Signs You Are With A Controlling Partner And How To Deal With One

Expert Speak | | Expert Author
Updated On: January 18, 2024
controlling partner

Having a controlling partner can damage any relationship and even make you question why you’re in it in the first place. Their need for always being right and always wanting things to go their way can diminish your importance and make you feel smaller. Not only is that disrespectful, but it is also not very sustainable. They don’t just control your actions and your decisions when it comes to the big things.

From deciding where to grab dinner to deciding what you should wear to parties, a controlling partner wants to be the center of the circus and run the show, simultaneously. If you are feeling stifled in a relationship or feel like you are not being heard, you need to ask yourself one pertinent question: Do I have a controlling partner on my hands?

What Is Controlling In Relationships?

“I would not like it if you grabbed lunch with her.”

“Are you sure you want to eat that?”

“I don’t like your roommates, you should probably move out soon.”

These problematic statements might just seem harmless on the surface but if they persist, these are all signs of controlling behavior in relationships. The signs of a controlling husband or wife in a marriage will look a little like this: Not only will they assume they have the final say in everything, but they will also refuse to understand your point of view. Even if it’s a little thing such as wearing a dress that you like. Your partner might tell you to put on the one they bought you the previous week.

Even if you tell them that this one fits better or that you’d simply like to wear your own choice tonight, instead of smiling and letting it go, they will be adamant that you do as they say. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. It is possible that your partner doesn’t even know yet that they are being controlling in a relationship.

What Are The Signs Of A Controlling Partner?

And what is being controlling in a relationship? It may, at first, be hard to spot what a controlling partner looks like. But if you keep the following pointers in mind, you might just get closer to the truth.

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1. Your controlling spouse will criticize you constantly

Whether it’s how you laugh too loudly, eat too much, or the people you meet, the controlling partner is going to have a field day pointing these things out about you in a negative tone. No matter how much you try to tell them that this is who you are on the inside and that you don’t want to change, they will not be happy to accept you the way that you are.

It’s almost as if they want you to fit into a mold that they like and will go to any lengths to do so. This is why they find it so easy to say hurtful things to you in the relationship.

2. Probing into your life

Glancing into your phone while you’re sending a text, always asking you who else was at the party you went to, or incessantly asking you questions about your ex — this is exactly what ultra-controlling behavior in relationships looks like. Such controlling relationship signs are incredibly difficult to make peace with and can start to feel annoying or suffocating after a while.

It’s like they just can’t put away their trust issues and are convinced that every time you go out or do something, you’ll either cheat on them or do something very, very wrong.

3. They seem to remember everything

“Is my partner controlling?” you may ask. They are if they seem to keep a score card of your mistakes and use them against you every chance they get. It’s like they’ve been holding onto grudges forever. It’s possible that you two are fighting about something but your partner will bring up something unrelated that has already been resolved in the past. It’s like they’ve been harboring and repressing those feelings, because they never understood you during that first fight at all.

4. They try to threaten you sometimes

“I’m sick of this and so close to leaving you” or something along those lines is a sentence that leaves their lips a little too much. In fact, this is one of the signs of a controlling boyfriend/girlfriend/partner that may leave you convinced that you are in a dead-end relationship. They will perhaps even behaviorally pull away from you sometimes as a way to punish you or teach you a lesson. For example, they didn’t like how you spoke to their friend at the party last night and thought you were flirting with them.

To teach you a lesson, your partner might give you the silent treatment all of the next day or pull away from cuddling when you two sleep at night. Instead of talking it out, allowing you to apologize, or perhaps hearing your side of things and understanding your point of view, they will withdraw or threaten you.

How To Deal With A Controlling Person

Human life is centered on six basic necessities. They go like this: certainty, variety, growth, love (or connection), significance, and contribution. Of these, certainty comes first. We are better equipped in a situation we feel sure of and are oriented with. Control is nothing but a manifestation of the same. Because we need certainty all the time, we tend to exercise control over everything to establish more certainty in life.

If things are certain, then they feel more secure. If they are secure, everything is automatically safer. This tendency, however, can quickly turn your loved one into a controlling partner. It is perhaps their own insecurities that are making them act this way. Think back on your dating history, have you ever dated insecure women or men?

Is my boyfriend controlling? Quiz

What’s more obvious in a controlling partner is also the general anxiety around the idea of love that they might exhibit. But is it truly the anxiety around love, or is it the anxiety of coping with feeling lonely, of being abandoned, of seeing a parental pattern repeating itself (say a divorce or a separation)? Whatever their reasons may be, it’s not fair for you to be in a controlling relationship.

