“Intimacy is based on shared vulnerability…Nothing deepens intimacy like the experiences we share when feel flayed, with our skins off, scared and vulnerable, and our partner is there with us, willing to share in the scary stuff.” ~Dossie Easton & Catherine Liszt
Ever had that dream where you leave the house naked? That’s the dream we all dread. It’s not feasible that you would wake up in the morning and simply forget to put clothes on–but the dream still terrifies most people.Advertising
The same can be said for those who struggle with making and maintaining intimate connections. Does the thought of allowing yourself to be completely vulnerable and letting someone see your bare naked soul terrify you? Do you find yourself going from one relationship to another, but you can never seem to find true love? If this is you, you may have intimacy issues.
Many people struggle with developing an intimate relationship with others for a variety of reasons such as:Advertising
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of being hurt
- Fear of exploitation
- Past experiences
- Inability to trust
- Traumatic childhood experiences
These are all legitimate intimacy blockers and valid fears. When we lower our guard and allow people to get close, there are consequences–good and bad.
True Intimacy Keeps People Bonded
Intimacy is a close personal connection between two people that is developed over time. Typically, we learn how to develop intimate relationships as children through our interactions with out parents and close family members. As we grow older, opportunities arise to develop other intimate relationships outside of the home. We learn to establish commitment and trust, and build connections through work, play, sex, and shared experiences. The journey towards creating intimate relationships is therefore potentially never ending and everyone’s experience in learning to be intimate is different.Advertising
The one constant and fundamental truth concerning intimacy is we all have a deep, innate need to have intimate relationships in our lives. Psychologist understand and have proven that relationships matter to our sense of well-being. Throughout life, we need relationships to help us feel connected, boost our feelings of self-worth, and sustain our moods.
The Truth about Letting your Guard Down
When determining how to lower your guard and trust people, there are a few things you must consider, understand and accept.The first of which is that intimacy involves risk. This is just a hard truth about intimate relationships. You could get hurt. But on the other hand you could enter into a relationship and experience love at its deepest level–the kind of love musicians sing about and laureate wax poetically about. You could find yourself in a deep meaningful relationship and experience the euphoria of being totally and completely loved and accepted exactly as you are–flaws and all. Consider the possibility of experiencing true, unbridled, intense and passionate love. As intimacy grows, the intensity of the love and passion grows as well. This happens over time.Advertising
Intimacy Takes Baby Steps
The next fact is that developing an intimate relationship takes time; intimacy is a gradual process. Take baby steps. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT bare your soul and present your heart on a platter on a first date. You are begging for rejection. We all want to be loved and accepted but we must be considerate of the other person. Believe it or not, you are a lot to take in all at once. Throwing all that you are at a stranger or mild acquaintance, all at once isn’t fair to them. Divulge your true self in small doses. Get to know them as you allow them to get to know you. Evaluate their response and then proceed a little further. As you see them begin to open up, you do the same. Mirror their level of intimacy until you are comfortable and it feels safe to share a bit more of yourself.
Mirror Your Expectations
As you begin to gradually open up and connect to the other person, you will have the urge to pull back. During these times it is critical that you remember that you have to give in order to receive. If you want acceptance you have to give it. If you want trust you must first be trustworthy. If you want someone to open up and expose themselves to you, you must do the same. You have to model the behavior you are expecting. Ask questions and genuinely become interested in who your partner (or potential partner) is without judgement. Intimacy occurs when both people share and are transparent and honest with each other. The relationship is not truly intimate if only one person is open.
Learn to Express Yourself
Lastly, understand that as intimacy builds shutting down and refusing to share can quickly kill the intimacy. Learn how to express yourself. Expressing our thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, fears and traumas is difficult. Talking is only one mode of communication. Write out your dreams, journal your feelings and fears and then, let your significant other read it. Illustrate your feelings in a painting or drawing and use that as a catalyst for conversation. Find songs that evoke deep emotion or remind you of an experience you had and allow your special someone to hear it and then explain why it is so meaningful to you. There are so many avenues to generate conversation and get naked emotionally–use whatever vehicle that best suits you. Find a way to be open.
A Wise Word on Intimacy
Intimacy is cleverly described by some in the faith community as “In-to-me-see.” When you refuse to allow yourself to be truly seen, you are preventing yourself the emotional sustenance you need to be your best and most complete self. Intimacy is risky but the love and connection that results is definitely worth the risk.
Published on April 7, 2021
6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of
Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.
While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.
1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda
Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?
If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.
In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.
2. They Make Everything Transactional
Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.
For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.
Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.
A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.
Some statements to be wary of include:
- “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
- “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
- “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
- “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)
3. They Criticize Everything
One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.
However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.
Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:
- Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
- Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
- Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
- Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs
4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them
We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.
For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.
This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.
5. They Socially Isolate You
Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.
Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.
This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.
In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.
6. They’re Emotionally Abusive
It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.
Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.
Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:
- Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
- Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
- Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
- Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)
It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.
More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person
- How to Recognize a Controlling Relationship and What to Do About It
- 10 Habits Of Manipulative People
- Being Kind to Control Freaks Is Being Cruel to Yourself
Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com