What is controlling behavior? How does a controlling woman behave in a relationship? Well, let me ask you this: Do you ever feel like you have lost your freedom after entering into a relationship? Things don’t happen your way anymore. You try everything in your power to make her happy, but in return, feel miserable. Well, chances are that the woman you are madly in love with is controlling every aspect of your life. Yet, here you are, not even sure if she’s micromanaging you. If you can relate to this, then know that these are signs of a controlling woman.
A controlling wife or partner can hamper every aspect of your life. She can make you feel like you don’t have any autonomy, and that your opinion holds no value. At the end of the day, it’s always her way or the highway. Given that even the most subtle controlling behavior can take a toll on a relationship, you need to be able to spot the red flags and address them as soon as possible.
To that end, let’s help you understand what is controlling behavior and decode the signs of a controlling woman with insights from Shazia Saleem (Masters in Psychology), who specializes in separation, divorce, dating, and premarital counseling.
What Causes Control Issues In Women?
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Before we move on to the signs of a controlling woman, it’s important to understand the reasons behind such behavior. Perhaps, the sudden change in your status and lifestyle has caught you off guard and forced you to ask, “Why are women so controlling?” Well, let’s the reasons could be several:
- Learned behavior in childhood: According to a study, if you see signs of a controlling woman in a relationship, it’s likely that those behaviors were instilled in early childhood. This could be a result of unhealthy family dynamics or just learned conduct, wherein a child learns that being controlling is the only way to gain control in relationships
- Projecting her insecurities onto you: In some female-dominant relationships, the controlling behavior of your partner may be the result of the projection of her insecurities onto you. Issues such as extreme jealousy, over-possessiveness, and fear of abandonment could be some of the reasons behind such behavior patterns
- Personality disorders: Mental health disorders like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, can lead to intrusive thoughts that compel your partner to exercise control over you. Behavior patterns arising out of such disorders are what make relationships controlling
- Anxiety: Other studies suggest that being in control may reduce feelings of anxiety and help people cope with stressors. People with anxiety disorders tend to worry about small things too much and develop a need to exercise control over their partners
- Self-protection: Controlling behaviors also tend to stem from the need to protect oneself from loss, helplessness, and insignificance. A control freak partner may be acting in such a manner to protect herself from harm by making sure her partner acts according to her wishes and does not have a chance to break free from the toxic relationship
Now that we have discussed the reasons behind the controlling personality of some women, let’s take a look at how such behaviors manifest in a relationship. Should you be worried if she wants to know everything about your day down to the minute? Perhaps it’s a clearer red flag when she monitors your relationships? Let’s find out.
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13 Signs Of A Controlling Woman To Watch Out For
Talking about the early signs of a controlling woman, counseling psychologist and 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 obsessive about controlling everything around them with no sense of boundaries or autonomy that the other person possesses.”
The psychological effects of a controlling woman can be far-reaching, and being in a relationship with one can wreak havoc on your life and mental health. Most people take time to recognize the warning signs because control and care can often be confused with one another.
“There is a very thin line between controlling and caring. More often than not, control is disguised as care, which does not allow the partner at the receiving end of it to be independent enough,” says Shazia. But you don’t have to think too hard on this one because we are here to help you recognize the controlling girlfriend signs.
1. She always micromanages and wants things her way
One of the obvious signs of a controlling girlfriend or wife is her need to do every single thing her way. God forbid, if that doesn’t happen, she will burst into a fit of rage or turn cold and distant instantly. She will bring up the issue again and again and complain about how you hurt her and that she is just a well-wisher who wants the best for you. She might also start giving you the silent treatment.
“Controlling women have a way of always intruding into their partner’s personal affairs. They refuse to let their partner decide for themselves. When it comes to relationships, they want to take the final call on everything, irrespective of whether their partner likes it or not,” says Shazia. This means you have no autonomy or free will to be your true self in the relationship.
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2. She is disappointed with something or the other
Female controlling behavior is also marked by unrealistic expectations and standards, due to which her being disappointed in you becomes a recurrent theme in the relationship. From the shirt you wear to the work that you do, every conduct or decision of yours is met with strong disapproval from her end, making you feel like you are not good enough. It’s also one of the signs she doesn’t value you.
