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Covert Aggressive People

This is mainly aimed at people in a personal relationship who find themselves with a feeling that they are constantly being abused one way or another by a partner, this can be physical, verbal, general controlling behavior, or all of these.

I am not qualified as a medical person and the following comes from personal and other people's experience. 

After a very bad personal experience, I decided to try and help others spot and handle what is termed a Covert Aggressive Personality, also know as a manipulator, control freak or a Psychopath. I have also heard the term "Evil", nutcase, or sometimes people consider a covert aggressive to have some sort of mental condition that they need help with (this is not the case, Evil in my opinion is a better description and Psychopath is a good medical description).

When I say "handle" such a person, I do not mean that I found a way to stop these people from doing what they do, nor have I found a way to get them to change. In fact I found the more I tried to get such a person to change for the better, the more extreme things became. The thing I found I could change was me, to realise what these people are doing and how they do it, I changed my response. I started to understand what was going on and managed to change how I responded to my covert aggressive and that is what has helped me. It takes me a while, but I can now spot a covert aggressive by the games they play and I know how to respond to that (clean cut, this is how it is, no emotion, no guilt), which is not what the covert aggressive wants or expects. You don't make friends this way, but you really don't want to be a friend or partner of a covert aggressive. It is easy for me to say this, but it took me many years to get to this point. Just start to understand what you are up against and then in your own time, find a way to deal with that.

This is not aimed specifically at men or women as I have found that both are capable of such behavior, although men and women are "good" at different things and will use different techniques to get what they want.

One of the problems that you may run into when trying to talk about or deal with this is that the covert aggressive often appears to be a good and honest person to other people (but not to you, not to the one they are trying to control). This is because covert aggressive people have the gift of the gab and put forward different images (two faced) to different people. They are masters of social interacting, yet they have no hang-ups or guilt when they want something, and this is normally directed at specific people they want and do control. They want to be loved, to be looked up to, to be seen as a victim and not the perpetrator. So while you can see what these people are like, not everybody will see the same thing.

The following is a list of things to look out for, if you find that your partner is doing some of the following then you may want to consider doing something about it. For those of you who like an honest and transparent relationship, be aware that you are at most risk from these people. Personally I like honest and transparent relationships which is healthy and a worthwhile thing to have, as long as it is the same both ways. So, if you are an honest transparent relationship type of person who shares everything - watch out - I understand that 1 in 10 people are control freaks and prey on people like you (they are actually drawn to people like you).

