Understanding Control and Abuse

In January 2019,  nearly half of all women and men in the United States reported that they have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively according to Hotline.org). This does not include physical abuse.  1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year according to Loveisrespect.org.  NCADV reports on average 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.  On a typical day, 20,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.

In business, I have witnessed many situations that left me appalled.  Once, a manager called in his female subordinate into his office after failing to get me to tell him he was good-looking.  He said to her, “Tell me I am incredibly handsome.”  She did and he found entertainment in his power to get her to fulfill his demand.  He thought he was funny. After she left that company, I ran into her later and she said that was the least of the demeaning requests she had to deal with while working for him.  He may not have realized that his humor was only funny to him. There are many other stories of women in sales who have to deal with clients who make inappropriate requests in order for the client to buy their product. I will refrain from sharing the vulgar details. With the “me too” movement, it is no secret.

In a Moneyish article, seven women tell Moneyish how they handled harassment and assault on the job — and what they wish they’d done differently.  On October 17, 2017,  Meera Jagannathan reports: “About 40% of women report experiencing unwanted sexual attention or coercion at work and nearly 60% say they’ve endured workplace gender harassment, according to a 2016 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report.” At the time of the article, there were over 52k likes on Alyssa Milano’s Tweet feed based on her request for people to speak up.

When people I know or in the news share their story, they express feelings of shame, not knowing what to do, and inability to express how it made them feel. In many situations, people feel trapped.  In work environments, people feel if they report it they will be seen as weak.  In cases where women have taken their case to Human Resources, the problem has not always been solved.  There are stories of legal services even discouraging women from filing lawsuits as it goes on the public record and then deters future employers from hiring them.  In 2016 Cynthia Shapiro, a Human Resources expert and author of “Corporate Confidential’ published an article in ABC News Opinion section: What You Need to Know Before Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint.  She wrote, “even though sexual harassment is strictly illegal, many companies tell employees to notify right away because they want to get ahead of, and hopefully squelch, a potentially damaging legal issue for the company.”  She goes on to say, “The harsh reality is that many employees who file claims of sexual harassment find themselves discounted, sidelined and even managed out or fired.”

Now that you have seen some statistics to show the extreme use of control and it’s damage, let’s discuss the root cause of the behavior. To do that, Sarah Newman M.A. MFA Publisher of Psych Central in her blog “Why Would Anyone Want to Control You” says:

“People who can’t control themselves turn to control others. This happens on an emotional level. A person full of insecurities has to exact a positive sense of self from other people because their self-esteem is too low to do it for themselves.”

“People control because they are afraid of being abandoned. They don’t feel secure in their relationships and are often testing to see if they’re about to be betrayed. The paradox is that their behavior creates exactly what they fear the most.”

Other times it is that they were taught dominance at a young age where they had to become a parent or protector when they were young and the demanding behavior worked for them without many consequences. They were taught to be strong and to hide their vulnerability. For those individuals, helping them question whether that behavior is still what is best for the relationship can be done through setting healthy boundaries.

Here are the Causes of Boundary Resistance identified by Randy Creamer from Southbrook Counseling materials:

1. Empathetic failure. If they don’t feel remorse for their actions.

2. Being under-responsible.

3. Being over-responsible. Needing others to cave in to demand and expectations.

4. Denial of imperfection. Refuse to admit weakness and faults.

5. Retaliation.

6. Transference. Sometimes they are unhappy with themselves and want to blame someone else and not take ownership of the fault or mistake.

For these instances, learn more about setting healthy boundaries for self care:

How to Escape Controlling Behavior

Help for The Controller

For more extreme cases where mental disorders could also be a cause, seek expert counsel resources below:

For more help with a controlling partner, I recommend Dr. Bonier’s blog: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/friendship-20/201506/20-signs-your-partner-is-controlling


For more help handling Aggressive and Controlling people see Preston’s blog: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201409/how-successfully-handle-aggressive-and-controlling-people:

Southbrook counseling – https://southbrook.org/ministries/

Boundaries By Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend


If you are a victim of Sexual Violence or Trauma, please seek your local counseling services.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in the best way to handle yourself in a sexual assault situation or when someone is threatening your life.  Please see http://www.rainn.org or NSVRC. or http://www.cdc.gov

National Domestic Violence Hotline and Avon Partner with Suze Orman to Shed Light on Financial Abuse in Special Video Series “Women Breaking Free: Stories of Strength from Survivors of Domestic Violence”