30+ Signs You’re In A Controlling Relationship

By molly atherton 8 months ago
Welcome to the ultimate guide that's not about spotting UFOs or deciphering ancient hieroglyphs—instead, it's the inside scoop on one of the most intricate puzzles of human interaction: recognizing if you're in a controlling relationship. Forget about secret codes; we've got 30 telltale signs that'll unravel the mystery faster than a detective at a crime scene. From subtle hints to glaring red flags, buckle up as we navigate the twists and turns of control in relationships.

1. Isolating you from friends and family

This behavior is like a sly magician performing a vanishing act with your support network. Picture this: your partner slowly but surely pulling the strings, attempting to whisk away the pillars of your support system—your family, friends, and even workmates.Image source YourTangoCommon controlling behaviour in a relationship is seeking to separate you from your support network, your family, friends and work colleagues.  They may complain how much time you spend with them, to making bad comments about them and trying to put a wrench between you and them.Original content sourced from Femanin.com

2. There is drama if you don't respond immediately

Imagine being tethered to your phone like it's a lifeline in a high-stakes game of emotional roulette. In a controlling relationship, it's not just about having a phone; it's about being at its beck and call, ready to respond at the speed of light. The expectation is set. Image source Women's HealthIn a controlling relationship, you feel you need to be next to your phone and able to respond at any time.  If you don't you'll be 'in for it' which means they will become angry, overly worried or sarcastic.  You know it will involve a drama so you make sure you don't ever get to that position where you don't respond at the first ring.

3. Blaming you for their actions

In the intricate web of a controlling relationship, blame becomes a weapon wielded with expert precision. Picture this: a shattered glass on the floor, a mishap, a simple accident. But in the world of control, blame is never accidental—it's an intentional dart aimed at you.Image source The KitchenControlling relationships are also easily detectable by who ends up being blamed and you can be sure that, whatever it is, it will be you.  Even if they broke a glass they will say you were in the way and caused them to do it.  It's a losing battle unless you can find a way to get out of the relationship.

4. Feeling you have to check in for any decision

It's like navigating a maze where every path leads back to the same center—your partner's need for absolute control. In the realm of control freaks, decisions are their currency, and they hold the monopoly. They've crafted an image of wisdom and expertise.Image source Couples TherapyControl freaks in relationships like to exercise authority over all decisions.  They give the strong impression of being wise and having the expertise to drive you into checking every decision with them.  Part of you might want a little more independence but can't see a way of getting it.

5. Controlling what you wear, eat and spend money

Picture being in a room with no windows—a space where your opinions, choices, and needs seem to evaporate into thin air. That's the essence of a controlling relationship: a suffocating atmosphere where your voice becomes a faint echo drowned out by their overpowering presence.Image source Money CrashersBeing in a controlling relationship feels like you don't and can't have your own opinion, choices and needs.   The more sophisticated they are, the more they can mask it in the veil of being worried or generally concerned about you.  You will wonder if they do actually know better.

6. Criticizing you all the time

Imagine walking a tightrope with no safety net—the constant fear of slipping, the pressure to maintain balance, and the paralyzing anxiety of never quite measuring up. That's the landscape of a controlling relationship, where the saying "you can't do right for doing wrong" echoes like a haunting refrain.Image source Defeating DivorceThere's a saying 'you can't do right for doing wrong' and that's how a controlling partner will make you feel.  They will criticize you over small and big things, grinding you down as you try to please them.  They will go on about it for hours until you agree they have your best interests at heart.

7. Threatening you – more or less overtly

Imagine walking on a tightrope strung over a chasm—each step measured, each move calculated to avoid the looming threat of consequences. In a controlling relationship, intimidation wears many masks, and its impact is just as potent without leaving a visible mark.Image source Verywell MindIntimidation does not have to be physical so the outside world is unaware of it.  They might threaten they will cut your contact with the kids if you divorce the person or tease you that they will release secrets about you to your family.  Worse of all, they may threaten to cut your 'privileges'.

8. Keeping a scoreboard

Imagine a board game where the rules constantly change, and the scoreboard is tilted in their favor from the start. Welcome to the virtual scoreboard of a controlling relationship—a place where every good deed, every effort, is meticulously noted and weighed.Image source Verilymag.comWe are talking a virtual scoreboard here.  In a controlling relationship, it's about them keeping track of the good things you've done. No matter how many it is, they will have done more and it becomes an exhausting and unhealthy mental game that you shouldn't be subjected to.

