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In romantic relationships, control issues are those little habits that drive you nuts, but you’re not sure how to deal with them. But they’re also the red flags of a toxic relationship and signal that something isn’t quite right.
When there are trust issues present in the relationship, it can be hard to tell whether another person is intentionally trying to control you or if they just have different ideas about life.
Control issues in a relationship signal underlying fears, past experiences, or incompatibilities between partners.
These issues are like indicators that something needs fixing, and thankfully, in normal relationships where communication is possible, there are ways to cope with them so that your relationship doesn’t implode as a result of a controlling partner.
However, in a toxic relationship, your partner will be a control freak, attempting to control every aspect of your life. Partners with a narcissistic personality disorder have a sense of entitlement, and they will control you as part of the abusive relationship.
What are the control issues?
Control issues in a relationship arise when one partner is constantly trying to control the other, and their insistence on controlling every aspect of the relationship causes their partner to feel trapped.
Control is a hot topic in relationships. When someone says, “You never let me do anything at home” or “You always tell me what to do,” it can be a frustrating experience.
Your controlling partner might try to dictate how you spend your free time, who you spend it with, what you wear, what you eat, what websites you visit online, what you do with your money, and so on.
This controlling behavior will be overbearing for you, and the relationship will begin to crumble.
There are two types of control issues in relationships:
- External Control
- Internal Control
External control is when one person dominates another physically or emotionally; for example, when one partner keeps the other in an abusive relationship or holds all the power in a relationship.
External control can feel like a threat to a relationship because it means one person doesn’t trust that the other person can make good decisions on their own.
It can also feel like a threat because it creates unequal power dynamics and puts one person in a position of weakness while putting the other in a position of strength. This kind of control has the potential to come from many places, like physical violence, emotional abuse, financial abuse, and more.
You might think about leaving as soon as possible if you are living in a situation where you are under someone else’s control, there is no way for you to regain your freedom, and your partner is unwilling to discuss their controlling behavior. But please have a safety plan in place.
In the meantime, let’s look at how you can best manage the situation.
What are some signs of control issues?
1. Controlling how you spend your time and with whom
This can include monitoring your social media, demanding that you check in with them often, or showing signs of jealousy about who you’re hanging out with.
When you are on the receiving end of this type of controlling behavior, you will feel trapped in your relationship.
You could become fearful of spending time with friends and family, as your controlling partner will give you a hard time and may give you the silent treatment when you get home.
You will eventually ignore your own need to socialize with close friends and family, and over time, you will become isolated.
When you’re isolated from friends and family, you end up in a position where you are more dependent on your controlling partner and their behavior. The isolation will leave you feeling lonely, overwhelmed, and exhausted, and life will have this heavy feeling.
2. Making you feel guilty for spending time on your own
This might include saying things like “You don’t have any friends,” “You’re too introverted to make new friends now,” or “You don’t deserve to be happy.”
A controlling partner will like to control and consume your time in unhealthy ways. You will not be allowed to have alone time without some drama, which will result in you feeling claustrophobic and trapped.
Not having much time alone can also be very limiting for you as a person, as you don’t get the opportunity to spend time on yourself and your personal growth.
3. Controlling what you wear
This could include making you change out of something you like, telling you that you’re too old or too young to wear something you like, or saying that you’re not feminine enough to wear a particular outfit.
This leads to low self-esteem as you are constantly criticized for your appearance.
If this happens on a regular basis, you will end up being indecisive when it comes to your dress sense, and you will purchase clothes based on what you think your controlling partner would like instead of purchasing something that you actually like.
4. controlling the finances and monitoring expenditures
This might include telling you what bills you should pay first, insisting that you can’t spend money on certain things you need, or asking you why you bought a certain item.
If not monitored, this financial control will over time get out of hand, and your partner will gain full control of all the financial affairs, leaving you dependent.
5. Micromanaging the way you do things
This can include insisting that you do things the “right way” even if you’re used to doing them a different way, trying to control the way you clean your space, or trying to control the way you work.
There is a fine line between making good suggestions and controlling behavior, where your partner is constantly correcting the way you do things.
You will lose your autonomy, develop negative feelings about yourself, and feel that you are unable to do anything correctly on your own.
6. Expecting you to conform to certain ideals
This can include trying to fit you into a certain stereotype or trying to insist that you conform to certain ideals of what relationships should be like according to your partner’s perspective.
Your partner will expect you to conform to their demands to be “a better person” and change yourself to align with what they consider to be an ideal partner. They will convince you that this change is in your best interest.
