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Is your partner too controlling?

Tags: trust in relationships, emotional abuse, relationship conflict, controlling partner

Feeling your partner is too controlling is a serious issue; often the warning signs are there very early on in a relationship but tend to get ignored. Possessive and jealous behaviour gets excused, taken as a sign that your partner is so madly head over heels in love with you and they just want you all to themselves.

However, over time controlling behaviour usually gets worse not better and can really undermine the good things in a relationship. Admitting there’s a problem can be painful; and difficult for both of you. But facing up to it is the first step to ending it and getting your relationship on a more equal footing; but how you might wonder?

People mistakenly think that a relationship is only abusive when there is physical violence or bullying. That’s a common misconception. There’s emotional abuse too; this takes many forms and feeling you are being controlled should be taken as warning sign. No one should feel scared or intimidated by the person they love.

Unlike physical violence ignoring, denying or excusing behaviour is especially common when the abuse is psychological, rather than physical.

Feeling constantly controlled or manipulated will over time destroy your confidence, make you anxious and depressed, and often isolates you from people and situations that make you feel good about yourself. The first step to changing things is recognising when things have become abusive only then you can get the help both of you need. There are many signs that behaviour has become too controlling. The most telling sign is feeling scared of your partner. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around them or constantly watching what you say or do in order to avoid a row —then your relationship is in danger of becoming abusive. Other signs are that you partner puts you down or will try to control you what you do and who you see.

But it’s important not just to focus on the other person’s behaviour; think about how it’s making you feel …..Do you feel less confident, isolated or unable to get through to them?

Think about how you would answer the following questions

How you feel

  • Afraid of your partner
  • Mistrusted
  • You avoid certain topics because of their reaction
  • Like nothing you do it right
  • Powerless to change anything between you
  • That there must be something wrong with you and you deservce it
  • That you have to lie about who you have seen or where you have been

Your partner’s behaviour; do they...

  • Regularly put you down in front of others
  • Shout at you
  • Act badly around people you are close to so you avoid seeing them
  • Belittle you when you have good news
  • Blame you for their behaviour
  • Treat you more like a possession that a person
  • Get very jealous or possessive
  • Control where you go and who you see
  • Stop you seeing family and friends
  • Control things like money, phone or car
  • Check up on you


What next

If you have answered yes to some of these questions then you need to open up the conversation with your partner about how you are feeling and changing things for the better. Using some of the exercises and articles on can help get you started …..Try and approach things together.

Articles and exercises about improving communication and getting on better will help get you started. Sometimes overly controlling behaviour comes from insecurity so make it clear to your partner you want to change things because the relationships matters to you.

If you have answered yes to most of the questions then you need to take action and may need to seek additional support to help you work through things together. The relationship  forum is moderated by trained counsellors and mediators who can offer advice and signposting. But you may feel more comfortable having a private discussion by using the listening room.

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  • User-anonymous Justneedhelp Flag

    Thank you Jay I'm gonna try and nudge her to go with me to see someone I'm afraid that at the rate it's going she is gonna end up leaving me and I refuse to let that happen because when it's good between us it's great and I know that if she could just find someone to guide her through opening up and letting me in that what we have will last I'm really glad that I found this website thank you so much for your help

    Sat 21, Nov 2015 at 1:02am
  • User-anonymous Jay Flag

    It's no wonder she withdraws into herself given that history.....she will need a lot of reliable love and reassurance to get over all of that. Because you also have your needs for love, acceptance and approval from her, (the woman you love) it is wise to get some expert help for your relationship...otherwise you might end up with both of you feeling alone and isolated. Marriage Care and Relate offer relationship counselling in centres throughout the maybe that your wife might benefit from some personal counselling too ...but only she can make that decision. She has done well to choose someone who loves her so much and I do hope it works out for the two of you.