9. Feeling their acceptance and appreciation is conditional

It's like being caught in a maze with shifting walls—constantly altering yourself to fit into the mold they've set for love and affection. In a controlling relationship, the heartbreaking truth is feeling that you must earn their love, as if it's a currency that requires constant investment. Image source Health DigestThe common thread in many controlling relationships is feeling the need to earn their love which is very sad.   You need to change to meet their affections and losing weight is one of the traits.  However, once you have lost the pounds, they will say you look scraggy so you can't win.

10. Using guilt or anger to manipulate

Picture a puppeteer pulling invisible strings, maneuvering your emotions and actions as if you were a marionette on their stage. In a controlling relationship, the signs of manipulation can be as blatant as a neon sign or as subtle as a whispered suggestion.Image source QuoraDepending on how proficient they are at manipulating you, the signs should be easy to spot.  Guilt tripping you into doing what they want, without a care for your own needs, together with a lot of shouting and swearing, are all strong traits of a controlling person.

11. Making you feel you're in debt

Imagine a beautiful garden where every flower blooms with promises of affection and generosity. At the outset of a relationship, their gestures of love and the showers of gifts create a mesmerizing landscape, drawing you in with their charm and apparent generosity.Image source QuoraIf the signs of controlling personality showed up right in the beginning, it would be easy to notice them for what they are but it's a very gradual process to hook you in slowly.  Gifts and generosity they once showered you with are now holding you to ransom and they feel it's their right to collect on that debt.

12. Jealousy or paranoia

Jealousy, at first glance, seems like a testament to their intense love and passion for you. It's that initial spark, the feeling of being the center of their universe. But as time unfolds, this supposed affection begins to transform into something suffocating, a heavy cloak that stifles.Image source QuoraAlthough jealousy in relationships may appear as though they just love you so very much, over time it becomes very difficult to hear.  The obsessiveness, intensity and unreasonable behaviour become too excessive to ignore and all too much for you to bear.

13. Going through your things

Imagine living in a house with walls that have eyes and ears—a place where privacy becomes a distant memory and every move feels scrutinized. In a controlling relationship, invasion of privacy becomes a glaring sign that's impossible to ignore. It's a violation that strikes at the core of your autonomy.Image source QuoraThis is a definite sign you can hardly ignore. You will hate it but feel powerless to protest because you haven't got the energy to argue when you know you can't win.  As well as rummaging amongst your belongings, your partner may listen to your calls, check your messages and spy on you.

14. Protesting against your time alone

Picture a world where every moment alone feels like a luxury you're not allowed to indulge in. In a controlling relationship, the simple act of wanting time to yourself becomes a battleground, a tug-of-war between your need for space and their insatiable desire for constant companionship. Image source The MailIf you feel like you cannot have some time to yourself and feel guilty if you do, then that's part of the control your partner has over you.  They will probably say they want to spend more time with you, so you can't have your own space and you end up feeling like the villain.

15. Making you feel you are not good enough

In the intricate dance of a controlling relationship, the erosion of confidence becomes a recurring theme. It's a gradual process, like a slow leak draining the reservoir of self-assurance you once possessed. Before you met your partner, your confidence might have been fragile, a delicate thread easily frayed.Image source The MailThis is the most frequent characteristic of a controlling relationship. You might have had little confidence before you met your partner but, as sure as eggs are eggs, you will gradually be controlled sufficiently enough to think you really are not good enough.

16. Having to earn to get on their good side

In the intricate dance of a controlling relationship, the erosion of confidence becomes a recurring theme. It's a gradual process, like a slow leak draining the reservoir of self-assurance you once possessed. Before you met your partner, your confidence might have been fragile, a delicate thread easily frayed.Image source The SunAlthough trust is earned over time, in a controlling relationship you might feel you never reach that trust. You feel as though you have to keep working to get on their good side.  You never seem to given the right to be considered innocent until proven otherwise.

