The signs of a controlling partner can be obvious to outsiders although it may be very difficult for the victim to see them. The reasons for this are many and varied as we will see later.
If you are reading this article, then presumably you see the signs of a controlling partner in your own relationship or that of someone close to you and you are looking for validation.
So let's have a look at things that are said and done in relationships that indicate an imbalance of power that allow for one person to abuse and exploit others. The following list is in no particular order.
I will provide links to other articles throughout the list so that if you want more details about how the technique works, as well as the effects it has on your perception, thinking, decision-making, emotions and behaviour, you can delve a bit deeper.
Keep in mind that not all of these things have to be in place for the relationship to be controlling and abusive.
First of all, the victim may not recognize that some of the signs are actually in play. Secondly, any particular controlling or manipulative person will favour some techniques over others. They may be very good at some things and not so good at others so they will obviously use more of what is working for them.
Your partner lies to you. When you call them out, they lie even more.
Anything bad that happens is always your fault. Anything good that happens, they take credit for.
They know how to make you feel incredibly good and they know how to make you feel incredibly bad.
You feel you are on an emotional rollercoaster because you actually are on an emotional rollercoaster.
You have to ask permission for everything. Even if they are not present, you check in your head if what you're about to do will upset them or not. If it will upset them, you don't do it. If you think they will be pleased you go ahead.
They criticise your family and friends. They keep reminding you about these people's faults. The end result is that you spend less time with friends and more time alone or with the manipulator.
This means you controlling partner becomes your main source of information. If you realise you pay more attention to the manipulator than anybody else around you, to the point that you can't do anything unless they are agreeable, then you are in trouble.
Your partner determines what you wear.
Your partner controls your hairstyle.
Your partner influences what or how much you eat and drink.
Your partner controls the finances. If you have to provide justifications for what you buy as well as receipts, then this indicates a huge level of control. If you have actually no idea where the money in the relationship goes, this is a major warning sign.
You have lots of arguments about the same thing over and over again. You may think that your communication skills are poor, your partner simply doesn't understand, your partner is unable to put himself or herself in your shoes, or even that you are being unreasonable or argumentative for having such arguments. The fact is that your partner understands precisely where you are coming from. They just don't care. They barely listen to you but they take the opportunity to repeat their arguments until such time as you give up what you want or give in to their demands.
You feel you have to tell your partner everything about yourself. You have been programmed to give the manipulator lots of information. This information is used against you.
You realise you don't actually know very much about them. Some manipulators will even disappear for days at a time without letting the partner know where they are, who they are with what they are up to.
You may think that you no longer know who you are. You're not sure how you got to this point. If you look closely, you will realise that you changed little by little over time. This was done to you deliberately. The manipulator made you feel bad about certain aspects of yourself and in order to please the manipulator you changed.
You are being subjected to a system of rewards and punishments. You may not have thought about it in these terms. Whenever you did something that displeased the manipulator, you were made to feel bad. When you behaved as required, there was some kind of reward. The reward simply may have been that there was no argument.
You desperately want the approval of your controlling partner. When they criticize you you may think that you don't want the criticism, you really want compliments instead. You know what it's like to receive compliments because at the start of the relationship everything was fantastic. The criticism actually motivates you to step up and try harder to please your partner. This may sound ridiculous, but it's what happens in mind control environments.
A controlling partner has lots of rules. All the rules are for you. They don't follow the same rules as you.
They will change these rules any time they like and they may not even tell you the rules have changed. You only find out when you get into trouble for having broken a new rule.
Everything was great at the start. Your partner made you feel loved, cared for, special, one-of-a-kind. You believed you had met Mr Right or Miss Perfect. Now, they are usually picking on you, finding faults everywhere, making you feel miserable and even complaining about how you have changed. You wistfully think of how nice it was the start and you live in hope, hope that if you can just get it right, they will be pleased and you can have nice times again.
Lots of lies. Lies of omission, lies of distortion and outright lies to your face.
Manipulative people actually have few real friends. This is one of the reasons your partner was able to give you so much attention at the start of the relationship. They will often make your friends their friends. It is said that these people have acquaintances and victims, and eventually the acquaintances become victims, too.
They define everyday normal activities as sins, mistakes or wrongdoings on your part. For example, they make you feel bad about talking to your family or spilling a glass of water. These things are not bad in and of themselves, but they make out that you are somehow defective for engaging in these behaviours.
Any sins, errors, slip-ups on your part are never forgiven. For example, they will remind you about these things over and over again when they want to make you feel bad. In other words, they don't forgive you anything.
However, you are expected to forgive them anything and everything. They insist that you put up with all sorts of illogical, unreasonable and abusive behaviour and not complain about it or ever mention it again.
You are expected to be obedient, dependent and loyal. You are not allowed to talk badly about them in public or mention any of their foibles.
They, on the other hand, have no difficulty saying whatever they like about you to other people.
