Question: Yangki, I love your website and all your advice. I have a question different from the usual relationship questions you get because my situation is not related to a romantic partner but a relative, my older sister.
I love my sister, but we’ve had a tense relationship from as far back as I can remember. My sister is the worst control freak in the whole wide world. She’s no fun to be around and looks like she’s always angry about something – which she is but I don’t want to get into the details.
I’ve tried to cut off all contact with her and her husband. My brother-in-law is so weak he never stands up for himself only complains and says “negative” things about her behind her back. I think he feels dominated by her and is “recruiting” more people to submit to his wife so that he feels like he’s not alone. I frustrate him because I refuse to bow down to her. I have no respect for him whatsoever!
But every now and then, especially around the Holidays or when they find out from another family member that I’ve had some good fortune in my life, one of them calls me wanting to “talk”. I get the feeling my sister just can’t stand to seem me happy because her own life is miserable. I’m at a point where I want to move to another continent just to get away from all this but I don’t want to leave my parents with her. She’s always trying to control them too with material stuff and acting super nice but my parents aren’t people who can be easily deceived. What else can I do?
Yangki’s Answer: I know the feeling… I have some people like that in my own life. Are you sure we’re not dealing with the same people… LOL
My advice …
1) Ignore her — maintain a comfortable distance so that you can remain centered and focused on more important things in your life. I know… I know… easy said than done, especially because such people literally can’t rest until they have you under their control.
2) Stay as calm as you can — all those periodic calls to “talk” are not attempts to reach out to you with love, but deliberate attempts to generate stress in your life. If you get all worked up, you get caught up in her emotional turmoil, but more than that you have joined the battle on her terms — and since this is her “expertise” you can never win. Where you win is in staying calm.
3) Treat her with kindness — control freaks just can’t help themselves. Most are too controlling to even see that they have a problem. In your sister’s case, her “weak” husband is nothing more than an enabler, which makes it even harder for her to see how self-destructive her behaviours are, and even harder for her to seek help.
This is a good read on the Psychology of Control Freaks by Thomas J. Schumacher. “Deep down, these people are terrified of being vulnerable. They believe they can protect themselves by staying in control of every aspect of their lives, including their relationships. Control freaks take the need and urge to control to new heights, causing others stress so they can maintain a sense of order. These people are riddled with anxiety, fear, insecurity, and anger. They’re very critical of themselves their lover and their friends, but underneath that perfect outfit and great body is a mountain of unhappiness.”
4) Stay true to who you are — when you are true to yourself and living the life that honours who you really are, other people’s actions and opinions hold no power over you.
This advice won’t stop your sister from being the control freak she is, but will help you remain centered and focused on more important things in your life.
Too bad we can’t choose our relatives… but at least we can choose how we relate to them…):
You can even take this to another level and consciously choose to be “grateful” for having someone like that in your life. Sometimes people like that are put in our lives to accelerate our self-growth, emotional maturity and move us more into becoming more loving human beings. I know the control freaks in my life have been a “blessing!”