There’s a saying about people, and we’ve all heard it and we’ve probably all said it.
“It takes all kinds.”
It does. But there is one kind of person that I just don’t know why we have to “take.” And the truth is, we don’t.
That type of person is the person who lives to control someone else.
And, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There isn’t a plump, red button someone can push to make someone do something. You know, like the kind in cartoons that are always pressed by accident.
In real life there isn’t that button. But, there is an emotional one.
I mean, everyone has a button. Or a few buttons.
And someone who thrives on control knows just how to exploit them. I’ve described it before as a “slow drip,” and that’s exactly how control takes hold. Slowly.
These people will manipulate situations. They’ll undermine relationships. They’ll question everything. They’ll degrade you. They’ll isolate you.
They’ll make you think you’re not enough. Of anything.
You’re not a good enough wife. You’re not a good enough mom. You’re not good enough at cleaning, you don’t give enough love, you don’t kiss right, you don’t do enough for others, you can’t cook and don’t do it enough. You give horrible gifts. You don’t offer valuable opinions. You’re pretty much like talking to a wall.
And when you cry from hearing this over and over and over, you’re only doing it for attention. And, you need to get ahold of yourself.
This type of person will question your motive for painting your fingernails, for example, because it means you must be meeting someone you shouldn’t. When you’re not.
You’re just painting your fingernails.
This type of person will tell you that you’re choosing your job over your family and your marriage because, acting like a responsible professional, you leave your house to get to work on time. At a normal time. At, like, 9.
This type of person will berate you after social situations, saying you were checking out other men, flirting even, looking at people in ways you shouldn’t.
But you weren’t. You were just being nice, smiling and making conversation.
So, to avoid those arguments you find it easier to look down. Avoid eye contact. Cut off conversations. And for fleeting moments, you’ll wonder if you really were doing what this person accused you of. But you know you weren’t.
You were just being you.
This type of person will sabotage plans if they don’t include them. They’ll pick a fight over something ridiculous, make you feel horrible about it, and maybe even chase you down the driveway as you try to leave, chucking a styrofoam cup full of soda at your windshield, screaming in the process.
For example. Just an example.
And you won’t go where you were going to go. You’ll feel bad. And return to hear the rest of the argument that will make you feel even worse.
This type of person will check your text messages. Check your emails. Check your social media accounts. They might even deactivate them sometimes, change passwords to deny you access to your own accounts.
And to avoid those arguments, you begin to cut yourself off. You won’t answer texts. You won’t take calls. You ignore emails. And eventually they just stop coming in.
This type of person might follow you. Check your whereabouts on GPS. Demand that you copy this person on any emails that are sent to other men, regardless of their purpose.
This type of person will have strong opinions about your wardrobe and your hair, and use those opinions to knock you down just when you’re feeling good about the way you look.
Because, you only look that good to impress someone else. Obviously.
This type of person will intimidate you in countless ways. They might remind you that they have the ability to come by your office in the middle of the day to finish an impossible argument that had already gone in circles for hours. They’ll tell everyone about the “real” you.
When everyone already knows the real you. Because you don’t hide anything. Except this nightmare.
This type of person will text you, endlessly. Call you, repeatedly. And question why you can’t answer immediately, suggesting you’re busy with someone else in a way you shouldn’t be.
When, you’re not.
If you don’t answer right away, you’re neglectful and you’re probably screwing someone. Because, that’s the only possibility.
This type of person will lock you out of your own house. In the morning, in your pajamas. In the middle of the night, barefoot.
They might even take your car keys, your purse, your phone, your computer and all of the power cords in the house, so that you can’t leave, and you can’t communicate with anyone.
This type of person will lie. They will lie like it’s their job. They will lie to manipulate you, and keep you in your place and keep their house of cards upright.
And the lies will be so outrageous they’ll make your stomach turn at the very sound of them.
This type of person will take out their aggression by punching walls. Throwing things. Using a baseball bat to obliterate a cabinet. Smashing glassware.
And it will scare you. It will scare your kids, too.
This type of person will carry a torch for marathon fights, ones that last unnecessarily all night. In the waning hours, this person will get desperate. They might decide to fry a pound of bacon at 4 a.m., while listening to music and smoking a cigar in the kitchen, only to pass out – with the stove on, grease popping in the pan.
Or this person might stand over you, as you try to sleep or lie silently, trying to block out the chaos going on around you, and blow smoke into your face. Or stand outside your shower, so you can see the person’s shadow, as this person blows smoke behind the curtain.
This type of person might even inspect your dirty underwear, using a ballpoint pen to circle “suspicious” areas. It will blow your mind.
And you will feel like shit. There is no other way to feel about something like that.
And, in the moment, there is nothing you can do to stop it. There is nothing you can say that will put an end to it, because this person believes you are either defensive or you are hiding something.
You only hope you can wait it out.
And then, after all that, this type of person will ask you to comfort them. They will ask you to comfort them.
You, in your ball of degraded humanity, to comfort them. And you will probably do it.
Because you believe you’re not enough. You probably did something that ignited this, even though you didn’t.
You didn’t. You didn’t do this.
It’s not because you smiled at someone. It’s not because you didn’t patty the burgers. It’s not because you had to work late, or run an errand, or made plans with friends. It’s not because you didn’t listen the first time, as the punchline to the age-old joke goes.
It’s not because of you. It’s because of control.
And don’t you dare try to impede that control. Or try to take it away. Hell hath no fury.
If you don’t go with the program, there will be consequences. It might come by way of insults. It might be more along the lines of public shaming. It will definitely involve unfair double standards. It might involve property damage, physical intimidation, harassment. It might be a nice little combo pack of everything.
Worse, it might involve a physical altercation that will live inside your consciousness forever.
These things happen. To real people. Every day. It happens behind closed doors. Quietly. They will put a lid on it. Some friends may know about some of it, but they won’t say a thing because they don’t want to make it worse. You won’t say anything, either, because you’ve become really good at tiptoeing.
You don’t rock the boat when it’s peaceful. And you don’t fan the flames when it’s not.
And this happens to people. All of it. More than this. Less than this.
And none of it is okay. None of it.
I mean, this all happened to a friend of mine. She looked a lot like me. Sounded like me. But I don’t know her that well anymore.
She still checks in to remind me how far I’ve come, especially when I question things. And she reminds me that I am enough.
And so is the person sitting behind that closed door, the one who tiptoed through the day, week, month. The one who keeps a lid on all the shit.
That person is enough.