When you think of a controlling relationship, what comes to mind? Perhaps you envision a physically aggressive partner. Or perhaps one who tells their partner what they can and cannot wear. While these behaviors are dangerous, there are many other indicators of a controlling relationship that are more difficult to detect. In fact, some people may be unaware that they are in a controlling relationship.
However, whether or not these patterns lead to more severe emotional or physical abuse, they are still unhealthy, hurtful, and damaging. In this article, we’ll look at what to look for when a partner is controlling and when he or she simply “cares” about you. We will also go over what you can do if your partner is controlling.
What is the Definition of a Controlling Relationship?
A controlling relationship occurs when one partner dominates the other in an unhealthy and self-serving way. You may be in a controlling relationship if your partner constantly makes you feel intimidated, insecure, or guilty. And having a controlling relationship is a type of abuse.
Abuse, according to Val, can take many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, financial, spiritual, and psychological. “Does your partner make you feel guilty about having fun or spending money?” she inquires.
“Are you afraid of bringing up a topic in a conversation because of the reaction you might get from your partner?” Do you ever feel embarrassed or stupid in front of your friends or family? Do you ever doubt your own sanity? If you are experiencing any of these emotions, you may be in an abusive relationship.”
Signs of a Controlling Relationship
It’s not fun to be in a controlling relationship. However, the tricky part is that most people are unaware that they are in a controlling relationship. A partner’s controlling behavior is frequently confused with “caring,” “protective,” “jealous,” or “old fashioned.”
You can determine whether you are in a controlling relationship once you have a better understanding of the symptoms of a controlling relationship. Check out these indicators that you’re in a controlling relationship:
1. Isolating yourself from your former friends and family
Seeking to isolate you from your support network is a common controlling behavior in a relationship. The methods vary from complaining about how much time you spend with them to making negative comments about them and attempting to put a stumbling block between you.
2. Having the impression that you must consult with someone before making any decision
Control freaks in relationships enjoy having complete authority over all decisions. They present themselves as wise and knowledgeable enough to entice you to consult with them.
3. There is drama whenever you do not respond as soon as possible
In a controlling relationship, you feel compelled to keep your phone nearby and ready to respond at all times. When you are unable to do so for any reason, they become angry, overly concerned, or pout. In any case, you know there will be drama, so you avoid situations like this.
4. Control over what you wear, eat, and how you spend your money
Being in a controlling relationship makes you lose your ability to have your own opinion, choices, and desires. The more sophisticated they are, the better they can conceal it behind a mask of genuine concern or advice. However, it becomes obvious over time as you receive criticism or emotional; freeze out any time you don’t do what they expect.
5. Holding you accountable for their actions
A controlling relationship can also be identified by who ends up being blamed in the relationship. For minor offenses, for example, if they break a glass, they will claim that you were in the way and that is why they dropped it. One of the controlling personality traits is blaming everything on yourself.
6. Constantly criticizing you
When you are in a controlling relationship, it may appear that everything you do could be improved. Your partner criticizes you equally for minor and major issues and expects perfection.
7. Threatening you – overtly or covertly
Threatening is one of the signs of a controlling partner. These intimidations aren’t always physical, and they can be subtle. They may threaten to cut your contact with your children if you divorce them, harm them, share secrets you shared with them, or take away the privileges you currently have.
8. Their appreciation and acceptance are conditional
The feeling that you have to earn their love is a common thread in many controlling relationships. They will be more attracted to you if you lose some more weight. They care more about you when you are successful at work or when you do them some favors. Overall, you believe you must earn their affection through what you provide for them or by changing yourself; otherwise, you believe you are inadequate.
9. Maintaining a scoreboard
In a controlling relationship, there appears to be a constant count of who did what for whom, as opposed to a healthy dose of reciprocity. Keeping track is exhausting, but they do it so naturally. It could be their way of gaining an advantage over you.
10. Manipulation based on guilt or anger
The signs will be less or more obvious depending on how skilled they are at manipulating. Be on the lookout for controlling behaviors such as shouting, cursing, or guilt-tripping you into doing what they want.
11. Making you feel indebted to them
If the signs of a controlling personality appeared right away, it would be simple to identify them for what they are. Regardless, they do not. They are initially sweet and generous. Later on, when they need to collect on that debt, they will use these gifts and favors against you. This makes leaving more difficult.
12. Sorting through your belongings
This is a clear indication that you should not ignore. You are dealing with a controlling person if you notice them going through your belongings, spying on you, listening to calls, or checking your messages.