The Signs to Look Out For  

  • Outrageous childish type stories exaggerated to the extreme (drama queen), embarrassing to listen to. This is a sign of someone who has no respect for themselves but want to build up self importance. This is an important point, no self respect means they do not care what havoc they create or who they hurt (morally corrupt), they just want to be seen as important or good through stories. In essence, the person is very shallow and spends much time building himself or herself up. Be careful these people have the ability to be extremely malicious and cruel.  
  • Lots of shouting and flying off the handle for no apparent reason, this stops you from confronting them on any issue as you know what you will get. Extreme episodes of this can happen on a 3 month basis.
  • Playing the victim role, stories that they have been attacked or abused. They want you to feel sorry for them and in that way get you to do things for them. In extreme cases, this can lead to getting you to do their dirty work and then you taking the fall for it. Don't be fooled into thinking you are protecting them, they are just using you by playing a victim role.
  • Stories that people hate you or want to hurt you, this is used to stop you talking to the other person and hence it is easier to keep the truth from you. This can also be used to get you in trouble, they cause an issue and ask you to deal with it (this is party playing the victim role), then putting you in the firing line should something result from your actions and all along you think you are "doing the right thing".
  • Lies, lies and more lies, if you think statistics is bad - wait till you bump into one of these people. You will only really see how bad this is when you understand that you are dealing with a covert aggressive personality. Be aware, the ability these types of people have for spin puts politicians to shame. Also be very careful about how to confront them, they will never admit they are wrong.
  • You feel like you are walking on egg shells. This is the result of some of the behavior of the person controlling you, you end up having to avoid issues and acting extra nice so that your controller will not attack you. This is exactly how they want you to be, afraid of them so that you will not say anything and do as you are told.
  • Opening your post, this keeps a tight tab on you and allows them to filter the information you receive (normally regarding money or stopping people from passing information to you). This is very dangerous as it allows them to steal money over a long period of time and put you in debt without you even knowing. This may start in an innocent way, but it can develop to something completely out of hand. Watch out for people who have access to a 2nd postal address as they can get post diverted so that you will not see it or they may even divert all your post to another address.
  • Constant phone calls (or coming around to your workplace), these are disguised as making sure you are okay or trying to get you involved to solve an issue when they are actually keeping tight tabs on you, they know when you will be back so that they can do whatever they like, also means you have to answer to them all the time. You may be verbally attacked or accused of cheating if you don't answer, call them when directed or if they hear work collogues in the back ground. Its all a mask, they know you are not cheating, they just want to keep you under control.
  • They keep attacking you verbally. While you try and figure out how to be more supportive and what the problem actually is, they just find new ways to have a go at you. This keeps you in defense mode and does not give you time to think about what they are up to. Many people believe the other person just has some sort of problem, for covert aggressive people this is not the case.
  • Making you feel awkward when you want to see your friends. The intention is to get rid of your friends; it is easier to control you that way.
  • Anger transference (your children), this is the ability for them to be angry at your children and you trying to calm things down, then instantly transfer that anger to you while at the same time comforting the children they were just being nasty to. Its a little like trying to get involved between an arguing couple, they both turn on you, the difference is that this is done intentionally to make you look like the bad person. You think you are just trying to calm your partner down and help your children, while you are doing this your partner is getting your children to hate you.
  • Wanting access to your bank accounts using pretence that it is more convenient or that they can help you and it is good for the relationship. Makes it easy to steal from you and control your finances.
  • Controlling behavior, they always do what they want; you only get to do what you want when they allow it. You know it happens, you are just trying your best to be a good partner, they are trying their best to abuse you. Time to wake up and realise that the partner that you love does not love you and sees you as something they own.
  • They know what you are doing all the time, yet you know nothing about what they are doing. You are being open and honest, but if you think about it - is your partner open with you?
  • Always checking your phone or your phone bill, they want to make sure you are not doing anything they disapprove of.
  • Misunderstandings (deliberate). It happens all the time, you say something and the other person misunderstands what you said, normally in such a situation the other person will ask "what do you mean by that" and then laugh when they explain they thought you meant something else. But covert aggressive people take a different approach, if it is possible to put another meaning onto something then they will and then they will use that to create an argument, they actually know what you meant, they just want to make you apologies and bow down to them or it gives them a reason to jump down your neck. Start to understand that these people know what you meant and are just playing a game with you, albeit a nasty one, at your expense and to keep you bowing down to them.
  • Guilt trips, making you do something that you don't want to by making you feel bad if you don't do it. This can be as simple as getting you to go down to the shops for them or used in conjunction with other techniques such as getting you to do the dirty work for them against someone who has "done them harm" of some kind (remember the playing the victim role).
  • Never accepting blame for anything, in the end, all the blame will be directed at you. Again this is another thing that people often try to explain away, something in the past, maybe they have been abused by there parents (ya right - pull the other one), or were always blamed for things by people around them. No matter the excuse, don't accept it.
  • Scare tactics, these people will try and scare you, either by out right threats ("you never going to see you children again"), fake violence (hitting the wall next to your head), faking illnesses (always have some sort of life threatening illness), pregnancy, finances (you are in too much debt to leave), threatening suicide ("I'm going to jump under a bus" - when you try and leave or just going out somewhere).

I have kept the following separate because I am not sure if this behavior is part of being a covert aggressive or if it is just a product of a sick mind. Let me know what you think about this, is it part of being covert aggressive or not, and if not what is it?

  • Euphoria after upsetting and/or shouting at strangers. This is where someone gets extremely happy about upsetting strangers for no reason, often causing the problem in the first place and then shouting at them and trying to cause as much upset as possible. Afterwards, they would start to boast they upset someone and put someone down and gave them what-for (odd as they cause the problem in the first place), yet be extremely happy about it and almost wearing the event as a badge of honor.