If not you, then she is probably disappointed by people or issues in her own life — could be work, friends, her parents, siblings, your parents, or anyone. It is very hard to please a dominating woman. Something or the other is going to spoil her mood and there’s a high probability that you’ll be blamed for it even though you were not at fault. This kind of gaslighting and emotional abuse can affect your self-confidence and make you question your decision to enter such a relationship in the first place.
3. She complains a lot about people who are different from her
Wondering why your girlfriend is mean to or critical of other people all the time? One of the signs of a controlling manipulative woman is her extreme obsession with herself, to the extent that she cannot see the good in others. You will find her complaining about or berating those who function differently from her. She knows she doesn’t have the power to change people and make them like her, so she insults and badmouths them.
If your girlfriend is mean or your wife is a controlling woman, it is likely that she hardly has any real friends. Not everyone will treat her like the princess she thinks she is or go out of their way to please her, which is why a controlling or influencing woman’s inner circle is either exceptionally small or non-existent.
Similarly, she might monitor your relationships and manipulate you against the people you’re close to just because she doesn’t like them or sees them as a threat. Such manipulative, critical, and obsessive behavior patterns are what make relationships controlling.
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4. She wants you to be available for her ALL the time
When a controlling woman is in love, she shows clingy girlfriend or manipulative wife signs too. She might treat you like her property, expect you to spend time with her, and want to keep you by her side ALL the time. Basically, be at her beck and call whenever she demands it. She will ask you to:
- Tag along everywhere
- Answer every call
- Respond to each of her texts
- Clear your schedule for her
- Give more importance to her plans and needs
- Make her your top priority in life
If you don’t ‘obey’ her, she will give you an earful and play the victim card. But, if you need your woman by your side during a difficult time, don’t expect her to prioritize you. A woman with a controlling personality can be selfish and will only give you time when she deems fit.
5. She gets embarrassed by you very easily
One of the controlling girlfriend signs includes her constant insistence on behaving in a certain way in front of her family, friends, or colleagues. If you go off the beaten path and try to be yourself, you’ll be met with big eyes and an angry look, which will force you to shut your mouth instantly.
Her body language will change. Afterward, you might get an earful about how you made her feel uncomfortable and embarrassed her in front of everyone. This is nothing but mental abuse and one of the signs that she doesn’t value you.
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6. She won’t let you have your personal space or alone time
“Am I in a controlling relationship? Is my partner controlling?” Well, one of the classic characteristics of a controlling woman is that she will kill your personal space and refuse to give you any alone time. “Not giving personal space in a relationship is among the most telling signs of a controlling woman. In the name of love or care, she will curb her partner’s privacy, making them feel guilty about doing things to their own liking,” says Shaiza.
You like to stay up late, hang out with your friends, and play some video games but she won’t like that. She neither likes your friends nor the fact that you want to hang out with them. She also doesn’t understand the fact that you need your own space and alone time away from her. She is going to enforce strict rules on you. You’ll constantly receive assertive messages like, “Get home NOW.” And of course, when you try to go against her wishes, the silent treatment begins. That’s one of the most obvious controlling personality signs.
7. She wants to know every little detail of your life
“My phone is acting like someone else is controlling it.” “My girlfriend is constantly calling me to know about my whereabouts.” Have you been dealing with such issues in your relationship? If you have, then know that these are signs of a controlling woman who wants to know every detail of your life. She will always look for ways to invade your privacy to know as much as she can about you even if it means:
- Checking your phone to see who you talk to
- Going through your social media accounts
- Checking your browser history
- Reading your private text messages or emails
- Calling to check on your whereabouts
- Finding out who your friends are
The worst part is you can’t do anything about it because the minute you question her or try to set healthy boundaries, you’ll see her face turning red with anger. She’ll never say that she doesn’t trust you, she’ll just do it casually to know what you do. However, when it comes to her, she knows where to draw the line and protect her privacy. But the same rules don’t apply to you. Make no mistake, this isn’t subtle controlling behavior, it’s a definite red flag that might make you wonder, “Why are women so controlling?”