13. Envy or paranoia
Although jealousy in a relationship may appear at first as if they simply love you too much, it becomes difficult to bear over time. Their jealousy and paranoia are far too intense, obsessive, and unreasonable to be ignored.
14. Giving you the impression that you are not good enough
This is the most common feature of a controlling relationship. You may have felt this way before meeting them, but it only gets stronger when you’re around them.
15. Protesting against your alone time
Do you feel obligated to make time for yourself but feel guilty about it? They may disguise their displeasure as a desire to spend more time with you because you are so busy, but you will end up feeling like a villain. Having alone time is a healthy need, and you should not be stigmatized for having it.
16. Having to work in order to get on their good side
Although trust is earned over time, it may feel as if you never quite reach it in a controlling relationship. You have the impression that you must continue to work in order to gain their favor.
However, you never appear to gain the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
17. Arguing nonstop until you cave
In a controlling relationship, there may be more or fewer fights (usually more), but the difference is that they are used to force you to cave. You eventually give up because you are exhausted.
18. Making you feel stupid or incompetent because of your beliefs
Disagreements over core beliefs in a healthy relationship are met with attempts to understand and accept them. Because of your partner’s reaction to your beliefs, you may feel incompetent, stupid, or inadequate in a controlling relationship.
19. Forcing you to reveal information against your will
Feeling obligated to share information they request, regardless of your willingness to do so, is a clear indication of a controlling personality.
20. Harassing or humiliating you into submission
People tease each other in a healthy relationship, but only to the extent that the other feels comfortable with. In a controlling relationship, you may feel mocked and then told that you misunderstood what they were saying. You end up feeling befuddled, hurt, and as if you don’t have the right to feel that way.
21. You do not believe you have been heard or understood.
When your partner is trying to persuade you to think the way they do, there isn’t much room for your voice and opinion. Not only is there no understanding, but there are few or no attempts to hear your point of view.
22. Improving your growth and objectives
If you improve, you may be able to leave them. As a result, a controlling partner will subtly try to stifle your progress and keep you by their side, never allowing you to achieve your goals.
23. Attempting to control who you spend your time with
What exactly is a controlling personality? We’re talking about someone who tries to bring order into a social situation, in various ways, in order to have control over what happens. As a result, they may try to control who you see and how much time you spend with them.
24. Possessing or controlling control over sexual activities
Control creeps into the bedroom as well, so you may feel you can’t refuse sex without rubbing them the wrong way. You may feel compelled to engage in sexual activity if you do not. For example, they may become emotionally distant and require you to work your way onto their good side for several days.
25. Making you doubt your own sanity
As a result of attempting to isolate you from your social support, embarrassing you, and causing you to question your beliefs and reactions, you may come to doubt your judgment. You are less likely to leave if they persuade you that their reality is correct.
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How to Get Out of a Controlling Relationship
Are you trapped in a controlling relationship in which you constantly go out of your way to deal with a controlling boyfriend or girlfriend but never feel appreciated? You’re not alone, though. It can be exhausting and suffocating to tolerate controlling behavior in a relationship.
You may have done everything you could to save the relationship, but things continue to deteriorate. You’ve reached your breaking point and are now wondering how to get out of a controlling relationship. If this describes you, continue reading.
Leaving a controlling relationship is difficult on many levels. However, here is a step-by-step guide to help you break free from a controlling relationship.
1. Recognize the warning signs
Rather than being in denial and remaining in a controlling relationship out of fear, see your partner for who they truly are. Is it just that they’re clingy, moody, and concerned about your well-being? Or do they have complete control over your life, controlling your wishes?
Make a decision if your relationship exhibits most or all of the signs of a controlling relationship. Do you want to stay in a relationship with someone who is so controlling, or do you want to end it and start over? The sooner you recognize and make a decision, the better.
2. Make contact with your support system
Being in a controlling relationship makes it extremely difficult to maintain contact with the people you care about. Most of your friends and family may not like or approve of your controlling partner.
To maintain the peace in your relationship, you gradually caved in and began to lose touch with the people who had always had your back. When leaving a controlling relationship, however, you must gather your support system and inform them of your situation.
3. Establish healthy boundaries
It may be difficult to go against a controlling partner and do what is best for you. But you must begin doing so for your own good. Set limits and tell them what you will and will not tolerate.
If you don’t want them to handle your finances, tell them and start doing it yourself. You want to meet up with your friends, but they don’t want to?
Make it clear that your friends are an important part of your life and that you will continue to see them regardless of whether your controlling partner likes it or not. Great if they’re willing to accept and respect your boundaries! If they don’t and continue to be manipulative as they have in the past, it’s time to pull the plug.
