Control is a Poison

Terry Crews, at the end of a very personal, candid interview in which he described growing up with a violently abusive father, was asked what message he would like to send to young people.

What do you predict he said?

Was it something cliché and obvious like “Hitting is never okay” or “No matter what, it’s never okay to put your hands on a woman”? Or was it something a step deeper below the surface, something like “Get help for your anger issues” or “Get in touch with your emotions in order to be emotionally healthy and not toxic”?


His words were, “It’s impossible to love someone and control them at the same time.”

It’s almost chilling, isn’t it? I’m thinking of plenty of controlling people who never physically or verbally abused their families, and you probably are too.

But this is the heart of the issue. We’ve got to listen to him. The people who have been there, grown up in a house like that, have seen the micro aggressions and have years of firsthand observation and experience about the psychology of abuse, are experts. When they speak, we either listen or ignore them at our peril.

But what I really want people to know, what is deep in my heart to say, is that even if a person never becomes physically or verbally abusive, you should never have to put up with being controlled by someone who claims to love you. It will kill your spirit. Controlling behavior is inherently toxic to have to put up with, and that goes for any relationship – dating, family, friendships, workplaces, etc. You don’t need any more red flags. This one is red enough. People just do not have the right to treat each other that way.

Think about it this way. When you love someone, how do you see them? Do you view them as fundamentally incompetent or competent? Because that drives how you treat them. Do you see them as wonderful and amazing, despite their ordinary human weaknesses, limitations, and failings? Do you speak and act accordingly? Do your loved ones know that you trust them and believe in them? When you love someone, do you encourage and support them?

Alright then. That’s how love works for other people too, and you have the right to that same level of respect and warmth.

Control is NOT an expression of love. Micromanagement, monitoring, correcting, making decisions on your behalf, making rules for you to follow – all of these are NOT love. They may say and even believe they’re doing it for your benefit, but it’s really due to their own issues (which you can’t fix, by the way). If someone really loves you, they will see you as wonderful and, at the very least, able to handle life without constant direction. It would never occur to them to try to change you to get you to be more like them. Why would they want to do that if they love you for who you are already? That’s bonkers, guys. You have the right to real love, not a half-hearted grudging excuse for it that leaves you feeling confused and disliking them or yourself.

Control issues have nothing to do with you and everything to do with the other person. Reminding them that you don’t like this treatment will not give them a change of heart. Don’t try to prove yourself; this is their problem, not yours. If a person doesn’t treat you as an equal, it’s because they do not see you as an equal. And if they do not see you as an equal already, they never will.

Stand up for yourself, establish a boundary, and then if that doesn’t work, just go.

Leave. Live your own life.

As much as it hurts to realize, this is a situation where, as Lady Gaga sang, “It wasn’t love, it wasn’t love, it was a perfect illusion.” Clarity can be painful. It feels like eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Please, get some distance. You owe it to yourself. The recovery process is going to take a while, longer than you think, and you cannot begin it until you get out of the situation.

There is so much more I could say, personal stories from my own and others’ experience, the details of which I will reserve for now. But they burn under the skin and haunt me, every story I’ve ever been close to or heard of from others. It’s hard to see people like this hailed as heroes, with every right to live like a king or queen in their castle, with the rest of the well-trained family members just happening to live in the house too. A good partner, spouse, parent, boss, friend, etc, doesn’t need to be placated, avoided on eggshells, or given unquestioning deference.

A dynamic where people are too cowed, subservient, or financially dependent to speak up is misery. (Money and housing are power; they’re huge tools of control even if no one ever brings it up.) If people are too concerned with preserving the peace to call out problematic behavior or even just give a smiling “no” to anything, the foundation for abuse is present. The controller has set themselves up to fail spectacularly and harm everyone around them. Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

To quote Terry Crews again, from a speech I’ve embedded at the bottom of the page, “Anyone, anywhere can be victimized, and no man, woman, or child should ever put up with being treated as less than a human being, ever. Ever.”

Wouldn’t you prefer to let your hair down and just breathe, existing as you are and enjoying it? What if you could be larger and freer instead of smaller and focused on should’s and ought’s? You know your situation is bad when you get used to shutting down your spirit and it becomes normal. You have no dreams; you just can’t think of anything that you would want.

Oh, but there is so much to want. The world is big and wild and beautiful and so are you. You belong here; there is nothing fundamentally wrong with you, you’re not screwing everything up by existing the way you are as a person. What if you could love yourself instead of hiding yourself?

Get out, and run free. It’s magic.

Photo by Meru Bi on

Here is Terry Crews’ acceptance speech for the Voice of Courage Award at the Safe Horizon’s 2018 Champion Awards. Fifteen minutes is a little longer than I’m used to watching for a YouTube video, but I definitely watched this one. He touches on abuse, toxic masculinity, speaking up about sexual assault with the #MeToo movement, and more. Powerful stuff.

The above link is to one of the most thorough sites I have found. It goes into detail about emotional and financial abuse, and emphasizes how abusive behavior is very much a choice.

Published by gracexaris

Explorer, thinker, writer, teacher, woman.

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