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8. She wants to take every single decision of your life
How can you tell if a woman is controlling? Well, if she wants to not only know everything about you but also make decisions about your life, then know that it’s one of the signs she’s a freak. This includes your finances, routine, and other relationships in life as well. From what perfume you buy to how much you spend every month, she wants to control everything. This is one of the major signs of a controlling manipulative woman. If you’ve been wondering, “Am I in a controlling relationship?”, here’s your answer.
9. She has MAJOR anger issues
“Behaving inappropriately or getting angry if things don’t work out the way they wanted are common characteristics of a controlling woman,” says Shazia. So much that you are scared of her because she just doesn’t know how to rein in her anger or emotional outbursts.
It’s not what a healthy relationship looks like because such angry outbursts are scary and can be classified as abusive behavior. This is one of the tell-tale signs of a controlling partner. And you must find a way to not be scared of her reactions because doing so means you are allowing your partner to control your life.
10. She genuinely enjoys controlling you
One of the traits of a toxic girlfriend is her need to control everything because she genuinely enjoys doing it. Sometimes you might cooperate with her because you see the problem as just a behavior trait. You feel that if you make your displeasure clear, she will change her ways.
Well, you should know that might not always be the case because the whole ‘need to control others’ psychology comes into play here. Once a person starts getting control of other people’s lives, they tend to become unstoppable. They start enjoying the position of power and do not want to give it up.
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11. She could resort to emotional blackmail
Is my partner controlling? What are the signs of an overbearing woman? We’ve got two words for you: emotional blackmail. It is one of the ways she takes control of you and the relationship. Such women can be extremely sly about it. Your girlfriend or wife may not overly dominate you all the time and yet control you without you even realizing it, thanks to her expertise in subtle control. She may resort to:
- Making puppy eyes
- Pleading requests
- Shedding real or crocodile tears
- Giving ultimatums
- Using sex as a means to control your actions
- Asking you to do things in the name of love
12. She puts herself on a high pedestal
Control issues in relationships often stem from the dominating woman’s need to be better than her better half. For such women, hierarchy is really important. She has to be better than you in every aspect of life to be considered reliable, superior, and worthy. She will make you count all her achievements time and again because it boosts her ego and position and gives you the “I feel inadequate for my girlfriend” feeling.
How to know if your girlfriend thinks you’re small? Shazia explains, “One of the signs of a controlling woman is that she may achieve control by always pressuring or guilt-tripping you if something goes wrong, and at the same time, taking credit for everything good happening in the relationship.” The female controlling behavior thrives on one-upmanship. Over time, she will lead you to believe that she’s better than you, leaving you convinced that you cannot get by without her help and advice.
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13. You can never argue with her
When she gets angry, she uses harsh words, or even cuss words, to belittle you or shut you up and that is exactly why you can never argue or reason with her. Saying hurtful things comes naturally to her. The moment you try to put forth your point of view, you become the insensitive partner who fails to understand her feelings. A person who does that is, by any definition, toxic.
The signs of a controlling woman are often very evident but we tend to overlook them because we are in love. The bitter truth is that a dominating or manipulative person, man or woman, is not good for anybody’s mental or emotional well-being. Controlling relationships can never be healthy or ideal. If you are stuck in a similar situation and are looking for ways to deal with a controlling woman, read on.
How To Deal With A Controlling Partner?
Dealing with a controlling partner can be emotionally and psychologically challenging. Control in a relationship can manifest in various ways, such as manipulation, jealousy, isolation, angry outbursts, restrictions on your freedom, and other signs that we’ve already spoken about in the previous section. Once you recognize the signs, these strategies can help you deal with a controlling and manipulative partner:
1. Communicate openly and honestly
First thing, have an open and honest conversation with your partner. Effective communication is crucial when dealing with a controlling woman. Express your feelings and concerns in a calm and non-confrontational manner. Explain to your partner that her behavior is unreasonable and unacceptable. Use “I” statements to avoid sounding accusatory
For example, say, “I feel overwhelmed and suffocated when you check my messages without asking”, rather than saying, “You always invade my privacy”. At the same time, try to show some empathy and understand her point of view and why she is acting the way she is. Don’t get defensive because it will only make the situation worse. Stay calm instead of arguing or getting into a power struggle with your partner.