17. Making you feel stupid or incompetent for your beliefs

In the realm of a healthy relationship, disagreements are like puzzle pieces—challenges to be navigated together, opportunities for growth, and mutual understanding. In contrast, within the confines of a controlling relationship, these disagreements mutate into something far more sinister.Image source The MirrorIn a healthy relationship, any disagreements (we aren't talking arguments) would normally be talked over but in a controlled relationship you feel you are not smart enough, not capable enough and not adequate enough to fight your corner in a manner to come to a joint agreement.

18. Belittling or embarrassing you into submission

In the tapestry of a healthy relationship, playful banter and teasing are threads woven with care—a dance between partners who understand each other's quirks and boundaries. It's a delightful symphony of inside jokes and lighthearted jests, a language spoken by couples.Image source QuoraTeasing and 'taking the mickey' out of each other is the fun part of a relationship.  Couples know the other person inside out and only say stuff that they know will be taken in jest.  However, in a controlled relationship, you may feel ridiculed and then made to believe you misunderstood what they said.  Either way, you'll be hurt and they don't care.  It's what they want.

19. Enforcing you to disclose details against your will

In the realm of a controlling relationship, the concept of personal boundaries becomes a blurred line—a line that your partner seems determined to erase. The simple act of sharing information transforms into a demand, a probing interrogation that leaves you feeling like your privacy is up for grabs.Image source Howells.comOne of the clear cut signs of controlling personality is when you feel you have to share any information your partner asks.  They could question you about your will and even suggest you change it if it benefits them.  No matter how unwilling you are to show them personal stuff, you see no way out of it.

20. You don’t feel heard or understood

In a healthy relationship, the exchange of ideas and opinions is like a symphony—a beautiful collaboration where both partners' voices harmonize, creating a melody of mutual understanding and respect. However, in a controlling relationship, this harmony is disrupted.Image source QuoraThere isn’t much room for your voice and opinion in your so called relationship.  It's usually their way or no way at all.   They will express no understanding of your outlook on any issues and often over-talk you which you will find quite draining and so give up.

21. Trying to control who you spend time with

In the intricate dance of a controlling relationship, social situations become orchestrated performances—a stage where your partner pulls the strings, dictating the cast and the script to maintain their sense of control and dominance. Their attempts at controlling social situations manifest in various ways.Image source Issues I FaceWe are talking about a person that tries to bring order into a social situation in different ways so they can control over what happens.  They are likely to attempt to control who you can see and who you can't and that can extend to close family members.  For fear of starting an argument, you'll agree.

22. Impending your growth and goals

In the realm of a controlling relationship, the prospect of personal growth or the prospect of progress towards independence becomes a threat to your partner—a disruption to the status quo carefully maintained by your partner's need for control and dependency.Image source GQRIf you improve your mental health and inner strength and look to future goals, a new job etc., this will not go down well with your partner as they don't want you to feel independent.  They will subtly slow down your progress and keep you by their side.

23. Causing you to question your sanity

In a controlling relationship, the erosion of your support network, the relentless embarrassment, and the manipulation of your beliefs and reactions create a fog of confusion that clouds your judgment. Their subtle yet strategic maneuvers to cut off your ties to a support system leave you feeling isolated.As a result of trying to cut you off from your support network, embarrassing you and making you question your own beliefs and reactions, you could end up doubting your judgment. If they convince you their reality is the right one, this is a reason why you might not leave them.

24. Dominating or controlling in sexual activities

In a controlling relationship, even the intimacy of the bedroom becomes a battleground, a space where your autonomy is challenged and your choices feel constrained by their need for control. The dynamic shifts when it comes to sexual intimacy.Image source The GuardianControl creeps into the bedroom as well, so you might sense you can’t refuse sex without getting on their bad side.  You may feel under pressure to have sex with them or there could be consequences. For example, they get emotionally distant and make you work your way on to their good side for days.

25. They make threats if you don’t do what they want

Recognizing the dangers in a controlling relationship is crucial. Control can escalate from manipulation and emotional abuse to more severe forms of coercion and threats, which can include withholding privileges, financial control, or, in the worst cases, physical violence.Image source MyupliftSomebody who is controlling isn’t always just irritating. They can also be dangerous, threatening to withhold certain privileges through to physical abuse. You don’t have to live this way. Try and find the strength to do whatever it takes to figure out how to leave the relationship safely.

