I recently released a video on the signs of a controlling relationship. In the interest of keeping the video short and sweet, I have taken to pen and paper… or shall I say finger to keyboard to dig just a little deeper? Given my dating history, this is one topic that I know all too well. My most serious relationships were with extremely controlling men, and for a while, these experiences screwed up my mental and emotional wellbeing. Luckily, with time and reflection, I’m now able to look back on those years with wisdom and higher standards for love.
I hope to shed light on this issue and provide the justification you might be searching for to end a toxic relationship or seek guidance from a professional or someone you trust. On their own, these signs might not appear frightening, but I speak from experience when I say that controlling relationships can run a confident spirit to the ground quicker than you might think. Before you know it, your hopeless romantic justifications might have you accepting behaviors you never thought imaginable. After a while, your battered spirit surrenders to constant mistreatment.
Take a look at these red flags and heed with caution should you see even a glimmer of resemblance in your relationship. Take it from me. I used to look at those in abusive relationships as weak, but before I knew it, I found myself in a verbally abusive relationship for three years and had no idea how I got there nevermind how to get out. I entered college as a strong independent young woman and nearly left with a broken spirit.
If your partner battles with insecurities they will catalyze their need for control. Insecure people seek to dominate situations around them to minimize the risk of turning their deepest insecurities into reality. If your lover is unable to acknowledge their worth, they will seek control over vulnerability.
Relationships built on insecurities easily lead to a lack of trust. They want to keep tabs on your every move because they are insecure within themselves and don’t feel worthy enough to have someone love them unconditionally.
I’m not sure how I feel about you going on your annual girls trip. How can I trust you around other guys?
Does your significant other constantly critique you even for the smallest things? This game of belittlement is a ploy to bring you down and make you feel worthless. It’s easier for them to control you when you’ve hit rock bottom and don’t have the strength to get back up. Little by little your mind slowly starts to latch on to these comments and might even accept them as truth.
Psychologically speaking, this is known as the negativity bias– our brains are like Teflon when it comes to positive stimuli (slides right off) but like velcro with negative stimuli (hard to shake.) We tend to hold on and internalize negative comments over positive comments. Have you ever had a work review in which you were unable to shake off that one ‘negative’ comment from your boss? Even though you were met with several accolades, your mind holds on to that one negative for months to come.
Why do you waste your time on this blogging hobby? I wish you prioritized me like you do with your blog.
You should never feel guilty about your choices, especially from your ‘lover.’ Guilt-ridden relationships cause you to walk on eggshells all the time. You don’t want to upset them and cause yet another fight, so you stop acting in the interest of your heart. Before you know it, you’re putting their needs above your own. You feel like everything is always your fault and you start subconsciously acting in a manner to make them happy to avoid yet another fight.
I love this crop top, but I can’t wear it because my boyfriend hates when I show off too much skin.
No matter how you slice it, ultimatums are a form of manipulation. Controlling lovers are in a position of power, and they exercise such to get what they want and put your personal needs on the back burner. This tactic is intended to inflict fear and discourage disobedience.
Oftentimes controlling partners frame the relationship in conditional terms- love with boundaries. True love should be unconditional. You shouldn’t feel like your love is at risk due based on decisions that in reality don’t matter to the foundation of your relationship.
I can’t believe you’re going out with the girls again. Do you know how much I sacrifice for this relationship? If you go, I’m going out with the boys.
This is a HUGE red flag of a controlling relationship. It’s never a good sign when your significant other sabotages your relationships with family and friends. They’re trying to weaken you by severing the relationships that bring you clarity and strength. Cults use this tactic. By isolating you from those who could act as the voice of reason, it’s easier for you to misconstrue control for love.
Becky hates me. I can’t believe you’re still friends with her she clearly doesn’t support our relationship. Don’t let her break us apart.
They’re your everything
Those in controlling relationships live in a bubble, a false sense of reality. Whether out of fear, a strong dose of brainwashing, or an unhealthy paradigm shift of what love is you start living solely for this one person. Your needs fall in priority, and you make this person your everything.
Relationships grounded in such interdependence make it that much harder to leave when the bad times escalate. Since you stopped focusing on your needs and have isolated yourself from family and friends leaving this person is unfathomable. You can’t picture your life without them, and that is very unhealthy.
There’s nothing wrong with loving the person you’re with so much that you can’t imagine life without them but deep down you know that should you break up, your world wouldn’t cease to exist. Yes, it would be tough, but you’d learn to pick up the pieces because you have a life outside of the relationship. This is a classic and scary case of putting your eggs into one rotten basket.
I can’t leave him; he’s my whole life. I would die without him.
Take away your will and your choice
Controlling relationships have a slow way of tearing you down. Before you know it, your self-worth and self-esteem are at an all-time high, and you feel like you don’t have any choice on the matter or your life. The lack of trust, verbal abuse and critique, guilt trips, ultimatums, isolation, and interdependence demolish strength and breeds a lack of will and choice.
When things are good we’re perfect. I just need to watch what I do so I don’t upset him.
Are you in a controlling relationship?
If any of these signs ring true for you, it’s time to take a hard look at your relationship. I’m not urging anyone to irrationally break off their relationships, but it’s time for some reflection and action. Make a list of the controlling behaviors infecting your relationship and write down how these acts affect your emotional wellbeing.
Instead of ambushing your partner in an accusatory manner, try to paint of picture of how their actions make you feel.
When you make little negative side comments, I feel like I’m not good enough for you. I feel less than and unloved.
If the conversation ends with more negativity and manipulation than it’s time to make a tough call. Close your eyes and picture your idea of a perfect relationship. If what you envision is light-years away then you have to ask yourself what’s important- staying in a relationship or living your best life. The right relationship will never make you choose between the two, healthy relationships allow you to be yourself and live your best life with the comfort and joy of love and support.
You aren’t alone. I’m here for you, your family and friends are here for you, and there’s no shame in seeking professional help from centers that specialize in relationship abuse awareness.