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Controlling Relationship: 42 Signs & Ways to Love Without Bullying

Being in a controlling relationship can be easily disguised. It’s only when you become aware of the situation that you realize how dangerous it can be.

controlling relationship

A relationship should be a two-way street. You should respect your partner and receive it back in return. In a healthy relationship, you shouldn’t see any signs of a controlling relationship.

The same goes for trust, love, and the general way you are treated. If you’re constantly being questioned, distrusted, and nothing you do is ever good enough, how can that be a happy situation? No matter how much you might love them!

The need to control is part of human nature, but only to a degree. Some individuals have this need on hyper levels. They use manipulative tactics to twist everything around and control everything you do.

As a result, you’re right where they want you… completely under their control. [Read: 14 common traits of controlling people and how to deal with them]

The bottom line is that a controlling relationship is not a healthy relationship to be in and it will only end in a very negative way.

If you’re concerned that your partner is becoming a little needy or might even be moving towards controlling, arm yourself with the knowledge you need. By doing that, you can make changes in your relationship, or choose to leave it altogether. [Read: 15 scary signs you’re in a toxic relationship that’s breaking you]

What exactly is a controlling relationship?

When you’re in a relationship, there may be a few things about you that your partner doesn’t like. It may be your friends, your work, or just about anything else.

Voicing displeasure over it and talking about it is called communication. But, forcing a partner to avoid something because you don’t like it is called controlling. Also, forcing them to change is also controlling.

If you’ve ever felt like your partner is trying to control you, even in a small way, it’s time you put a stop to it. It basically means that you’re in a controlling relationship and soon, you’ll be so far under their control that you don’t recognize yourself anymore.

Controlling behavior in a relationship always has a small start somewhere. And soon, the need to control can turn into an obsession. [Read: 23 subtle signs of a controlling boyfriend most girls miss all the time]

The worrying signs of a controlling relationship

If you notice just one of these signs occasionally, don’t panic! We’re all a little difficult to deal with sometimes, we’re human after all. That might mean your partner has a bad day and says or does something on this list, but it doesn’t mean they’re controlling. Perhaps you do the same sometimes!

What you should be concerned about is if you see several signs of a controlling relationship on this list and immediately recognize them as happening to you on a regular basis.

If that’s the case, think very carefully about your next move.

1. They make you feel guilty when spending time with friends

You’re going to see your friends? But what about me? Ugh, there’s plenty of time for them. Listen, if they’re upset that you spend time with your friends, that’s a problem.

In a healthy relationship, your partner should encourage you to spend time apart from them so you see your friends. They have friends as well that they want to spend time with. If your partner doesn’t have any friends, it’s a very clear sign something’s wrong with them. [Read: 15 questions to reveal a controlling personality instantly]

2. They want you to change

You’re too fat, too skinny, your hair is drab. It’s always something. In controlling relationships, they’ll never be happy with how you look. You’ll need to constantly be changing yourself to please them. And guess what? It’ll never be enough.

If someone genuinely likes you, they won’t try to change who you are. After all, that’s what attracted them to you in the first place. [Read: Why people take you for granted – 16 signs and ways to help them change]

3. It’s all about the small things

You may not recognize it right away because this can be portrayed as being supportive. However, it’s not. Are you really going to wear that today? That’s how you wash your clothes? That’s what you do in your free time? These are small minor comments.

But they make you second guess what you’re doing and if you’re making the right decisions. Your partner will try to convince you that they’re helping you understand the right way of living. [Read: Emotionally abusive relationship: 15 signs you just can’t miss]

4. They don’t trust you

Do they insist on having your social media passwords? Do they comment on everything you post and who commented on it? Call you when you’re with your friends to see how you’re doing?

Yeah, they’re not doing that because they’re concerned about you. They’re concerned about themselves.

They don’t trust you. If they did, they wouldn’t be keeping such close tabs on you. And if you think it can’t get any worse, this untrustworthy behavior is just the beginning of a controlling relationship.

5. They want to protect you – but protection can go too far

We all have crap going on in our lives, and though all relationships do include some sort of protection, your partner is probably taking it to a whole other level.

Is your partner’s protective nature supportive or are they controlling everything you’re doing in the name of protecting you? Because if it’s the latter, it’s called trying to make you dependent on them. [Read: The scary signs of codependency in your relationship]

6. Refuses to hear your point of view

Do you have an opinion? Do they stop you from voicing it? Of course, they do. They don’t care about what you have to say. If someone is preventing you from speaking your mind, well, that’s a control mechanism.

7. They make you indebted to them

Do they buy you anything you want? Take you out for expensive dinners? Sure, they may seem as if they’re very romantic and caring, but nothing comes for free with them.

