Dealing with someone who winds you up on purpose

hispanic woman pointing fingerDo you have to deal with someone who constantly winds you up?

Is every little thing you do/don’t do up for discussion and a critique by them?

Do they know they are getting to you but keep it up anyway and enjoy when you finally break and lose your temper?

Recognising the Antagonist

Seriously there are people like this, they get enjoyment at being able to provoke a reaction from someone else and if you are the type to explode with rage I’m afraid to say you’re easy pickings for them.  I’m not talking here of the type of person who is simply unaware that what they are doing is annoying you, and neither am I talking of someone who just goes about their business except that you, for some reason, have an unjustified problem with them.  I am talking about the kind of person who enjoys trying to control others and gets pleasure from getting a reaction from you.

They are obviously very damaged people and are usually extremely clever socially, and good at staying calm which can end up making you seem like the erratic, uncontrolled and aggressive lunatic who can’t temper his/her anger. But if you are on your own road to recovery from a hard to control temper then this kind of person can really set you back from your healing.  Even if you manage to stop yourself from exploding with rage, you can feel so irritated and frustrated inside that your mind can cloud up with negative thoughts, irritations and anger.

So what do you do?

Well, as usual, you can only change yourself.  Obviously you need to make yourself stay calm and not allow your anger to erupt, and as we all know this can be hard to do.  If you need some help with controlling your anger then take a read of this article about controlling anger by controlling your emotions and also take a look at my 8 point plan for controlling anger.  When dealing with a antagonist like this though, it’s not really enough to just stop yourself from losing your temper, not if you have to deal with this person all the time.  If you can’t get away from them for the foreseeable future, you really need to change your perspective on what they are doing and realise what they are really up to.

Change your perspective

There is something lacking in their life, something that went wrong with their development and they are not a healthy, well balanced human being.  Inside, they know this about themselves, but everyone has a need to drive their self-esteem higher, and the way these people do this is to try to show up someone else’s weakness so that no one notices their own. Their thoughts are warped and really you should feel sorry for them as they are deeply, deeply insecure.  However, you cannot change them and their problems are not your problems. You need to stay true to your own character and rise above such behaviour.  Nurture your relationships with all the others around you and learn to smile when the antagonist wants you to crack.  Believe in your own self worth and know that whatever your own problems are, you are more secure and in control of yourself than they are.

They are trying to raise their own self esteem and receive confirmation of their superiority by your hurt and angry reactions.  Once you get your own power back and refuse to validate them, they are then left with their own uncomfortable truth.  The more their behaviour ends up making themselves feel bad instead of you, the sooner they will stop.

I wrote this article after direct experience of such an antagonist.  I really hope this helps if you are dealing with such an individual.

Best of luck

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  1. Hi,thanks for this husband of 21years is an antagonist you have described in your article.i have adopted the silent strategy for the past 19years but it doesn’t work now i have started to break my silence and is slowly exposing his violent behavior to my he is little more consious of his behaviour. But the damage he as well as his mother has done by character assasinating me is annoying to deal with .how should i undo the damage?

    • Hi Lax, that’s a long time to be dealing with an abusive person and I imagine your self-esteem has been hugely affected by this kind of treatment. Overcoming emotional damage takes time and lots of self-care. Recognising your own worth and your right to live without abuse is the key. Is it possible for you to get some counselling?

  2. I just found your blog and felt understood! I can identify with the above. I’m dealing with an Oppositional Defiant, controlling, husband, who has apparently been like this all his life. I always thought it was “me” but have learned that he does this to other people, too. He feels he’s a victim and I’m his victimizer, and, therefore justified in attacking me. I need to get my own self-esteem house in order, but continue to let him get to me. I feel like one raw nerve. Any advice? Info sources?

    • Hi Sue, I’m sorry to hear you’re in such a hard situation. I’m not surprised you feel like a raw nerve as we humans are not programmed to do well in such abusive situations. If your husband does not recognise how his behaviour affects you, and the others he treats in this way, he is unlikely to ever change. You should therefore ask yourself the following questions: if you increase your self esteem, would you then believe that you deserve better than this for the rest of your life? If he does not change, can you accept his behaviour for the rest of your life? It might be time to think about discussing your problems with a counsellor.

