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How to Recognize a Controlling Relationship and What to Do About It

How to Recognize a Controlling Relationship and What to Do About It

A controlling relationship is not pleasant to be a part of. But the tricky part is that most people don’t realize when they are in a controlling relationship. The controlling behavior of a partner is often confused with “caring”, “protective”, “jealous” or “old fashioned”.

In this article, we will discuss what to look out for when a partner is controlling and when he/she just “cares” about you. We will also discuss what you can do if your partner is controlling.

Signs Your Partner Is Controlling

They try to keep tabs on you all the time.

You need to understand the difference between a controlling partner and someone who just really misses you and wants to interact with you throughout the day.

Someone who genuinely misses you and wants to speak with you throughout the day will text you often and get on a phone call whenever they can. They will text you the first thing in the morning (if you are not staying together) and share the day with you. They will take time from their busy day to reach out to you and ask you how you are. They will be excited to meet you at the end of the day.

On the contrast, a controlling partner will ACT like they want to share every living moment with you. But they will be acting out of fear and insecurity instead of the desire to interact with you. An interaction with you is a drug to them that constantly reassures them that they still have you.

A caring partner will give you space when you are busy or out with friends. But a controlling partner will text you more when he/she feels like you are in a situation that threatens the relationship; situations such as going to a bar with friends or at a social gathering.

The controlling partner will reach out under the disguise of missing you. But an easy way to find out if they are controlling is to tell them something like,

“I miss you too. I am busy right now and can’t talk. Can we speak later?”

They will most likely agree. But if they are controlling, they will be upset later when you speak. A caring partner will understand and just be cool about it.

Essentially, a controlling partner will try to affect your behavior by negative reinforcement. Every time you are not giving them full attention, they will get upset and it will most likely lead to a fight or argument. A caring partner will most likely be honest about their concerns instead of doing it indirectly with negative reinforcement.

You will slowly start alienating your friends and family.

This negative reinforcement usually takes a toll on you mostly because it is followed by positive reinforcement when you give them attention. They give you the love and attention you crave in a relationship. You feel intimacy and you get approval from the person you love. What more could you ask for?

Slowly, after being in this negative and positive reinforcement cycle for months (or years), you start craving the positive reinforcement and avoiding the negative reinforcement.

Every time you go meet your friends and can’t give him/her your full attention, there is a fight later. So, you slowly start avoiding your friends. You only do it when it’s convenient for your partner. And you make sure that they have something to do while you are busy with your friends or family.

You will soon realize that you are walking on eggshells. And that’s really no way to live a healthy life.

They criticize you – a lot.

A controlling partner will criticize you a lot. It can be something as little as the way you drink coffee or as big as your career choice. They will criticize you in a way that hurts.

If the partner is controlling, this criticism will usually start after you have been together for a while, well after the honeymoon phase is over and after they are sure you love them and can’t leave them easily.

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The criticism can also come in the form of backhanded comments or playful jokes about things they know you are sensitive about.

In contrast, healthy criticism is often said in an attempt to improve your partner’s life and self-esteem. For example, if your partner wants to criticize your career, they will sit down and have a real conversation with you. They will try to understand your aspiration and goals and tell you where they think you are going wrong.

A controlling partner will try to brush it off in a sentence to put you down: “What are you worried about? Playing guitar is not even a real career.”

You may end up in a codependent relationship without even knowing it.

If your partner is controlling and you don’t end the relationship in the initial stages, it’s likely that you will end up in a co-dependent relationship. Whereas before, you were an independent and well-rounded individual who was going through each day with pride and gusto.

Now, you are reduced to someone who often fights with their partner, is constantly stressed and is always walking on eggshells. You are no longer the person who was growing in life. Now you need your partner’s permission to grow.

Co-dependent relationships can range from extreme to mild depending on how severe the codependent dynamics is and how long you have been together. If you think you are in one, you should watch out for these signs of an unhealthy co-dependent relationship .

What Should You Do If Your Partner Is Controlling?

1. Watch out for early signs and take things slow.

The best way to deal with a controlling partner is to find out about it early. As discussed before, controlling behavior does not always how up until the later stages of a relationship.

A lot of people hide their true nature until they feel a bit secure in the relationship. This is why it’s important to take things slow whenever you start a new relationship.

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Take your time to get to know the person before making any huge commitments. If there are signs of controlling behavior, take your time to decide if it’s something you can live with and how severe it.

2. Figure out the severity of the controlling behavior and if it can be fixed.

Like everything else in life and relationships, controlling behavior is not just black and white. Someone with a controlling behavior can still become a good life partner if they are willing to learn and are compatible with you. Don’t immediately reject someone just because they have some controlling behaviors.

It’s important to know what’s important to you in a relationship. In my opinion, most problems in a relationship, including controlling behavior, can be solved with proper communication and understanding. Even if your partner shows some signs of controlling behavior, you can learn to deal with it if they are willing to communicate and understand.

For example, your partner may have some left-over from a past relationship or a bad breakup. One such common issue is when they went through betrayal or when an ex cheated on them. The scars from that betrayal can be the reason they are trying to control you. It might be the reason they get insecure every time you go out with friends.

