The rabbit hole of control

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Have you ever heard that expression? “Throwing it against the wall, seeing if it sticks”. Loosely translated this means that you continue to change your methods with someone until you get the reaction you most desire. I admit that I am a sucker for this kind of behavior and I fall for it almost every time. On a good day, you used to be able to charm the pants off of me.

I adore charming people because they can always make you feel like a million bucks, but there is a limit to how much charm I can take at a time before I begin to get suspicious. I am not a charming person. If I don’t feel it, I can’t say it, no matter how big a raise I could get or the clout I would have from having a certain friend. I admire some folks that dole out that brand of bull and not bat an eye. It takes a certain savior faire to be successful at it. I don’t have it. If I think you’re an ass, it’s a good bet that when you walk away from me you’re going to know I think you’re one.

I have always wondered if having this lush weapon in my arsenal would benefit me at all, so I decided to take a hard look at it. What I discovered is that there is the art of being charming and there is the controlling manipulator. And sometimes, they are the same person. 

One way of throwing it against the wall to see if it sticks is to constantly praise someone when you don’t mean it. Manipulating a person with compliments is the oldest trick in the book. Over time if the person has any self respect or confidence, they will start to wonder what your agenda is. No one is that perfect and no one does everything right, so why would you deserve this unlimited stream of accolades?

Can a person be too complimentary? Yes, they can and it can begin to sound insincere over time. Even worse is when the person starts to press them for reasons why they feel this way, or why they think that and they slip up and tell you something that contradicts the endless applause they’ve been slapping out. This is where the shine starts to wear off of the charm.

Whether it’s a new friend or a new love interest, knowing when you’re being sucked down the rabbit hole of control is very important. Here are some ways to determine just how sincere those compliments are and what they could mean for your future.

  • When you feel someone is being overly solicitous, the first thing you should do is evaluate the level of honesty in the relationship. This is not an easy task if you’re in a budding romance or friendship, however let your gut be your guide.
  • I tend to ask a lot of questions. If someone doesn’t want to answer my questions or consistently changes the subject, I can assume they either have something to hide or they  simply aren’t interested in allowing me to cross certain thresholds yet. Whichever it is, they are not being entirely honest with me, so I tend to take a step back and wait.

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I will admit that my questioning nature is my own way to control the situation. My desire to control in this manner stems more from self preservation then it does from controlling someone else. My need to question will be exacerbated if trust has already been breached in the new friendship and I will self adjust depending on the answers I get, and sometimes on the lack of answers I get.

  • A foolproof barometer in any new relationship will be the people that already love you, your friends and family. If you wake up one day and realize that you never hear from your friends anymore, roll over and take a look at your new relationship.
  • Whenever I start a new connection the first thing I do is introduce them to my circle of friends. If they fit and everyone seems to like them and get along, then this is a good person to add. However tensions and upsets with a new addition need to be addressed. There are reasons you have lifelong friends and a reason you’re close to your family and this is not a buffer zone you want to carelessly discard just because you might be in love.

Which brings me to my next warnings to consider;

  • Pay attention to your new friend’s flaws. They are not perfect and neither are you. Admit they have chinks in their armor and address them. Being defensive about your relationship is never a good sign. If someone makes you happy and brings out the best in you, your closest confidantes will see this and be happy for you, but if they see the opposite, they’ll question you about it. If you bristle and become defensive rather than being able to address the issues, then you need to take a hard look at how wrong this new paramour could be for you.
  • Pay attention to how you’re spending your time. If your schedule becomes insignificant in favor of something your new friend wants to do on a regular basis it’s time to crack open the old dayplanner and figure out if you’re spending your time wisely, or if you’re being isolated. Being together is a mutual exchange of ideas and adventures. If doing something you once loved to do is discarded constantly then you can assume that your routines and passions will be discarded eventually as this new person consumes every move you make.
  • Don’t give up long time friendships just because they don’t like your new friend. Keep them close, especially if they aren’t getting along with the new love/friend. This will be your only reality check when things start getting weird.
  • Beware if the statement “They’re just jealous of us!” comes into play. Realize how ridiculous this is. People that love you will never be jealous because someone makes you happy, however they will exercise caution on your behalf if they sense this person is toxic. Listen to them.
  • It’s okay when someone is a bit protective, but when every move you make is questioned, this is less about protecting you and more about controlling you. There is a huge difference in a new relationship in trying to establish your place by understanding boundaries and making ultimatums about how your partner spends their time when they aren’t with you.
  • I will warn my friend or partner about someone if I feel they don’t have their best interest in mind. I am no shrinking violet and have been known to tell the toxic pal exactly what I think of them, but if my friend chooses to continue the friendship that’s up to them. I’ll be there when they get crapped on the first few times, but after that, they’re on their own with that friend and how much of their time they wish to invest.

