The signs of a controlling friend can be quite obvious to an outsider but almost invisible to the victim. There are many reasons for this, including the manipulation, the lies and impression management skills of the manipulator.
If you are researching the signs of a controlling friend then you already suspect that your friend is a manipulator. Recognizing that you are in a manipulative relationship is only the first step. You will have to deal with the situation in one way or another and that requires understanding of where you are and who you are dealing with.
With this in mind, this list will include explanations of some of the signs to make it easier for you to spot them.
Another factor here is the age at which you met your friend. Knowing someone since the age of 4 is not the same as making a friend at the age of 30 or 40. If you have grown up with and spent much of your early years with another person, you are used to being around that person and it's much more difficult to recognize that this person may be manipulative and nasty and has actually been taking advantage of you for years. Having someone influence you heavily in the formative adolescent years can have a profound affect on your development, maturation and independence. They basically accustom you to accepting bad behavior and this will, of course, have a significant impact on future relationships.
You consider this person a good friend, but you have also had a lot of emotional ups and downs with them, because of things they have said or things they have done.
Whenever things go wrong, you are blamed for it. They spoke harshly to you because of what you did, they haven't contacted you for days because they were angry at the way you spoke to them, and on and on. The general idea here is that they are always right, you are always wrong and they never do anything bad. They have an excuse or justification for everything they do and you are expected to accept it. You, of course, are not allowed to justify your behavior using the same reasoning.
They expect to do what they want, to have what they want and say what they want. Their wants and needs are more important than yours. If they do give in to you, they will pout, act offended and get upset to the point that you can't actually enjoy your choice.
They make you feel guilty for all sorts of reasons, your family, your past, your body, your health, your thoughts, actions and feelings, your friends (if you have any other friends!), your hobbies and sports, your work.
They know how to make you feel happy, sad, angry, grief, shame, embarrassment, remorse, frustration and so on and they have no problem pressing your buttons on a regular basis.
They don't seem to have many emotions themselves. In fact, they can be downright cold, cruel and callous at times. This is because many such people are actually psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists. Despite not having emotions, they are typically masters at manipulating the emotions of those around them. I know it sounds odd, that there are people who don’t have emotions but that's what these personality disorders are about. And to think that a close friend may not have emotions is difficult to understand and often takes people months to get their heads around.
You spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about them. You worry about what they will think of you, you plan things to avoid upsetting them and you do what you can to make sure they are comfortable and satisfied. You really do not want them upset because when they are, you feel horrible and life is miserable for you.
They do some nice things for you but they also do awful things. You end up excusing the awful things because they have done some nice things and, after all, they are a 'good friend' or even your best friend. This belief is worth examining. You may firmly believe that this person is a good person, a good friend, but is that true? Do other people's good friends do the horrible things your good friend does? Do good friends really act the way your friend is acting? Make a list of some of the nasty things your friend has done. Ignore the reasons your friend gave for doing these things. List only the behaviors. Now have a look at that list and ask yourself "Are these actually the behaviors of a good friend?"
Lies, lies and more lies. You are living under an avalanche of lies in a relationship with someone like this. The idea that they care about you is a huge lie. But your whole relationship is based on the idea that you care about them and they care about you. They pretend that they care, they say it and they do some things that give the impression that they care, but it's all a façade, a deception, an illusion they create for you.
You rarely make decisions without consulting this friend. This is because manipulators make their victims dependent on them. You can read a fuller explanation of this idea here. This is a significant part of a larger change that manipulators make in the people with whom they have relationships. They basically change your perceptions, your beliefs, your thinking, your decision making and your behaviors. This is all done over time, bit by bit, without your knowledge or consent. All the little changes add up to a change in the victim's personality, the same way that a cult changes the personality of it's members. This new personality is called a pseudopersonality. It is a false personality that dominates and controls, but never completely destroys, your real personality. This explains why some people with abusive friends say that they lost themsleves in the relationship and why some families tell you that you are different since starting the relationship with this 'friend'. You can read more about this pseudopersonality idea is the series of articles here, here and here.
You can also read more details about how the pseudopersonality is created in this article about narcissistic boyfriends. (Your friendship may not be an 'intimate' one but the dynamics are similar.) This idea of the pseudopersonality is a fantastic description of what happens in controlling and abusive relationships and it helps a lot to make sense of what happens to the victims in a mind control environment.
For example, there will be times when you have conflicting thoughts and emotions, or conflicting emotions. There will be times when mentally you want to get rid of this friend, but you feel that you owe them so much and it would be an awful thing to do to break off the relationship. This is the internal struggle between the real personality (I don’t like the way I am being treated, I want to get out) and the pseudopersonality that is programmed to stay (I feel I need this person, I feel I might be missing out on something great if I leave). There will be times when you have conflicting emotions, too. You are very angry at your friend or you even feel that you hate them (real personality) and at the same time you feel that you want to look after them. (pseudopersonality).
There are the usual signs of abuse with controlling friends, too, of course. They have no problem bullying you into doing something. They will call you dumb, spoilsport, too serious etc. as a way of manipulating your emotions to make you feel wrong or stupid if you don’t go along with their plan.
They will talk about your faults and mistakes to others, often in front of you, destroying your self esteem in the process.
They will do things that you consider overtly manipulative to get what they want. They may cry, threaten you with something, claim that you are not being a good friend and so on. And if you call them out on these behaviors they will deny they were being manipulative, justify it, or worse, blame you for what they were doing. ¨"You never consider my feelings, you don't include me in things, I feel you don't want me as a friend, I was only joking, you take things too seriously," and on and on.
Controlling friends will often dismiss your feelings and opinions, telling how you should think and feel. This is part of the destruction of your personality, the first step in creating the pseudopersonality, as mentioned above. You are basically not allowed to have your own experience, nor are you allowed to have your own wants, needs or desires.
In the same vein, another of the signs of a controlling friend is when this friend influences your clothes, your hair styles, your food and drink, your hobbies and sports.
Controlling friends also control your time. They want to spend a lot of time with you, especially at the start of the relationship. This comes at the expense of your other friends and family. You will typically end up spending less and less time with others. In many cases, when the manipulator starts to spend less time with you, you end up spending more and more time alone, often waiting, expectantly, to hear from the manipulator. This isolation from friends and family is a major warning sign that you are dealing with a manipulator. This is another example of where the manipulator often justifies in the mind of the victim why it's a good idea to spend a lot of time together and the victim does not recognize that the justification is a lie, and the real reason is control and domination.
Did I mention the lies? The manipulators lie as easily as they breathe. They contradict themselves a lot if you listen carefully. They will convince you of one thing and 5 minutes later they will be convincing you that the exact opposite is now true. They can change their beliefs in an instant if it suits their purposes.
And, of course, it's all about them. They are selfish, egocentric, self centered. I, me and my. Their wants and needs are first, second and third. Your wants and needs come a distant fourth.
If you think you are in a controlling relationship, recognizing it is only the first step. As long as you are in such a relationship, the controller is stealing your lfie away, one day at a time. Even if you are not with them, they are living rent free in your head, controlling your thoughts, your decisions and your time. If you want to take control of your life again, you have to understand what is being done to you and how it is happening. Learning and knowledge are fundamental.
You can read more here about the signs of a controlling relationship, do psychopaths know what they are doing, more signs of mental abuse, things manipulative people say and recovery from an abusive relationship.
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