Relationships ought to be based on the paradigm of equal partnership. The fact that two people in a romantic relationship are called ‘partners’ adheres to that fact. However, a departure from this balance isn’t unheard of. This leads to one of the partners assuming a controlling or more dominating position in the relationship.
When we speak of such dominating relationships, more often than not, it is the man who seeks to seize control – thanks to centuries of patriarchal conditioning. If you live with the constant feeling that he is dominating in the relationship, it is important to take a step back and recognize the red flags.
With the help of psychologist Pragati Sureka (MA in Clinical Psychology, professional credits from Harvard Medical School), who specializes in individual counseling through emotional ability resources, let’s figure out what makes men dominant in a relationship and what the glaring signs are.
What Is A Dominating Relationship?
To know for sure if he is dominating in the relationship and learn how to tackle this toxicity, you need to understand what a dominating relationship is. This becomes imperative as signs that he is dominating you can manifest in the form of minor behavioral aberrations.
A dominating relationship can be best described as one where one person overwhelms the other emotionally and tries to control how the other person is supposed to think, feel, react and behave. You can be certain that he is dominating in the relationship when this need for control is accompanied by a quick temper, blame-shifting and a total disregard for your emotions, feelings and needs.
Manifestations of such a behavior can be anything from telling you to change a dress to cutting you off mid-sentence or telling you who you can and cannot hang out with. While such occurrences can give you that gut feeling of something being amiss, it is hard to immediately conclude that you’re with a dominating boyfriend/husband.
The very essence of a dominating relationship is the need to curtail the other partner’s power as a way of dealing with one’s deep-rooted insecurities. It is vital to be aware of these toxic behavior patterns as a dominating relationship can quickly spiral out of control and lead to physical and sexual abuse.
But, what makes men want to be dominant in a relationship? Pragati tells us everything we need to know. “One answer to this question is patriarchy. He may think something along the lines of, ‘This is what I’ve seen my father doing and all the others around me doing, and that’s why I want to be dominant in a relationship.’ Of course, individual temperament also plays a huge role, or perhaps even an archaic attitude that makes a man believe that women should be kept under their thumb.”
Related Reading: Why Do Women Stay On In Abusive Relationships?
“A regressive outlook toward life can also be the culprit. Perhaps he feels that women’s empowerment is something to be wary of. ‘If a woman gets empowered, then I wouldn’t be able to control her. It’s better to keep her under my thumb,’ a man may think.”
“The roots can usually be found in their childhood. Either they might have seen a father who was very very dominating towards the mother, or they have seen a very submissive father, which led them to develop a feeling of ‘a woman needs to be put in her place.'”
“Since it’s when role-modeling and gender modeling takes place through family dynamics, a lot of our issues stem from our childhood unmet needs. Men who are open-minded and progressive always look for the strengths in a woman, and try to help them become the best version of themselves.”
“Think of it this way: with a young child, you’re always gentle and well-tempered, because you’re not threatened. Men usually become dominant in a relationship when they are threatened,” she concludes.
A dominant partner in a relationship is bound to portray some unhealthy behavior that may end up damaging your mental well-being. To make sure it doesn’t get to that point, you’ll need to be able to spot the signs of a dominant man, so you can attempt to get the help that much quicker.
7 Signs He Is Dominating In The Relationship
Living with a dominating boyfriend or husband can be an extremely frustrating experience. Their edgy behavior and tendencies to lash out can trigger deep-seated anxiety in the person who is at the receiving end. These things might seem very cute, endearing at the beginning of the relationship. As time passes by, you will hate his attitude and loathe this behavior.
Taking corrective measures before things get to that point of no return is the wise thing to do. To be able to do that, you need to start by looking for signs he is dominating you. Here are 7 classic red flags that he is dominating in the relationship that you need to watch out for:
1. He is suspicious and snoops around your personal space
You might have caught him checking your phone on multiple occasions. Snooping around your personal space incessantly is not care, but suspicion. He might even try to tell you that you are a gullible doe who ‘needs’ protection. And he becomes your self-appointed protector.
“Usually, these men tend to oscillate between two extremes. Most of the time, they don’t give any space to their partner at all. Psychologically, they tell themselves, ‘I can’t control myself, so I’d rather control another individual because it gives me a sense of control.’ And of course, the most convenient person for them to control is their partner, who is perceived to be weaker. Society by and large also gives them the leeway to dominate the person, since it’s also part of the collective culture,” says Pragati.
More often than not, he will throw a fit of defensiveness when asked about his habit of snooping around your personal space. “What to do you have to hide?” or, “Don’t you trust me?”, “Now you want personal space from me?” – are some of the common, passive-aggressive refrains he uses regularly to make you feel guilty about his actions. If you’ve experienced this too often, know that he is dominating in the relationship.
2. Dominant boyfriend signs: He is unreasonably jealous
It might be cute if your partner turns green with envy every time someone flirts with you openly. That’s natural too. But envy and jealousy, though confused as interchangeable emotions, are markedly different. Jealousy is a negative emotion that has no space in a healthy relationship.