Ask yourself these few, crucial questions about your new relationship:

  1. What motivates your new partner to make and keep friends?
  2. Do they have people in their life they confide in?
  3. Are any of their friends from childhood or do they all seem to be gathered in the last few years?
  4. Do they talk about them as people or do they talk about them in terms of what they do for a living or how much money they make?

All of these observations are important indicators of your new friend’s value system and how they see the people they choose to surround themselves with.

Once the controlling personality has established a secure foothold you’ll start to experience two behaviors that will become more and more intense as the relationship matures. One of those is the backhanded compliment. “Well, the dress is cute on you, but your hair is kind of stupid looking.” This kind of manipulating control always reminds me of a spanking a small child until he cries and then turning him around for a hug afterwards. It’s the worst kind of abuse. Trust me, it will start out light and get worse the longer you allow it to continue. Anyone with self doubt will easily fall victim to this, but even the most confident person can have their sense of independence and self worth worn down over time.

The second behavior will be the constant transgressions that require a half-hearted apology and a sort of honeymoon to make up for it. When your new friend is always embarking on trips to make you angry and pulling back just in time to kiss and make-up you can bet they are testing the waters to see just how far you can be pushed.

This probing and relief action is a way for the controlling friend to establish even more control over your life. You can put your foot down and firmly tell the person “Do not ever do that again!” and then pay attention to see if the bad behavior continues after a cooling off period. The kiss and make-up routine has always been assumed as being part of any relationship, however it is not healthy when it happens on a consistent basis.

The big danger signal, the 50 foot red flag, the fire in the hole and ultimate wake up call will be the he said/she said!! Oh yeah! Mutual friends are your best guide to how the relationship is being managed when you’re not around.

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Have you ever been in a conversation with a mutual friend and told a story you thought was about how much your new relationship and you were getting along and the mutual friend cocks their head to the side and says “Um, well, that’s not what he’s telling us.” This is a time when you need to sit up straight and ask exactly what is being shared with others. If there are numerous contradictions don’t be an idiot and ignore them. Don’t assume everyone else has misunderstood what he’s been telling them.

What should you do if your new love or friend has been dissing you behind your back? How do you handle this? What is the reason for them to do this? The answers to those questions can only come from one person…your new friend.

My best advice is an immediate confrontation. Then I would have to demand an apology and a full disclosure to the mutual friends coming directly from the new friend. The most important part of this is going to be the reasons for the misinformation. Was the person trying to devalue the relationship because he’s ashamed to admit he likes you? Do you embarrass him? Perhaps he’s holding out hope for someone better to come along? Maybe he wants to continue being seen as the single guy? Whatever his reasons are you must hold yourself sacred. His reasons for being a lying ass will always, without a single doubt, be about him and his own insecurities, and not about you. My advice is after the explanations have been given and the apologies received all around would be to dump this jerk.

Every situation is unique and no two will ever be the same. The above observations are merely guidelines to use loosely when discovering if you’ve made a good choice, or one that needs work. Whatever happens, don’t beat yourself up for choosing someone that wasn’t perfect. You saw something in this person that made you want to be closer to them. There’s nothing at all wrong with that.

Till later…keep living, keep loving and keep yourself in check. Don’t fall down the rabbit hole of control.

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About Madeline Scribes

A writer with a sense of humor. If anyone can laugh at life, it's me.
This entry was posted in All kinds of Advice, Personal Boundaries Primer and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The rabbit hole of control

  1. Jonathan says:

    Great thought in this writing. New relationships are always a challenge. I think that you should publish this as a pamphlet on the subject to assist people. Charm, real charm, comes from inside. You don’t know why, but when you meet someone you want to know more about them. Manipulation is something else, false flattery, saying whatever you want to hear, to get what they want. Great article, My best friend is a total bull shitter and I tell him all the time, that is quite a talent, but if he spent as much effort just being honest he would get a lot further. Have a great day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow — great insights!! Lots here to think about and absorb. Will return to re-read…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are just a wealth of information! Love u!

    Liked by 1 person

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