Beware, they’ll make you feel like you owe them something in return, that you’re indebted to them. It won’t be so easy to get out of the relationship because you’ll feel burdened with guilt. [Read: Emotional dependency and 20 signs you’re overly dependent on someone]

8. You feel like you’re going insane

Do you feel like you’re losing your mind? Your partner is probably trying all the tricks in the book, including trying to alter your reality. Sounds intense, right? It’s a method called gaslighting.

This method involves your partner altering your reality and making you second guess your perception.

For example, you may have had a fight with your partner last week. They’ll tell you that that didn’t happen because you didn’t see each other last week. [Read: Gaslighting – What it is, how it works and 23 signs someone’s messing with you]

9. They demean your goals

You’re going to that school? It’s not even that good, or don’t try out for that play, you’re not that good of an actor. A healthy relationship consists of two people supporting each other in whatever their goals may be.

However, in a controlling relationship, your partner tries to drive you away from completing your goals to control you.

10. They want you all to themselves

Everyone needs some personal space and time to themselves. Maybe you want to go to yoga class or read a book at the park. Well, your partner’s not going to let that happen.

They try to make you feel guilty that you need time to yourself and that you don’t love them. Recharging your batteries and having time to yourself allows you time to think, and they don’t want that. [Read: 34 relationship red flags that most people completely ignore]

11. They slowly remove you from your family

If you haven’t talked to your family and friends in a couple of weeks, that’s not a good sign. This starts very subtly and gradually increases over time.

They initially make small comments about your friends and family, or they’ll forget to tell you they called or they’re not a good support system.

Their goal is to make them your only support system. Why? Well, then they have your full control. [Read: How to stop being manipulated in a relationship]

12. Questions, questions, questions

Who, what, when, where, why?? Expect a list of questions the minute you tell them what you’re doing.

Everything must be questioned and you better have an answer. If not, they’ll use every trick in the book to get you to not do what you want. Control freak.

13. They’re the boss

They pick what you two will do today, they decide where you’re going to eat—they’re the boss. You’ll see this further down in the relationship because usually, in the beginning, there’s a balance of power.

However, as time passes, their true colors show. Typically, this is usually seen when the woman has her first child. But, if you look at the other signs, you don’t have to wait until that point. [Read: How to recognize and end toxic relationships]

14. It’s always your fault

Listen, it’s always going to be your fault. If your partner cheated on you, it’s because you’re not putting out. If they spilled something on the floor, it’s because you distracted them.

It’ll always be your fault. And when you want to leave the relationship, then they accept some blame until you agree to stay with them. It sounds exhausting, right? If your partner is a control freak, they never want to accept responsibility for their actions. [Read: Don’t stay stuck – 16 strategies to get your shit together]

15. Substance abuse

If you’re not a big drinker, you don’t smoke, you work out—this is seen as a problem. You’re too strong of a person for them.

So, they try to get you drinking a couple of glasses of wine a night, get you to save money by quitting the gym. All these little things make you weak. In a controlling relationship, the only way they control you is if you’re weaker than them.

16. Uncomfortable sexual interactions

This type of controlling behavior makes its way into the bedroom at some point. It’s only a matter of time.

Perhaps you don’t want to have sex that night and they make you feel guilty so you do it anyway. You’ll be left feeling highly uncomfortable, which is a normal feeling because what they’ve just done is very wrong indeed.

If you’re having uncomfortable and unsettling feelings during sex, the relationship is toxic. [Read: 21 big signs of emotional abuse you may be overlooking]

17. They tease you, but they take it too far

Everybody gets teased, that’s normal. However, there’s a fine line between humor and emotional abuse. If they tease you constantly, they’ll say, Oh, I was just teasing you, don’t take it so seriously.

If you say anything back, you’ll be told that your reaction is incorrect and that you have a negative reaction. In a controlling relationship, your feelings are wrong. That works out perfectly for them, why? Because next time, you’ll just sit and take their demeaning jokes. [Read: 21 secrets signs of a bad relationship that signal a bad future ahead]

18. You’re guilty before proven innocent

Oh, that’s right, they saw you walking down the street with someone of the opposite sex. So you must have cheated—yup, you definitely cheated.

Your partner probably convinces you that you actually did do something wrong even if you didn’t do anything wrong. They show you your guilty behavior. In turn, you’ll never repeat those actions again. That’s how they control you.

19. They’re insecure in general

While some people are naturally insecure, that doesn’t mean they’re controlling. What you should worry about is if your partner is insecure. It seems to only spring up whenever you go out somewhere or you mention something about another person.

In that case, they’re likely paranoid too, which could lead to controlling behavior and other elements of this list. [Read: Why am I so insecure? 29 reasons and ways to feel secure from within]

20. They never point out anything positive, it’s always negative

If your partner is always criticizing you or pointing out your negative points, they’re dragging you down.

