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How to Get a Control Freak Out of Your Life

by Beverly Bird

If there's someone in your life who tries to keep a chokehold on your feelings or activities, you're probably smart to start thinking of ways to get him to move on and out of your life. It may be difficult – after all, he thinks he's the one who gives the orders – but it's not impossible. It just takes persistence, patience and planning.

Anticipate Your Enemy

Understanding what makes the control freak in your life tick is a good place to start. His behavior isn't about you. It's about him. According to Judith Orloff M.D., a bestselling author and Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, controllers have a deep-rooted fear of uncertainty and failure. They keep a tight grip on all aspects of their lives – and others' lives – because the alternative, at least in their minds, is to watch everything spin out of orbit. Insecurity drives them to be the best at all they do, and always right about any issue. Your challenge is to get past this.

Locate Your Exits

You can't tell a control freak what to do, says Orloff. You probably won't have much luck instructing him to pack up all his emotional baggage and be on his way, so you must tell him what you’re going to do, instead. This means having an exit plan in place. If you live together, find other quarters. If you own a home with him, you'll probably have to be the one to vacate, then you can deal with the legalities later. If you work together, you may have to find a new job, or enlist the help of coworkers to buffer you from contact with him. The important thing is that you remove yourself from the relationship, because he's not going to, at least not if it wasn't his idea in the first place.

State Your Case

When you tell your control freak that you plan to end the relationship, do it as calmly but unequivocally as possible. He may yell, even getting in your face to do it – this is his way of wresting the situation back to within his control. If you quietly repeat your position, you will eventually give him no other option but to accept it. If you shout back or let him upset you, you'll give him exactly what he thrives on – a power struggle. Acknowledging his position can also take the wind out of his sails, such as by saying, "I know this isn't what you want, but it's best for me." If he tells you that it's not best for you, state quietly that you believe it is.

Lock the Door Behind You

In all likelihood, leaving is not going to be a one-and-done event. After you've made your move, you'll have to stick to your guns. Expect phone calls, texts or emails pestering you to change your mind – and explaining why you must. Orloff warns that persistence and repetition of your position are your greatest defenses; you can't flip-flop or vacillate, giving him hope that his campaign to win you back is working. If he doesn't back off within a reasonable period of time – or if his behavior alarms you at any point, such as because he's now following you around – call law enforcement. Stalking is against the law in all 50 states, and it can include all forms of unwanted contact, even telephone calls or electronic transmissions.

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