I received a very interesting email. It
was also a post on one of the boards:
I read with great interest on your website today your description of the
classic controller abuser vs. caregiver victim. What I would like to know
is what insights into the make up of this person or advice you can give to
help a situation involving a person who is a combination of
By this I mean a
person who is the angry,
verbally abusive, controller who is also and obsessive, over reaching
caregiver. This type of controller sets a standard of care giving that the
victim can not match and then becomes angry and abusive at the inevitable
disappointment. The verbal abuse and the lack of empathy for the
victim, even though they may receive a lot of care giving, reinforces the
lack of appreciation the victim has for the caregiver/controller since the
victim does not want the care at the terrible price that must be paid for
This leads to even more disappointment and anger until the
caregiver/controller lashes out with even more verbal abuse creating a
viscous circle of trouble. The control is often exerted by making
the victim feel guilty and inevitably angry at themselves for all the
intentions they can not live up to.
Of course the angry person also
displays other traits of abuse like not accepting that they make mistakes
like everyone else, constant criticism, not accepting anyone ideas but
their own etc., etc. but the controlling caregiver is one of the biggest.
Confused Victim Good observations!
The Controlling Caregiver
Did you know that most controllers
are also caretakers?
Most controllers are among the most giving, care taking people you'll ever meet. After all,
these people are just another variety of codependent. That's why
once upon a time you thought you met the perfect person. That's why just
thinks your controlling partner is so wonderful... The shirt off his or her back? No
problem! Here, take it! (Never mind that that shirt belongs to -. you...)
Exquisitely tuned into what other people
are thinking of him or her, this controller has many traits of the classic
codependent: they can be very empathic and sense their partner's needs.
These individuals really try hard. They
use their very best judgment to figure out what is best for you. They will
do things they are not asked to do; things you may not even want
them to do. They want to please you to show you how much they
The problem is, it's really hard to
reciprocate. No matter how hard you try, too often your efforts somehow
miss the mark. And, you're likely to hear about it!
Why The Partner Can't Get It Right
Sometimes your efforts fall short
because your controller is expert at going overboard. More often, your
efforts fall short only because the recipient didn't think your actions
Oppositional and controlling tendencies
keep them from being able to accept and appreciate whatever it is that is
given. Not that there is anything wrong with what was offered, but it was
not planned and executed by your controller.
While the partner may be free enough to
gratefully accept what is given, the controller is often too constricted
to do this. This person implicitly pre-plans what they want, and how
they want it. Any deviation from their implicit expectation is viewed as a
Often, there is an implicit, irrational
presumption that you failed because you did not care enough -
when they cared enough to get it right for you!
Wrong! Especially early on, before the
giver gets sick and tired of being criticized in what they give, there is
less of a difference in how much love and attention went into the gift,
than there is a difference in the recipient's ability to accept the
The controlling person is not trying to
be difficult. When they're not angry, they don't mean to diminish you.
They simply have a difficult time with surprises. There is an agenda for
every minutia you can think of - including what is expected from the
partner. The partner, on the other hand, with less of an agenda, is able
to appreciate the gift - not because it is "better," but because
there is less of a need to design it - and more of an ability to accept
Another contributing factor: the
controller thinks they know best. Their judgment is infallible;
they know what's best for themselves; they know what's best for you. If
your opinion differs, you are wrong.
Add to this the typical controller's
insecurity, and, bingo; the controlling person is likely to attribute the
disparity (i.e., you are pleased with their gifts; they are not pleased
with your gifts) to mean that you don't love them enough to work hard
to please them, as they work to please you.
This is clearly an irrational
interpretation of events, but, not checking out the faulty basis of their
premise, they experience a big Ouchhh! Once again, their unlovability has
been confirmed... And they are likely to get mad...
Your basic controller is two-in-one, hence the Jeckyl and Hyde components. The higher self is
the adult partner. This is the part of the individual that wants to be a
partner, who is reasonable and rational, etc., etc. The kid self is
the side that breaks your heart. This is the
needy, demanding, out-of-control and needy child who takes themselves out of partner
role every time some present day "slight" kicks up some very real pain that occurred in childhood.
In a split second, they find themselves
in a hurtful pity pot; their only solace is licking their wounds. Maybe
you'll notice how much you hurt them... They really, really don't want to
go there. But, they know no better. This place is the only sanctuary they
could run to when they were hurt in childhood. All they know to do is push
away the unloving parent who hurt them...
Tips for the Partner
You can't fix this. You can explain your
good intentions all you want; your partner is unlikely to get it. Your
partner can fix this. Maybe you can send them this url. The
controlling person you love needs to feel a little safer in the world, so
they can stop working so hard at controlling it. Hear that controlling
The victim's job is to set clear, firm
limits on what behavior is acceptable. Whether or not your partner's goal
is to hurt you, you get hurt. Therefore, you need to set limits to protect
Victims need to be careful not to give
up their power. Never forget that no one else can give it away - but you!
I want to read the posts.