26. They withhold affection when you don’t act how they want.

In a healthy relationship, affection is a natural expression of love and care, freely given and received without conditions. However, in a controlling relationship, affection becomes a bargaining chip, a currency wielded by your partner to exert control and dominance.Image source A conscious rethinkAffection in a relationship should not be earned based on conforming to the whims of a controlling partner but that is highly likely to be the case .A controlling partner will try to make it seem like you have to win them over in order to receive their affection, even a kiss on the cheek.

27. They tease you and make fun of you

In a healthy relationship, playful teasing can be a delightful aspect, a form of endearment that fosters intimacy and strengthens the bond between partners. It's a lighthearted banter that brings laughter and joy, grounded in a shared understanding of each other's boundaries and comfort levels.Image source Dreamstime.comA bit of playful teasing is part and parcel of a healthy relationship and can even be fun, provided both partners understand each other’s boundaries. However, controlling partners will tease you to the point of maliciousness. They often will accuse you of being too sensitive.

28. They accuse you of cheating or lying

In a controlling relationship, accusations become a common tool used by your partner to maintain dominance and control. Their own insecurities and paranoia create a breeding ground for baseless accusations aimed at undermining your confidence and keeping you on edge.Image source QuoraTo hold domain over you, a controlling partner will throw accusations at you as they will often live their own life in a state of paranoia. . Sometimes these accusations are a cover for their own dishonesty.  Try and recognize this and do all you can to protect yourself.

29. They Pretend To Be The Vulnerable One

In a controlling relationship, standing up for yourself is like stepping onto a battlefield strewn with emotional landmines. On those rare occasions when you muster the courage to assert your boundaries, your partner's reaction becomes a tangled web of manipulation and emotional theatrics.Image source QuoraIf you pluck up the courage and stand up for yourself, on the rare occasions, they will pretend to be so upset and say they are trying their best to look after you because they love you so much.  You won't know what to say then so back down and get on with how they want you to be.

30. They eat better quality food than you

In a controlling relationship, financial control becomes a powerful tool used to exert dominance and manipulate your behavior. Your partner's subtle tactics extend beyond just managing finances; they use it as a means to enforce control and limit your independence.Image source Daily MailA controlling partner, who has already brought up the subject of your over-spending of the weekly food allowance, will encourage you to 'make do' to balance the books.  They may even eat expensive food in front of you and you do without as there's no housekeeping money left.

31. Your Partner Doesn't Like Being Left Out Of Your Plans

Absolutely, in a controlling relationship, the desire for control extends to a suffocating level where your partner seeks to dominate not just your time spent apart but also your individual activities and plans. Their need for control infiltrates every facet of your life, leaving little room for independent decisions or activities.Image Source / Highlights PRA controlling partner doesn't just mean they prevent you from spending time alone, or control who you spend time with. It can also mean they don't like you doing anything without you, either. Not because they actually want to spend all their time with you, but just because they want to make sure every plan you have is based around them.

32. They'll Accuse You Of Flirting Or Cheating

Indeed, jealousy often becomes a significant factor in controlling relationships, stemming from insecurities or past traumas experienced by your partner. Their own unresolved issues, particularly related to past relationship experiences, can manifest as intense jealousy.Image Source / PeopleJealousy is another big thing for a controlling partner. They also might be projecting on you for some trauma they've had in past relationships if they've been cheated on. You may find they accuse you of flirting or even cheating even when you haven't, if you show the slightest attention to someone else.

33. They'll Check Your Text Messages Or Other Messages

Absolutely, in controlling relationships, invasion of privacy becomes a standard tactic used by a controlling partner to maintain surveillance and dominance over your personal communications. Their need for control extends to monitoring your texts, emails, social media interactions.Image Source / The VergeA big controlling manoeuvre is to of course not give you any privacy with your own messages, either. Whether that's text, emails or social media, they'll want to know exactly what you're saying, who you're talking to, and what people are saying to you. Then they'll usually have a problem with it no matter how innocent your conversations are.

34. They'll Check Your Personal Belongings

In a controlling relationship, the invasion of personal space extends beyond just monitoring digital communications—it delves into physically searching your personal belongings. Your partner's need for control and suspicion leads them to scrutinize your personal items, violating your privacy in the process.Image Source / QuoraThey may also check your personal belongings, such as inside your handbag or coat pockets. They may go the whole hog and check receipts to see where you've been, or if you've been 'lying' about who you've been with. They might find something that belongs to a friend and ask you why you have it.

