How to spot you’re in a controlling relationship
Dominating a controlling relationship
This point may seem rather obvious, but a controlling person will feel the need to exhibit their dominance over you. You need to recognize that your partner's need to govern your relationship quite possibly stems from another area in their life where they’ve lost control. Take a look at your partner. Are they continuously seeking employment or struggling financially? Do they give up too easily? Can they sometimes be emotionally unavailable? Are they quick to assign blame onto others for their shortcomings? By coercing you, they are regaining a bit of power in their life.
Bearing grudges and chronic criticism
Controlling people love to hold a grudge, especially over things that seem trivial on the surface. They may also take offense to things you say very easily; even asking them for help may be construed as an attack. Because someone prone to controlling behavior has probably internalized a lot of anger, channelling bitterness and resentment onto you is their way of letting it out (and hurting you in the process). This can also manifest as persistent criticism. Relentlessly being told you’re not good enough or deficient in some shape or form will eventually erode your self-worth to a point that you start doubting yourself.
Embargoed from your friends and family
Does your partner continually make you feel bad for spending time with your nearest and dearest? Do you feel you’re being forced to pick and choose between him/her and them? This is one of the most common signifiers of a controlling relationship, yet it’s often the easiest to overlook. It’s true that when you’re ensconced in a new relationship's “honeymoon period," seeing friends and family on the regular can momentarily take the back seat. But don’t be duped into thinking that romance is keeping you from the people you’re closest to. Stripping away your support network is a textbook method a controlling person will utilize to get you where they want you.
READ MORE: Four more common relationship problems, and how to fix them!
Obsessive surveillance is another tell-tale sign of a controlling relationship. It’s also something that can be quite disturbing. Feeling that your every move is being tracked by your partner should immediately set alarm bells ringing. Regardless of whether your partner opts for the more clandestine approach or is adamant that you must tell them everything, it’s completely beyond what you should tolerate. Checking through your phone, logging onto your social media accounts, and trawling through your emails all constitute snooping. Don’t buy into it when they tell you they’ve been deceived before or have problems with trust, it’s just a front for them to keep on policing you.
Guilt is a potent tool when it comes to manipulating someone, and it’s rarely far from view in a controlling relationship. Experiencing a pang of guilt when you’ve done something wrong is normal, as is seeking to rectify it (and forgive if you’re on the receiving end!). But this isn’t how guilt functions for a manipulator. A controlling person will make their partner feel guilty for everything they do. Sooner or later this will lead to a situation where the ‘accused’ partner will avoid guilt-inducing circumstances at all costs. The ensuing emotional inertia thus edifies the controlling person’s position of dominance.
Made to feel like you’re the wrongdoer
A controlling partner will be a pro when it comes to putting the blame on you. Have a look back and see if you can spot a trend in the outcome of arguments you may have had. Are you perpetually made to feel at fault? Double standards are part of a controlling relationship; one rule for them and another for you is commonplace. If you’re of a more non-confrontational disposition, you may notice your partner using conflict to belittle you. Controlling people usually tend to be endemically argumentative and will use disagreements to chip away at your resolve.
READ MORE: Could you be falling out of love with your partner?