It’s not necessarily a good reason to breakup with them. Not if it can be fixed. If you speak to them about it, you can come to a reasonable conclusion where you can live your life freely and don’t press any triggers that cause them to panic and become controlling.

If you can’t figure it out yourself, get help. Learn communication skills in relationships or consider getting couples therapy.

3. Be willing to walk away no matter how you have invested in them.

It’s easy to leave a relationship if it’s only been a few months. But what if you have been with your partner for years? What if you just realized how controlling they have been all these years? You were blinded by love before, but you just can’t take it anymore. At the same time, you can’t get yourself to leave them because you are so attached to them. What do you do then?

Again, it’s not always black and white. But you need to figure out your boundaries and what you need in a romantic relationship. It may be a good idea to take a break for a short while to think things through.

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Once you understand yourself, your boundaries, your needs, your expectations and your goals, you should get back in touch with your partner and try to speak to them. Explain to them how their controlling behavior has been toxic and what you need from them to make the relationship work.

If they think they can do it, if they are willing to learn and grow, then try again. But take things slow this time.

Just like you are starting a new relationship. Watch out for red flags and try to figure out if they are sincerely making an attempt to improve or are just faking it.

Someone who sincerely wants to learn and improve will be open to listening and understanding. They will try to make serious changes in life like going to therapy or reading self-improvement books. They will not agree with you about everything and won’t act like a doormat.

On the contrary, someone who is just faking it will most likely do things that they think you want to see. They will agree with what you see and, in some cases, let you walk all over them.

Final Thoughts

A controlling partner is not always a deal breaker. In many cases, the controlling behavior can be the result of a past trauma or childhood issues. And in most cases, it is fixable if the controlling person is willing to accept it and work on themselves.

Learning these behaviors and communicating with your partner can help you avoid a toxic codependent relationship and a lifetime of misery.

But if they are not the type of person who want to learn and grow, you should most definitely leave them and move on.

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Featured photo credit: S A R A H ✗ S H A R P via unsplash.com

More by this author

Kevin Thompson

A breakup and relationship expert who writes about reconciliation and becoming a better person

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Last Updated on October 20, 2020

10 Principles for Success to Start Living Your Dream Life

10 Principles for Success to Start Living Your Dream Life

Are you stressed out and overwhelmed, wishing you had more time to do the things that really matter? Are you ready to do something better, something special in your life or your career? If you’re ready to take responsibility for your life, then you need to tap into some principles for success.

Many people—maybe you—stopped following their passion and purpose way too early in life because their talents were ignored, minimized, or shamed. They didn’t have the chops to win an American Idol competition or nab an Olympic gold medal, so they stopped expressing their inborn gifts altogether.

You don’t need to be an award winner to rock your life. Living your dream life is about discovering your superpowers and feeling vibrant and joyful when you use them. It’s about owning what makes you unique and finding like-minded people to support you.

Here are 10 success principles to help you reach your goals and live a rich life on your terms.

1. Get a Hobby to Move Closer to Your Dreams

If you never became a professional dancer or a world-renowned author, it does NOT mean you should stop dancing or writing! These activities make you come alive, even if you “only” do them as favorite pastimes.

Engaging in a hobby is one of the most important success principles you can follow to move closer to your dreams.

When you try something creative for the first time or in a long while, you begin to see opportunities at work and in life that you were unaware of before. You also feel happier and more energized, according to a recent study from New Zealand[1].

Some of my most burned-out executive clients reinvigorated their careers by discovering a creative outlet that refueled them after the workday ended. Research at San Francisco State University shows that having a hobby lowers stress and helps you succeed at work[2].

Give yourself permission to try new things and revisit old passions you gave up long ago. Setting aside just one hour a week for personal exploration can significantly change your life and help you focus on goal setting.

2. Focus on Your Strengths

Did you know that you are more likely to succeed when you develop your natural strengths rather than work on your weaknesses? The problem is that you probably don’t know where your true talents lie.

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Once you understand what makes you tick, you can use these skills at work and your personal life to get more done in less time. If you boost your unique abilities through practice and study, you can accelerate your career and become a leader in a field that matters to you. It’s worth investing in yourself this way.

3. Jumping off a Cliff is NOT Required

Here’s the deal: most people are too afraid to change. When participants first come to my workshops, they tell me they have mouths to feed, bills to pay, and fear that if they follow their dreams, someone will get hurt.

The old saying “leap and the net shall appear” does not comfort them. Because they are hesitant to plunge into the unknown, they believe their only option is to stay put where they are in life. Can you relate?

You do not have to sacrifice the life you have now to start a new one. I was a psychology professor by day and singer by night for years before I transitioned into a full-time music career.

To use this principle for success, take a little time out each week to do what enlivens you through a hobby, volunteer work, etc. Get a feel for it. Is it what you really want? If it’s what you really want to be doing, increase the time you spend doing it and make the transition when the time feels right.