      I wish you the very best and hope you can find some peace.


  3. Hi

    I have just found your article after yet another incident in which I have been “wound up” by my husband. He takes great delight in deliberately winding me up and telling me what to do – by way of example, I am doing a 5k run/jog and raising money for Cancer research tomorrow (it’s an event where people can either walk, jog or run). I am overweight and have used the training for this to start getting fit and to stop him nagging me about my weight. I have been going out jogging in the mornings to train for this event and have been really pleased with what I was doing. Tonight he said to me “Make sure you run and don’t walk tomorrow – it should be more than a fast walk” – implying that it doesn’t count if you walk. It is his idea of a joke but I also know that he takes great delight in provoking me because he knows I respond and get angry and explode at him. I know I should walk away from the situation, but it is hard to do as he says things that really get under my skin. This seems to be getting worse as time goes on and my self esteem is getting very low, although I try not to let it. I am gradually losing respect for him and I feel he has little respect for me. Any advice?

    • Sue, it’s up to you how you take his comments and whether you let them hurt you or not. It’s often very hard not to be angry by someone’s comments if we know they said them to wind us up, but it’s important for you to take a step back and feel strong and confident enough in yourself not to allow them to have that power. Best of luck!

      • Joanna Elkins says:

        I get very annoyed with my sister-in-law who has a knack every time i meet her of bringing children into the conversation i have dropped hints we don’t like it but she still does it. I have said well children don’t make a marriage or relationship she then replies no some people don’t want any anyway to me she says that because i have said that answer to her previously. I have now distanced myself from her as every time i see her my back goes up because i know what she is going to bring into the conversation. My husband says ignore her but i feel she is doing to on purpose.

        • Some people can be very insensitive Joanna, especially when it comes to issues to do with having children. I wonder if you could get your husband to just let his sister know that you are left feeling upset when she discusses things like this? Failing that then your husband is right, if she chooses to wind you up on purpose then don’t let her!

  4. Katherine Howard says:

    What a fantastic and clear article – thank you. I live in an area (council estate) where this is what everyone is doing all the time – especially now I want to start my own business the level and cunning has gone right up recently. My strategy is to just ignore it and cut them out of my life for good. Feel a lot better now I’ve done this.

    • Good for you Katherine, jealousy of another’s success is definitely a reason to try to take them down a peg or two. Best of luck with your new venture 🙂

  5. Angry wife!!! says:

    I grew up angry, in an angry environment.

    I took anger management classes years ago,had group therapies and managed to really sort myself out.
    I met my husband when I was 21 and just a trainee practitioner in childcare. I’m now a nursery manager, at uni and really successful. The thing is my husband is now so petty and manipulating and I swear he winds me.up on purpose just to watch me blow. When I say blow I mean I blow…. screaming, throwing the lot… it’s a mad release and I see red and he thrives in it I swear. It’s so so frustrating.

    He will then say in front of our daughter things like your mum has mental issues and this isn’t normal and people like this aren’t normal. I swear I could actually kill him at this point. But I just grab the car keys and leave. It’s pathetic.

    This happened tonight…. because I asked him to straighten the socks before I hung them to dry.. he started moaning and I said just help and he said it’s woman’s work so I threw the socks at him and said to do it all yourself.

    • Lizzy says:

      Hello Angry Wife,

      I am in the same position. I am sat on the bed scrolling through various articles trying not to cry because my husband has just done the same thing. He is manipulative and I swear he thrives on winding me up too. I wanted some space, just half an hour on my own so he comes into the room I am in and starts to “tidy up”. I started off by asking nicely and then it just blew up where I screamed in his face to “just leave me alone”.

      He finally left, he had been promising to go out all day anyway so, that’s why it erked me when it didn’t happen. But his fall back position was exactly the same, t stay calm and keep telling me that I am really £&@!ing mental”. I know I am mot, because barely anyone else in my lifetime has brought this behaviour out in me. If I was mental then I would implode all the time not matter when, where or, with whom.

      I am not sure of the way forward, saw you posted a few months back and wondered if you had found any coping strategies?

