7 Warning Signs of a Controlling Boyfriend: How to Deal With a Controlling Relationship

Updated on August 15, 2017
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After seeing many friends (or himself) seduced by love, only to crash and burn afterwards, Jorge writes advice based on his observations.

Being with a controlling person can feel like you've lost your personal freedom.
Being with a controlling person can feel like you've lost your personal freedom.

Signs of a Controlling Boyfriend: The Huge Red Flags That Tip You Off

Nearly all people want control over their environment. It's just human nature. We're notoriously unable to let go and allow a situation to just be. We always feel like we have to do something to make things go our way.

So don't be shocked if your man shows a few signs here and there of wanting some control. It's only natural.

The big difference here between someone who is merely being human and someone who is showing giant, waving red flags that you need to head for the hills is this:

A person who just wants control over themselves and their environment is pretty normal. However, a person who wants to constantly control what others say and do has issues.

This is an important distinction, for obvious reasons. The first kind of person is just trying to meet his legitimate needs as best he can. The second kind of person wants to restrict the freedoms of others--maybe even you.

If you suspect that you could be in a relationship with someone like this, check out these warning signs of a controlling boyfriend:

1) He's Very Insecure and Paranoid

The first thing that you should understand about someone who is controlling is that their need for control usually comes from a deep insecurity. This doesn't just mean that they're insecure about your relationship specifically, though that certainly is part of it.

An insecure person rarely limits their neurosis to just one part of their life. He might be insecure about:

  • His looks.
  • Your looks.
  • How people view the two of you.
  • Whether you're attracted to other people besides him.
  • Whether you and others "respect" him enough.

The more fragile his self-image, the more controlling he is likely to be. Because he has a flimsy emotional foundation on the inside, he will try to make up for it by controlling situations on the outside.

This can lead to paranoia many times. If you notice him constantly judging others, constantly wondering if they are stabbing him in the back, and constantly seeing "disrespect" everywhere he turns, these are signs that he's a controlling person. He is trying to control what people think and do so that he can feel better about himself.

Do you feel like he belittles you constantly?
Do you feel like he belittles you constantly?

2) He Pointlessly Criticizes You

Do you ever thing to yourself, "Why does he even care about this?"

Maybe he criticizes your clothes. Maybe it's your weight. Maybe it's something stupid like the way you pronounce "tomato."

It really doesn't matter. The point is that he's trying to influence your behavior by belittling you. Even worse, this is often a tactic that controlling people use to make you feel small.

He might try to make you feel dumb and incompetent because helpless people are much easier to control. If you feel like he's taking your power away bit by bit, then you're probably dealing with a controlling relationship.

3) He Uses Ultimatums and Other Tactics to Manipulate You

The manipulation doesn't stop with just criticism. Does he use other strategies to openly manipulate you?

"If you don't stop hanging out with Samantha, then I'm going to break up with you."

"If you won't see me on Sunday night, then I'm not driving you to work on Tuesday."

"If you don't change your hairstyle, I won't love you anymore."

Is everything a transaction? Is everything conditional?

While it's normal to expect certain things from a relationship (basic respect, fidelity, etc), it's not okay to manipulate someone into giving these things. Your boyfriend should either accept the relationship the way it is, talk things through like a mature adult, or leave you. Trying to alter your behavior using threats is just toxic controlling behavior.

Real love doesn't have conditions and requirements. You just have to be you and that's it.

4) He Isolates You From Others

Needless to say, this is a major red flag. People who are isolated are easier to control, so watch out if he's talking smack about your friends or your family.

If he's actively trying to start drama to drive a wedge between you and the people you care about, or trying to blatantly forbid you from seeing them, this is even worse. No one has a right to stop you from seeing your loved ones, no matter how much he doesn't get along with them.

If you're afraid that your boyfriend has been keeping track of you in a creepy way, tell a friend immediately.
If you're afraid that your boyfriend has been keeping track of you in a creepy way, tell a friend immediately.

5) He Spies On You or Actively Distrusts You

Going back to the whole insecurity thing, controlling people often don't trust their partners. They might go to huge lengths to spy on them or follow them around to make sure that they're not stepping "out of line." After all, he can't control you when he's not around, right?

If your boyfriend is stalking you like this, then get help immediately. This is a very bad sign and there's no telling what could happen. Speak to a trusted friend or, if you feel in danger, you might even want to get authorities involved.

6) He Acts Like You Owe Him For Everything

Another manipulation tactic of someone who is controlling is to make you feel like they "do so much for you," that you owe them your compliance.

Again, it's the transactional nature of a controlling relationship. You are exchanging your freedom for whatever it is that he says he's giving you. But you know what? Your freedom is not for sale!

Does everything have to go his way...or else?
Does everything have to go his way...or else?

7) He Makes You Miserable When Things Don't Go His Way

Finally, a controlling person simply cannot handle it when something doesn't go his way. If he can't manipulate a situation successfully, then he'll make sure that everyone around him is as miserable as he is.

Did you go out with your friends against his wishes, so now he's giving you the silent treatment?

Did you wear that skirt that he said looked too revealing on you, and now he's flirting with every girl he sees in revenge?

This is a message that he's sending to you: "Don't disobey me. See what happens?"

As you probably already realize, this is textbook controlling behavior.

Is Your Boyfriend Controlling?

If you've noticed any of these signs of a controlling relationship, then you need to step back and have a long talk with your boyfriend.

Unfortunately, it's common for controlling people to be poor listeners and to always find reasons to fault you. If that's the case, it's probably best to leave the relationship. Someone who doesn't even have the self-awareness to acknowledge their flaws will give you nothing but grief in the end.

The Controlling Boyfriend Checklist

Does your boyfriend show any of the signs above?

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What It Means to You

Do you think that this means you have a controlling boyfriend?

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© 2017 Jorge Vamos


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