These signs your partner is controlling will hopefully help you to make sense of your situation. If you are questioning your relationship, then chances are there is something wrong. Do not override your intuition any longer. You have been programmed to do this and it only benefits the controller. Pay attention to any doubts you have, and if necessary, talk to people you know and trust about them.
Before we go to the list, one of the important signs your partner is controlling is if you find yourself frequently defending their actions. If somebody criticizes your partner and you go straight to "Yes, but..." and you then give a justification for why they do it, then watch out.
Instead of looking at the reasons for the behavior, look specifically at the behavior itself. For example, a controlling person may make you feel bad for a variety of reasons. When you point out that you don't like it, you are told that they do it for the good of the relationship, or because you need to hear it so you can improve yourself, or if you could only change then the relationship would be as good as it was initially. Because of the nature of a controlling relationship, you end up accepting their justifications. What I am suggesting here is that, instead of accepting the justification, it's worth looking at the behavior itself and dealing with that. So, the fact is that your partner is making you feel bad on a regular basis. That's what you pay attention to. Before you met this person, is that the way you imagined a relationship should be? Was it acceptable to you? If you had known you would be treated this way, would you have agreed to start a relationship?
The following list of the signs your partner is controlling are in no particular order. It may help to go through them with a trusted friend or family member (not your partner!) because you may not be able to recognize some of them, while an outsider may see them very clearly.
You think there is something wrong in the relationship but you can't quite pinpoint it.
Your partner tells you that you are the problem (frequently), but you think they may actually be the one in the wrong.
The relationship was fantastic initially, but things are very different presently. Gone are the good times and you are walking on eggshells most of the time now.
Your partner is never at fault if anything goes wrong. They always have excuses and justifications.
You, however, get the blame for everything, even for things that you cannot control.
Your partner lies to you. Sometimes it may be difficult to recognize it, other times it's so blatant you can hardly believe that someone could be so barefaced.
Your partner can be great in public, lively, chatty, charming, friendly, but at home they seem to be somebody else entirely, grumpy, irritable, argumentative, selfish, tyrannical.
Your partner does things that seem cruel to you, but they minimize it or even deny it happened.
Your partner has a very sharp tongue. They know exactly what to say to make you feel two inches tall. And they do it frequently.
They also know how to make you feel great, as well as angry, afraid, sad, guilty and so on.
You feel isolated from friends and family. Whether your partner says upsetting things about them or upsetting things about you because of them, the end result is that you spend less and less time with your support network.
You feel that you cannot tell anyone about what is really happening in your relationship.
They make comments about you and they say they are meant as complimentary, but there is something off about the comments or they even straight up make you feel bad.
They make promises and don’t keep them. They make arrangements and change them at the last minute. You can't depend on them.
They force you into making a decision or a commitment and then expect you to stick rigidly to it.
They have one set of rules for themselves and another set for you.
They change the rules whenever it suits them.
They can break the rules but you can never do so.
They try to convince you that certain things happened when you know they did not, or that things didn't happen when you know they did.
They often have opinions about what you wear, how you have your hair, what you eat and drink and how you spend your time. These opinions are not really opinions, they are instructions. And if you don't follow them, they make things very unpleasant for you.
A partner who keeps you financially dependent is very controlling. This takes various forms. Some manipulators have total control over the finances with their partner knowing literally nothing about how much money there is. Others will spend their partners wages as well as their own. Some controlling people only give their partner just enough money to buy the bare necessities and when they give out money they expect change back and insist on seeing the receipts, too. Others insist on knowing what money their victims are earning and spending and want access to it, while keeping their own finances a secret.
If your partner knows all your passwords and you don't know theirs, and you don't feel you have a right to ask, then you are in a controlling relationship.
If you jump to answer your phone when you know it's your partner because you will get into trouble if you don't, this is one of the significant signs your partner is controlling.
And the flip side is that your partner doesn't always answer their phone unless it suits them.
Your partner insists on knowing all about your day, what you did, who you were with, what was said, what you were thinking, and so on.
You know precious little about their day. In fact, if your partner spends large chunks of time where you don't know where they are or what is going on, this is something that you should pay particular attention to.
Are there lots of unspoken rules? Things that you just know you should or shouldn't do, but these things have never been said out loud? This is indicative that your partner is controlling you outside your awareness. For example, you have learned that a certain subject is taboo. You were not specifically told not to talk about it but you have noticed that when you do, your partner makes a fuss and things are so unpleasant that you decide it's easier not to broach the subject. You have been basically trained not to bring this subject up although it feels to you that it's your decision not to.
Your partner holds information back from you. Not having all the available information means you cannot make fully informed decisions.
Nothing you do is ever enough. No matter how hard you try, or how much time you spend or how much effort you put in to doing it their way, they usually expect or want more.
Oftentimes the controller will say they withheld information to protect you or so that you wouldn't be upset. But being upset would be a normal reaction to this information. The controller is making out that they were doing it for your own good, but in fact, it's actually for their own benefit.
Your partner controls the TV, radio and/or what you read. They may do this by, for example, making you feel bad about reading a certain type of book so that you stop reading just to avoid the potential confrontation. Or they will simply announce that they should watch what they like on the TV in the evening because they have been working all day and it's their time to relax.
