When we think of controlling behavior, most of us picture a toxic and abusive relationship where one partner is controlling.

Unfortunately, that thinking is wrong because that kind of behavior doesn’t only happen in romantic relationships.

People who like to control others can be found all around us. Controlling behavior can happen in every kind of relationship; among family members, between friends, even between co-workers.

Being in a controlling relationship greatly affects a person’s life. Actually, it changes someone’s life completely.

First, it makes you forget about everything and everyone around you. Then it makes you forget your worth and eventually, it makes you lose yourself. It drains you completely.

What is controlling behavior?

confused looking woman sitting in bench in the park

Controlling behavior is when someone manipulates another person into doing something they want.

Mind games, gaslighting, emotional manipulation…Those are only a few techniques that controlling partners use to mess with their partner’s mind.

First, they make their partners emotionally dependent on them. Then, they manipulate them into behaving in a way that suits them the most.

We have all met those couples where one partner is dominant and wants to be ‘in charge’ all the time, while the other is always silent and agrees with everything their partner does and says.

So many people get stuck in a controlling relationship. They have strong feelings for their partners and it becomes so hard for them to break free from that emotional abuse.

Sometimes, sadly, they even become victims of domestic violence.

I’m sure we all know that one family where one of the parents is so overprotective of their children that it causes them to become too controlling.

They want to know everything about their kids and they want them to respect their rules even when they become young adults.

Unfortunately, those parents aren’t aware of the consequences their behavior can have on their children.

That kind of toxic relationship leaves indelible marks on children’s mental health and their self-esteem.

We have all encountered those annoying co-workers who think that they’re better than us at least once. Ugh, they’re the worst!

They do the same job as you, but they act as if they’re your boss. They tell others what to do, they make others do their job and in the end, they take all the credit for a job well done.

This kind of abusive behavior can also be found in friendships. If your friend thinks that they have the right to control your life, even if they are your best friend, you have to end that relationship.

These are all examples of controlling relationships and behaviors. Despite many red flags, unfortunately, sometimes it’s very hard to spot a controlling person.

Signs of controlling behavior

Sometimes it can be extremely hard to spot a controlling person, but here are some subtle signs that can help you.

1. They need to know every move you make and every step you take

man answering phone inside the living room

Whatever you do, wherever you go, you have to tell them first. They want to know where you are every single minute of the day.

They text you all day and ask you where you are or when you’ll be back home. You aren’t allowed to do anything without their permission, or at least without discussing it with them first.

If you’re too busy to text them back immediately, they get angry and accuse you of cheating or not making them a priority in your life.

2. Isolating you from other important people in your life

beautiful pensive woman near the glass windows near the garden

Their goal is to separate you from your family and friends. They want to isolate you from your loved ones because they represent a threat to them.

They know that those people want only the best for you and that they’ll try to talk to you about your unhealthy and manipulative relationship.

They are afraid of your family and friends and they’ll do just about anything to stop them from having that talk with you.

They want to make you believe that they’re the only ones you can trust.

That’s why they will make up stories about your family and friends and lie about them, just to make you think that you can’t trust them.

3. They behave completely different in front your family or friends

group of people sitting and chatting enjoying their tea

You’ll see how they’ll make you confused. First, they’ll talk bad about your family and friends, but they’ll behave completely differently in front of them.

They’ll behave normal, as if they don’t have a bad opinion about them. They’ll make them laugh and compliment them often.

They’ll show completely different faces when they’re in front of your loved ones. You won’t know what they actually mean and how they feel about them.

Trust me, they don’t mean it like that. They don’t respect or love your family, like you think – they just don’t want them to suspect their real intentions.

4. You aren’t allowed to have a life outside the relationship

nagging young woman to a man sitting next to her while having their tea time inside the dining area

They’ll get angry if they ever see you talking or drinking coffee with some of your friends or colleagues. They’ll make you think that your relationship is the only thing that should be important in your life.

After they make you emotionally dependent on them, you’ll ask for their permission for everything you do.

They want to control every part of your life and soon enough you’ll see how it’s affecting all aspects of your life.

Your career won’t progress. You’ll never be able to try new opportunities.

You’ll lose all your connections. You won’t achieve your dreams and goals.

5. Your self-esteem suffers

woman head on arms against the wall wearing jacket

Victims of controlling people are exactly those with low self-esteem. They know they are easy to control because of their lack of confidence.

Even though you started that relationship with low self-esteem issues, your confidence will still be greatly affected by your controlling partner.

They’ll make you feel like they are better than you in everything. No matter what you do, it’ll never be enough for them.

6. They make you doubt your self-worth

woman listen to a man sitting next to her inside the dining area

This is the consequence of low self-esteem. Your partner will make you think that you aren’t good enough.