A person who loves you isn’t supposed to highlight parts of you that you’re not keen on, they’re supposed to build you up. If they’re always criticizing you, it could be to damage your self-esteem and keep you in their grasp.

21. They’re generally manipulative

If someone is manipulating you and they tell you they love you, they’re doing it for a negative reason. This is a classic narcissistic move, and it’s done to control. Look out for gaslighting with this point in particular. [Read: 16 signs a narcissist is subtly abusing you]

22. They’re always watching you

If your partner is always around, always watching, or always checking your social media feeds, they either don’t trust you for a good reason, or they don’t trust you because they’re insecure. As a result, this turns into controlling behavior.

23. They make you feel like they give you everything

A controlling tactic is making you feel like everything you have, is down to them. This is also designed to sap away at your self-confidence and make you feel like you can’t achieve anything by yourself.

Of course, when they do that, you’re left reliant upon them which is exactly where they want you to be. [Read: Am I codependent? 16 signs you’re clingy and overstepping boundaries]

24. They’re a score keeper

We all make mistakes. We all say or do things we wish we hadn’t; we’re human after all. If your partner is always keeping score and reminding you of things you said or did, they’re controlling you.

This is a classic sign of a controlling relationship. It can also be via them doing nice things for you and then using them as a bargaining chip at some point in the future.

25. They make you feel guilty all too easily

If your partner uses guilt tactics to get what they want, they’re basically using your guilt to control your future actions.

It might be that you have nothing to actually feel guilty about. They will somehow twist things and cause the emotion of guilt to rise up. It might even be a look they give you. As a result, you drop everything and do whatever they want. It’s still control either way. [Read: How to stop feeling guilty and finally start living for you]

26. They make you feel inadequate all the time

Do you feel generally inadequate around your partner? That’s not a good sign! You’re supposed to feel raised up and wonderful whenever they’re around. It’s their job to make sure that happens.

If you feel the opposite, e.g. far less than you actually are, it’s one of the big signs of a controlling relationship. It’s basically about keeping you “in your box” and refusing to let you shine. [Read: 12 toxic double standards in a relationship]

How to handle controlling behavior in a relationship

If you’re dating or married to someone who constantly tries to control you, or if you feel like nothing you do ever pleases them, perhaps you’re really stuck with a partner who has serious issues with their controlling behavior.

Use these steps to slowly change them, and become a better person yourself at the same time. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to walk away and put yourself first once and for all.

1. Reason with your partner

When your partner tells you not to do something, don’t just accept it. Instead, calmly ask your partner for an explanation.

By reasoning with your partner, you can understand your partner better. And at the same time, if their reason’s pretty lame, you can take a stand and explain your reasons too. [Read: How to communicate in a relationship – 16 steps to a better love]

2. Don’t waste time fighting back

Stay calm no matter what. Your partner may try to control you, but that happens only if you give them the opportunity. When you’re reasoning with your partner, don’t yell or get angry. Calmly voice your opinion and as long as you know you’re right, you’ll be able to get the message across.

Your partner may get more annoyed and angry when they’re cornered without any good reasons. And if you get angry, it’s a great excuse for your partner to end the conversation in a huff and walk out. [Read: How to fight fair in a relationship, end it quickly and grow closer]

3. Don’t be hasty

You can’t change your partner overnight. Their behavior may have taken years to develop and overpower them. Use these tips one step at a time and let your partner see your side of the story every step of the way.

4. Avoid doing favors all the time

One of the easiest ways to start controlling a partner is by asking them for small favors that are never returned. If you get annoyed easily when your lazy partner constantly asks you for favors, avoid being in the same room if you know there’s a request coming very soon.

If they’ve forgotten their shoes in the closet and you know they’re going to ask you to get them, step out of the room for a few minutes so they can get them, instead of controlling you to get them. [Read: 20 worrying signs you’re being taken advantage of in a relationship]

5. Remind them of similar situations

Don’t let your partner control you, and don’t end up behaving like a slave. Favors are mutual and should never be one sided. If you do something for your lover, and they don’t reciprocate by doing the same for you, they’re controlling you.

Talk about your partner’s behavior with them in a calm manner when both of you are sitting together. If your partner expects you to do something for them, they should be prepared to do the same for you.

In a relationship, both partners have an equal say, and earning more money doesn’t give one partner more control or say in a relationship. [Read: 19 signs of a taker in a relationship. -Are you a giver or a taker?]

6. Stand on your own two feet

The more you depend on your partner for your existence, the more you’ll be controlled. Have a few of your own achievements that you can be proud of, and you’ll feel better about yourself and get the respect of your partner.

Your partner would take you for granted only if they feel like they don’t really need you for anything.

7. Be more confident in yourself

When your partner controls you, it’s always because they feel like you never take a stand or are easily manipulated or pushed over.