They keep you away from their family or people from their past. Basically they don't want you finding out what they are really like from people who know.
They have few or no real friends of their own.
They have a past history of abuse or poor treatment at the hands of their parents, family, exes, etc. This elicits pity from you and makes it easier for them to control your emotions. They will also use this sad story later to justify their bad behavior.
Apart from the sob story they tell, you may know very little else about their past. Even if you ask probing questions, the manage to give you very little information about themselves.
They know ALL about you. Even your darkest secrets.
They contradict themselves a lot. Because they lie so easily and are driven to manipulate and control, they will say whatever it takes to get what they want, whether they believe that or not. And if it contradicts something that they said 5 minutes ago, they just do not care!
There seems to be cycles in the relationship, things are nice, then the tension builds until they they are harsh in some way after which they apologize (rarely) or they deny anything bad happened, then things settle down again but it does not last very long until the tension starts to build again.
The use of sex or intimacy to control. If you do as they want, you are rewarded. If you go against them, sex or intimacy is withheld.
There are the usual verbal signs your partner is controlling, such as:
Frequent shouting, name calling, insults, swearing.
Talking to you with contempt.
Not talking to you for hours or even days at a time.
Refusing to answer your questions, either outright ignoring you or evading the question.
Criticism without ever offering solutions. You are supposed to work out what they want. And even when you try something new, that's not enough either.
And then there are more subtle verbal signs your partner is controlling:
They can talk and talk and talk. This means other people cannot get a word in edge ways. It is also used to get people to agree with them. One psychopath explained how, when he just kept talking, people ended up nodding their head in agreement with him. This type of information overload typically induces altered states in the listeners so that they are unable to think logically and rationally. The information comes in and is processed in real time in small chunks, which seem to make sense. However, the listener has difficulty comparing and contrasting the information with anything else and cannot usually keep the big picture in mind. The listener ends up agreeing to certain things that they would not normally agree to.
During this non-stop chatter, the manipulators will link things together that typically do not have any logical links. They can talk about your social media friends, the wrong groceries you bought, your mother's 'controlling nature' and how brilliant they are, all in the same sentence! For this reason people in abusive relationships often have trouble separating things out and making sense of their situation. "Everything is connected to everything else."
Another type of linkage they make is the 'this means that' formula. "Your complaining about how I talk to your family means that you do not appreciate what I bring to the relationship!" The fact is that a person can appreciate what their partner brings and not like the way the partner talks to the family at one and the same time. The manipulator's logic is faulty. One things does not necessarily mean the other. But the victim is so emotionally upset that they cannot figure this out in the moment. They just feel that if they complain then they are being ungrateful so they stop complaining. This is obviously a win for the manipulator.
When psychopaths or narcissists (whose relationships are based on coercion and exploitation) speak about emotional issues and ideas, they frequently use 'em' and 'uh', indicating that talking about emotional events is a difficult task for them. They are not reliving the feelings but rather they are constructing the ideas cognitively. They tend to use much less emotional terminology than normal, feeling people.
If you listen carefully you will notice that these controllers use a lot of cause-effect phrases such as, 'because', 'so that', 'since' indicating that things had to be done.
They also do things more for basic physiological requirements than higher level needs. Food, shelter, sex and money are more important drivers for these people than family, friendships or spirituality.
When they criticize you, whether they are talking about something you did or something you said, they make it personal. They make it about you. They are not criticizing your behavior, they are criticizing your personality.
You are kept busy, both physically and mentally. You may be expected to do all sorts of tasks for your partner, helping them in their business, going to the post office or bank, doing the shopping and the cleaning, and of course, child-minding. They may also say thing to you that are literally the opposite of reality. If you think of yourself as generous, they call you selfish, if you are honest they call you a liar. The effect of this is to keep you busy trying to figure out why they would say that, are you missing something, do they see something that you do not, etc. etc.
You are expected to forgive them for anything and everything.
They can do certain things and it's ok but if you do it, they twist and distort things and make you feel that you have done wrong.
They do not forgive you. In fact, they will bring up your 'sins' and 'wrongdoings' over and over again, making you feel really bad so that you want to change yourself in some way.
They know so much about you, including all these 'bad things', that you feel that you are completely exposed, you no longer have any privacy or intimacy. You feel inferior, less than.
They can reveal things about you in public but you are expected to be loyal to them and defend them (and never, ever challenge them!) in front of others.
Their ideas, decisions and opinions are the right ones and you are not allowed to have your own but must follow theirs.
They make you feel guilty a lot.
They make you afraid.
You think that you will never find anyone who loves you the way they do.
At the same time you cannot imagine a future without them. The very thought of not being with them causes to to be afraid that you won't be able to manage.
You have thought often of leaving but quickly dismiss the idea.
Or you have actually left a few time already but end up going back to them.
Obviously it's not necessary for all these signs your partner is controlling to be present in order to know that you are in a controlling relationship. But the more of them there are, the more important it is for you to get out.
You can read more about the attitude of the controlling person, stages of an abusive relationship, staying in an abusive relationship, examples of things manipulative people say, dealing with controlling people, how to recognize a psychopath and how to leave an abusive relationship.
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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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