A controlling partner can get to your gut and drive you absolutely insane. Have you noticed the early signs of a controlling husband or wife? If you have, that is a good thing. It is necessary to learn how to deal with them quickly before things get out of hand. Here are a few ways to deal with a controlling partner in the early stages of the behavior:

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1. Stay calm instead of being defensive in a controlling relationship

If you have a controlling spouse, the most easily available tool that they will use is aggression (sometimes coupled with criticism). Most of these people who constantly want to micromanage and control are people who feel and believe that they are being controlled. Or the ones who feel unsafe about the fact that things are not in their control.

They are insecure and stuck at a younger age where they must have felt unsafe because they didn’t have control of someone or of the situation (it could even be an abusive parent for all that we know). So, if you respond with aggression or defense too, they will never see your point, because subconsciously they will feel more unsafe and become more uncomfortable.

As a result, they would try to exercise more control with anger and domination over you. So understand that their story of control didn’t start with you, and stay calm, no matter what.

signs of a controlling partner- stay calm
Stay calm when dealing with your partner’s controlling behavior

2. Ask open-ended questions to a controlling partner

Instead of telling them directly that they are dominating and controlling, ask them questions like these: What happens when I don’t do certain things that you’d want me to do? What happens when I don’t get your perspective or when I think someone else is right instead of you? How do you feel?

Most controlling people don’t even know that they are controlling. For them, it’s only a coping mechanism. If you’re confused about how to deal with a controlling husband or wife, talk to them directly. Ask them what their worst fear is if people don’t do/behave/live according to their wishes, when the world doesn’t move according to how they want. Doing this gently will actually help them by making them aware of the root of their issue. Bring them into the light and show them what they are doing wrong by you.

3. Set boundaries and consequences for your controlling partner

Once you have made them aware of their behavior and where the behavior stems from, and most importantly, what it does to you, tell them that there will be certain non-negotiable points within the relationship. If you have confirmed signs of a controlling relationship, you must gather courage and take the situation into your own hands. You cannot just sit back and let them act as they please. You are equal in this relationship and you deserve respect.

For example, they cannot stop you from going out with your friends, they cannot tell you to wear or not wear what they deem fit or unfit, and they cannot tell you how to do your job better. And once those healthy boundaries are set, also set up non-punishing consequences for their actions.

A controlling partner is often not aware when they get controlling. It must be a coping process through which they have survived for the longest period of their lives. So that’s their natural way of being. Don’t expect them to change overnight, but tell them that the moment they cross the non-negotiable points, they will be met with such and such consequences.

couple dynamics

4. Become aware of your own existence

Write it down for yourself, that no matter how symbiotic the relationship is or how codependent one partner is on the other, the center of your happiness and being should be inside you and not outside. Therefore, stand on your own feet and try to be as less dependent on your controlling partner as possible. Instead of being prey to the signs of a controlling boyfriend/partner, strive for independence and learn how to defend yourself and say “no”.

The less you are dependent on them, the less they will be able to ask favors from you, demand out of you, and make you do things that you don’t want to do. Be absolutely aware of your free will and that you can exercise it any moment you want. Show them that they are dating an independent woman/man. Show them that you’re perfectly capable of getting by on your own, and if they want to leave you, they can.

There is no obligation to follow, although the illusion of it might be created by your partner because many times in the past, you have obliged to their demands. But that pattern can stop the moment you become aware of your free will.

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5. If nothing works out, turn the tables on a controlling partner

Once in a while, it might be a good idea to let them have a taste of their own medicine. Sometimes, boundaries may not work and consequences may not work – don’t lose your cool. Go back to point number 1. Find your own calm ways by which you can exert your control over them.

Use orders, demands, and favors. Find out things they don’t like and subtly express to them that you’d want that thing done. And see their reaction. If they snap, then (again without losing your calm) remind them of their behavior.

Putting up with a controlling partner is not easy. It can chip away at your individuality and independence. Learning to assert yourself is the only way to level the playing field. And if that doesn’t work, then the sooner you leave this toxic relationship, the better it will be for you.


1. What are the signs of a controlling partner?

If they try to make decisions for you, frequently disagree with your opinions in a condescending way, and get angry when things do not go their way, these are signs of a controlling partner.

2. What makes a partner controlling?

It could have to do with their upbringing and gaps in how they were raised. They might also be very jealous and insecure which could make them controlling.

3. What causes a partner to be controlling?

Their own insecurities are usually the foremost reason. It is also possible that that have been betrayed earlier or been cheated on in the past which makes them wary and scared.

4. Is he controlling or caring?

“Is my boyfriend controlling?” is a question to which the answer lies in how he makes you feel. If you think he gives you solid advice because he cares, that’s great. But if you think he’s usually coercive, aggressive, and non-compliant, he is probably a controlling boyfriend.

5. Will a controlling partner ever change?

Sure they can. If they reap the benefits of counseling, figure out their triggers, and understand what makes them this way — they can certainly be better in the future.

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