13 Signs of a Controlling Relationship

signs of a controlling relationship, couples therapy, relationship counseling

13 Signs of a Controlling Relationship


Controlling relationships…something that virtually no one wants to find themselves in, yet something too common to not talk about. Let’s read more to discover some of the signs that are common among controlling relationships:


1. You cannot spend time apart.

Your partner is always there. When you think back, you’re actually never alone. Your partner’s presence isn’t always wanted, either. Sometimes you want to just go do something by yourself, but they just can’t take no for an answer.



2. You are taken away from your normal activities.

Remember when you used to LOVE to go to the gym, or maybe for a friends night out or maybe even to your job? Those things slowly stopped happening. Maybe it was because of those comments your partner made, or maybe they said you didn’t need to do those things anymore. Whatever the case, you just don’t do what you used to anymore.


3. You are told you can no longer talk to certain friends.

Your partner doesn’t like this friend because they’re too loud or this friend because they’re too nosy...so they tell you to stop talking to them. Some of those friends were easy to drop, but some you were really upset about. Your friends still ask what happened but you just don’t know what to say.


4. You begin to spend less and less time with family

Similar to your friends, your partner starts to give reasons for why you should cut ties with your family. Some may even sound reasonable. And slowly but surely, you become more an more isolated from the people who used to know you the most.


5. Your partner tells you what to wear/how to dress.

That shirt....do you remember that shirt? The one you used to wear constantly! Your style was uniquely you, and you embraced every part of it. But your partner didn’t feel the same. They hated that shirt and made it well known. In fact, they really hated your whole style. Now you realize you’re wearing clothes that just don’t feel like you.


6. You are constantly put down.

You didn’t do this right, and you’re always doing this wrong. You feel like no matter what you do, you’re never doing it well. Your partner makes this clear--they’re always making comments about every little thing you do, not caring about how it’s making you feel.


7. Excuses and guilt.

That job you loved? You didn’t need it. Those friends you stopped talking to? They really didn’t care about you. Your family? Ha, you’re better off without them! Those clothes you used to wear? Oh, you look so much better now. I wouldn’t yell at you if you just did what I asked...I really don’t expect much. Moral of the story--you find your partner constantly finding excuses and using guilt to justify and continue their actions.


8. You feel like you have to hide things.

One of your friends texted you or someone followed you on social media? No way you can tell your partner. You just don’t want the fight. You just KNOW they’re going to take it the wrong way, it’s really better to just keep it quiet.


9. You don’t feel comfortable talking about how you feel.


You’re feeling horrible about how they treated you, but what can you say? Your partner wants nothing to do with how you feel and if you tell them, they’ll probably just make you feel worse.


10. You lose your finances.

Remember that job you didn’t need to work anymore? Now you’ve been without income for months...or maybe even years. Your savings is down to nothing and anything you buy has to come through your partner.


11. You lose your freedom.


Slowly but surely...you no longer have your job, you no longer have any money, you no longer talk to your friends or family. You don’t feel like you can be yourself. But your trapped. With no social support and no money, what can you do?



12. Things may get physical.

Maybe you’re starting to push back or maybe it came out of nowhere. But little by little, your partner started to hurt you. Maybe mentally or physically, you just know this isn’t right. But again, what can you do? You feel more and more scared, so you just do what they say and hope it’s enough.


13. It increases over time.

This doesn’t happen overnight...this takes a lot of time. You don’t know how things got this way. You always said you would never deal with this, but here you are. Things just happened one by one. Everything was GREAT, until they weren’t.


These are just some signs of controlling relationships, there are many others. Likewise, some of these signs are not inherently bad. For example, your partner suggesting that you cut off a toxic friendship is likely out of concern for you, not for control.


Overall, controlling relationships occur gradually over time. It begins by gaining control over small things and eventually evolves to control over everything. If you feel you are in a controlling relationship, know you are not alone and there are people out there to help you.


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Hudson LCSW Group is a Westchester County counseling practice located in White Plains, NY. We have a team of therapists who provide therapy for children, teens and adults.