4. Make a safety plan
Examine the state of your relationship and determine whether you are physically safe with your partner. Even if they aren’t physically abusive yet, they could snap at any time. So, before you tell them you’re leaving, make sure you have a safety plan in place.
You can have the conversation in a park or open space where you have privacy but are surrounded by other people. Have a friend nearby who can provide moral support once you’ve finished talking to your partner.
5. Communicate with your partner
You may be too afraid to confront your controlling partner about how their behavior is affecting you and your relationship. But don’t be concerned; just do it. Maintain your cool and reasoned demeanor when speaking with them.
They may become defensive and resume their usual behavior. Alternatively, they may recognize and admit that their controlling behavior is harming the relationship. In either case, you’ll know whether or not your relationship can be saved. If they don’t see any problems with their actions and continue to make you look crazy, tell them you don’t want to be treated this way any longer.
6. You should not change your mind
When you discuss the possibility of ending the relationship with your controlling partner, you can expect them to become overly emotional. To prevent you from leaving, they may become enraged and call you names, or they may begin crying uncontrollably.
Don’t be taken in by their deception. After you’ve done everything you can to save the relationship and given them numerous ‘one more chance,’ it’s time to be firm. Plan out what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.
Do it, and then leave the room before they entice you to stay. It’s best to ignore them if they say you haven’t given them a chance. You’ve given them numerous chances, but it appears that they simply don’t know how to stop being controlling in a relationship.
7. Terminate all contact with them
Even though it may break your heart to think about it, staying with them for one more night or talking to them one last time will only make you feel worse. Getting away from them may be the best option. It might also help if you don’t tell them where you’re going.
You may decide to block them on your phone and social media. It’s best not to entertain them if they show up unannounced. If you do need to talk to them, try not to meet with them alone. Bringing a friend is always a good idea, and remember to keep it brief. It may break your heart to cut off all communication with someone you adored with all your heart, but with time, you will be able to overcome this.
8. Regain control of your life
Don’t spend the entire day moping around the house. Get to work. Instead of sitting alone in the dark, meet your friends and spend time with the people you care about. Experiment with new things and invest in yourself.
Make sure you don’t call them or respond to their texts, no matter how tempting it is. Don’t follow them on social media either. You must recall the reasons why things did not work out between you and your controlling partner. You do not want to return to that life.
9. Allow yourself time to heal
Be gentle with yourself. Don’t hold it against yourself for not leaving the relationship sooner. Allow yourself as much time as you need to heal. Don’t rush through the process. Don’t force yourself to meet a deadline. Allow yourself to experience all of your emotions, and seek professional help if necessary.
It’s normal to take longer if you’ve been with your partner for a long time than others who have gotten out of their controlling relationship earlier. So don’t be too hard on yourself for taking as much time as you need to feel like yourself again.
10. Make self-care a priority.
Concentrate on yourself and make sure you eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise even if you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. What were you not allowed to do because your controlling partner despised them?
Why don’t you start doing them right now? Find a new hobby, spend time with friends, visit family, or do something you’ve been meaning to do for a long time. Continue to work on yourself until you feel whole again.
Another Word for a Controlling Relationship
Here is the list of other words for a controlling relationship;
Exhibiting or pertaining to domination.
1. To manage or control artfully or by shrewd use of influence, often in an unfair or fraudulent way.
2. To work, operate, or treat with or as with the hand or hands; handle or use, esp. with skill
3. To tamper with or falsify for personal gain
1. That rules; predominant; chief; reigning; controlling.
Exercising controlling power or influence
1. Controlling or dominating by position
2. Dominating, as by magnitude or position
3. Impressively dominant
1. Tending to be stronger than its counterpart or used for the most important tasks or in the most pressing situations.
2. The definition of dominant is a person who is in a position of power or who is exhibiting powerful or controlling tendencies.
3. Ruling; governing; prevailing; controlling.
Being in a Controlling Relationship
Controlling behavior can be extremely damaging to a relationship. And it’s not always easy to recognize when you’re being too controlling until it’s too late.
What matters most is how you feel about these behaviors. Do they make you feel insecure, uneasy, or tied down about certain aspects of yourself and your life? This could be a red flag in and of itself.
Here are some warning signs that you are in a controlling relationship:
1. They make decisions on your behalf
The line between attentiveness and pressure is hazy. However, if your partner routinely makes decisions for you, it could be the latter. Perhaps they always insist on driving you everywhere, or they take up too much of your time.
