10 Red Flags That Indicate You May Have a Controlling Partner, and What You Can Do About It
Toxic relationships don’t have to start with anger or physical abuse. Sometimes it all starts with one partner controlling the other, and this control is often skillfully disguised as love, care, and affection. However, there are some red flags that can signal that you’ve gotten stuck in a controlling relationship, and it’s important to notice them in time.
We at Bright Side picked 10 signs that can mean your partner may be controlling you and some stories from Reddit users who saw these signs in their own relationships. Read this article till the end to learn what you can do if you find yourself in a controlling relationship.
Signs your partner may be controlling you
1. Jealousy and paranoia can make them control what you wear, what you do, and who you see.
As the term itself suggests, a controlling partner tries to control every sphere of your life: the way you look, the places you go, the things you do, and the people you communicate with. They can see your every action as suspicious, no matter how innocent it really is. This type of behavior can originate from their inner insecurity which makes them insecure about you and your relationship.
2. They try to isolate you from family and friends.
They can either complain about how much time you spend with your friends or family or say some bad things about them trying to put an end to your communication. This is how a controlling partner tries to isolate their partner from their inner circle and gain even more control.
3. They go through your personal things and demand full disclosure.
A controlling partner can spy on you and violate your personal boundaries. They may have the need to constantly check your phone, e-mails, or social media accounts, and they feel they have the right to do it. They can justify their actions by saying something like: “If you’ve got nothing to hide, why can’t you show me your phone?”
4. They make you feel you need to earn their love and respect.
This is when you start feeling that the love and appreciation of your partner are conditional and you need to “earn” it. They love and praise you when you are successful or when you achieve something, but otherwise they can make you feel you are not good enough to be loved.
5. They make you feel guilty.
A controlling partner can systematically make you feel guilty for everything. You may notice that they can already be angry before you even do something or before you can realize what you did. You are always presumed guilty until proven innocent. They collect all the “proof” of your guilt that they use to control your behavior and make you do things as they want you to do them.
6. They make you feel you owe them.
All the romantic gestures that took place at the beginning of your relationship can now be turned into your “debt.” In a toxic relationship, a partner can use all these seemingly generous gestures of the past to control their partner in the present, making them feel they need to do something in return.
7. They overreact whenever you don’t answer their messages or calls ASAP.
If you feel the need to be next to your phone all the time to be able to respond to your partner right away, this is it. Whenever you don’t respond to your controlling partner, they can get worried, anxious, or even angry, and you may expect some big drama and an emotional reaction from them.
8. They don’t respect your wish to be alone sometimes.
In a healthy relationship, both partners have the right to spend time on their own. In a toxic relationship, a controlling partner would make the other one feel guilty for their wish to be alone and recharge their batteries.
9. They make you question your judgement and reactions.
This type of manipulation often takes place in toxic relationships. One partner makes the other doubt their judgment, reactions, and even sanity, and this is often called gaslighting. If something happens because it’s their fault, they may try their best to convince you got it all wrong and the fault is really yours.
10. They belittle your accomplishments and make you feel you are unworthy of them.
This is a situation where the controlling partner tends to diminish your accomplishments compared to theirs, or when they compare you with their exes — and you always “lose” in those comparisons. A partner who wants to dominate in a relationship uses this type of manipulation to make the other partner feel the need to be “grateful” and do anything to keep the controlling partner in the relationship.
What you can do if you find yourself in a controlling relationship
If you can see these or any other red flags that signal your partner is controlling you, here are several things you can do to break free from a toxic relationship:
- First of all, look for professional psychological help. A psychologist can help you find out what you really feel about a situation and work out a plan to escape the painful relationship.
- Ask people you trust for help. Sometimes the people who love and care about us can feel that something is wrong, but we don’t give them enough information and they can’t help us.
- Take care of yourself. It can be challenging in a controlling relationship, but you need to make sure you have enough sleep, you eat well, and you have enough physical activity to stay healthy, both physically and mentally.
- Take care of your safety and maintain your support network. If you’ve already lost many friends because of your controlling partner, try to strengthen the relationships with those friends and family members you still have around. The more people there are to have your back, the better.
- If you are going to leave this relationship, think about different scenarios. Thoroughly think over the place you will stay, the amount of money you may need, the belongings you should take with you.
- Don’t give up if your first attempt to fix a toxic relationship or leave it fails. Keep trying again and again and don’t stop fighting for your safety and mental and physical health.
Have you ever found yourself in a relationship with a controlling partner? What did you do about it?