7. Checking your social media accounts
Signs of a controlling relationship can extend to your controlling partner checking your social media accounts and your phone.
This leads to you becoming more isolated as you feel that you are constantly being watched and judged.
You will be afraid to make a phone call or comment on social media in case your controlling partner makes a judgment and becomes angry.
8. Won’t allow you to make decisions without them
In a controlling relationship, your partner will not allow you to make a decision without them. This will have a negative effect on your mental health and lead to you becoming more isolated and insecure.
This is something that develops over time, so you often will not notice that you are in a position where you are unable to make decisions on your own.
9. Limiting your hobbies
A controlling partner will isolate you from your hobbies and the things that feed your soul. They will find reasons for you to not waste time doing the things that you love.
They do this because they want you to focus on them and their needs rather than spending time on what you would like to do. This leads to feelings of isolation, boredom, and withdrawal.
How to respond to someone who has control issues
If you suspect your partner has control issues, you should approach the topic with care. Trying to confront them head-on and accusing them of having control issues is likely to make them defensive.
Instead, use gentle conversation starters whenever you notice controlling behavior. For example, you could say, “I noticed you’ve been asking me to check in with you a lot. Has something been going on?”
You could also write down any concerns or questions you have and put them in a letter. This gives you an opportunity to express yourself without coming on too strongly.
How to Handle Controlling Behavior in a Relationship
1. Recognize the Signs
The first step in addressing controlling behavior is to acknowledge it. Take a close look at your controlling relationship and identify any signs of control, such as constant criticism, isolation, or manipulation. It’s important to trust your instincts and recognize when something doesn’t feel right.
2. Open Communication
Initiate an open and honest conversation with your partner about your concerns.
Choose a time when you both can sit down without distractions. Use “I” statements to express your feelings and avoid blaming or accusing.
For example, say, “I feel uncomfortable when you check my phone without my permission” instead of “You’re invading my privacy.”
3. Don’t Be Hasty in Expecting Results
It’s crucial to be patient when addressing controlling behavior in a relationship. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it may take time for your partner to recognize their behavior and make improvements.
Give your partner the opportunity to understand the impact of their actions and work towards positive change.
Rushing the process can lead to frustration and resistance, so maintain open communication and encourage progress rather than demanding immediate results.
4. Set Clear Boundaries
Establishing boundaries is crucial in any relationship, but it’s especially important when dealing with controlling behavior.
Clearly define your personal boundaries and communicate them to your partner. Be firm but respectful in expressing what you consider acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
5. Stop catering to His Demands
In a controlling relationship, it’s common for one partner to be constantly catering to the other’s demands.
While it’s natural to want to make your partner happy, try to maintain your independence and boundaries.
Stop constantly doing favors or bending over backward to meet their demands. Encourage equality in the relationship, where both of you contribute and support each other rather than one dominating the other.
6. Be Confident in Yourself
Confidence is a powerful tool in dealing with controlling behavior. Believe in your self-worth and your right to a healthy, respectful relationship.
Confidence can help you assert your boundaries and stand up against manipulative tactics. Remind yourself of your strengths and value as an individual, which will empower you to address control issues more effectively.
7. Be Independent
Maintaining your independence is crucial in any relationship. It’s essential to have your own interests, hobbies, and a life outside of your partner.
Being independent not only helps you maintain a sense of self but also prevents excessive reliance on your partner, which can be exploited in controlling relationships.
Encourage your partner to pursue their interests as well, fostering a balanced partnership.
8. Focus on Self-Care
Dealing with controlling behavior can be emotionally draining. It’s essential to prioritize self-care during this process. Make time for activities that help you relax and reduce stress, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with supportive friends and family.
9. Have a Life Beyond Your Partner
While your relationship is an important part of your life, it should not be your entire world. It’s healthy to have friendships, family connections, and personal goals outside of your romantic relationship.
This support system and perspective outside of the controlling relationship can be invaluable when dealing with controlling behavior.
10. Don’t Fall for the Manipulation
A controlling partner often employs manipulation tactics to maintain their influence over you. It’s essential to recognize these tactics and not fall for them.
Common manipulative behaviors may include guilt-tripping, silent treatment, or gaslighting (making you doubt your perceptions and reality).
Educate yourself about these tactics and, when you encounter them, calmly address them with your partner. Refuse to engage in manipulative conversations and stick to healthy communication practices.
11. Seek Professional Help
If the controlling behavior continues despite your efforts, consider seeking the assistance of a couples therapist or counselor.
A trained professional can provide a safe and neutral environment for both partners to express their concerns and work on solutions together.
