Within the past month, I've had two different people ask me if it was OK to step into their friends' relationships. They were both concerned that their friends' partners were manipulative and controllingbut they weren't sure if they should say anything and had no idea what to say if they were to bring it up. No one likes a busybody, which is why we believe we should stay out of other people's relationships — but that isn't always the case.
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We have all had toxic people dust us with their poison. Difficult people are drawn to the reasonable ones and all of us have likely had or have at least one person in our lives who have us bending around ourselves like barbed wire in endless attempts to please them — only to never really get there. Being able to spot their harmful behaviour is the first step to minimising their impact.
We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on thiswe may earn a small commission. A controlling partner may not always be easy to spot. Perhaps it started out with your partner wanting to spend all of their time with you and learning all the details of your life. It felt great having so much attention.
But somewhere along the line, it started feeling like a bit too much for you.
You seem to crave the privacy and autonomy you once had. You feel you have to calculate every move around your partner. This is particularly the case if you love them and they say they love you. Relationships with controlling partners may be more common than many think. People of every gender identity can behave in controlling ways or can be on the receiving end of these behaviors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC states that more than 43 million women and 38 million men have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner, which includes controlling behaviors. Although the control may be obvious when your partner explicitly asks you to behave in certain ways, there are some subtler controlling ways that might lead you to feel confused and overwhelmed.
Learning some of these s may help you make an informed and safe decision about your relationship. If you jump into hot water, your reaction might be to rush out of it. But what happens when you step into lukewarm water and slowly turn the heat up? This analogy may help you understand the dynamics of a controlling relationship. You may even start getting used to some of them.
Not all controlling partners behave in the same way, though. There are many degrees of control, and the control may be subtly integrated into your relationship. What really matters is how you feel about these behaviors. Do they make you feel insecure, uncomfortable, or hand-tied about some aspects of yourself and your life? This may be a red flag in itself.
Control freaks are always aware of what they’re doing, right?
But it may be the latter if your partner routinely makes decisions for you. They may also make arrangements with your friends without asking you first, or they may paint or redecorate according to their taste only. Any of these behaviors on their own might not mean anything in particular.
Instead of admitting that they invaded your privacy in the first place, they might shift the blame to you in order to avoid responsibility for their choices. Criticism can look like making jokes about you in front of other people, disparaging the way you dress, or always pointing out mistakes — like the one place you forgot to shave your legs or a little bit of dust you forgot to clean on the floor.
You feel on edge around your friend's partner
Over time, constant criticism can erode your sense of self-confidence, and it may also lead you to act in certain ways to avoid being criticized. A controlling romantic partner may try to prevent you from living your life as you typically would. They might:. This behavior can be subtle, like tuning out the conversation when you share stories about other people or giving you an eye roll when you answer phone calls. It can also be more overt. A controlling partner may complain about how much spend time you spend with other people, like friends or family.
They may even act in certain ways that create friction when your friends or family are around. They can also isolate you by demanding your attention with a crisis, in order to prevent you from following through on plans with other people.
They might give you the silent treatment whenever you choose to spend time with someone else. A controlling partner may downplay an experience, like an angry outburst, and then accuse you of being overly sensitive. They may even deny saying things, lie to you or tell you that your gut instinct is wrong.
This goes for physical boundaries as well. Being in a relationship with a controlling partner can be exhausting. It may take a toll on your self-esteem, moods, and your outlook in life. The thing is, however, that the way they behave is only about them and has nothing to do with how you behave. This, in turn, could make you feel worse. Controlling behavior may actually be a defense mechanism for some people — an attempt to cope with a strained inner world.
What makes a control freak tick?
This may be a clinical symptom of a mental health condition. For example, it may be a of a personality disorderunresolved abuse or trauma, or depression. But providing that support may not be up to you.
A controlling partner may demand all of the attention, and a codependent partner may assume this control is love and be willing to give them that attention. Codependency, like controlling behavior, could be an attempt to cope with distressing situations. Sometimes, codependent people may end up in relationships with controlling partners.
They become controlling, too. For example, perhaps you had a parent with an inconsistent mood, relaxed one day and lashing out the next. You may have learned to adjust your personality, behavior, and needs according to what was happening in the house that day. As you age, you may subconsciously gravitate towards interpersonal situations that feel familiar to what you experienced in childhood.
Change is possible, though. Reaching out to a mental health professional can help you learn to manage both controlling behavior and codependency.
Dealing with difficult people
Although childhood experiences may affect your adult relationships, you always have the chance to heal and improve your quality of life. To set boundaries in your relationship, consider these tips:. It can also be helpful to adjust your expectations.
In order to heal, a controlling person has to want to change for themselves. You may also want to focus on behaviors and actions instead of words. A controlling partner may offer you change or make promises about the future. Some of these can be worked on and overcome with professional help.
These behaviors includes punching walls, breaking or throwing objects, or bringing weapons into the house.
Being in a controlling relationship can be a confusing and overwhelming experience. Help is available. TalkSpace and BetterHelp offer services online, so you can do therapy with a professional from the comfort of your own home. You can also find an Al-Anon meeting. Are you in a relationship with a narcissist? You're likely to be on the receiving end of some of these manipulation tactics and games.
Having any type of relationship with someone with narcissistic personality may be challenging, and even more so if they have extreme and vindictive…. Feeling lonely is not uncommon. Here's what the experts say about why you feel this way and how to stop that loneliness feeling. Are You in a Relationship with a Controlling Partner? Medically reviewed by Janet Brito, Ph. s you may be in a controlling relationship.
How being in a controlling relationship can affect you. Why someone needs to control. Codependency and controlling relationships. How to set boundaries. Next steps. How to Stop Feeling Lonely. Read this next. Medically reviewed by Karin Gepp, PsyD. How to Stop Feeling Lonely Feeling lonely is not uncommon.