They may also make plans with your friends without first consulting you, or they may paint or redecorate solely to their liking. If they don’t like the way you dress, they may tell you, or they may start slowly by “changing your wardrobe” by purchasing specific outfits as gifts for you.
2. They are overly cautious
Caring for you is not the same as controlling you, though it may be difficult to distinguish between the two at times. A partner may be overprotective if they question who you’ve gone out with, become irritated if you don’t answer the phone right away, or act jealous of your friends and family.
They may also believe that you are only safe when they are present, or they may request that you consult with them whenever you make a life-changing decision. They may keep track of your medical appointments, devise a special diet for you, or advise you to avoid that coworker they despise.
Any of these behaviors, on their own, may not indicate anything significant. However, if they act in this manner on a regular basis and refuse to consider your interests, needs, and opinions, they may be attempting to control you.
3. They engage in the blame game
A controlling person may have difficulty accepting responsibility for their actions. You may confront a controlling partner only to discover that they’ve turned the tables on you. You might even find yourself apologizing for something you had no idea you needed to apologize for.
Assume you’ve been texting a close friend about your relationship difficulties. While you’re in the shower, your partner reads those private messages on your phone and then gets angry at you for what they saw.
4. They are critical of you
This is more than a casual remark here and there; after all, we all have bad days. Criticism can take the form of making jokes about you in front of other people, disparaging the way you dress, or constantly pointing out mistakes such as the one time you forgot to shave your legs or a small amount of dust on the floor that you forgot to clean.
Constant criticism can erode your sense of self-confidence over time, and it may also lead you to act in certain ways in order to avoid being criticized.
5. They micromanage your every move
A controlling romantic partner may try to prevent you from living your normal life. They could:
- Inform you of what you can wear or how you should style your hair
- put you under pressure to maintain a certain weight
- Make an effort to keep your finances under control.
- prevent you from seeking medical attention or consulting with a therapist
- inform you of the time you can go to work or school
- keep your school or work materials hidden from you
They may exhibit this tendency in everyday situations as well. They could, for example:
- When you hang up the phone, I always ask you about your conversations
- double-check what you just took out of the refrigerator
- keep an eye on what you buy at the grocery store
6. They cut you off from others
This behavior can be subtle, such as tuning out the conversation when telling stories about other people or rolling your eyes when answering phone calls.
It can also be more blatant. A controlling partner may complain about the amount of time you spend with others, such as friends or family. They may disparage your loved ones or claim that they are a negative influence on you. Even act in ways that cause conflict when your friends or family are present.
Even some can also isolate you by requiring your attention with a crisis, preventing you from carrying out plans with other people. When you choose to spend time with someone else, they may give you the silent treatment.
7. They mislead you
The term “gaslight” was coined in reference to the 1944 film of the same name. In it, a husband gradually convinces his wife that she is insane by doing things like dimming the gaslights and then pretending that he didn’t.
A controlling partner may minimize an event, such as an angry outburst, and then accuse you of being overly sensitive. They may also say something hurtful and then say, “It was just a joke.” You’re being overly dramatic.” This is called gaslighting.
Some may even deny saying certain things, lie to you, or tell you that your instincts are incorrect. They may even ask you to seek help at times, claiming that you’re losing your grip on reality.
8. They intrude on your privacy
A controlling partner may request to see your recent chat history or read your diary while you are at work. Also, they may ask you what you’re thinking or how you’re feeling on a regular basis.
They may monitor your activity, such as following you in their car, watching how many steps you take on Fitbit, or even keeping track of what you’re doing on social media or Google. They may also request your passwords, arguing that “if you have nothing to hide, why wouldn’t I have those?”
9. They are infringing on your rights
A controlling partner may try to talk you out of saying “no” to something. This can take the form of putting pressure on you to change your mind or arguing with you about why you’re wrong.
This also applies to physical boundaries. For example, you make plans with someone else and notify your partner that you will be unavailable; however, your partner shows up uninvited at your house.
Toxic Controlling Relationship
The line between healthy and unhealthy relationships can be easily crossed, and it can be difficult to identify, even with obvious signs to others.
Here are seven signs of a toxic or abusive relationship, as well as how to address them in a healthy and safe manner.
1. A lack of faith
A partner is someone you can rely on, be vulnerable with, and have on your side. None of these things are possible in the absence of trust. “When I see people in most healthy relationships, they have a relationship of security in the stability; in their relationship,” says Jeni Woodfin, LMFT, a therapist at J. Woodfin Counseling in San Jose, California. “There can be no sense of security without trust, and not just trust that their partner will be faithful, but trust that their partner will behave in the best interests of the relationship’s agreements.”
