I admit it. I was a control freak. During both of my marriages I had to be in control 24/7. If I wasn’t in control I silently panicked. On long trips I always drove or at least I did until my daughter got old enough to get her license.
The bills were paid by me because I controlled the money. Due to a back injury I didn’t do much grocery shopping, training my hubby to do it while sending my daughter with him to be his helper. I wrote very specific grocery lists which he was expected to follow, the only exception being any chocolate items that might “jump” into the cart.
I used to think I became such a control freak during my first marriage because I had to be hubby #1’s mother and wife both. He couldn’t hold a job, often doing stupid things. For example, he was a cook at Sonic and filled the inside of the top bun on a hamburger with mustard. Really? UGH! By the time the marriage ended after five years he had gotten fired from at least 50 jobs. And I had come to the conclusion that he had Peter Pan Syndrome.
It was not until after my second divorce when I started trying to find myself, that I realized what the underlying cause of my need to be a control freak was. It goes back to my childhood. I was sexually abused from the age of 11 to 16 by my grandfather. I could not stop or control the situation, until I snapped and put an end to it. That’s when I realized I could control some things. I stopped being tormented on the school bus by fighting back. I punched one boy in the mouth. Another got smacked up beside his head with my purse which just happened to contain an unopened can of Coors that I had stolen from my parents. After those incidents everyone on the bus ignored me except the two boys, who were very polite.
By the time I had grown up, somewhere in my mind I decided I had to control every situation. I didn’t use violence as a control method in my marriages. Instead, I used reverse psychology. I manipulated both of my ex hubbies so that I would get my way. The easiest methods being, sex, money or even food. Hubby #2 loved chicken and dumplings. All I had to do was make them and he would do anything I asked. Notice that I said “I asked,” not, “I told him to do.” And I always said thanks to him for whatever he had done for me, so don’t picture my inner control freak as a military sergeant barking orders. Instead picture a sneaky, calculating cat.
About a year before my second marriage dissolved, I knew it was over. I was sick of his bipolar mood swings and he was sick of being manipulated. I decided to step back and do nothing as one last sly way to manipulate him. I started having him go pay bills by himself. I stopped fighting with him. I turned all of my emotions off so that he would become more independent. It took about 11 months of shutting him out before he decided to move out and take a break from the marriage. I let him think it was his idea. After he left, it took him six more weeks to figure out I was done.
That was seven years ago and I still feel relieved that it ended. It was exhausting to control/manipulate another person so much and it took me years to realize that is why it felt like the weight of the world was lifted off of my shoulders. I didn’t just wake up one day and say to myself, “I’m tired of being a control freak.” I stopped being a full-time control freak when I got divorced.
It was several years later when it took me witnessing another person trying to take total control of a family member for me to realize how wrong it was for me to act that way. The uglier the situation with that family member has grown over the last couple of years, the more I shake my head in disgust. And I seem to be digging through my memories analyzing each one more often these days. Now, when I come to conclusions about myself, I think things like, “Ah! No wonder that person hated me.”
It’s not like I was oblivious about being a control freak. I knew I was being manipulative.
So when I started reading about abuse victims not being able to draw boundaries and being control freaks it dawned on me that it’s not a learned behavior. It was a product of the abuse I suffered from my grandpa. That’s where me having to be in control of every situation came into play.
Now that I’m older and wiser, having learned so much from years of mistakes I ask myself: If i could go back in time and do it all over, would I do it differently? I can honestly say no because I became what I am as a way of self preservation. I consider myself an ex-control freak only because I’m single and have no plans on ever changing that. I think that’s because I’ve redirected my control tendencies toward myself, refusing to let any man ever be more than my friend, again. And that’s OK because happiness lies within a person and I don’t need a man to make myself feel whole because, for the first time in my adult life, I am in control of what happens to me.