How To Get Out Of A Controlling Relationship – 8 Ways To Break Free

Suffering and Healing | |
Updated On: March 22, 2024
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When you are in a relationship wherein you have become a slave to your partner’s demands, it becomes very difficult to distinguish between love and control. A bit of control in a person is natural but when it crosses a limit, it can become harmful to the other person. In that case, how do you decide if the relationship is controlling or not, and if it is, how do you get out of a controlling relationship safely?

A controlling person can be caring, charming, and loving too. So, when you start dating them, you won’t have a clue that it would turn into a controlling, manipulative relationship. It takes time to come to terms with the fact that you have made a bad decision and that you need to leave. But getting rid of a controlling relationship is not easy.

A manipulative, controlling person would use every trick in their kitty to make you stay. In that case, how do you escape a controlling relationship? Let us tell you in detail in this article.

What Is Controlling Behavior?

The need to control is very basic in human beings. In fact, a study showcasing a socio-psychological analysis on controlling personality suggests that every person has the need to control and be controlled. At times, the need for control becomes so intense, that the person becomes toxic and it’s best to get out of this relationship.

You start feeling claustrophobic because your every move is questioned and every decision is put down. Controlling behavior has the potential to erode your personality bit by bit, while the person who controls becomes more powerful.

But how do you know you are being controlled? Counselling psychologist/psychotherapist Niki Benjamin says, “Although all relationships require effort, patience, and collaboration (especially during the initial stages), there are some behaviors that could indicate that you are in a relationship with someone who is commonly referred to as a ‘control freak’ or someone who is obsessive about controlling everything around them with no sense of boundaries or autonomy that the other person possesses.”

You will know you are being controlled when your partner shows certain signs. Benjamin tells us to watch out for the following behavior patterns:

  • Outbursts of anger when things are not done exactly the way the person expects or wants
  • Firm unwillingness to consider or accommodate other points of view
  • A compelling need to monitor or supervise their partner’s way of doing things under the pretext of “I have a better way” or “I don’t think you should do it this way”
  • Being passive aggressive, giving the silent treatment, or sulking if you disagree with them or until you agree with them.

How To Get Out Of A Controlling Relationship

A controlling person can wreak havoc in your life. While your decision-making powers are taken away and your self-esteem becomes non-existent, you are left with no choice but to seek freedom. In a relationship with a controlling person, you could be trying for a long time to change things to make your partner see your point of view.

But if you feel that you are not making a breakthrough, breaking away could be the only way to find your sanity again. So, are you wondering how to get out of a controlling relationship? If you think your partner is extremely controlling, here are 8 ways to break away from such a relationship:

1. Assess your own position

While in a controlling relationship, there are often instances wherein you feel very low or there is a lack of self-confidence because the other person constantly tries to belittle you.

A person who is controlling has to reinstate their power position in order to be able to control you.

New Age Relationship

What you can do is to stress on your importance in their life. Give them a taste of their own medicine. Don’t belittle them, but just tell them that you hold a position in their life which nobody can replace. Let them depend on you.

This can make them feel less powerful and closer to you. When they realize this, they might start giving you the space you need and, gradually, lessen the control aspect of your relationship. The trick is to win them with love.

People who control usually do it because of insecurity. If you can give them a sense of security and the assurance that they can depend on you, they might lessen their control over you. If this doesn’t work, then get to Plan B and leave.

2. Draw the line

At times, it is important that you tell them what is okay and what isn’t. Healthy relationship boundaries can help both of you to improve your bond. You have to show them a limit of your tolerance.

Generally, in a relationship, when one person controls another, it is initially viewed as insecurity, then possession, then love, until you realize that its pure control. By then, it’s already too late.

When you draw a line, make sure you stay firm about it. If you have to spend your life with this person, don’t allow them in the zone of your vulnerability. If you think you don’t want to involve them in your finances, state that firmly. If they create issues about going out with your friends, then make it clear that you would want to do that because it makes you happy.

Living with a controlling person can be quite difficult, but to have a peaceful relationship, help them admit their nature and then tell them what you are uncomfortable with.

Emotional relationship
Relationship may go down

3. Start ignoring their orders, start accepting their requests

A common trait of a controlling person is giving instructions. Their presumption is that they are more knowledgeable as compared to anybody in the room, which gives them the right to make decisions for everyone. Having a controlling and manipulative spouse makes your day-to-day life a living hell.

No matter how calmly you request them to let you do your thing, they won’t understand. In that case, to get out of a controlling relationship, you need to start avoiding them.

Don’t listen to them if their tone is instructive. They need to realize that in a relationship, you are equals. There is no hierarchy. Listen to them only when they request you to do a certain thing or give advice. Tell them to use the magic word “Please” and call them off as soon they are trying to be manipulative, by saying, “I know what you are trying to do.”

Initially, they might get more angry and throw tantrums, but if you stick to your grounds, they might come around. If they don’t, then you would know it’s time to get rid of this relationship.

4. Talk to a mature adult

Leaving a controlling relationship is not easy, but keeping on suffering in such a relationship is also stressful. While it’s true that a relationship should be between two people, if your spouse has a controlling nature and you are suffering, it is okay to talk to someone older and more mature.

