Owner of MommyDaddyKids and mother of two, Meagan is passionate about her family and sharing real-life advice with everyday people.
Signs of a Controlling Relationship
Knowing the signs can help you avoid staying in a toxic relationship with a controlling partner, but just knowing them is not always enough. Friends or family will often bring the red-flags to our attention, but we dismiss them because we don’t want to believe or admit that we have become a victim.
Learning the signs and listening when people voice concerns will help you determine if your relationship is controlling.
1. Their Love Comes With Stipulations
Everyone has flaws but when you care about someone, you love them for their good and bad. A controlling girlfriend/boyfriend may put stipulations on their love by saying things such as:
“If you would ___, I would love you so much more.”
“We could be so much happier if you just ___."
“If you loved me, you would ___.”
Remember, controlling people are very good at articulating their words so you don’t even notice when they’re saying something that would otherwise make you question their motives.
2. They Constantly Accuse You
Even though you haven’t done anything to cause legitimate concern, your partner constantly accuses you of things such as:
- talking to other people inappropriately
- going somewhere other than where you said you were going to be
People often assume that making accusations is a confession of your own guilt, but this isn’t always true in controlling situations. They don’t accuse because they feel guilty; they accuse because they truly think it is happening.
3. They Belittle You
When a person’s insecure—and convinced you’re going to leave them—they will try to put you down. They want you to believe you’re not good enough for anyone else but them.
Healthy relationships don’t work that way. Two people should realize what they have and cherish it. It’s not uncommon for the controlled to make excuses for the controller about this behavior because they feel bad. It’s never your fault that someone else is insecure. You can try to help, but unless they realize the problem, they will not change.
4. They're Your Only Friend
Sure, maybe your partner never explicitly told you they didn’t want you to go hangout with your friends, but they made it so impossible you gave up trying to have a life beyond them. Does this sound like your relationship?
This is classic behavior for someone who has controlling tendencies, and usually the first red flag in the relationship. They make you feel guilty for wanting to spend time with other people while they sit at home missing you, but won’t ever admit it’s because they feel jealous and left out.
If you try to encourage them to tag along, they will try to isolate you the entire time. Eventually, you’ll become so uncomfortable bringing them to visit friends you stay home.
5. They Randomly Show Up and Surprise You
Little romantic surprises are wonderful in small doses but when it mirrors stalking, something’s wrong. One of the most important signs of a controlling relationship is your partners constant need to keep you within sight. They may do things like:
- showing up at your work.
- finding excuses to come to your house unannounced.
- showing up when you're with friends.
- sitting at your work for hours at a time.
- always meeting up with you on your lunch break.
This is sometimes a sign of a clingy relationship but there is one solid way of finding out the difference, ask them to stop. If they agree and understand their behavior is incorrect, they’re just clingy—which is a completely different type of relationship. If they get upset and accuse you of not wanting them around because you’re doing something wrong, they’re likely controlling.
6. They Threaten to Commit Suicide
When someone loves you, you don’t use that love against them. Unless you’re with a controlling partner, and then it’s a weekly occurrence. Fear is what drives them to react in intolerable ways. When they think you’re going to leave, they panic and use your love as a rope to keep you tied to them. It’s generally a ploy to get your attention, but since nobody wants that on their conscience for the rest of their lives, they stay in the relationship.
7. Slowly Force You to Be Dependent on Them
You might have entered the relationship as an independent person who could survive on their own, but now you have nothing to your name. Everything you have is owned by your partner, and they likely control the money. This is common in longer relationships because the controller needs to make these changes slowly, but you will notice the changes early if you know what to look for. It will be masked as a nice gesture though, such as:
- moving in with them so you can save money/be closer to work.
- quitting your job so you can have more time to study.
- using their bank account to avoid fees.
- borrowing their car so you don't have to pay insurance.
- getting a phone on their contract so it will be cheaper.
These all sound like nice things for a partner to do, but their hidden agenda is not so pleasant.
8. They Use Things As Punishment
Remember all the things we talked about earlier? Does your partner use those things against you when you do something they don‘t approve of. If you take a stand and tell them you'll do what you want; do those things disappear? Maybe your phone gets shut off or they need the car instead? It’s not fair to you, and it’s no way for a person to live.
9. They Make You Earn Their Trust
Trust is essential in any relationship, but when someone is being controlled, it’s often one sided. You’re supposed to trust them but prove they can depend on you. Every detail of your day must be mapped out and allowed. If they work during the day, they will bombard you with questions upon their return. If you refuse to allow them access to your phone, E-mail and social media accounts, you’re deemed guilty.
10. They Make You Feel Crazy
Do you constantly find yourself asking:
- did I do that?
- did I see that?
- did I say that?
It’s called gas lighting, and it will drive you mad. Manipulative people are skilled in the art of transference. When they’re caught, they waste no time making you think you’re crazy. It’s even worse when they cause your friends and family to believe you’re losing it because then you have nowhere to turn—which is exactly how they like it.
11. You Don't Have an Opinion
It feels good to be a part of something and have your opinion valued, but this is not typical in a controlling relationship. It’s their way or no way. They make all the household decisions right down to what kind of toilet paper you buy at the grocery store. If you try to speak up with an input—especially in public—they might laugh at you and make you feel stupid in a “cute” way.
12. Bedroom Problems
Controlling people often have narcissistic tendencies and that can carry over into the bedroom. It’s not unusual for people stuck in a controlling relationship to report instances when they felt coerced into doing something they didn’t want to do and, sometimes, raped. It doesn’t always manifest to that extent however and could just be that you feel uncomfortable, unsatisfied or unimportant in the bedroom.
13. You Feel Defeated
Life is short and you should surround yourself with people who life your spirits and avoid people who break them. Controlling relationships are toxic for both people involved. The controller is living their life burden with fear and insecurities and they push that onto the person they love.
It’s common for people in these types of relationships to feel defeated and hopeless. They give in to their controllers demands simply to avoid a fight. After years of this behavior, they lose themselves and don’t even feel like a person anymore.
Are Controlling Relationships Becoming the Norm?
Unlike physical violence, controlling behavior is hard to spot in a relationship. We think our partner is being affectionate, but there’s a line that—when crossed—can turn a fairytale into a nightmare.
We live in a world that allows us to talk to virtually anyone with the swipe of a finger and delete the evidence with just a tap. Some personality types have a hard time coping with the trust that’s needed in a modern relationship. Your wife is not at home in the kitchen all day, and your husband is not coming straight home from work to have dinner—so what are they doing? This question—plus several more just like it—plague some people and cause them to act irrationally.
Unfortunately, this is becoming a trend. So what can we do to stop this growing threat?
Not Always the Victim
It’s important to recognize that controlling behavior is a two-way street. You may believe your partner is controlling when they’re just reacting to your attitude. Most of the time we lie in an effort to convince ourselves that we are not acting inappropriately towards our significant other. If someone has voiced concerns about your actions in the past, you should read the warning signs to find out if you might be the controlling one.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Meagan Ireland