Their intention is to make you think that you aren’t worthy of being loved and that you won’t find someone new if you decide to put an end to the relationship.

Because you are dealing with a great manipulator, after some time, you really start doubting your self-worth.

You start believing that he is the only man who could ever love someone like you and that’s why you start protecting your relationship more than ever.

7. Guilt tripping

unhappy crying woman and an angry man leaving the woman behind outdoors

Guilt tripping is a favorite technique from a manipulator to make you do something they want. They’ll even mention something that happened a long time ago just to get what they want.

They know how you think and feel. They know that by making you feel guilty, you’ll do whatever they want just to get their forgiveness and stop feeling guilty.

8. You have to prove your feelings

woman consoling an upset man sitting next to her inside living room

They make you prove your love for them all the time but when you ask that from them, they get upset because you doubt their feelings. Your words are never enough but they are.

You never even gave them any reason to doubt your love and it’s confusing for you why you should have to prove your love again and again.

9. You walk on eggshells around them all the timeblonde haired woman looking far ahead

You never know where you stand with them. They change their behavior a lot.

One moment they make you think like they really love you but the next moment, they behave like you did something really bad to them and they can’t forgive you.

You can never be relaxed because you never know how they’ll behave. You don’t feel comfortable around them anymore.

You feel like they watch your every move and you’re right. They’re waiting for you to make a mistake so they can turn that against you and continue with their tactique of guilt tripping.

10. You aren’t allowed to speak up

Asian couple arguing sitting in the sofa inside living room

You are never allowed to speak up because your opinion isn’t important. You just have to listen to them and agree with them because they’re always right.

You shut yourself off from others because you really start thinking that what you have to say isn’t important to anyone.

If something bothers you, you keep it to yourself because you’re afraid of telling your partner. That’s what makes your relationship instantly unhealthy.

11. They get mad if you do something without asking them first

man talk in anger to a woman leaning against the wall

They get used to being asked for permission. They behave like they own you, like they have every right to control your life.

If you do something without consulting them first, even if it was some insignificant thing, they get so mad that they won’t even talk to you afterward.

If you did something wrong or made some foolish mistake, they’ll automatically give you the silent treatment. They’ll make you work hard for their forgiveness.

12. They have sudden outburst of emotions

arguing young couple in the breakfast table

In front of your family and friends, they’ll show their affection and they’ll shower you with compliments.

They want to do that in front of them because they want to make others think that they are a perfect partner.

Sometimes they’ll even behave like that when you’re alone. It’ll happen when they notice that you’ve changed somehow.

They want to make you confused by showing you that they do care for you deeply after all.

Sometimes they’ll get so angry without any reason. They may even show some abusive behavior.

People who have a strong need to control someone else definitely have some mental health issues, so it’s no wonder that they have these mood swings.

13. Constant criticism

couple dressed up for a party talking while man smoking cigar

You are constantly criticized by them. Their intention is to make you think that you aren’t good enough and that you never will be, no matter what you do.

They think that the more they repeat it, the sooner you’ll start believing it. It’ll also affect your self-worth. It destroys your self-esteem.

Constant criticism is a toxic habit. It won’t just affect your confidence and mental health, it will also destroy your intimacy.

14. They make you feel like you don’t deserve them

woman in athletic wear holding a cup of coffee thinking

They know that if they make you think like you don’t deserve them, it will make you fight to keep them in your life.

They make you believe that they’re better than you in every possible way. Then, their controlling begins.

When they become sure that they’ve convinced you that you don’t deserve them at all, they start asking you to do things for them.

15. They spy on you

young man spy on girlfriends smartphone while having a sushi date night

They want to control your life and that’s why they need to know everything about you. They don’t trust anyone, you especially, and they start spying on you.

They go through your things, they follow you wherever you go, and they take your phone to see who you’re chatting with.

16. They make unnecessary drama

sorrowful woman sitting next to a man in a sofa inside living room

When you make a little mistake, they make a big deal of it. This is because they know that by making you feel guilty it will be easier to control you.

Also, they want others to hear that you’ve made a mistake while they are a perfect partner.

17. There are no boundaries at all

upset woman leaning against an old wooden wall wearing orange turtleneck top

Every healthy relationship is based on setting boundaries. Manipulative partners know that setting those boundaries will stop them from being able to control their partner’s life.

Even if you had some healthy boundaries when you started dating, those boundaries are gone now for sure.

They crossed all your boundaries at the very beginning of your relationship and you allowed them to do it because you were in love with them.

18. They are overly jealous

man spying on her woman meeting another man

Like we have already said, they don’t want you to have a life outside your relationship. They are jealous of all of your friends and co-workers.

They can’t stand to see you with someone else, even if you’ve never given them any reason to doubt your loyalty.

This is another cause of controlling behavior.