First, start by talking to your partner, addressing the issues you are facing because of their behavior and how it affects your love life and relationship. If that doesn’t work, talk to their parents, or your parents, if they are open-minded.

You could also talk to a friend. But make sure, whomsoever you talk to can look at the situation without any bias and give you reasonable advice.

It isn’t necessary for you to break off the relationship. You could probably find a middle path. Your partner might just understand the problem. If talking to other people doesn’t work, you could go to a couples’ counselor and figure out a solution.

Counselling from a third person is a more viable option, as you can vent out. An expert can help you without any bias. But for all of that, your partner will have to agree to the fact that they are controlling.

5. Start dropping hints that you are dissatisfied with the relationship

In case your partner doesn’t own up to being controlling, you will have to start giving indirect hints expressing your dissatisfaction. You might have to express your disagreement or pick a fight when you cannot do your thing. This will make them understand that you are dragging the relationship and are not quite happy with it.

Give your partner some hints
Give your partner some hints

If they genuinely love you, they will make amends. They will try to adjust somehow to make you happy in their own little way. People who have a controlling nature, sometimes, do not even know that they come off as controlling.

It is so ingrained in them that they think what they do is natural. And if that doesn’t happen, it is probably time to get out of the relationship. Starting from deciding what you should wear to work, to the salad you should pick for lunch and the reason you should say “no” to a work trip that’s been scheduled for you, your partner might be taking every decision about your life.

You might be feeling tormented, but the very thought of escaping a controlling relationship might be giving you the jitters as well. In that case, you might wonder how to get out of a controlling relationship? Let them know how it feels to be controlled. Give them time to make amends, but if they don’t, maybe it’s time to leave.

Related Reading: How To Deal With A Gaslighting Spouse?

6. Do not get buried under their anger

Unfortunately, a common trait in all controlling, manipulative relationships is anger. Your partner wouldn’t show it to intentionally scare someone, but subconsciously, they would know that anger is a powerful weapon. They can have things their way if they get angry or start shouting and screaming too. Living with a controlling person can be extremely challenging for this very reason. Their anger issues can make every sensible conversation turn into ugly fights.

When they get angry, the general reaction from your end is to shut up and sit in a corner and quietly listen to what they are saying, just to calm them down. While that is a good way to keep a relationship going, know when to stop. You might want a smooth flow in a relationship and so, you adjust. But they might see it as a bait to get their things done. They might then get angry at anything and everything and get things their way.

You will have to speak up in order to make your point. The more you stay quiet, the more they are going to oppress you. They might seem intimidating when they are angry, but once you start raising your voice, they will lower theirs down.

Related Reading: I Had An Abusive Marriage But Still I Grappled With My Husband’s Death

7. Sit them down and tell them you are about to end this relationship

This can be very difficult on an emotional level. Leaving a controlling relationship is not a cakewalk. Even if your partner is controlling, deep down, you love them. This is why, you’ll be trying to save the relationship.

But you have to understand that every relationship needs to be a two-way street, and if your partner isn’t making an effort to change himself or herself, it’s time that you stop suffering for them. It can be very tough to save a relationship when only one is trying.

You will have to sit with them and tell them, without beating around the bush, that the relationship isn’t going to work on their terms. We all strive for unconditional love and respect. You cannot survive in a place where you are loved on conditions. It’s very unhealthy.

Ending the relationship with a controlling person is going to be painful but is also right. They might try to stop by using the same old weapons and tactics of manipulation, but be very clear in your argument as well as your decision.

Is my boyfriend controlling? Quiz

8. Do not fall for weapons of emotional blackmail, threats, or anger

If nothing works, they might start crying endlessly to stop you from leaving them or they might threaten you, saying they’ll kill themselves. Or it could get worse if they resort to abuse – physical or verbal. It is going to be very difficult to walk away from a partner like that.

Controlling people need someone to fulfil their desire of control. They are so habituated to it that it becomes almost like an addiction that they cannot get rid of. There is always a hope of change, but before going back to a relationship like that, ask yourself if you are prepared to go through the trauma again.

The best option is not to go back, no matter what they say. Do not get entrapped in emotions, suicidal threats, or anger. Try to look at it neutrally and trust your decision. Doing something for your emotional well-being is not wrong.

Dealing with someone who has a controlling nature is exhausting. At times, you may feel like giving up, and that is completely valid. A relationship should be your safe space and not a place where you have to work hard to change a person according to what suits you.

Although every relationship has its own battles, you should know which one to fight and which one to walk away from. If after coming out of such a relationship, you feel that your mental health is affected, see a counsellor at the earliest and take medical help too.


1. What does a controlling relationship look like?

In a controlling relationship, one person holds power over the other and takes all their decisions for them. They use anger, manipulation, and emotional blackmail to ensure that their partner does exactly what they want them to do.

2. What happens in a controlling relationship?

The person who is controlled in a relationship starts losing their self-esteem and feels claustrophobic. As a result, the relationship becomes toxic. A controlling relationship can turn into mental abuse too.

3. What are the signs of a controlling person?

A controlling person will get angry at the drop of a hat and will use their outbursts to terrorize their partner. They would not be able to accept their partner’s viewpoint and would do everything to ensure that things go their way.

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