35. Gaslighting

Absolutely, gaslighting in any form is a harmful manipulation tactic used by a controlling partner to undermine your reality, feelings, and experiences. It involves distorting or denying facts, emotions, or events to sow seeds of doubt in your mind, causing you to question your own perception of reality.Image Source / James EgertonIt doesn't matter whether it's only once, or all the time - gaslighting is gaslighting, and it's unacceptable. They might deny your feelings or experiences, or try to twist your viewpoint, so that you begin to question whether what you're feeling, or have experienced, is actually true.

36. You're Scared Or Anxious Around Them

Absolutely, your emotional state and how you feel within the relationship can serve as significant indicators of whether you're in a controlling dynamic. The constant unease, the feeling of walking on eggshells, or the fear of their reaction to your actions or plans are clear signs of a controlling relationship.Image Source / InsiderSome of the most important signs you're in a controlling relationship can be how you actually feel in yourself. If you're finding that you're constantly on edge in regard to how they'd react to things, what they're going to say when you tell them you have plans, or anything else, there's obviously something controlling going on to put you down.

37. You've Either Been Told To, Or Feel Like You Have To, Check In With Them At All Times

Certainly, in a controlling relationship, there's an expectation of constant monitoring and reporting back to your partner about your whereabouts and activities. This level of scrutiny over your movements and the demand for immediate responses to calls or texts is a clear sign of their need for control.Image Source / LifewireYou have to tell them where you are and what you're doing when you're away from them. If they don't hear from you after a certain amount of time, they're going to chase you up or make you feel bad for it. You have to answer their calls and texts straight away to update them on what you're doing.

38. Being A Back Seat Driver

Absolutely, controlling behavior can extend to various aspects of a relationship, including seemingly innocent situations like driving together. While some guidance or comments from a passenger might be helpful or friendly, in a controlling relationship, this dynamic can take a more critical turn.Image Source / SagaIf you're a driver and you go out together, your partner may also show controlling behaviour from the passenger seat. A lot of back seat driving can be innocent, like when your parent tells you to slow down, but in this case it could be your partner telling you how to drive, criticizing you for how you drive, or having a go at you for looking at the person in the car beside you at the light if they smile at you.

39. They Might Even Manipulate You In A Nice Way

Indeed, controlling behavior isn't always overtly negative and can sometimes be masked by seemingly positive or affectionate actions. Some individuals in controlling relationships might use tactics like displaying vulnerability, expressing kindness, or showering you with gifts and affectionate gestures.Image Source / Good HousekeepingControlling behaviour doesn't have to be seen as negative. They may pretend to cry or be upset, say nice things about you, buy you flowers so that you can't feel angry at them, or just genuinely act vulnerable and kind towards you so that you feel affection for them.

40. Controlling About Vacations

Absolutely, the act of planning a vacation together can seem like an exciting and bonding experience for a couple. However, in a controlling relationship, even seemingly enjoyable activities like planning a vacation can become a battleground for control and dominance.Image Source / Bored PandaThe idea of you and your partner planning a vacation together is a good one - nothing controlling about that, right? But they might undermine you're every decision, like you saying you want to go for two weeks and them saying no we're going for one week, or you saying you'd prefer a hotel to a villa and them booking a villa anyway without asking you first.

41. Controlling About Home Decisions

Home improvement decisions can be another arena where control dynamics play out in a relationship. While discussions about improving the home together might initially seem collaborative, in a controlling relationship, the final decisions often end up being solely in the hands of one partner.Image Source / We HeartThe same could be said about home improvement decisions if you live together. You might have discussions together but in the end they're ultimately the one that will make the decision no matter what you say. You could say you don't have enough money for a bathroom renovation, and they might say well we're getting one anyway.

42. They Have A Very Specific Idea About Relationship Milestones

A controlling partner might meticulously plan and dictate the progression and milestones within the relationship. This can manifest in various ways, including setting rigid timelines for significant relationship milestones or dictating how certain events should be celebrated or acknowledged.Image Source / CheezburgerA controlling person might want to control how the relationship is progressing, too, and this could be very meticulous. They won't propose to a partner unless they've been together four years, they won't celebrate an anniversary unless it's the yearly ones (rather than quirky first kiss anniversaries, for example) and they might have progressions mapped out - which they would have decided all on their own.