      Much love and understanding,

      • Wow…that was exactly how my ex was! I thought there was something wrong with me for the longest. An example i can think of would be that he would ask me why im so upset? And i woukd tell him blatantly. Than he would be like..but why are you so mad at me? He would also wake me up on purpose and ask me if i was sleeping when just before that i told him ibwas taking a nap. I would explode in anger to the point of making myself shake i was so fustrated and he would sit there calmy asking me why i waa as so upset!!! He loved it. Got rid of his ass a month ago and feel sooooo much better. Some of my family members are like thus as well.

  6. Sarah says:

    My husband is the same too. Constantly calls me controlling – it’s strange as all his family say he is and the only person who has stood by him stupidly is me! He stands and watches me with our daughter if she’s having a bit of a tantrum as stated in article stands there making comments such as well what are you gong to do when are you going to blame me. Then to my daughter who is only 2 don’t do that it makes mummy cross with me and don’t do that it causes arguments I then get angry and state it’s not her it’s him making comments like that that get me angry After reading the article he is very much getting me to the point I want to hit him but stands calmly himself making me look like I’m the psycho! Then he will say you have an anger issue I’m not sitting and shouting. Also hurtful comments and things like no wonder people talk to me when we go out and not you. (I have always been painfully shy). He’s very clever as this article reads at pretending when we go out at making people think I’m an idiot. Whenever I say anything about him to someone it’s always me that sounds like I’m mean. Well after writing this can’t believe I’m still married to him.

  7. Thank you for your post, it has helped me realise that I’m not going mad.
    My husband has been trying to wind me up for the past six years, I say trying because for the first couple of years I didn’t realise that was his intention due to trying to grieve for my father, I met him at my fathers funeral, and I was too heartbroken to notice the unstable signs of his behaviour, once I realised I found it hard to understand why someone would intentionally do that to someone they say they love, its very hurtful, especially when I ask him calmly to stop but he keeps on and on until I break and then he accuses me of being mad and says I have anger issues.
    Would you know of any help groups that would help me not feel like I’m having a breakdown.
    Thank you

  8. Loretta says:

    Hi I just went on to your blog and found it most helpful as I am going through a lot my boyfriends ex keeps winding me up she make sure to find out when we our down to our local social club then she comes in front of us and dance even if we are on the dance floor she will draw her dancing partner near to where we are dancing . the other thing she does she will ring my boyfriend at odd hours I tried to advise my boyfriend told him he needs to speak to her and let her know we are now and item he wont do it he said its best to ingnore her but it is not working what should I do,

  9. Empty Shell says:

    I have been married for 35 yea. My husband enjoys winding everyone up, supposedly in jest but it often does not feel that way. I retired 18 months ago, from a highly paid and high status job. My husband is bright and talented but seems unable to earn a regular wage. Since the children were of school age I developed my career from scratch and I have been happy to be the breadwinner. They are all adults now and we live off my works pension. When I retired we bought a beautiful place in France and things were ok for a while. My husbands father died this spring and since then my husband has become more and more antagonist. He winds me up on purpose. He is not satisfied until I explode in anger or more likely break down in tears. It starts off as jokey passive aggression, develops into insincere jibes and eventually becomes outright hostility. His mother has been very hostile to him since his father died. She is not a pleasant woman and I understand that there was emotional and physical abuse in his family. Having been a happy, fulfilled and confident person I am rapidly losing my self esteem. We don’t have a sex life and havent for years. He has never been particularly interested. There is some warmth and affection.
    I am beginning to wonder if I actually get anything at all out of the relationship. I love living here in France but I would rather walk away from it and make my own way than carry on in this empty shell of a marriage. I could stand it if I wasn’t constantly mocked, undermined and patronised but why exactly am I still here? Ultimately what is in it for me? I just don’t know

  10. rachel says:

    omg thank you soo sooo much u literally saved my day now i know wot to do god bless because i was going to commit a suicide, really THANK YOU SO MUCH you dunno wot u did writing this amazing blog

