For a relationship to be healthy, mutual respect is essential. Sadly, there are relationships where one person tries to control not only the relationship but the other person and how they lead their life.
Even more sad is how someone can become so used to being forced to cater to the whims of their partner that they might not even realize just how controlling their partner is.
These are 18 signs your partner may be controlling and what you can do about it.
1. They act like they’re the boss of you.
A controlling partner will try to make it seem like they have authority over you. If you try to express yourself, they’ll act like you need their approval first. You should never be expected to kowtow to anyone you’re in a relationship with.
Know that it’s not normal or healthy for you to have a partner who calls the shots about your life. If you’re being controlled in this way, it may be time for you to stand up and start making your own decisions.
2. They act like you’ve always done something wrong.
Nobody’s perfect, but controlling partners act like everything you do is a slight against morality. A side effect of this is that you can have trouble making decisions because of the fear that they’ll be wrong.
3. They are highly critical of you.
They try to find fault in anything you do. It’s almost as if you can’t do anything right. You can’t look right, act right, speak write. Whatever you do, it’s as if you’re falling short.
Know that the truth is that your partner is passing their own insecurities off onto you.
4. They keep a scorecard.
Controlling partners have an obsession with proving that they’re somehow better than you or that you “owe” them. In order to make this as apparent as possible, they’ll keep track of your shortcomings or the nice things they do for you.
5. They make threats if you don’t do what they want.
Someone who’s controlling isn’t always just irritating. They can also be dangerous. These threats can range from withholding certain privileges to physical abuse. You don’t have to live this way. Do whatever it takes to figure out how to leave the relationship safely.
6. They have too much of an opinion on your appearance.
While there’s nothing wrong with offering an opinion about an outfit or hairstyle, a controlling partner will take it to an extreme. They’ll try to dictate how you look, even if it’s not to your liking.
7. They blame you for things that go wrong in their life.
You should be there for your partner in times of need. But when things take a turn for the worst, a controlling partner will make it seem like it was because of you. They’ll inevitably find some absurd connection between you and what’s gone wrong.
8. They withhold affection when you don’t act how they want.
Affection in a relationship should not be earned based on conforming to the whims of a controlling partner. A controlling partner will try to make it seem like you have to barter with them in order to receive their affection.
The power of love in a positive relationship comes from how it’s shared unconditionally, not on the basis of one partner having control over the other.
9. They make you think you’re crazy.
Gaslighting is a common practice among controlling partners. If you dare to speak up about their abuse, they’ll turn it back on you and argue that you’re in the wrong.
10. They spy and snoop.
Just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean that you don’t have a right to privacy. Controlling partners believe that they have domain over you and your belongings.
11. They tease you and make fun of you.
A bit of playful teasing in a relationship is okay and can even be fun, provided both partners understand eachother’s boundaries. However, controlling partners will tease you to the point of maliciousness. They often will accuse you of being too sensitive.
12. They try to make you feel guilty and/or make it very clear they don’t like it when you do things without them.
You can love someone without doing everything with them. A good partner understands that friendships and hobbies are a healthy part of life. A controlling partner might say that it’s okay for you to do things without them, but they’ll try to make you feel like you’ve wronged them. You deserve to have your own life, outside of your relationship with them.
13. They make you feel inadequate.
Controlling partners seek to undermine your self-esteem as much as possible. They’ll gradually chip away at your perception of yourself until you’re left feeling helpless. Then, they’ll try to comfort you by making it seem like they’re the only one who will ever love you.
14. They treat you badly but act like they want what’s best for you.
Abusers aren’t stupid. The reason they’re able to get away with what they do is that they’re shrewd. They can disguise their abuse as concern. Learn to recognize when this is happening and refuse to give their nonsense any kind of attention.
15. They act jealous and even paranoid.
Controlling partners need to ensure that no one is going to be able to take you away from them. If you get attention from or interact with another person who they see as a potential suitor, they’ll become obsessed with putting an end to it. This can cause them to try to control who you spend time with.
16. They pressure you to do things you don’t want to do.
You should never feel forced to do anything you’re uncomfortable with. A controlling partner will do their best to make you feel like you’d be a bad person if you don’t succumb to their pressure.
17. They accuse you of cheating or lying.
To hold domain over you, a controlling partner will throw accusations at you. One of their biggest targets will be your honesty or supposed lack thereof. A controlling partner lives in a state of paranoia. Sometimes these accusations are a cover for their own dishonesty. Recognize this and do all you can to protect yourself.
18. They belittle you and act like you are less important.
Controlling partners are in relationships not out of a love but out of a need to feel like they’re in charge. They’ll do all they can to make you feel worthless. To protect yourself from their abuse, you need to be adamant in expressing how you’re just as important as anyone else.
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What can you do?
There are no perfect relationships, but you deserve so much more. Healthy relationships focus on understanding and kindness and respect is the foundation.
If any of the signs are familiar to you, then you’re in a controlling relationship and need to make the best possible decision for your mental and physical health and safety.
In some situations, a woman may be able to safely exit the relationship without repercussions. This is something that only you can assess. If you don’t feel you can make a safe exit, it is critical that you put a plan in place for how you will leave. This will often require you to involve trusted family, friends or professionals including the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 if necessary.
Whatever you do, do not continue to tolerate their mistreatement of you.