How to spot you’re in a controlling relationship

How to spot you’re in a controlling relationship

Being in a controlling relationship can feel like an enormous weight is crushing down on you. Feeling as though you’re hemmed in and have nowhere to turn can be horrible, particularly if you’ve started to doubt whether your partner has got a cuckold on you or not. But there is hope. We’ve put together this article on how to find out if you’re being controlled, and how to break the mold.

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!

Constant monitoring

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 tripping

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?


More often than not, a controlling partner will likely be an expert at making you feel completely isolated. And this doesn’t only mean being marooned away from loved ones. Constantly being told how to behave, where you can and can’t go, and what you can wear make a controlling relationship feel like a prison. Compromise is an alien concept to a possessive person; they will frequently put their wants in front of yours and neglect your needs. Stopping you from having alone time to read a book or pursue a hobby is also a means to stifle you into submission.

Psychological abuse

Harassing someone to the point that their psychological wellbeing is at stake can also feature in a controlling relationship. The mental anguish that someone can inflict in this sort of scenario comes in many shapes and forms. Verbal abuse, ranging from caustic comments to curse-laden insults, isn’t uncommon. This can also be interlinked with habitual humiliation, both in public and private. On the other hand, a controlling person may cut communication and give their partner the silent treatment for the most petty of reasons. One of the most troubling types of abuse is threatening behavior. The threat of violence is standard here, either directed towards you or, in some cases, onto themselves.

Violent behaviour

Controlling relationships can sometimes boil over into physical and/or sexual violence. It’s so important to realize that if you’ve been the victim of this kind of abuse, you mustn’t be afraid to reach out for help and, if need be, contact the authorities. This isn’t to suggest that the other issues mentioned in this article don’t merit an appropriate response. Nevertheless, if you are at risk of harm, regardless of the severity, you need to know that it’s wholly unacceptable. And in some cases it could very well constitute a criminal offense.

Is it worth trying to save the relationship?

At some point the time will come when you have to ask yourself whether the person who claims to love you but simultaneously puts you down is worth being with. This is also a time for introspection too. Have you been in a controlling relationship previously (or even a string of them)? Do you feel that you deserve the way you’re being treated? Is a healthy relationship possible? When making the decision you need to be brave and put yourself first.

Walking away from a controlling person is an act of strength. Ultimately, people who feel the need to bully their partners probably don’t have a very high self-esteem. Realizing that someone is berating you because they’re unhappy with themselves is never going to be easy, but it’s necessary. Not only will forgetting an ex put an end to your torment, it could hopefully make them see sense in the future

About the author: Alex Rennie

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