It is good to have a protective and caring partner who keeps you safe and sees to it that all your needs are fulfilled. But, sometimes this attention goes overboard and makes you feel like a bird inside a golden cage.
If you are feeling that your partner is becoming possessive and obsessed with you, and their care or attention is suffocating you, the chances are that you’re in a controlling relationship.
Controlling relationships are not all the same, with the degree of control varying from couple to couple. However, in time, such relationships can become toxic and dangerous for a person. In this MomJunction post, we elaborate on what a controlling relationship is, signs that say you’re in one, and what to do if you are in a controlling relationship.
What Is A Controlling Relationship?
A controlling relationship is one in which usually one partner is making the decisions, calling the shots, and basically, holding the strings to control their partner. In such relationships, the other partner will have no option but to abide by the rules set by the controlling partner.
It usually begins with a “you are not taking me seriously” or “you are not allowed to do this… or that.” You begin to accept this behavior: either because you think it is normal for someone who loves you to control you, or because you think they are doing it all for your own good.
And in no time you will find yourself locked in a room, the keys to which are in your partner’s pocket.
Signs Of A Controlling Relationship
The controlling partner will cross all the boundaries to get things done their way; sometimes they may not even know that their behavior is hurting their partner, and will be under the illusion that whatever they are doing is the best for their partner.
To prevent things from going out of your control, watch out for these signs indicating that you are in a controlling relationship.
- Emotional isolation: The controlling partner tries to break you so that you have no other option but to surrender to them. It is like they’re weaving a spider web around you to make sure you have no additional support in life.
A controlling partner is always:
- Nagging you not to spend time with your friends
- Demeaning your best friend
- Filling your brain with negativity about your loved ones and friends
- Trying to turn you against anyone, other than them, that you look up to or rely upon.
- Destructive criticism: In a healthy relationship, both the partners seek feedback from each other, which should ideally help them become better individuals. For instance, if you are having trouble with your boss, an ideal partner will sit with you, listen to your problems and try to ease your pain, whereas a controlling partner would say, “I am sure it is your fault” or “you must’ve done something for your boss to say or do that.” They will look for something wrong in everything you do and say.
They almost always wish that you eat, dress, walk, and even talk better. If you protest, they will say, “I love you and want you to be a better person. That’s why I want you to be this way or do what I say.”
- Codependency: If you do not break this controlling behavior in the initial stages, you will lose your power to think and find yourself increasingly dependent on your partner. Even a simple decision like what to cook for dinner will be difficult to make without asking your partner first. Slowly, you will lose your self-sufficiency, which makes you depressed.
- Threats and abuse: The controlling partner will go to any lengths to have the reins in their hand. They will resort to emotional and physical threats such as “if you leave me and go now, you will never see me again,” “you must do as I say or else….” You will be stuck in the relationship out of fear that your partner will harm you or themselves. Other times, the threats will be to cut off financial support, access to children, etc. Whether or not these risks are real, statements like these are a sign that your partner wants to get their way, even if it is hurting you.
- Conditional love: One more sign of a controlling relationship is conditioning their love and affection. For example, if you find your partner say, “I will love you if you do or be this for me,” or “I would have fulfilled all your dreams if you behaved yourself.” If these are the statements you hear often, your partner does not love you for who you are. They only love you if they can pull strings and get things done through you.
- Play the guilt card: Controlling partners are master manipulators and will trick you into believing that they are controlling you for your own good, and you showing any resistance is utter disrespect. They will get into your head and make you believe that things between the two of you are quite normal. They even give you statistics or examples that the majority of the partners behave like them. They will make you feel guilty for fighting with them and not being able to earn their love.
- No privacy: If you are in a controlling relationship, you will have absolutely no privacy. A controlling partner expects total access to your mobile, bank account as well as email accounts while restricting access to theirs. Now, if you and your partner share a genuine interest and share each other’s lives, then it is all right. But demanding to be transparent and spying, snooping on your partner is not acceptable, especially when you are not willing to be transparent with your life.
- Jealousy: You might have been flattered when your partner wanted to have all of you to themselves. While it may seem wildly romantic at first, you’d gradually realize the real meaning of that. A controlling partner will view your every interaction with a stranger as flirting, and be threatened by that. They get jealous and will keep tabs on your whereabouts and suspect your every move.
You might have fallen in love with your partner, and may think that you cannot live without them. But if they are using your love for them as a weakness to manipulate you, then it is time to take a step back and evaluate.
When Should You Put An End To Your Controlling Relationship?
Most controlling and manipulative relationships turn into physically or verbally abusive ones sooner or later. It is not at all selfish to have second thoughts on such a relationship. It may seem difficult to get out of it, but you may have to walk away and take control of your life when:
- Your partner has turned abusive, and you feel that your relationship has become life-threatening.
- They have absolutely no trust in you and always accuse you of having an affair with anyone and everyone you talk to.
- You stop loving yourself and start believing all the bad things your partner says about you.
- Your partner refuses to believe that they need help and do not cooperate with you.
- You see that there is no future for you in your relationship because all your partner thinks is about themselves.
- Your partner does not even think for a second before throwing you under the bus when things go wrong.