2. Violent communication
Overt forms of hostile communication, according to Kamil Lewis, AMFT, a sex and relationship therapist in Southern California, include:
- Name-calling or other derogatory language
- Hurling and breaking objects
- Using your body to intimidate or force others.
Subtle signs of hostile communication, according to Woodfin, include:
- The unspoken treatment
- Making “you-statements” or “blaming statements”
- Persistently interfering
- Listening to respond rather than hearing and understanding your partner
Hostile communication can increase tension and distrust between partners. Healthy relationships, on the other hand, rely on open communication, calming down before things get too heated, and respect.
3. Controlling behaviors
Your partner does not have the authority to direct your actions or beliefs. One controlling behavior to watch out for, according to Woodfin, is threatening to lose something, such as financial stability, time with your children, or companionship.
“These threats strike fear in many people, and I believe this is why many, many people stay in unhealthy, unhappy relationships even when they want the relationship to end,” she says.
4. Frequent deception
“Lies, no matter how small,” says Romanoff, “erode credibility over time.” When a partner lies to you, it shows that they do not value you as a mutual partner worthy of honesty and care.
“Lying to your partner shows that your allegiance is to yourself, not the relationship,” Woodfin says.
5. It’s all take, no give
If your relationship is consistently centered on what makes your partner happy while ignoring your needs, this could be a sign of toxicity. “It’s one thing to be considerate of your partner, but if you find yourself saying no to yourself frequently in order to say yes to them, you might want to consider setting some boundaries,” Lewis says. “If they dismiss, belittle, or bulldoze your boundaries, it may be a sign of a toxic relationship.”
6. You are exhausted
Consider the last time you did something nice for yourself, spent time — even if it was virtual — with a loved one, or slept well. “It’s useful to consider how your connections outside of the relationship and with yourself have been affected,” Romanoff says. “Self-care and self-prioritization are frequently overlooked. In toxic relationships, time and mental energy are frequently spent on the other person, either directly or indirectly through the backlash of unrelenting discord and strife.”
Try devoting some of your energy to self-care and observe how your partner reacts. If they respond negatively, it indicates that there are toxic elements in the relationship.
7. You are making excuses for their actions
Do you frequently find yourself in a position where you must defend your partner? While it’s easy to fall back on the mentality of “you don’t know them as I do,” an outside perspective from someone you know loves you—such as a friend or family member you trust—may be able to clearly see your partner’s negative characteristics that are difficult for you to acknowledge.
How Being in a Controlling Relationship can affect you
It can be exhausting to be in a relationship with a controlling partner. It may have an impact on your self-esteem, moods, and overall outlook on life. You may feel as if you’re constantly walking on eggshells, waiting for the other shoe to drop. You could also blame yourself, believing that if you had done everything correctly, they would not have needed to behave in this manner.
The thing is, how they behave is entirely about them and has nothing to do with how you behave. When you’re in a controlling relationship, you might notice some distressing mental health symptoms, such as:
- Uncertainty about your partner or how relationships should be
- Humiliation, insecurity, and low self-esteem
- Loneliness and isolation
- Numbness about your life, partner, or situation in general
- Reluctance to express oneself or live one’s life in one’s own way
It can be even more perplexing if your partner claims to be acting in this manner because they are looking for you or are afraid of losing you. The disparity between what you feel and what actually occurs may cause you to doubt yourself or justify your partner. This, in turn, may make you feel even worse.
A controlling partner is not always a deal-breaker. In many cases, the controlling behavior in your relationship can be traced back to childhood trauma or issue. And, in most cases, it is repairable if the controlling individual is willing to accept it and work on themselves. Understanding and communicating with your partner can help you avoid a toxic codependent relationship and a lifetime of misery.
However, if they are not the type of person who wants to learn and grow, you should leave them and move on. Your relationship has a fighting chance of surviving if they are willing to recognize and work on their bad habits. However, if they are completely blind to their own flaws and incapable of change, leaving the relationship is the best option.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are examples of controlling in a relationship?
Controlling people try to gain power over others by undermining their partners’ confidence and status. Attempting to keep you apart from others. Keeping financial or other resources out of your hands, or sharing resources only after you have paid a price. Attempting to persuade you to act against or abandon your values.
How do I know if my relationship is controlling?
Controlling people frequently demand that everyone do things their way, even if they are minor issues of personal preference. If your partner doesn’t like what you’re wearing, he or she may insist that you change. Even if you make it clear that you disagree with them, they may refuse to back down.