CONTROLLING BEHAVIOR: Top 20 Signs & All You Need in 2023

Controlling behavior

Anyone in your life might be a source of controlling behavior. Your boss, a family member, an acquaintance, or even your partner could be the source of the problem. Controlling people can be found everywhere. The terms “controlling husbands” and “controlling partnerships” are frequently used.

Although controlling behavior can be especially painful in love relationships, everybody in your life has the ability to harm you. They can be either a man or a woman. Recognizing the indications of controlling behavior takes courage, and responding effectively takes guts.

Controlling Behavior Definition

A controlling person tries to exert control, authority, and decision-making power over other people and situations. Controlling behavior can range from telling someone what they can and cannot do to more subtle approaches such as guilt-tripping and possessive gaslighting. The desires and demands of the individual under control are frequently ignored or even insulted.

Friends, family members, coworkers, and romantic partners can all have controlling attitudes and actions. To have controlling tendencies, a person does not have to be an “evil” person.

Where does this Controlling Behavior come from?

Controlling another person usually stems from a lack of confidence in oneself, forcing you to exert control over someone else. Controlling behavior typically appears as insecure, anxious attachment, according to Holly Richmond, Ph.D., a somatic psychologist and author of Reclaiming Pleasure. “I can’t soothe myself if you’re not with me,” for example, “therefore, I have to know where you are every second.”

In other words, according to Richmond, controlling behavior is a result of worry and fear of the unknown. “Sometimes it’s fear of what’s going to happen, and we’re watching a horror movie in our heads—but other times it’s the unknown.”

Someone with “control difficulties” or a fear of the unknown often does not trust or feel safe enough in themselves to face any challenge or tolerate an uncertain circumstance. As a result, people use their will in any manner they can in order to recover some sense of security.

What Causes Controlling Behavior?

There are a variety of reasons why some people try to dominate others, and it can be difficult to figure out what they are. Low self-esteem, being micromanaged or controlled by someone else, traumatic experiences, a need to be in control, or a need to feel ‘above’ someone else was the possible causes of controlling behavior.

None of this has anything to do with you, the victim of unjustified control. However, if you want to keep a relationship with someone who has power over you, see if they can help you with any of the aforementioned factors.

Controlling Behavior in Relationships

“Are you afraid to bring something up in a conversation because you’re worried about your partner’s reaction?” Do you ever feel embarrassed or dumb in front of your friends or family? Do you ever doubt your own sanity? You may be in an abusive relationship if you experience any of these feelings.”

The following are some signs of a controlling relationship:

1. When you make plans without them, you get annoyed.

Your companion may not appreciate it if you make plans without them or leave the house without them. They may not appreciate your desire for alone time and may not want you to have a life outside your partnership. They may want to know where you are and who you’re with at all times, and they may send you SMS and phone calls to check in on you.

2. Making you feel guilty for spending time with your loved ones.

Similarly, your partner may make you feel guilty for spending time with those you care about. “These forms of control can appear to be quite compassionate at times, or you may believe that your partner simply wants to spend time with you alone,” Val explains. ‘Stay at home with me,’ she says. ‘Why don’t we just get together and do something?’ ‘To be happy in our relationship, we don’t need others.’ Doesn’t it sound nice?

3. Excessive enmity and allegations

A controlling partner may be unreasonably jealous and accuse you of flirting or cheating with other people without providing evidence or explanation. While this could indicate that they are dealing with their own anxieties or prior infidelities, it is unjust and harmful for them to repeatedly accuse you.

4. Going over your phone and personal belongings

Everyone, whether single or in a committed relationship, is entitled to privacy. A spouse who reads your texts, call logs, emails, or searches through your possessions without your permission lacks trust and respect for your personal space.

5. Continual rebuke

A controlling partner may erode your self-esteem and make you feel insecure by criticizing you in private and/or in public. They might, for example, criticize the way you dress or spend your time, exaggerate your ‘flaws,’ or make fun of you in front of others while claiming it was “only a joke.”

6. Blame you for everything

Controlling people enjoy playing the ‘blame game.’ They may assume the victim position right away, blaming you for everything that goes wrong, even if it has nothing to do with you.

7. Inducing you to question your own reality

Some controlling spouses go beyond isolating you from your friends and family; they also try to make you doubt your own sense of reality. “Gaslighting” is a popular manipulative technique and kind of emotional abuse. When a partner bends the truth to make you doubt your memories, intuition, and feelings, this is what happens.

Controlling Behavior Psychology

Internal anxiety fuels the need to exert control over others. Rather than confronting their deep-seated worries head-on, controlling people project them onto their relationships, causing emotional chaos and instability by blaming others for their distress.

In this sense, the desire to dominate protects controlling people from feelings of vulnerability, which they connect with impotence. This is why they are constantly on the lookout for signs of weakness.

All of this makes it difficult to maintain intimacy with controlling people because their behavior causes:

  • Increasing the intensity of disputes
  • A decline in trust
  • Constant squabbling

The Good and the Bad

Controlling personality types are typically successful in their employment. They manage people, achieve objectives, and are goal-oriented at all times. They can get to the top in business by working hard and surrounding themselves with employees who follow their orders without question.

A controlling person’s personal life, on the other hand, is usually a disaster. Friendships are fickle, closeness is fickle, and their relationships are constantly tested.

Controlling Behavior Signs

Here’s a look at signs that might suggest someone has controlling behavior.

1. Calling all the shots

Simply defined, controlling behavior can entail controlling control of the relationship’s decision-making process (romantic or non). According to Richmond, this can entail determining where the other person can travel, where they eat out, what to order, and who their friends are.

