taken to an extreme, can lead to physical abuse, especially when the person being manipulated has had enough and attempts to draw a boundary to make it stop.

Know When It’s Time To Get Out

Any time a marriage or relationship becomes physically abusive or overwhelmingly emotionally abusive, it is time to get out. The emotional abuse, manipulation, power and control tactics are all warning signs that something is amiss. Common reasons people don’t leave a relationship or marriage is because they feel helpless or powerless or think that the manipulator will actually carry out the threats and that will somehow make it their fault.

Getting out requires a safety plan. There are many resources available online or in the community that outline what is needed to create a safety plan. Confronting a power controlling person can and often makes the situation worse. Getting out safely is the main idea; keep it covert. Stealth is the name of the game when trying to get away from this type of person.

If you or someone you know are in a marriage or relationship and have been manipulated in some way to the point of being afraid to reach out for help, know that help is available. In the Orlando Metro area, a great resource to begin is an organization provided by Northland Church called Resource Point. Follow this link for additional information or call the numbers below.

Hotlines and Helplines

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • Florida hotline:  1-800-621-4202 (TTY)



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