How to Deal with these People

Here is the hard part and something you may not as yet be willing or able to do, whilst you remain under the control of someone it is almost impossible to take action. You may also think that you can help your partner change, see the error of their ways, see that the way they are treating you is wrong and hurtful, but in my experience and others - this is just not possible. You have to keep in mind that this sort of person will do anything, say anything and threaten anything to get what they want and they know what buttons to press and they know you more than you know yourself. The threats are nearly always carried out, even if you do as they say.

Keep in mind, these people have zero self respect (they have no guilt), but they have an overwhelming sense of self importance (they think they are gods gift to mankind) and they see you as their property (this can even go on for years after you have left, I have heard a women say her ex was still trying to act as if he owned her after 30 years of separation).

The control freak is just like a wild lion (but not in a good way), its going to bite your leg off if you talk to it nicely or not, the only thing to do is stay away from it or keep it away from you. Nearly everything that a covert aggressive says is said for a reason, it is said to portray an image, get you or someone else to think or do something.

You have to get away from your controller, take control of your monies, letters, and friends, of what you do and when you do it. You cannot and will not be able to do this while you are in direct contact or living with your controller. Leave, move, change your phone numbers, don’t take calls from them (even if you have children), warn your friends and your work colleges and ask them not to even tell you when this person calls.  

Be Aware

Please do not be put off from doing something about a control freak after reading this, just be prepared for it should it happen.

If you get away from a covert aggressive or confront them over aspects of behavior - watch out!. This part can get somewhat extreme, depending on the person you are dealing with. Whilst I have personally experienced this, other people may see none, some or even more than below.

In my experience it is at this time when a covert aggressive turns really nasty. Forget the covert part as far as you are concerned, but for other people this person will try and portray themselves as the victim. Losing control over you is the worst thing in the world to them and they will hate you (really hate you) for it. They will use all their skills to cause maximum hurt to you and may very well try and involve other people (remember the Stories that they have been attacked or abused above) to cause as much problems for you as possible and get others to do the dirty work (again they don't care what happens to other people who attack you - so long as you are attacked). 

For some reason, covert aggressives often start stating the law and tell you that you are a criminal unless you do as they say. In my experience, these stated laws are more often than not completely made up so that you will do as you are told. I would advise that if you find the law being stated to you, go and check this law rather than blindly accepting that it is true or false.

Be warned if you have children, they will be used purely as weapons to cause the maximum hurt as possible, your children will be poisoned against you. If you need to take legal action for access to children, do some research on the internet about the experience of people in the country you are in before you go down that route. For example, the UK will issue but not enforce child access orders, hence these are useless when you are up against a covert aggressive. This can be a big problem for fathers in the UK because the UK authorities (police, courts and social services) will nearly always support the mother and not the father no matter how much evidence you have.

If you still need some form of contact with your controller, buy a pay-as-you-go phone and give them that number. Don’t take that phone to work,  leave it turned off until you are ready to receive hundreds of nasty text messages and phone calls. Do not reply to these messages or calls, do not do what the controller tells you or demands you to do, set you own rules and stick to them. Be aware that covert aggressive people are able to convince other people to do things for them (give them your real tel number, address etc), so you may have to change your number and move a few times before you work out who is helping your ex. 

Your covert aggressive will use all possible avenues to upset you and get you to do what they want. This normally starts with the traditional guilt tripping , demanding with threats (the threats are normally carried out even if you do what they say - so don't bother doing it), outright threats, death threats, blackmail, holding things for ransom (your children or belongings or both), false accusations (these can get extremely cruel) and the good old stalking (by phone, internet or just turning up outside your home and work). Tell any new partner about your ex, some new partners will have difficulty handling this, be aware your controller will specifically target new partners.  In extreme cases, your covert aggressive may become violent when all else fails - to be honest, I think this is the easiest part to deal with, call the police and get them arrested and prosecuted (do not feel sorry for them).

If you are in a position to use the law against your controller, then I suggest you do and do that to the maximum extent of the law, do not feel sorry for them. I made the mistake of asking the police not to arrest my controller after she badly haressed my elderly parents and me, if I had allowed the police to act (the only time they actually offered) then things may have calmed down earlier rather than dragging on for years. Often complaints to the police have to be done within a period of time after an offence, so don't leave it too long. I suggest if you can, get a restraining order or an injunction with arrestable powers against them and use it, because you are going to need it. The UK authorities have recently (2011/2012) labeled most of this type of covert aggressive behavior as domestic violence, so it is now worth making formal complaints in the UK and they are starting to pay attention to complaints made by men against women (not just women complaining about men).