19. They threaten you with ultimatums

man scolding upset woman pointing to woman

The first time your partner gives you an ultimatum, you should end the relationship because they’re only trying to manipulate you into doing what they want.

Controlling partners always give ultimatums to their partners. Most often, they threaten to hurt themselves if their partner doesn’t do what they want them to.

Making ultimatums is one of the techniques of a manipulator.

They give their partner ultimatums because they know they don’t want to hurt their feelings and that’s why they’ll accept it and do whatever is asked of them.

20. Physical abuse

abused crying woman with bruised over her face in gray theme

Unfortunately, most of the cases of a controlling partner in an intimate relationship end with physical abuse.

Because of their frequent outbursts of emotions, some controlling partners become aggressive and violent. They start punishing their partners every time they make a mistake.

There are several reasons why some people put up with physical abuse in a relationship.

They might be afraid to tell anyone about it because they’re afraid of their partner or they think that no one would believe them.

Their feelings for their partner are too strong and it makes them believe that they’ll change one day and regret their behavior.

They can become too emotionally dependent on their partners and they are afraid to lose them. That’s why they start thinking that the abuse is normal.

What causes controlling behavior?fashion portrait of a man posing over wall posing

There are so many reasons why some people feel the need to control others and some are very difficult to recognize.

If someone had a traumatic experience in a past relationship or they were emotionally abused themselves, they’ll try to control their partner because they don’t want to repeat their awful past experiences.

Some people have trust issues that mean they don’t trust anyone easily, especially an intimate partner. Those issues make them want to control their partner’s life.

Some people control their partner’s lives because of a fear of abandonment. They love their partners too much and they don’t want to ever lose them.

Neither they nor their partners are aware of the fact that they’re in a controlling relationship.

There are some people who simply have the need to be ‘in charge’ all the time. They feel the need to control the lives of everyone around them.

Low self-esteem can also make a person become controlling. If you lack self-confidence, it can trigger so many unpleasant feelings like anxiety, depression, and jealousy.

The anxiety makes someone become controlling because they think that’s the only way they can protect themselves from experiencing bad things in the future.

How to deal with a controlling person?

woman thinking over railings with a view of the city's building near a body of water

Dealing with a controlling person isn’t easy because in most cases people aren’t aware at all that they’re being controlled.

However, if you notice some of the previous signs and realize that your partner or someone else is controlling you, here is how you can deal with it most effectively.

• Reconnect with your family and friends

Get in touch with your family and friends. Say how sorry you are for allowing someone to stand between them and you.

Ask them to hang out. Talk with them. These people are the ones who know you the best and I’m sure they can give you the best advice about your controlling relationship.

• Feel free to speak up

You have every right to express your opinion about everything. Relationships are all about equality and if your partner can’t take it, then it’s their problem, not yours.

If something bothers you, you should also feel free to tell your loved one. That’s how healthy relationships function.

You have to be able to speak about your own feelings.

• Don’t be afraid to say NO

If you aren’t okay with something, tell your partner. You don’t have to agree on everything with them. Don’t be afraid of their reaction.

Even if they make a fight out of it, you shouldn’t be worried. Conflicts and fights are also part of a relationship, what’s important is how your partner and you will deal with it.

• It’s time to reset your boundaries

Boundaries must exist in every healthy relationship. Trust me, the main cause of your partner’s abusive behavior is the lack of boundaries in your relationship.

Well, now is the time to reset those boundaries. Think about it and decide what things bother you in your relationship.

• Pay more attention to yourself and your own well-being

Your loved one isn’t the only person that matters in your relationship. You matter also. Your feelings matter. You have to start paying more attention to yourself.

• Work on your self-confidence

If you have low self-esteem, it’ll make you a perfect target for a controlling person. Don’t allow it. Work on your self-confidence and be brave enough to put an end to being controlled.

• Remind yourself of your self-worth

You are worth it. You are good enough. Your partner isn’t better than you. You deserve to be loved and treated with respect.

Never allow anyone to convince you otherwise.

• Don’t change yourself anymore

Stop changing for a person who doesn’t respect you. Don’t lose your identity over someone who has never actually loved you.

If you allow someone to change you completely, you’ll never be the same and that’s something you won’t ever be able to forgive yourself for.

• Seek professional help if it’s necessary

If manipulative behavior has become physical abuse too, the best option for you is to seek professional help. They’ll take care of you best.

If you’re a victim of any kind of abuse or you know someone who is, you MUST contact the National Domestic

Violence Hotline organization. It is available 24 hours a day.

Sometimes it’s possible to solve this problem and save your relationship through communication. You should talk with the other person about their controlling behavior and ask them if they’re ready to change it to keep you.

On the other hand, sometimes you have no other choice but to put an end to your relationship and save yourself from a manipulator that is never going to change.

Controlling Behavior: Signs, Causes, And How To Deal With It