It’s a common complaint in therapy, “He (or she) is so controlling.” But what does that mean exactly?  Well, it can actually mean a lot of things but here are 10 common signs to determine if someone is controlling.

The person…

Regularly puts you down in front of others: 

Controlling people challenge your beliefs, politics or traditions in order to make you look small, silly or even stupid. They lack an open mind and believe they are superior to you on most everything. They certainly do not fear challenging you in front of others. There is no 2-way street. They think you should think as they do. They often compare their accomplishments to yours with the goal that you should feel grateful to even be in relationship with them.

Shout at you: 

People mistakenly think that a relationship is only abusive when there is physical violence or bullying. However,  emotional abuse is present in the way you are treated. Shouting, yelling, put downs–are all part of belittling you. No one should feel scared or intimidated by the person they love.

Act badly around people you are close to so you avoid seeing them:

The more people you interact with, the more you see other perspectives. Controlling people want you to see only their perspective so they can control you. Thus, they often act up around others, embarrass you in the hope that you will avoid those friends and only listen to them.

Belittle you when you have good news:

Controlling people have to keep you in your place and make you believe they are the sole source of your success. So when you attempt to share good news, they find a way to denigrate you in the process. They believe that no news can be truly good if they had nothing to do with it. If anyone else is the source of your happiness or good news, it must be bad. If not, you might not need them as much. Keeping you dependent is the goal.

Blame you for their behavior:

Controlling people are really good at making you feel you have done something wrong. They also keep score of your wrongdoings and then build cases against you so they don’t have to take responsibility for their own behavior. They assume bad motives in you to justify making you the problem. The more they argue with you, the more exhausted you get until you just give in to it all. They love conflict and will use it to control.

Treat you more like a possession that a person:

A controlling person interrupts you, doesn’t listen to your opinions, and dominates in openly aggressive or passive aggressive ways. They don’t accept feedback about their behavior and, in fact, may even pressure you to do unhealthy things. This is because they see you as a possession, not as a person. They thrive on weakening their partner to look themself strong.

Get very jealous or possessive: 

At the beginning of a relationship, jealousy can sometimes be flattering. You think they really care about you. But when it continues, the person becomes possessive. If you notice that your partner views every interaction with others as flirting, that is a problem. If he or she is suspicious of your relationship with others and finds fault with your interactions, that is jealousy — especially if they accuse you of leading someone on. This pattern in the relationship undermines trust and is an attempt to control you.

Control where you go and who you see: 

Sometimes we need time alone to recharge, but if you are made to feel guilty for taking time alone, that is controlling. If the person tries to guilt you or make you feel like a villain for being apart, this is unhealthy. And if you must provide details where you go every day, that is a red flag. Constantly forcing you to earn their trust is a sure indication of their own insecurity.

Stop you seeing family and friends:

Family and friends are most often the ones who see these pathological behaviors and can be relied on to point out the controlling person. So of course, the controlling person wants to limit your time with them and so, devalues their voices. This is a major red flag. Any time a person tries to isolate you from the ones you love or care about, this is a sign of pathology on some level.

Control things like money, phone or car:

The easiest way to control you is to control how you communicate and get around. Money, a car and the phone are the big three. No one should have power over your phone! And if they are giving you money and controlling the rest of it, this is proof of a complete lack of trust — another way to keep you on a leash. All of these tactics isolate you from reasonable people who may influence you away from the controlling person.

The first step to change things is to recognize these red flags.  The most telling sign is feeling afraid of your partner and that you do not measure up.  If it feels like you’re always walking on eggshells around them or constantly watching what you say or do in order to avoid a conflict, then your relationship has been sabotaged by  a controller. Time to reassess and work on breaking free from this pattern. Engage your support system and ask for help.

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