2. Disregard for personal space and limits

Respecting someone else’s boundaries and privacy, whether as a parent, a friend, or a lover, Richmond adds, is controlling behavior. It can be seen in parents who shut the door to their child’s room, or in a partner who refuses to acknowledge your need for space and alone time.

3. Regular check-ins

There’s nothing wrong with checking in on someone while they’re out and about, but if it becomes constant or aggressive, it’s an indication they’re coming from a controlling place, as Richmond points out. “Where are you?” she asks if you’re out to dinner with your buddies and your spouse keeps texting. Who are you hanging out with? “Send me a photo, so I can see where you are,” that’s absolutely controlling.

4. Picking fights that aren’t required

Picking arguments out of nowhere can also be a control method, according to Richmond, because “bad attention is better than no attention” to a controlling person. This is especially true if they start fighting while you’re out.

5. Controlling expenses

Financial control is a real thing, and it’s one of the most effective methods for a controlling individual to make someone dependent on them. This can take the form of controlling what is purchased, dictating a budget, and/or being too judgmental of another person’s expenditures, according to Richmond.

6. Isolate you

If someone is deliberately attempting to isolate you from friends and family, Richmond warns, it’s a solid sign they intend to control you. This not only limits your support system, but it also encourages your reliance on the controlling person, much like when they manage your money. It all boils down to having limited resources and having to rely on them.

7. Blaming 

“‘You don’t find me sexy anymore’ morphs into ‘I think you don’t love me’—which is sexual coercion,” Richmond adds. Guilt-tripping can take many forms, including making you feel guilty about not having sex, not spending enough time with them, or wanting more alone time.

8. Insecurity in the bedroom

According to Richmond, the insecurity that motivates controlling behavior can also be found in the bedroom. She gives the example of a spouse who refuses to utilize sex toys as a couple. She continues, “Let’s say a female companion didn’t get off and grabbed her vibrator.” “That could make a controlling partner feel threatened or diminished, so no sex toys in the bedroom.”

9. Gaslighting

Gaslighting, or making someone question their own experience by denying or deflecting, is another way a controlling person will try to manipulate another. As previously stated by therapist Aki Rosenberg, LMFT. “At its foundation, gaslighting is about self-preservation and maintaining power/control—specifically, the power/control to construct a narrative that maintains the gaslighter in the ‘right’ while their partner is in the ‘wrong.'”

10. Doing things only so you’re indebted to them

According to Richmond, another control method used by some people is doing good things for others in order to make them indebted to them. This is frequent in one-sided friendships, in which the friend only acts in their own self-interest, but it can also occur in love relationships. After the good deed is completed, this individual may bring it up again and again, reminding you that you “owe them,” and allowing it to hang over your head.

11. Jealousy

Jealousy can range from harmless to excessive, but when you get to the extreme end, things start to get out of hand, according to Richmond. Maybe your partner doesn’t like it when you hang out with people of a certain gender or publish images of yourself on the internet.

12. Narcissism

Margalis Fjelstad, Ph.D., LMFT, a certified therapist, previously stated, “Trying to grasp control of everything is archetypal narcissist behavior.” She argues that narcissists want to control as much as possible since they are always disappointed by the faulty way life unfolds. “They want and demand to be in charge, and their sense of entitlement leads them to believe that they should be in charge of everything,” she continues.

13. Conditional love

Conditional love involves controlling behavior, as licensed therapist Weena Cullins, LMFT, previously explained. A controlling father, for example, may withhold love as a form of control. “Withholding love, affection, or acceptance when a child fails to meet their standard” is a symptom of a controlling parent, she claims, but the same idea applies in partnerships as well.

How to respond to a Controlling Person.

The way you cope with a controlling individual is determined by the nature of the relationship. Here’s how to deal with some of the most typical perpetrators of controlling behavior:

1. A romantic partner

The major question in a controlling relationship is whether to stay or go. If you’ve discovered you’re in an abusive, controlling relationship, seek assistance right away. For assistance, you can phone, chat, or text this hotline. If there isn’t any abuse, and you believe your partner is willing to change, the first step, according to Richmond, is to have a talk about what’s going on. To begin, schedule a time for both of you to sit down and chat about what’s been upsetting you.

2. A Friend

Many of the aforementioned criteria apply in the situation of a controlling friend, according to Richmond: making time to communicate and expressing your genuine concerns. If they respond positively and adjust their behavior, the relationship may be salvageable. If not, you have the option of creating some space or ending the friendship totally.

3. A Parent

If you know you’re dealing with a controlling parent, clinical psychologist Shefali Tsabary, Ph.D., advises, “the best way to cope with them is to establish strong, firm, and consistent limits.” ” It can be frightening, but it’s “exactly what the child needs to do to break free from this unhealthy habit,” she says.


When someone tries to control you, it’s not from a position of love but rather from a place of fear. Controlling behavior and manipulation are poisonous and do not accord with the need for open and honest communication in a healthy partnership. If you ever feel threatened by another person’s actions, believe your instincts and leave the situation as soon as feasible.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is obsessive controlling behavior?

Anxiety Control: Obsessive-Compulsive

An obsession with orderliness, perfection and interpersonal control characterizes the obsessive-compulsive personality. The person manages her or his anxiety by channeling it into obsessive thought and then acting it out (compulsion).

What causes someone to be controlling?

Controlling individuals attempt to exert control over others or situations. They may do so out of anxiousness, fearing that things will go wrong if they do not keep control. Controlling behaviors are used by others to assert dominance, and this is a type of abuse. Everyone attempts to have some control over what happens in their lives.

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