    Fri 20, Nov 2015 at 11:14pm
  • User-anonymous Justneedhelp Flag

    Yes Jay I love her very much and I want to get help the problem is my when my wife shuts me out its completely and in her mind she is in the right she has had a very rough life her parents split up when she was really young and she was sent to live at a halfway home where she was forced to lay in bed all day and keep quiet she ate a pb&j once a day and that was her life for almost a year then her father got custody of her and her brother and she said things were better for a while and then her father remarried his new wife was a devout Christian and her father quickly became religious and her dad stopped paying attention to her and her brother she went to live with her grandparents and her brother went to live with his mother my wife got pregnant at the age of 16 with her first child and her father forced her to stand up in front of the congregation and ask their forgiveness so I know she just needs help and needs to let someone in I wish she would let me in and it breaks my heart that she doesn't and I really want to help her

    Fri 20, Nov 2015 at 7:13pm
  • User-anonymous Jay Flag

    Hi Justneedhelp, that sounds like a really tough situation to be in. There may be good reasons why your wife is so controllg ...insecurity is often the cause...and this may well be rooted in childhood. You clearly love her and have identified the problem without wanting to give up on the relationship. However, I think you are right in recognising things need to change. Is there any possibility that you could share the article above with a start. How open can you be about how miserable you are when she withdraws into silence?....that you love her and need to feel close to her? It may well be that she is suffering as much as you...unacceptable as her behaviour maybe it would be a relief to you both to get some relationship counselling to help you both deal with this really painful situation? What do you think?

    Fri 20, Nov 2015 at 6:23pm
  • User-anonymous Justneedhelp Flag

    My wife and I have been together for 3 years now and we have a 1 year old son together I love my wife very much and she uses my love for her against me to get her way if she is mad at me she will completely shut me out and won't speak to me and no matter what I say she will twist my words around and run me into the ground I'm a rather sensitive guy I want to share my feelings with her and show my affection with hugs and kisses my wife however does not she will push me away and very rarely gives me any affection when my wife and I first got together this was not the case my mother and I have had a strained relationship my whole life and when my wife and I got together we were not speaking my wife and her father convinced me to reconnect with my mother so I did after a while however my wife grew to dislike my mother and we began fighting because she didn't want me talking to her my mother has made mistakes and my wife does have reason to dislike her so I have broken connection again but here as of late it's gone past just my mother now my old classmates that were female sometimes messaged me on Facebook just to say hi and see how I had been nothing more my wife gets angry because I don't tell her about the conversations until she stumbles across them while snooping through my phone after I've fallen asleep anytime a woman has messaged me on Facebook trying to flirt with me I have shut it down right away politely explaining that I'm married and my wife would not appreciate them speaking to me that way and then I would show my wife and she would usually take my phone and send a very rude comment to the person after I had already handled the situation I told my wife a long time ago that I didn't care who she talks to because I trust her I recently deactivated my facebook thinking that would fix the problem because then no one could message me that doesn't have my phone number and not many people do to which my wife responded that just makes me look more guilty because she can't look at the conversation to see that it was just innocent everytime I tried to show her the conversations she was already mad and would say she didn't care so I would block the person we were fighting over and delete the messages even tho there was nothing to hide out of respect for my wife's feelings I really need help because as of right now my wife is not speaking to me because a girl I went to school with messaged me and that's when I deactivated the account please help me she hasn't talked to me in two days and my birthday is tomorrow I really don't want my wife angry at me on my birthday

    Fri 20, Nov 2015 at 5:37pm
  • User-anonymous India Flag

    I fell for a Pakistani Muslim guy and it's normal in that culture to be controlling. But when he tried to control certain aspects of my life I never let him. I have my own voice and I don't need to be controlled.

    Thu 21, Aug 2014 at 11:18pm
  • Cc Charlie (moderator) Flag

    To the most recent poster - I'm sorry to see that your partner's controlling behaviour is beginning to alarm you.. I wonder if you'd like to post about this on the Relationship Forum where I'm sure more people would read it and respond with support and advice. Or you might prefer to talk to one of the relationship counsellors in the Listening Room.