Learn to be more confident about yourself and your ideas. If you truly believe you’re right, don’t backtrack your opinions. No one likes a pushover, and they’re the kind of people who end up feeling controlled and locked in a relationship. [Read: How to be more confident and 28 life hacks to transform your life forever]

8. Reverse the control

This may sound devious, but at times, it takes looking into the mirror to understand how someone else feels. Look for ways to control your partner for a change.

After all, even the most controlling of partners do have their weak sides. Don’t take crap from your partner or put up with their rules anymore.

Start in a small way, and let your partner see this new behavior. When you get bossy with your partner now and then, they’ll be taken aback at first, but they’ll soon learn not to take you for granted or control you.

9. Speak with your partner about the problem

Your partner probably doesn’t want to control you. But somehow, the circumstances and the way you let your partner treat you may make them feel like they’re doing the right thing.

At times, your partner’s controlling behavior may be a sign of their insecurity or may even be a deep-rooted issue from their childhood. [Read: Are insecure men ever really worth dating?]

10. Help them to become a better partner

Sometimes, people behave the way they’ve been told to behave, either by their friends or their family. Help them see that life can be a lot better when there’s communication and love in the picture. [Read: 33 traits of a good boyfriend that make a guy the best ever]

11. Respect them, only when they deserve it

We all want respect. If your partner feels like they’re not being respected, they may try to control you to feel more respected.

At the same time, if you treat them with respect and help them feel loved, they may start to lose their controlling streak. But, do not show respect when they treat you in an overly negative way.

12. Avoid lying to your partner

Sometimes, your partner may try to control you only because they’re feeling insecure about the relationship. Build communication in the relationship and help your partner feel more secure.

If you get caught lying or doing something behind your partner’s back, your partner may feel threatened, which may set off a controlling streak in them. [Read: Things to talk about in a perfect relationship and feel closer]

13. Stop them

Express your displeasure when they try to control you, in a clear manner without getting angry or retaliating aggressively. If they speak harshly or try controlling you, remind them that they’re behaving in a controlling manner.

At times, just helping someone realize that they’re behaving in a bad way by pointing it out can subconsciously force them to change their tone or behavior and become more accommodating.

14. Don’t fall into the manipulative trap

Your partner’s controlling behavior has to start at some point. When you start feeling like you’re being controlled, put a stop to your partner’s behavior by nipping it in the bud.

If you know you’re right, don’t accept defeat especially when your partner tries to manipulate you. If you sense your partner’s controlling streak right from the beginning of the relationship, put a stop to it before it becomes a habit. [Read: Manipulative behavior – Why it’s toxic and signs you should never ignore]

15. Have a life beyond your partner

The more you’re attached to your partner, the easier it is for them to control you and manipulate you. Spend time with your own friends or family, and have a few close friends with whom you can share your secrets and opinions.

When you have your own support system outside your relationship, it’ll make you stronger and more confident about yourself.

16. Give your partner an ultimatum

There’s a threshold beyond which no one can put up with a bad partner’s controlling behavior. If you’ve tried all the other steps to make your partner a better lover and it still doesn’t work, then you need to get out before your partner’s controlling behavior causes you harm.

If you can’t take it anymore and all your nice ways aren’t working, you have no other choice but to give your partner a final ultimatum. “Change or I’ll leave you forever.” [Read: Ultimatums in a relationship and how to use them the right way]

In any guise, control is unhealthy

Relationships aren’t easy. Sometimes we do things we regret. It’s about compromise and knowing that sometimes we mess up, but we forgive and move on.

If you notice that your partner is using every small thing against you, that you can never do anything right, and that for some reason, you’re finding yourself isolated from those close to you, it’s a huge red flag.

While it’s normal to feel a little insecure occasionally and worry about your partner leaving you, it’s not normal to allow that tiny issue to take over your life. It’s normal to have these thoughts. If you allow them to control your actions, you should wonder what’s going on underneath the surface. [Read: How to stop being taken for granted in a relationship]

When you notice your partner showing a few of the signs above, sit down and question what is really going on. If the control doesn’t seem too severe, could you sit down with your partner and talk about things, explain how it makes you feel?

Hopefully, that will sort the issue out. Perhaps your partner isn’t aware of how they’re acting.

However, the need to control another individual isn’t healthy. Sure, we all like things to go our way. We should never use manipulation to ensure that happens, especially with someone we claim to love and care about. Someone who controls you isn’t someone who has your best interests at heart.

[Read: Am I in an abusive relationship? 17 signs that’ll reveal the truth in minutes!]

Almost always, your partner’s controlling behavior may not be intentional. So use these steps to handle such behavior in a relationship, and with a bit of time and effort, your partner may just change for the better. If not, it’s time to leave your controlling relationship.

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...