“Sometimes, jealousy can stem from a mindset along the lines of, ‘I’m not good enough’ or, ‘I don’t work hard enough.’ When their own incapability stares them in the face, they try and pull another person down by trying to dominate and assert their physical prowess,” says Pragati, on how jealousy is one the classic dominant boyfriend signs.
When his jealous tendencies in your relationship border on compulsive behavior, it is a definite red flag. If you’ve had to cut back on time for friends and family, and virtually pluck out every man from your life, then it is one of the classic signs that signs he is dominating you. Such unwarranted suspicion is not to be tolerated, no matter what the book of male ego says. Do not change your life to fit his unjust demands.
3. You’re always at his beck and call
He is a dominating man in a relationship if you find yourself compelled to be at his beck and call at all times. If he requires you to be there, saying no isn’t even an option. Not without all hell breaking loose, anyway. You have to be available to meet him whenever he asks, answer his every call and respond to his every text message within seconds.
A dominating relationship will have no regard for your needs and wants. The only thing that matters is how he has been treated and is being served, because that’s what it will feel like after a while.
When your schedule becomes attuned to his needs you can be certain that he is dominating in the relationship. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that this is because he loves you to a fault and his life revolves around you. It is the other way around. Understand you are an individual and recognize this unsolicited behavior from your boyfriend as emotionally abusive.
Related Reading: Is Your Jealous Boyfriend Being Possessive And Controlling?
4. A dominating boyfriend is critical of your loved ones
Everyone in your life is unworthy. Your parents are at fault, your friends are stupid; everyone but him is a terrible choice. He can not find anything good to say about the people you love and care about. He doesn’t stop at that and even tries to manipulate you into thinking the same thing.
These signs of a dominant man may not be visible immediately after getting into a relationship with him. Over the years, however, if you find yourself having cut off multiple people from your life only because he didn’t like you talking to them, it’s exactly what we’re talking about here.
This is an indisputable sign that you have a dominating man in a relationship. Being overly critical of all your other relationships and associations is his way of ensuring that he is the sole support system in your life. You’d be wise to recognize this as a sign of a toxic relationship and reconsider your decision to put up with such a dominating boyfriend (or husband).
5. He finds a way to blame you for everything
Every time some random dude on social media sends you those creepy ‘wanna friendship?’ messages, it is your fault that you attract such attention. If someone on the road catcalls you, your choice of clothes is to blame.
It is your fault that you were teased by an unknown lecher on the streets. Or that the sweet kid from your college fell in love with you. Or that earthquakes happen and ice caps melt.
“It’s one of the very clear signs of a dominant man if you’re always blamed for everything. It’s also a sign of a lack of personal responsibility. We never pick a fight with someone who we perceive to be stronger than us. So when we do it with someone who’s weaker, it essentially shows a lack of strength of character,” says Pragati.
You’re with the new age patriarch who won’t have you wearing short skirts but within the walls of his own house or let you drink in any public place but with him. This sort of victim-shaming and fault-finding points toward a dominating relationship where your own love story becomes your torment.
6. Possessiveness is a sign of a dominating man in a relationship
Let’s concede that weird are the ways of the heart, and we all find it endearing when our significant other says things like “You’re mine” or “You belong to me”. But there is a difference between a figure of speech and taking these words literally. If your partner’s possessiveness borders on that worrisome level where he is convinced that he owns your life, then it is a foregone conclusion that he is dominating in the relationship and wants to control your life.
“The typical question that reeks possessiveness is a crass, ‘Where are/were you?’ That’s usually a dead giveaway. Another one of the signs of a dominant man is when he doesn’t do enough of the work. It’s like they expect to be catered to. They believe that since they bring the money home, they’re entitled to be more privileged,” says Pragati.
“Sometimes, if there’s a salary disparity, they may not say or address it, but the mannerisms become dominant. They may think, ‘I’m a bigger contributor. I can throw my weight around.’ Or even if a woman is earning more than they are, they may get more defensive, saying things like, ‘Don’t think that you can snub me, just because you’re earning more.’ It becomes quite a catch-22, especially since it’s never addressed,” she adds.
Extreme possession that leaves him triggered every time you spend time with your best friend or stay over with your parents is a red flag begging you to bolt as fast as you can. As we’ve already mentioned, a dominating partner in a relationship wants to isolate you, and possessiveness is a way of doing that.
Related Reading: My Partner Is Controlling. I Feel Like I Am Losing My Individuality
7. You can’t be yourself around him
This is a definite indication that something is off balance in your relationship. Are you walking on eggshells around him? You cancel plans to meet friends or visit family just because you’d much rather quell your desires than face his anger. If that’s where you’re at, it is time to acknowledge that emotional abuse comes in different shapes and forms.
And this dominating relationship is now bordering on emotional abuse. Things will escalate from here, consider leaving before your relationship with this dominating boyfriend or husband hits rock bottom.
If a dominating relationship starts to suffocate you, encroach on your personal space and requires you to change who you are, it cannot be a healthy, stable one. The signs that he is dominating in the relationship will only worsen as you become more deeply involved with such a partner. So take note of these warning signs and handle your relationship accordingly while there is still time.