2. Set boundaries and stick to them
Establish clear boundaries in your relationship. Let your partner know what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t. Ensure your boundaries are specific, measurable, and realistic. Tell her about the behavior patterns she needs to correct. Consistently uphold these boundaries and be prepared to enforce consequences if they are crossed. For instance, you might say, “I need you to respect my privacy by not going through my phone or personal belongings without my consent” or “I need you to respect my personal space and alone time just like I respect yours”
3. Seek support from loved ones or a professional
Being in a relationship with a controlling woman can make you feel isolated. Reach out to friends and family for support and a listening ear. They can provide you with a sense of belonging and a different perspective on your relationship. If the control in your relationship has led to your isolation, reconnecting with your support system and spending time with them is essential.
In some cases, it may be necessary to seek professional help to address the control and its underlying causes. Couples therapy or individual counseling can be beneficial. A trained therapist can help you and your partner explore the issues in your relationship, work on communication, and develop healthier ways to relate to each other. You can consider seeking help from Bonobology’s panel of experienced and licensed therapists to deal with the problem.
4. Don’t try to control the control freak
Trying to control a control freak in relationships is pointless. Trying to exert control over someone who is already doing the same to you will not solve the problem. Instead, it will only aggravate the situation. Besides, what’s the difference between you and your partner if you try to deal with the issue in the same toxic manner as her? Do not stoop down to her level. Keep your self-respect and deal with the situation in a dignified manner.
5. Figure out if the relationship is worth saving
It’s important to assess whether the relationship is worth salvaging. Controlling behavior can be a symptom of deeper issues in the relationship, and it may be possible to address the same and create positive change. However, if your partner is unwilling to acknowledge their controlling behavior and work on it, or if the control is causing you significant emotional harm, you may need to consider ending the toxic relationship for your own well-being.
- A relationship with a controlling woman can quickly turn toxic
- A few signs of an insecure girlfriend or wife include clingy behavior, extreme jealousy, being over-critical of other women, always needing reassurance and validation, playing the victim card, and controlling behavior patterns
- Early signs of a controlling woman include a desperate need to know every detail of their partner’s life, emotional blackmail, and complaining about people who are different from her or challenge her dominating nature
- Manipulative or influencing women will always try to make your decisions for you, invade your privacy, not give you your personal space or let you spend some alone time, and want you to be available for them all the time
- To deal with a toxic and controlling girlfriend or wife, you should recognize the signs, communicate, seek help from friends and family or a professional, and consider breaking free from the relationship if it’s turning abusive
One thing is for sure. You will run out of patience or develop severe mental health issues if you fail to deal with control freaks in relationships. Your tolerance levels will be tested by this person again and again, which will, in turn, affect your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. You must recognize the signs so that you can take steps to deal with them. Prioritize your health and peace of mind. Remember that no one should have to endure such toxicity in life and that seeking help and support is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Usually, the reasons for control issues in relationships revolve around a partner’s need to protect themselves from helplessness, abandonment, and feeling insignificant. The need to control is often instilled in early childhood due to unhealthy family dynamics or toxic caregivers. Your partner could also be suffering from anxiety or other personality disorders, which makes them use control as a coping mechanism.
Clinical Psychologist Niki Benjamin says, “You know a person is controlling when they show signs like outbursts of anger when things are not done exactly their way, a firm unwillingness to consider their partner’s perspective, a compelling need to monitor their partner’s way of doing things, and being passive-aggressive if you disagree with them or until you agree with them.” Other signs include being embarrassed by you easily, wanting to control other important relationships in your life, wanting to know every detail about you, crossing boundaries, invading your privacy and personal space, and making decisions for you.
In a controlling relationship, one partner tends to dominate the other in a toxic, unhealthy, selfish, and self-serving manner. They manipulate their partner’s emotions and decisions to make them work in their favor. The dominating partner tends to make the other feel guilty, anxious, and insecure about pretty much everything they do in their life, thereby affecting their self-confidence and overall well-being.
Controlling your partner is a form of abuse. To deal with control freaks in relationships, you must first recognize the signs. Then, try to communicate with your partner about her dominating behavior, create healthy boundaries, and tell her that she can’t breach them and that, if she does, there will be consequences. Tell her how it is affecting your mental health. Seek support from friends and family or consult a professional therapist. Most importantly, if it is getting too toxic and unbearable, break free and walk out of the relationship.