4. Give Your Inner Critic Some Love

The main culprit that keeps you from stepping outside your comfort zone and getting the life of your dreams is KCRP or K-CRAP, the radio station that plays 24/7 in your head. The moment you try to do something interesting with your life, it slaps you down with such chart-topping killer hooks as “Who do you think you are?” and “You’ll never be good enough!”.

Have you ever noticed that KCRP’s mean-spirited DJ sounds like your parents, teachers, bosses, and other authority figures who shut you down creatively? These folks don’t need to stifle you any longer (although they often still do) because your inner critic does it for them. That keeps you stuck in a rut[3].

Silencing your inner critic is one of the best principles for success.

    To break free, try thinking of this DJ as a gruff old grandfather who gives you crap to keep you safe. Remember, this grumpy grandpa is woefully out of touch with the times. Give him a pat on the back for his good intentions, and put your focus back on what makes you come alive.

    This is one of the principles for success that will give you the courage to venture into the unknown where you can dance to the beat of your own drummer.

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    5. Embrace Your Inner Self

    Many of us don’t go after our dreams because we’re afraid people will find out how odd or strange we are. However, our little eccentricities often turn out to be our greatest strengths.

    Odds are that you lost track of your true passions and talents before you were even old enough to know you were getting off-track. You became slowly “adulterated” by learning to:

    • Take on family roles that don’t match who you really are.
    • Spit back what teachers taught you in school rather than risk getting bad grades for being original.
    • Hide parts of yourself that don’t seem acceptable to certain social groups.

    The price for fitting in is that you may wind up leading a life that doesn’t fit you all that well. Your true calling becomes clear when you embrace what makes you different from others and allow yourself to stand out from the crowd, even if it feels awkward. Often, the very qualities you view as your flaws are your greatest gifts.

    Here’s How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment.

    6. See the Bigger Picture to Find Your True Calling

    I cannot stress the importance of this success principle enough. Your true calling is right in front of you, but you may miss it because you’re looking for it in the wrong place.

    To “see” it clearly, try widening your point of view.

    Case in point: Maria felt she needed to retire early from being a police detective, so she could travel abroad. I encouraged Maria to think of ways that she could continue to serve as a law enforcer (a career she loved) and travel overseas at the same time.

    A few months later, Maria landed a job with the United Nations in Bosnia training the local police force to understand and embrace human rights procedures.

    Like Maria, you are an everyday rock star capable of accomplishing greater things than you can imagine. Is what you’re looking for right in front of you, too? Do you have an inkling of what it may be?

    Look beyond your day-to-day activities, your current job, and even the town you live in. View your life from an eagle’s perspective and be open to new possibilities.

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    7. Try a Little Wish-List Magic

    Pretend I’m your fairy godmother, and I give you permission right now to be your most magnificent self. What kind of life would be music to your ears? It doesn’t matter whether it seems unattainable or even downright crazy. Write it down on a wish list.

    What would you like your career, your relationships, your health, your finances, and your spiritual life to be like? Jot down enough details so that your wishes seem tangible to you. Then, look at this list every morning before you start your day and every night before you go to sleep.

    8. Take Breaks to Get Clues About Your Ideal Future

    Did you know that working straight through to a deadline leads to diminishing returns? Research shows that taking a break for 15 minutes every 75 to 90 minutes can help you recharge, refresh your focus, and get more done in less time[4].

    Furthermore, a Stanford study shows that walking increases your creative output by 60 percent. Doing repetitive activities such as walking, running, riding your bike, swimming, and sweeping allow solutions to problems to pop into your mind out of nowhere[5].

    What does this success principle have to do with creating your dream life?

    These mini-breaks allow you to get vital clues for what to do next to attain your ideal future. Plus, you won’t waste precious time and energy getting lost in other people’s agendas.

    9. Take Action on Your Inspired Ideas

    Once an inspired thought pops into your mind, take action.

    This is one of the most powerful principles for success for turning your dreams into reality; the sooner the better. Whatever it is—from calling an old friend to taking a new route home—be sure to do it!

    Pay attention to your oddball hunches. You need to go after what you want, not just dream about it. As comedian Jim Carrey warns,

    “You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.”

    To learn more about how to get off autopilot and take specific actions towards your goals, check out this video:

    10. Count Your Rockstar Moments

    Still not sure you have what it takes to get your dream life? This final success principle is guaranteed to help.

    Make a list of everything you’ve ever accomplished. As you read back through it, put a star next to each item, and let it sink in.

    You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how good you’ll feel about yourself afterward. You’ll also see how effective you’ve been in the past at getting what you want. You’ve succeeded before, and you can succeed again.

    Final Thoughts

    Eleanor Roosevelt said,

    “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

    Following these principles for success will help you find the time and energy to achieve your goals and live with clear intention.

    Stand still, get quiet, and listen. Your life is constantly telling you what you need to do to realize your own rock star potential in life and business. It may be just a whisper now, but the more you pay attention to it, the louder it will get, and the easier it will be to follow.

    More About Success in Life

    Featured photo credit: Rahul Dey via unsplash.com

    Reference

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