If you’ve recently started asking yourself “When did this relationship go from being a loving romance to an emotionally draining battlefield?” and you’re wondering how to distance yourself from the toxic partner you’re currently with, it could be a sign that he or she is trying to control, and even command your relationship.
Control freaks are skilled manipulators and will play you into believing that you are being controlled for your own sake, and you being resistant is serious disrespect. They can enter your head and make you believe that your relationship is quite normal. They may even give you examples that most people behave the way they do. They will guilt-trip you for fighting with them and being unable to understand their love.
2. They keep an overactive scorecard
There is a sense of reciprocity built into healthy and stable relationships. You look out for each other, and you don’t keep notes of every little you do. If he or she keeps score of every interaction within the relationship – whether it is to hold a grudge, demand favors as payback, or simply be patted on the back – it may very well be their way of keeping you under control. And this can be downright emotionally draining.
3. They are trying to isolate you from your loved ones
The only way someone can gain unquestioned control over you is if they isolate you from your loved ones. This is one of the most apparent signs of a controlling person and it is additionally one of the most dangerous as it presents a high degree of manipulation.
If your partner is controlling, they may not only detest you spending time with the important people in your life but may even attempt to turn you against them (“Your mother/friend sure treats you like garbage”), so you think distancing yourself is a positive thing.
4. You feel like you need to hide innocent things from them
Let’s say you decide to attend a spontaneous happy hour after work or unexpectedly meet a friend on the street and get sidetracked catching up. Have you consciously found yourself avoiding to tell your partner about it? If there are many little secrets you feel like you need to keep from your partner due to fear of their judgment it may be a sign he or she is controlling.
5. They spy on you
A control freak normally thinks that they have every right to know what you are doing at all times. Whether they secretly spy on you or outright demand that you share everything with them, it is all a violation of boundaries. Maybe they check your phone, log into your social media account, or restlessly track your browser history, and then justify their actions by saying they have suffered before, have trust issues, or the golden: “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, then why do you care?” It’s an attack on your privacy coupled with the unsettling message that they have zero interest in trusting you and rather prefer to take on a detective-like presence within your relationship.
6. They treat you more like a child than an equal
When you lived with your family growing up, you could not leave the house dressed in certain ways or come home after certain hours. It wasn’t a cool experience, but after all, that’s what parents are for. Your partner, however, should always treat you as an equal.
Strict rules on who you spend time with, what you eat, or how you spend your free time are not alright. It is a form of excess possession and projection that can be seen as flattering, but at the same time very damaging.
7. They drown you in criticism
Similarly to isolation, criticism is something that often starts small. You may attempt to convince yourself that your partner’s criticism is warranted, or that they are simply trying to help you become a better person. Or they may try to make you feel that it’s normal, saying that it isn’t such a big deal or that you shouldn’t take it personally.
But in the end, regardless of how small an individual criticism appears to be, if it is part of an ongoing dynamic with your relationship, it would be very difficult to feel accepted, validated, and truly loved. If all the small things you do could use some improvement in the eyes of your partner, then how exactly is it that you are being valued as a true equal, never mind being loved unconditionally
What you can do? A single one of the listed signs probably doesn’t mean you’re in a controlling relationship – especially if it happens rarely.
Maybe your partner had a moment of weakness and read a message you received on the internet.
But if a good number of these signs construct a controlling pattern, take timely action before the behavior becomes abusive.
Try to share how you feel with your partner. Don’t jump to saying things like “You’re controlling!” and instead try “I feel distrusted when you tell me I cannot hang out with my friend.” Your partner may be open to hearing that kind of language.
The next step is to try reaching out to those friends and family members who you have been avoiding since your relationship started. After all, they will be your main source of support who can help you in navigating your relationship challenges and will give you the validation and strength necessary to make level-headed decisions. Should your relationship start to slip into abusive territory, those people will be your main pillars of support and will help you get out.
In addition, you can try convincing your partner to accompany you into seeing a relationship expert. And if they refuse, you should perhaps seriously consider ending the relationship. There is no reason for you to be with someone who understands that their controlling behavior makes you miserable, but doesn’t feel the need to do anything about it.
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