Therapy can help uncover the root causes of the control issues and provide strategies for change.
12. Stay Empowered
You have the right to make choices and decisions for yourself. Controlling behavior can often erode your sense of self-worth and independence. Stay empowered by reminding yourself of your strengths and values.
13. Educate Yourself
Understanding the underlying causes of controlling behavior, such as insecurity or past trauma, can be helpful in addressing the issue.
Encourage your partner to seek individual therapy if necessary. Knowledge can empower both of you to work toward a healthier relationship.
14. Consider Your Options
In some cases, controlling behavior may be indicative of an unhealthy or abusive relationship.
If your safety or well-being is at risk, it may be necessary to consider more drastic measures, such as ending the relationship or seeking legal protection.
Your safety and mental health should always be your top priorities.
Why is controlling behavior destructive to a relationship
The main reason controlling behavior is dangerous is that it inhibits your ability to grow and be your best self.
You both deserve to be free. You both deserve to be able to make your own choices, and you both deserve to be loved and appreciated for who you are — imperfections and all.
You deserve a healthy relationship and a partner who will cherish you for who you are and encourage you to be your best self.
If your partner has control issues, they’re likely to be so wrapped up in their own insecurities that they won’t be able to appreciate you for who you are.
They may love you, but they won’t be able to show it because they’re too busy trying to control you.
A controlling person tends to need to rule the lives of others and their sense of reality is off-center.
When is controlling behavior Considered abusive?
If your partner has control issues, they may escalate over a period of time. They might start out controlling you in minor ways, but they’ll eventually take it too far and start crossing the line into abuse.
The subtle signs that controlling behavior is leading to abuse include:
- extreme jealousy
- frequent put-downs
- denial of your basic rights
- accuses you of flirting with other people or
- insists you stay away from certain friends or family members
Andrea Bonlor Ph.D. a relationship expert says “some controlling partners are acting out of a sense of emotional fragility and heightened vulnerability, and may perhaps show traits of Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. Controlling people use a whole arsenal of tools in order to dominate their partners—whether they or their partners realize what’s happening or not.”
Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria is when a person experiences a severe sensitivity to criticism and rejection.
She adds that at times the emotional manipulation is so complex that the person being controlled feels that they are actually in the wrong. This is further aggravated by the fact that this behavior can lead to physical abuse.
Partners who do this have personality disorders and it may be a good idea to contact the national domestic violence hotline for advice.
If you have good reason to believe that your controlling partner is abusive please exercise caution, get advice and support, and do not take your partner on directly.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are control issues in a relationship?
Control issues in a relationship refer to situations where one partner seeks to dominate, manipulate, or exert excessive influence over the other partner’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors, or choices. These issues can manifest in various ways, such as jealousy, possessiveness, monitoring, or imposing rigid rules.
2. What are some common signs of control issues in a relationship?
Common signs of control issues in a relationship include constant criticism, isolation from friends and family, monitoring communication, excessive jealousy, making decisions without the other’s consent, and withholding affection or approval as a form of control.
3. How can I address control issues in my relationship?
Addressing control issues in your relationship requires open and honest communication. Start by expressing your concerns and feelings to your partner. Seek couples counseling or therapy if necessary, as a trained professional can provide guidance and tools for healthier communication and boundaries.
4. Can control issues be resolved in a relationship?
Yes, control issues can be resolved with effort and commitment from both partners. It’s essential for both individuals to acknowledge the problem, work on their own behaviors, and be willing to compromise. Resolving control issues often requires patience and time, but it is possible.
5. What role do boundaries play in dealing with control issues?
Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries is crucial when dealing with control issues. Boundaries help define what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior within the relationship. Communicate your boundaries clearly and respectfully, and ensure both partners understand and respect each other’s limits.
6. When should I seek professional help with control issues?
Seeking professional help is advisable if control issues persist despite your efforts to address them. Consider couples therapy or counseling when control issues are causing significant distress, harm, or emotional damage in the relationship. A trained therapist can provide guidance, facilitate communication, and help both partners work through their issues.
In the journey of love and companionship, it’s natural to encounter challenges, and one such obstacle can be controlling behavior.
Recognizing, addressing, and overcoming this issue is a vital step toward nurturing a healthy, balanced, and fulfilling relationship.
Believe in your own worth and your right to a relationship built on respect, trust, and mutual support.
You deserve a relationship where both partners can flourish as individuals and as a couple.
With the right strategies and a commitment to positive change, you can build a strong and loving partnership that empowers both you and your partner to thrive.