You may find that they have hidden information about themselves from you at the start of the relationship. Not just little things, but big things, too. They will hide such things as a criminal record, financial problems, drug use and so on from you. Of course, they will have all sorts of reasons and justifications for having done so. Again, you are expected to forgive and forget.
They will create a very particular world for you and expect you to live within this reality. You typically won't recognise what's happening until you're well into it. This reality includes the fact that they are superior, more intelligent, more deserving and an all round better human being than you are. Your role in this reality is to look after them, care for them, provide for their every need and make their life more comfortable in every way. Think slave.
They have made themselves the centre of your universe. Everything you do revolves around them, or rather their well-being. This typically happens step-by-step over time and because you are inside it it's very difficult to recognize what's actually happening. Outsiders will tell you that your partner is not good for you, they are controlling, you need to leave and such things but because of your disordered perceptions and thinking, you cannot see it.
You have also been programmed not to tolerate criticism of your partner. In fact, you have been trained to stand up and defend them when you hear criticism. This often causes arguments and discord between you and your friends and family.
Your partner may call you names.
There are often insults.
Your partner may shout and swear at you.
Your partner knows how to make you feel 2 inches tall with a look or a gesture or a tone of voice.
Your partner often says or does things that makes it almost impossible for you to think. This means that you find it difficult to argue with them.
You are not allowed to criticise or challenge them. If you do they get incredibly angry and you end up backing down. The pattern here is that they do not allow you to challenge their dominance. Even if they perceive you are taking them on, they will retaliate hard. This explains some of their unexpected outbursts. You have no clue what was going on but they had simply perceived a challenge from you. They cannot tolerate this and they do whatever it takes to let you know who's boss.
They know how to make you feel guilty. They make you feel guilty a lot. They make you feel guilty about all sorts of things, for example, who you are, who you are not, your family, your past, your work, your hobbies, your friends, and even your thoughts, feelings and actions. They will make you feel guilty for things that happen around you. They will make you feel guilty for things that happened in the past. They will make you feel guilty for things that even have nothing to do with you, things that are not even your responsibility.
They will also make you afraid. Sometimes there is so much fear that the victim doesn't even know what they're afraid of anymore. It's just a generalised terror of upsetting the controlling partner.
They make you feel that you are lucky to be with them.
They make you think that you will never find anybody as good as them.
They create a phobia in you of not being able to survive without them.
They may even tell you that you are who you are today because they made you that way. They claim that you're successful because you're with them. They claim that you only have the luxuries in life that you have because they have provided them.
They keep you busy. They keep you busy physically and they keep you busy mentally. This means you don't have time to relax and ponder and reflect on your life.
They repeat things a lot. They repeat the things that they want in your head. This repetition is very important because when you hear things repeatedly you end up believing them.
The vast majority of things they say about you are not actually true. This is difficult to understand because when they say it it seems that there is actually evidence that what they're saying is true. However, it's usually a setup. They do something to make you angry, and when you actually get angry they accuse you of having anger issues. They start an argument, and accuse you of being argumentative. When they point out that you are argumentative, because you're in the middle of an argument, it seems that they are right. But remember, they are the ones who started the argument.
They criticize who you are rather than your behaviours or your beliefs or what you say. Instead of saying that your response is pathetic or your belief is ridiculous, they say you are pathetic or you are ridiculous for responding in such a way of believing such things. This attack on your identity is the first step in changing your personality. It also destroys your self esteem. It makes you doubt yourself. Because you doubt yourself you end up checking with them more and more. This augments the dependency on them.
A controlling partner can be very competitive. They don't just want to be the best, they also want to be the first, the first to arrive home if you're both driving in separate cars, the first to find a solution, the first to have a good idea, the first to get a new car and so on.
They will also know how to shut down your thinking. A look, a gesture, a phrase or a tone of voice they use will literally make you unable to think. You are unable to continue the conversation or the argument. You are no longer able to continue criticizing them. It's as if they know how to switch off your critical faculties.
Their ideas are the right ones, their beliefs are not only correct but they insist that their beliefs are reality. They claim that they can tell you how the world really is without emotional bias. Your ideas and beliefs, of course, are ridiculous, stupid, wrong, childish, pathetic, go against what everybody else in the world believes, are crazy and generally mean that there is something wrong with you because you have such ideas and beliefs.
Their decisions are perfect. You, on the other hand, are completely incapable of making decisions. According to them!
If you are struggling to make sense of your relationship, or you know there's something wrong but you can't put your finger on it, or your partner continually blames you but you think it's your partner is the problem, then this is also an indication that you are in a controlling relationship.
If you are seeing many of these signs of a controlling partner in your own relationship, then you really need to take action. In this situation, knowledge is power. Educating yourself is the best first step you can take.
Understanding whether you're controlling partner has a personality disorder is fundamental. Dealing with psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists is not the same as dealing with somebody who is narrow-minded or strict or fixed in their ways. It's a whole different ballpark.
You can read more here about the characteristics of a psychopath, the signs of mental abuse, the stages of an abusive relationship, the dynamics in a narcissistic relationship and healing from emotional abuse.
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If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
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