- You feel emotionally drained, and are failing at all the other aspects of your life, including career and friendships.
- You find that your partner is secretive, disrespectful, and takes decisions knowing they will adversely affect you.
- You put your foot down and tell them how dead this relationship is making you feel from the inside.
- Your partner does not seem to look at or consider your perspective.
If you can relate to most or all of these points, then gather all your self-esteem, evaluate what is best for you, and take steps towards it. You have only one life, and it is not worth sacrificing it for a person who uses you for their needs but doesn’t care about your well being.
What Should You Do If Your Partner Is Controlling?
Before putting an end to a controlling relationship, you can try and discuss your problems with your partner and let them know that their behavior is hurting you. Here are a few ways to do that and resist being controlled in a relationship.
- Never give up on yourself, always make self-care a priority; every degrading word uttered by your controlling partner is only to break your confidence and gain control on you.
- Stop crossing mountains for a person who cannot even cross a puddle for you. If your partner is making his love conditional, do not beg or do things to please them.
- Stop pretending like everything is okay. If it were, you would not be reading this article or questioning your relationship.
- Think about what you are good at and do more of that. Whether it is something in your profession or a hobby, pursue it. When you are good at something, you will become more confident and feel good about yourself. This will help you get out of the vicious circle of wanting your partner’s validation.
Stop making excuses for your partner’s abusive behavior. They have no right to shout at you or hit you just because you did not do what they want.
Is walking out of the relationship the only solution? Not always. If your partner can understand that you feel trapped and is willing to change for you, then with some help, both of you can set some ground rules and start a new life together. But that may not always be the case.
How To End A Controlling Relationship?
Unfortunately, if your partner is not ready to listen to you and change their ways, then it is time to do what is in your best interests. Do not be under the impression that you cannot live without them. Even though it might hurt you a little now, things will get better eventually. Here are a few points to keep in mind before deciding to walk out.
- Before thinking of ending the relationship, be sure that you are actually in a controlling relationship and that you have tried everything possible to repair it.
- Introspect to know if this is what you want wholeheartedly because taking decisions based on emotions can make you regret.
- After you have taken the decision, do not expect your partner to change and do not fall for the mixed signals they give you. Controlling partners can be manipulative and might try to reel you in by influencing you.
- Do not react to any retaliation from your partner, as this may lead to humiliation and can leave you emotionally scarred.
- End all contacts with them, and block them on social media and mobile. But first, initiate the process of separation, legally if you are married, and seek help from friends and family if needed.
- Focus on the positives in your life, work to rebuild yourself, shift your focus on to work and career, and accept the past, but never let it define your future.
Usually, resistance to control is not taken well by the controlling partner. Resist too much, and it could put you in harm’s way, especially if the partner has violent tendencies. But wait. What if you are the controlling partner?
How To Not Be Controlling In A Relationship?
Have you realized that you are the controlling partner in the relationship? Well, congratulations then! You are already halfway through to change for the better. For the rest of the way, here are a few tips on how you can stop controlling and save your relationship.
- Do not order, but suggest: The next time you want your partner to do something your way, do not insist. Instead, make them sit and explain the pros and cons. Your partner is an adult and can think rationally. So have trust and let go. You will be surprised to see your partner go along with your plan, not out of fear, but because they were able to understand the advantages of it.
- Exchange pleasantries: Ego and love can never coexist, so it is up to you to decide which way you choose. Understand and accept that a relationship means two people who are equal, and there is nothing wrong in saying “thank you,” “please” and “I love you”. Simple pleasantries and niceness will make your partner happy. But remember you must not use these to manipulate or get things done by them. This means you must return favors too.
- Practice listening: A relationship is a union of two people, which means both must have a say in what goes in the relationship. Having a know-it-all attitude is terrible for your relationship; your partner might have a better solution to a problem, which you will never know about if you do not listen.
- Sometimes you, sometimes me: Next time, when you are planning a vacation, ask your partner their ideas. And when they tell you, value their opinion or planning and execute it. This will help them gain their self-confidence back and make them happy. This give-and-take action must be selfless and not to keep scores to decide who gets to do what next.
- Know your anxiety: Know the real reason behind your controlling behavior. Is it the fear of failure or the obsessive compulsion that is making you behave that way? Accept the fact that you cannot always control everything in life, and it is okay for things to go wrong. It is better to lose control than to lose a loving partner due to your imaginary fears.
- Accept them as they are: No one is perfect. Neither you nor your partner. If your partner is willing to accept your flaws, then why can’t you? Expecting your partner to be the best in everything is unfair. Accept them for who they are, focus on the positives, and pick your battles carefully.
- Check your expectations: It is okay to expect your partner to be loyal, loving, and caring, but depriving them of their privacy and personal space and hoping them to be happy with that is not. Also, do not compare your partner to your friends and family members and ask them to be like them. Because each person is unique, focus on what your partner’s uniqueness is bringing into your relationship.
Tolerating a controlling relationship and partner will only cause more pain and can pose a serious risk to your safety. If you are not happy and cannot feel alive in a relationship, then it is time to end that relationship.
What is your take on controlling relationships? Let us know in the comments section below.