Another approach that sometimes works in the UK is using the harassment laws. If you find you are being stalked (phone calls, text messages, letters, turning up etc), keep the messages. Make it very clear in either a text, email or in writing that you wish the person to stop contacting you or your friends and family either directly or indirectly and that you will contact the police if they do not comply. Often the person will ignore this request, whatever you do - do not reply again to these messages because it means you cannot complain. Call the police and provide them a copy of the communications, the request to the other side that you asked them to stop along with proof they they continued to contact you and make it clear of the upset that this is causing. This can also help if you pursue an injunction against your stalker or unwanted attention.

Keep all your communications (email, text etc.), record your phone calls (be careful!, check the law in your country on recording phones calls, some countries don't allow you to do this). Text messages can be exported from most mobile phones onto a PC (then burn them onto CD), so export your text messages and keep them when you start to run out of space on your phone. A number of phone apps exist (some are free) that allows you to record incoming and outgoing phone calls, also software exists with a connection to your land line which allows you to record calls to landlines on a PC (software for recording landlines is often available on ebay). If you don't know how to set these things up, ask a friend, but again - please check the law in your country to find out if you are allowed to do this.

Most mobile phones can record video these days, such recordings can be used to prove what you are saying. So make sure you know how to use your phone's video recording functions so that you can use this when your control freak is around (so know how to use it with your eyes closed). Obviously, don't make it clear to the other person that you are recording them. This can come in very handy to combat false accusations and to prove what actually happened. Check that you can do this in the country you are in.

In time you will get back control of your own life, your controller may always attempt to cause problems whenever you are in contact with them and the demands you will get tend to be more extreme and desperate as they learn other approaches don't work anymore. If you think "Stalker! Psychopath!" then you are on the right lines.

Internet Searches

I sometimes find some of the internet searches that bring people to my web site shows what havoc and upset these people cause. So I have decided to publish some of them here.

- how do i get over the hurt from covert aggressive husband

All I can say is that I hope whoever did this search finds happiness and comes to understand that not all people are like this.

- stalked by covert aggressive ex boyfriend

Yep, stalking is typical when you get away from your covert aggressive. Suggest you try and get them dealt with by the authorities. If your covert aggressive is female (which was the case with me), it can prove difficult to get the authorities to do anything (UK is very sexist against men).

- ex wife the covert aggressive

Yep, its both men and women who do this.

- are covert aggressive people evil

In a word, yes.

- why are covert aggressive so mean

See answer to "are covert aggressive people evil" above.

- how to deal with covert aggressive people

This seems to be a common search that I have seen a number of times. Its a little like asking, how do I deal with this bully who keeps hurting me, my answer is get away from them, make a formal complaint at work, get out of the relationship (it's not going to get better). You cannot change them, you cannot get them to see what they are doing (they know already and they don't care).

- covert aggressive legal protection against

It can be difficult to get legal protection against a covert aggressive, once the covert aggressive is confronted then they get very very nasty. The "found out" covert aggressive will not allow any legal thing against them (this would mean they are in the wrong - and they don't like that), so when you make a complaint, or tell them that you are going to - the covert aggressive will make numerous nasty false accusations against you and anyone who supports you. These accusations tend to get worse over time as the covert aggressive builds up a story in they own mind to justify there actions and to get sympathy from others ("oh, poor me" - its how they start to control others). So, as I have said above, use the law the best way you can to keep the covert aggressive away from you, but be ready for very nasty accusations from them.

- covert aggressive con you out of money- will you get it back?

No chance, I have never even heard of a covert aggressive admitting using someone else's money, never mind giving it back. They tend to do the opposite and accuse you of owing them, which they will broadcast to everyone and anyone who will listen to them. By all means ask, but I think you may have more chance of getting something back by going through the courts. You have to keep in mind that a covert aggressive believes they own you, they own everything you have and everything you may have in the future, and that includes money. You are the covert aggressive's property, well as far as they are concerned anyway and no amount of asking for or demanding will change that. They may well demand more money from you though!

Suggested Reading

I highly recommend reading this book:

In Sheep's Clothing By George K. Simon (here is a link to a excerpt), Amazon