    Wed 13, Aug 2014 at 11:19pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    I have spent the last couple of days really analyzing how I feel about my husband because of his new and somewhat disturbing behavior. I am trying to be objective about this issue and if I am doing something to cause his insecurities then I want to fix it, but it feels to me as if no matter what I do he is not pleased unless I satisfy him in the bedroom. Which then makes me feel more like a possession than a person in our relationship. The issue is mainly that he is persistently coming up to me at least every 15 to 30 min and telling me to kiss him and hug him and it is making me feel very controlled. This all started a week ago after my friends wedding that I was a part of and was busy for about three days with wedding related events. The night before the wedding we were setting up the decorations and my husband called be continuously to check on me, which he stated was because I am his wife and he was just worried about me. I could not even enjoy my friends wedding because of his behavior. I had to leave my friends house early the night of the rehearsal because of how upset he was. I am feeling more and more uncomfortable around him and I know he just wants to be closer to me but with the combination of his obsessive behavior and his constant sexual innuendo it makes me not want to to those things because he keeps telling me to do them. Is there something wrong with the way I am reacting to this? I just want him to relax so things can get back to normal, but it is just not happening. I have talked to him, but his behavior just gets brushed off because he just tells me its because of how much he loves me. He did admit he was jealous, but he is not doing anything about how uncomfortable he is making me feel. What should I do? I feel so powerless, I even tried bringing our son to my moms and having a movie night at home where we could just reconnect, but he made it completely about sex (mother nature was in) and I was doing what I could, cuddling, hugging and kissing, but he still asks for more (literally asks me to smile and kiss him). For a lack of a better word, his behavior is creeping me out. I love him but right now I just want to get away from him because of his actions. Please if you have any advice for me or anyway on how to better relay how I feel to my husband let me know. Thank you for listening;)

    Wed 13, Aug 2014 at 3:31am
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    Maybe you need to become a confident independent person in your own right before you settle down with someone. Going to college sounds like a good can always keep in touch with your boyfriend by phone and Skype.

    Fri 25, Apr 2014 at 10:54pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    I have a partner who when we go to thing like pysic readings belittles me in front of the reader tells them that I actually believe in the stuff and that its ridiculous for me to really believe it that its all for fun makes me feel stupid for believing it he made me cry in front of the reader. He also thinks that my friends are bad for me and there out to use me . Everytime things go wrong like he cuts his finger he lets out a string of curse words not directed at me but they make me tense. He says im not corporate enough wants me to dress in certain way. He has never hit me or anything but im concerned there are times I want to be able to do my own thing go away to college but I would miss him im 21 years old what do you guys think

    Fri 25, Apr 2014 at 4:37pm
  • Cc Esme (moderator) Flag

    Hi Anonymous,
    Sorry to read that you're feeling down because of your partner's controlling behaviour. I wonder if you'd like to post about this on the Relationship Forum where I'm sure more people would read it and respond with support and advice. You might also like to talk to one of the relationship counsellors in the Listening Room.

    Thu 19, Sep 2013 at 7:37pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    I am a school administrator and I am in the same situation as what the article states. It has really gotten me down here lately. I dont want to be around anyone or do anything for fear of what she might say. I dont even want to talk to her anymore. Communication is out. I need help, I think im going into depression!

    Wed 18, Sep 2013 at 4:36pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag

    Hi DOROTHY50, in my experience the first move is the hardest. If your husband is not physically abusive...would it be possible to have him read this article as a start to a discussion about how you feel? or do you think he is aware of how you feel? It is usually possible to change things even if you need a bit of outside help....what do you think?

    Mon 6, Aug 2012 at 6:53pm
  • Cc admin Flag

    Hi DOROTHY50,
    I'm sorry to hear that you are having a difficult time. We do not have any specific content which can provide all the answers. However, you might find it helpful to post an anonymous thread on the relationship forum, where others in the online community may be able to offer advice and support. You might also get some insights from our moderators who are all trained relationship counselors.

    Tue 31, Jul 2012 at 2:27pm
  • User-anonymous DOROTHY50 Flag


    Mon 30, Jul 2012 at 7:30am

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