I was sitting in my car when “Love the way you lie” came on the radio. I’d never heard it before, but every word felt like a razorblade tearing at the fibers of my heart. Every hair on my body stood on end and I suddenly, involuntarily, without warning, burst into tears. The break up had been almost an entire year before, but those angry and sad words flashed me right back to my relationship with an incredibly controlling man, Abaddon. If you’ve read my book, then you know the hell I went through with him. I’m tired of hearing people say that a woman is “stupid” for falling for a controlling guy or “an idiot” for staying with him. The signs of a controlling man aren’t obvious and it’s not like they’re just your run-of-the-mill douchebags. They are systematic, calculated and manipulative.
You can be an ultra-confident, badass woman and still fall prey, I know this because it happened to me.
Red Flag 1: He Attaches to You Quickly
When I met Abaddon he did and said all the right things. He paid incredible attention to the tiniest of details and I felt like he actually cared about what I had to say. It was so easy to fall for him, especially because he made it clear he was falling for me.
“I feel like the brightest star has fallen by my side,” Finally, here was a man that recognized my worth, right off the bat. He built me up on a pedestal, told me he loved me and wanted to be with me forever. Hooked.
Caution Flag: In most circumstances, feelings, especially for men, develop over time. These controlling guys invent feelings because they know it’s what they need to display in order to lure you in.
Red Flag 2: He Asks, Then Tells
In the beginning Abaddon would ask me small things to change that I didn’t see as a big deal, then he’d up the stakes a bit until finally he was telling me what I could and couldn’t do.
“Hey babe, that skirt is kind of short. Do you mind wearing shorts under it?” became “You’re not fucking wearing that, go change.”
When we as humans say yes to simple requests, and continue to say yes as the stakes are raised, we’re more likely to continue saying yes. Intrinsically, after having said yes to someone so many times we feel like we can no longer tell them no.
Caution Flag: Controlling men are smart and aren’t going to start making demands right off the bat. Protect yourself by saying no to things in the beginning that you don’t see a point in changing.
Red Flag 3: Where Did Everyone Go?
A major sign of a controlling man is that he will isolate you from friends, family and pretty much anyone who isn’t them. None of my friends liked Abaddon, (neither did my family) so he didn’t like them. Which meant I wasn’t really “allowed” to see them often. Usually, he decided a friend was a “whore” and a “bad influence” and that was that.
Caution Flag: If your friends and especially your family don’t like him—scrap him. They know and care about you and can clearly sense that there’s something off about this guy.
Red Flag 4: Hobbies? What Hobbies?
If you suddenly find yourself no longer doing the things you enjoy or care about because your “quality time together will suffer” you’re probably being controlled. It’s difficult for him to keep you on a short leash if you’re always running off to yoga or tennis practice.
When I told Abaddon that I wanted to volunteer to teach illiterate adults to read, he made it seem like I was going to be dating another man and said that it would take away from our relationship.
Caution Flag: In a healthy relationship, both people should have hobbies, interests and activities outside from each other. Period. Being up each other’s asses doesn’t mean you love each other more than other couples who have lives outside of their love.
Red Flag 5: He Murders Your Confidence
When a man starts out off the bat showering you with love and praise, it’s easy to feel even more confident than before. Unfortunately, when he starts picking you apart that confidence can sail right out the window and splatter all over the sidewalk.
After about 4-6 months with Abaddon, our sex life began to dwindle. It wasn’t long before we were only doing it once a month if that. When we did have sex he acted as though he were doing me a favor. In fact, he’d hardly touch me at all, for any reason. I was convinced there was something wrong with me. That I was unattractive to him or that I was just undesirable in general. That, amongst other things, chipped away at the confidence I once had in myself.
Caution Flag: A good man wants you to feel good about yourself. Period. Any man that puts you down or tries to make you feel bad about yourself needs to go.
Red Flag 6: Oh Hello, Mr. Hyde
Does he flip back and forth between being cold and sweet? Are you miserable mostly, considering a break-up and then suddenly that amazing, loving guy is back making you believe that he’s still there somewhere? I used to believe that if I could stop fucking up and upsetting him, I’d get that guy back. For some reason, no matter how hard I tried or how “good” I was, he never came back.
Newsflash (Screw the caution flag): That guy is NOT coming back, in fact, I hate to break it to you, but he never existed. A controlling man is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Once you see what’s underneath, that’s what you’re going to get.
Red Flag 7: Love Hurts
Has he put his hands on you? Be honest with yourself here. While he hadn’t outright punched me (yet), Abaddon would violently grab me, shove me, pull my hair and bruise me. One time, in front of my sister he shoved a chip with hot cheese into my mouth and burnt the shit out of it. I cried while he laughed and then got angry at me. Wtf??
Caution Flag: Any man that physically hurts you on purpose is a man you should walk away from. This isn’t just a sign of a controlling man, it leaves the door open for physical abuse. The more you tolerate it, the more it will escalate.
Red Flag 8: Hey, You’re a Crazy Bitch…
I’m a pretty even-keeled girl and I tend to dish out trust rather than forcing people to earn it. With Abaddon, I felt crazy. Just nuts. I was paranoid like he was off cheating every time he left the house. I checked up on him every chance I had. I’d never acted that way before.
Caution Flag: If he’s making you question your sanity like no one else ever has, this is a sign he’s controlling you without you even realizing it.
Red Flag 9: Excuse Me?
You know that friend who is always complaining about what a douche her boyfriend is but when you suggest she break up with him, she switches gears? You know, “Oh you just don’t know him like I do. He’s actually really sweet. He’s not that bad, I’m just having a bad day. Blah, blah, blahhhhh.”
Caution Flag: When you’re in deep you’ll defend the very person that’s making you miserable. Even worse, it’s more like you’re trying to convince yourself, rather than who you’re defending him to.
If I can help one woman realize that she’s dating a controlling man, or break free from one, then this was more than worth sharing.
Do these signs of a controlling man sound similar to what you’re going through or went through? Have you ever dated a control freak? How did you break free?
Image Credit: Shutterstock
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