If your partner does these 15 things, they’re trying to control you

It’s not so easy to tell when you’re with a manipulator who’s trying to control you.

They know how to hide it well until you’re too emotionally invested in them to see them for who they are.

If you suspect you’re with a controlling partner, here are 15 signs you should look out for.

1) Cutting off your connections

Pay close attention to how your partner talks about your loved ones. 

Have they been consistently complaining about your friends and family over small things? Shared rumors or blew up minor issues sky-high?

Little by little, they want to chip away at the bonds you’ve made with others until you have no one else left to run to.

This leaves you completely dependent on them, trapped by chains that—while intangible—are nonetheless quite real.

2) Blaming you when things go wrong

When things go wrong, one of the first things that a controlling person would do is shift the blame elsewhere, and then take advantage of it.

Power is central to how manipulative, controlling people work.

It doesn’t matter whether they actually believe that they’re blameless or that things wouldn’t have gone wrong had they had their way.

If they take blame, then they’re allowing themselves to be vulnerable and weak. But if they shift the blame to you instead and manage to be convincing enough at it, then they get to have power over you.

So watch out if you’re with someone who’s always putting the blame elsewhere

3) Constantly questioning your decisions

One of the most insidious ways that manipulators condition you into being compliant is by repeatedly questioning your decisions.

They might say that they just want “what’s best for you,” or that they have good intentions.

But what this does is that it’ll make you start doubting yourself. You’d lose trust in your own judgment and start being excessively harsh on your failures.

And in the end, you’ll start being more and more dependent on your partner’s “guidance.”

4) Repeatedly remarking on your looks

In the same vein, a manipulator will also want to take control over the way you dress and even the way you act.

They’ll say your skirt is too short, that your pants are too tight, or that your makeup makes you look like a “clown.”

Someone who genuinely cares for you won’t do this.

Sure, they might try saying things like “red doesn’t suit you, I prefer white”, but they’ll say it simply to inform you, and they might even add “But you still look cute!”. 

They won’t try to make you stop being yourself just to cater to their tastes.

5) “Joking” about how you always give them a headache

Watch out for if you ever start hearing your partner make repeated jokes about how you give them a “headache” or how you’re “difficult.”

They might try to pass it off as a joke, but they’re actually trying to send you a message. And the message is “Stop being a headache by following my rules.”

If you bring up any discomfort you might have over those jokes and they keep doing it anyway, they’re trying to manipulate you.

The goal of these jokes are, in the end, to shame you little by little into complying and being less independent, less headstrong, and more “compliant.”

6) Promising you the world

One of the ways your partner would try to exert control over you is by offering you grand, romantic promises of paradise and eternal happiness.

For the most part, neither of you are likely to genuinely believe that all these promises will come true. What matters is the sentiment behind those promises, and how they make you feel.

They make you feel like a billion dollars—and well, of course someone who loves you THAT much surely has the best of intentions, right?

7) Strictly monitoring your whereabouts

Have they told you that you should always have GPS tracking enabled on your phone, or that you should always share passwords? 

Do you get your inbox flooded if you ever forgot to tell them where you are?

Then you’re almost definitely with someone who simply seeks to control and manipulate you.

They might even say that they’re just concerned for your safety, just to make you feel like you have to tolerate it (when you don’t, and shouldn’t).

8) Strictly monitoring your expenses

The two of you might have separate finances—which is important, even among married couples—but somehow you feel like your partner’s the one managing your accounts.

And in fact they’re so anal about your finances that they want to know where you’ve spent your every last cent.

As usual, they might be saying they’re just doing it for your own good, but if you really think about it, it’s honestly just that they want to have control over you.

The funny thing is that they’re not this strict on their own spending.

9) Getting upset if you don’t respond immediately

They make a big fuss if you can’t reply to messages instantly, especially if you’re online. They’d accuse you of being unloving—and maybe even suggest that you’re cheating!

So you’re always nervously keeping your phone open and checking in every so often just in case, even when you’re supposed to be chilling with your friends.

When you’re at the point where you feel like you must do things like this out of fear for your partner, you’re definitely in a toxic relationship and you need to leave. Unless they get therapy, things will just get worse.

10) Being very passive-aggressive

Passive aggression goes hand in hand with being controlling and manipulative.

Your partner would deliberately refuse to tell you what it is they don’t like about you or what you’ve been doing and wait until you “get” it.

And the more time goes by without you “getting” it, the more visibly upset they become.

This is because they know it won’t go over well if they were to simply tell you “do what I want, or else.”

It’s simply better to keep you stressed and questioning whatever it might be that’s wrong—this way you’ll take the blame yourself for being “blind.”

11) Choking you with rules

A partner who wants to control you will, of course, have a lot of rules about what you can or can’t do…as well as how you’re meant to go about things.

Rules like “I don’t want you talking to other guys unless I’m there too” or “I don’t want you drinking more than one glass of beer” even if you’re not an alcoholic.

They might excuse it as “I’m just setting my boundaries” or “It’s what’s best for us” or some other nonsense like that, but that’s all just a smokescreen for their desire to have you submit to their control.

12) Winning over your friends and family

Especially if they have also put in the effort to cut you off from them.

By driving a wedge between you and your loved ones, and then by winning their hearts, they’re making sure you have absolutely nobody to turn to.

Because by then you’ve already alienated your friends and family, and even if you tried to escape your partner, you’ll find that THEY are also on your partner’s side.

As far as they’re concerned, your partner is a saint. How could they ever do any wrong?

13) Using your weaknesses against you

If you’re always sickly, they’d try to control you by reminding you that you’re unhealthy and that you should follow what they say to be healthier.

And if you used to have a problem with alcohol in the past, then they would bring up your alcoholism to remind you that you aren’t capable of sound judgment.

It often ends up feeling incredibly patronizing, but unless you know what you’re dealing with you’ll be left speechless and unable to fight back.

14) Saying “This is for us!”

Most controlling people have good intentions, and they will say it again and again so you’ll give them permission to be bossed around in your relationship.

They might even cry if you confront them about their behavior and tell you “But I’m just doing what’s best for us”. Or “How dare you think of me that way…after all I’ve done!”

Don’t fall into this. You have to remember that every dictator has good intentions. 

The “How” matters as much as the intention, and you must remind them that being controlling will do your relationship harm, even if they’re aiming for what’s best.

15) Pointing out the moments they’re right, and you’re wrong

They like it every time they make “right” decisions because then they can show you that they’re indeed deserving to be the leader of the relationship.

They like it even more when you commit mistakes, because it shows you’re “not to be trusted”.

And they’ll remind you many times about how good they are and how bad you are, even in a joking manner.

It’s their way to convince you that you should just allow them to make decisions for you because hey, it makes sense that the “good partner” should call the shots, right?

Last words

One of the most frustrating things about controlling people is that the ones who don’t blunder and expose themselves too soon are incredibly savvy at it.

They know how to twist people’s hearts and minds— to win sympathy and maintain a double-face. That way, people will never believe that they could ever do any wrong. 

People would rather say “no, they’d never hurt a fly!”

It’s not so easy to believe that someone could be manipulative if everyone knows them to be the sweetest, most loving, and friendliest person in town.

So that’s why, it’s important to know the signs and get out before it’s too late. Or if you truly believe in their goodness, then help them and your relationship by going to therapy, individually and as a couple.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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