“Nobody knows what God’s plan is for your life, but a whole lot of people will guess for you if you let them.”
― Shannon L. Alder
It is easy to visualize a controlling partner as one who berates everyone in their path without concealment, is being aggressive, or constantly makes blatant threats or ultimatums.
We imagine the grumpy bully who belittles every server they encounter or commands their partner how to dress.
Even though these signs are quite troubling, there are additional signs that might show up quite differently.
If you feel your partner might be controlling, it’s important to spot the signs now. Whether a narcissist, sociopath, or just a power-hungry leech looking to make up for their own feeling of inadequacy by controlling another human being, dealing with such a partner can be downright dangerous, so you need to look for the signs and act if you believe you’re being manipulated.
Fortunately, while they might be slick about these things there are some clear signs you can look for to spot controlling behavior and put an end to it as soon as possible.
Here are five signs your partner is controlling, and what you can do about it:
1. They have issues in trusting you
In a study of couples who had gone through a major conflict, those who felt less secure in their relationships perceived more conflict with their partners and reported a tendency for severe conflict escalation. An insecure person can swiftly make an argument go from a minor one to a big one.
If you haven’t given your partner a reason to distrust you but you catch them spying on you or check your phone or computer when you aren’t looking, they are trying to control your level of privacy.
They can make assumptions about who you spend time with and accuse you of unfaithful behavior, even if they don’t have reason to suspect it. The one way this type of person feels comfortable is when they know what you’re doing at all times.
Do not let your partner control your actions. Healthy relationships have a foundation of trust and honesty. If you or your partner have difficulties in trusting each other, the relationship may be unable to survive.
2. They are overly critical of you
A controlling partner doesn’t only want to control where you go and what you do with your time, they want to mold you into a person of their own image who does what they want and believes what they believe.
One of the ways they do this is by constantly showering you with criticism: the clothes you wear, the way you stand, sit, talk, what you watch, do in your free time, with your friends, your job, the way you do your hair, and so on. These criticisms might start out small but they will quickly become a barrage if you succumb to them.
The worst part is, a controlling person usually offers a pretty persuasive argument, so the criticism appears masked in logic and reason and therefore can come across as very convincing. After all, they’ve had practice.
Ultimately, you have to be more certain than the other person. Certainty and self-confidence are crucial in dealing with- and shielding yourself from- a controlling partner. They will not succeed in cracking your shell if you don’t succumb to their criticism.
3. Masked threats
Some people assume that threats have to be physical in nature to be problematic. But threats of leaving, cutting off “privileges”, or even threats of self-harm can be just as emotionally manipulative as the threat of physical violence. It is not uncommon for the one being controlled to feel stuck in a relationship not out of fear for themselves, but for their partner committing suicide or injuring themselves if they were to leave.
Other times, a person may be threatened with losing financial assets, their home, or even their children if they leave the controlling or abusive partner (or are left by them). Whether or not these threats are genuine, it is simply another way for the controlling person to get what they want at the expense of their partner.
4. The overactive scorecard
This refers to the practice of taking notes on every single tiny interaction in a relationship and it’s one of the most dizzying forms of control.
In every relationship, there is an ongoing trade of favors. After all, you should presumably be in love with one another and be doing little “favors” for each other all the time, like taking out the trash, cleaning up after dinner, picking something up for the other, and so on.
However, the overactive scorecard is a way for a controlling partner to keep tabs on what you “owe” them. By noting every little behavior- and you can be certain they aren’t keeping score fairly- they try to manipulate you by making it look as though they’re doing more for you than you are doing for them.
It is incredibly exhausting to be subjected to such behavior, but fortunately, once you understand the trick it becomes much easier to notice.
5. They attempt to distance you from your loved ones
The best way a controlling person to fully gain unquestioned control over their partner is by isolating them from their loved ones.
This is one of the most dangerous signs of a controlling person and it shows a high degree of manipulation.
Whatever your situation, don’t ever let someone isolation you from your friends or family. Our loved ones give us strength and offer unrelenting support, and losing them can mean real trouble, especially if you’re dealing with such a controlling, manipulative person.
A caring partner will fully accept your family and friends, and if they don’t there’s nothing else to do but get the hell out of there.
What you can do about it
In addition to what we touched upon earlier, here are a few more points to help you deal with any controlling person:
1. Keep your loved ones close:
More than anything else, when dealing with potentially harmful and manipulative people you need to keep those who care for you as close as possible.
2. Take good care of yourself:
You need to make a plan for daily self-care, whether it be in the form of physical exercise, reading a good book, meditation, and even therapy if you need it.
3. You need a plan:
Do you have a plan for getting out of this relationship if that’s what you’ve decided? Be sure to think a few steps ahead as they’ll be likely to have their own tricks in play to keep you around.
4. Take the situation seriously, and do not risk escalation:
A controlling partner, particularly one with sociopathic or narcissistic tendencies, can turn dangerous if pushed far enough, even if they’ve never been violent before. Don’t roll your eyes and think that it can’t happen to you. Take the situation seriously and do what it takes to keep yourself safe.
Don’t be afraid to ask those closest to you for help.
A controlling person is only powerful when they have you isolated from the world.
Remember to take care of yourself daily, and surround yourself with people who love you. It will be very difficult for them to gain the upper hand and take a foothold on your life in this way.