  11. Elaine says:

    I live in a cul-de-sac and live opposite the person who winds me up to the max, we use to speak, and i felt sorry for her, when she divorced her husband, her and her son lives with her mother. a couple of years ago she took advantage of texting my husband whilst I was in hospital all told there were 38 txts. neither her or my husband would tell me what the txts were about and it almost ended my marriage. I fell out with her and did not speak to her. last year I lost my brother-in-law at a young age of 48 to cancer it devastated the whole of the family only for me to find out that this evil vile person found it highly amusing and what she said is un repeatable. Her son who is 22 has never been allowed to make his own friends or go out, has been given two cars in which he was driving in the cul-de-sac he has no license, no insurance no mot no log book, I told her that he can get into trouble for driving cars around with no insurance, so just to wind me up he keeps leaving his cars at the edge of his grandmothers drive and this women encourages it, if this cars gears slip the car could roll down the drive onto the road this ending up either hurting or maybe killing a young child or an elderly person which lives in the street. sometimes I feel like ending it all as its got to me that bad. any help or suggestions anyone could give me will be appreciated. A very unhappy person

  12. Snapper Raines says:

    I’ve been in a relationship for 5 years now. We met when we were both in a bad place but over the years I have been subjected to verbal abuse from my boyfriend. Whenever I mention or try to talk to him about this he dismisses it and says I’m overreacting. He has ruined days out, nights out, holidays, Christmas’ and birthdays. He is a very loving person but very insecure and if I say something he doesn’t like, I get the silent treatment and he sulks like a child. He antagonises me and creates an uncomfortable situation when there is no need for it. All I ever do is try to make things nice for us, pay for days out and holidays etc. and he just sabotages them by making me feel that nothing is good enough or moaning about the cost of things (when he’s not had to pay for anything!) He used to use my car and he had no respect for it at all and would drive so fast which I told him I hated time and time again. It used to really frighten me but he never listened. He has road rage and having a conversation with him in the car is impossible, it’s all about him and his anger. The same when we walk down the street and people walk into him, he gets so angry and frustrated with everything and everyone around him. He has some very sweet traits but I feel very lonely and depressed and feel like I’m dealing with this alone. I’m also very confused. He’s very loyal, kind and loves me but he makes me sad and upsets me when we can’t enjoy the nice things in life without drama 🙁

  13. Morag says:

    I have to live near my ex who happens to be a complete dick, he is also father to my 2 children. He likes to antagonise me, any little thing to wind me up, he’s allowed to be wrong, I’m not, he likes to put me in a position, then when I get upset I’m in the wrong for it, like the problem he has caused is somehow my fault. Today is my youngest daughters birthday, he has nit-picked all day, when I finally broke & was angry with him, he was all – oh please, don’t do this today, not today, please – when I’ve tried my hardest to stay positive around this asshole all day. I know what I need to do, stay away from him, less interaction with him the better, unfortunately, the kids want to see him, as they’re too young to understand what a prick he is, so, I need to limit my interactions with him whereever possible, but really what I need to do is follow my own advice. Good luck with these dickheads, usually but not always men, people

  14. Distraught says:

    This sounds a lot like my boss. Im usually a happy jokey person. But he has absolutely destroyed that side of me at work. If i get the slightest detail wrong he will go on and on about it, in his form of “joking” and then belittles me in front of clients about it. Im finding it hard to keep calm and now im biting back all the time. I come home feeling distraught. He has even taken it to the point he jokes about me to my family when they pop in. I cannot handle it. Ive told him not to do it as its not helping me. Sometimes i think hes trying to get me to quit. I do the work of 3 people whilst he sits dictating and doing sweet f a. This annoys me, as we need all the help we can get when its busy. Im suposed to be the manager, but dont feel like its a serious title with the belittling and treating me worse than the staff we have under me. Hes even blamed me for other peoples mistakes. To which i’ve provided proof it was not me and it was someone else (even him at times). He tells me i need to lighten up. But when hes discolouring my reputation in my career it is hard to handle. I have low self esteem, and hes destroying the tiny bit i have left, as its constant from the moment i get in til the moment i leave. I know I’m fantastic at my job, but slowly I’m beginning to make a few mistakes due to over thinking the way im treated. Not everyone has tough skin, and i am quite a sensitive person. I keep thinking I’m an awful person because of this treatment. Came home today and cried. Only way out i can see is to quit. But i love my job. Just not my boss.

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