43. Having A Hold On Your Free Time At Work

You work away from your partner for your job, but instead of just catching up with you when you get home, they want complete control over your work breaks. They expect you to call them on your lunch break and speak to only them. They want you to text all the time.Image Source / ForbesThey want you to text on your afternoon break to tell them what you're doing. They want you to text them when you're leaving. In any healthy relationship, this could just be checking in to catch up or say I love you, but for a controlling partner, it's just a way for them to check up on what you're doing.

44. Belittling Your Beliefs, Even If You've Had Them Your Entire Life

Subjects like religion, spirituality or politics can cause wedges in relationships, but even if you have different views, you'd expect basic respect and empathy. But for a controlling partner, if you don't believe what they do, then that's going to be a huge problem.Image Source / Live ScienceThey're going to do everything they can to make you feel bad about what you do believe. There's a difference between a partner having a friendly debate with you about your belief in ghosts when they don't believe, but making you feel stupid for it is another thing entirely.

45. They Want You To Feel Grateful They Chose You

A controlling partner might use tactics like constantly reminding you of their perceived superiority or portraying themselves as a benefactor in the relationship. This behavior is a form of emotional manipulation aimed at diminishing your self-esteem and fostering a sense of dependency on them.Image Source / MetroA controlling partner may love to constantly remind you what a charity case you are. You're lucky you get to be in a relationship with someone like them, you should be grateful you have a partner like them, etc etc. It's also a key manipulation to have you lacking self-esteem and therefore working harder in case you lose them.

46. Putting Pressure On You For Bad Habits

In a controlling relationship, a partner's substance use or habits can become a tool for exerting control over you. They might pressure or coerce you into partaking in these behaviors, even if you've expressed a clear boundary or discomfort with them.Image Source / WikipediaThey might be a heavy drinker, smoker or occasionally take recreational drugs - and that might mean they want you to as well. Even if you say no, they might pressure you into it, or even call you boring or get mad at you if you don't do it. Especially if you're out in public together.

47. Commenting On Certain Areas Of Your Body They Don't Want Seen

A controlling partner may try to influence your clothing choices as a means to exert control or diminish your self-confidence. This behavior can manifest in various ways, including making subtle comments about your attire that induce self-consciousness or criticism aimed at dictating how you should dress.Image Source / AliExpressThis could be as well as controlling what you wear, or they may always let you wear whatever you like but still have a few things to say about it to make you self-conscious. This could be 'don't you think that neckline is too low?' or 'that skirt is quite short'. Alternatively, it could be telling a male partner their t-shirt is too tight, or their hair doesn't look right without gel.

48. Having A Huge Influence Over Your Job Or Educational Decisions

In a controlling relationship, a partner's disapproval or discouragement of your personal growth or achievements is a way to maintain control and limit your independence. They might attempt to influence significant life decisions, such as career advancements or educational opportunities.Image Source / Derby TelegraphMaybe you've been offered a huge promotion but your partner is telling you not to take it because they don't agree with it, or because it'll mean you'll be at work more. Maybe you've just got accepted to university but it means relocating and they're not happy with you being away from them. Anything you want to do for yourself, they have a problem with.

49. You're Constantly Told To Shut Up

in a controlling relationship, one partner might attempt to dominate conversations and dismiss or silence the other's viewpoints or opinions. This behavior is aimed at controlling the dialogue and maintaining authority within the relationship.Image Source / UnsplashThe main reason for this is because you may have a different viewpoint and opinion and they simply don't want to hear it. If they're constantly telling you to shut up or just to stop talking, they want to control the conversation which means sometimes only wanting to hear the sound of their own voice.

50. Demanding Facetime Instead Of Voice Call

In a controlling relationship, the behavior of demanding video calls or live feeds as a means of "checking in" goes beyond mere communication. It represents a heightened level of control and intrusion into your personal space and privacy. For instance, when you communicate with your partner to update them.Image Source / iMoreThis takes the controlling 'checking in' behaviour one step further. You could call them and tell them you're with some friends but they may demand a Facetime to see who you're with, what you're doing and if you're telling the truth. Messages or voice calls aren't good enough - they want a video feed.